New York City (NYC) is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Each borough has its own unique vibe and attractions. For example, the Bronx has the most park space, while Manhattan is known for its skyscrapers and the most popular attractions. Typically, when one visits New York City, they visit multiple boroughs to get a variety of experiences. As a whole, though, New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world. Tourists come to the city to shop for the latest fashions, see famous monuments, visit world-class art galleries, spot celebrities, see the best of Broadway and music shows and eat foods from around the world.
Your first time in New York City will always be memorable and even magical. The flashing lights and tall skyscrapers will never fail to impress. It's the city where dreams come true and the city that never sleeps. There's truly no other city like New York City. That being said, everyone should visit it at least once in their life. The only issue is that it's one of the most expensive cities in the world. The hotel and restaurant prices can be ridiculous and it costs money to visit many of the city's attractions, too. So, how can you visit New York without breaking the bank? Well, we've got some tips to help you out. Read on to find out more about cheap accommodations and free activities in the city.
20 Tour The Brooklyn Brewery
The Brooklyn Brewery has been open since 1988, offering seasonal specials and the classics (including Brooklyn Lager). It produces over 200,000 US beer barrels annually and exports its creations to several countries. Its history is quite interesting and you can learn more about it during a tour of the facility. Fortunately, the Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours every Saturday between 1:00 and 5:00 PM, starting on the hour. You don't need to make reservations for this, but we do suggest going as early as noon, as the tours fill up quickly and cap at 40 guests. And after the tour, you can head to the Tasting Room to enjoy $5 beer.
19 Free Tours By Foot
New York City is one of those cities that is best explored by walking. When you walk, you have the chance to see buildings up close, meet interesting people and try street food. But, it's easy to get lost in New York City. There's also so much to see, that it can be hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, there are lots of free walking tours available.
Free Tours By Foot is a company that offers walking tours and food tours of New York City (although you do have to pay for food samples during the latter). These tours typically cover a specific neighbourhood, but there are longer tours that combine a few locations. Some of the areas covered by the tours include: Brooklyn Bridge, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, Manhattan and Harlem.
18 Look For Discounts on Viator And Groupon
New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world and most attractions capitalize on this by charging ridiculously high admission prices. We would recommend doing some research online before purchasing tickets for guided tours, lunch cruises and other fun things to do in New York City. And by "research," we mean browsing sites like Viator and Groupon for discounts. Both of these sites are super easy to use and accept major credit cards or PayPal in some cases.
Groupon offers more than just activities, though. You'll also find some unbelievable discounts on hotels and flights on the site. Sometimes, there are packages which include meals, too!
17 Visit During Off-Season (Broadway Week offers 2 for 1 tickets)
One of the best ways to save money on a trip to New York City is to visit during off season, which is January to early March. This is after the Christmas holidays but before Spring Break, so there are virtually no crowds in the city. If you can brave the cold, you'll see that the city still has so much to offer during these months.
For starters, airfares and hotel rates are super low during low season. There are also shorter lines to attractions such as museums and art galleries. Additionally, you'll be able to easily find tickets to shows and events. There are even special events in January, which can save you more money. For example, Broadway Week offers two-for-one tickets and New York's Restaurant Week offers special menus.
16 Use An MTA Metro Card
Yellow taxi cabs are an iconic part of the NYC landscape; but, they can be pricey. If you want to travel around the city as cheaply as possible, you have three options: walk, ride a bike (using a rental bike from Citi Bike) or use the metro. Sometimes though, walking or biking simply isn't ideal if your destination is far.
That's where the third option comes into play. The NYC subway system is one of the largest in the world. So, it only makes sense to utilize it. You won't feel like a true New Yorker until you have! The rate is normally $2.75 per ride, but if you plan on riding often, an MTA pass is recommended. If you're only in the city for a short stay, you can get the 7-day Unlimited Pass for just $32.00.
15 Eat Dinner During Happy Hour
Unless you're cool with eating hot dogs from street vendors for the duration of your trip, you'll have to visit a sit-down eatery at some point during your trip. And these eateries can be very expensive. The trick? Eat during Happy Hour or reverse Happy Hour. During these precious hours, drinks and food are discounted at various restaurants, bars and cafés in the city.
We'd suggest doing some research on Trip Advisor or other review sites before committing to a location because not all Happy Hours are created equally. Some of our top picks include: Clinton Hall (which sells waffle fries and sliders from three to seven dollars) and Charlie Palmer Steak New York (which sells beer for five dollars and all snacks at half their regular price).
14 Take the Staten Island Ferry
When you visit big cities like Paris or London, taking a scenic boat ride will put a dent in your wallet. Luckily for you, New York offers a free boat ride and it's actually pretty amazing. The Staten Island Ferry provides over a hundred trips per day and operates 24 hours per day, everyday.
On the 25-minute ride, you'll travel five miles between Whitehall in Lower Manhattan and St. George in Staten Island. Along the way, you'll enjoy unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty and the harbor. Besides being a free method of transportation and leisure activity, it's also quite the romantic date night idea!
13 Visit Museums During Free Hours
New York has an abundance of interesting museums and art galleries. The best thing about many of them is that they have free admission, free days or free hours. So, if you plan your trip ahead of time, you can avoid paying a penny to visit all of the hottest museums.
Some notable museums which are always free are: the American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum. The Museum of Modern Art is also free from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Fridays. Information about specific free days and hours for other museums can be found on their websites.
12 Visit the Bronx Zoo on a Wednesday
The Bronx Zoo is the United Sates' largest urban zoo, featuring more than 600 species on 265 acres of land. Typically, there is a general admission cost of about $22 per adult. This grants you access to most exhibits and animal feedings. To avoid paying a fee, you can visit the zoo on its free day—Wednesday. The zoo does encourage visitors to make a donation on its free day to help with operating costs.
If you can't make it on a Wednesday, you may be eligible for a discount anyway. The zoo offers discounts to members of the U.S. Military and undergraduate NYC.
11 Try Alternatives To Pricey Observation Decks
New York is a beautiful city, both during the day and at night. So, it's understandable that most tourists would like to have a nice view of the entire city at some point. And there's no shortage of observation decks in New York, but many of the popular ones are pretty costly. For example, it's about $37 to go up to the main deck of the Empire State Building. So, what are your options? Well, you can go to a rooftop patio or bar, where you can eat and drink while also taking in the complimentary views. You don't even have to order a full meal!
10 Free Concerts
New York is famous for its music scene. After all, this is one of the cities that artists move to when they want to get their names out there. Although many big musicians perform in New York and charge hundreds of dollars for their concerts, there are some free concerts in the city, too. This is especially noticeable during the warmer months, when tourists and locals are looking for something to do.
SummerStage in Central Park is the city's largest free performing arts festival and one of the best free events in the city. In 2018, the lineup included Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Melanie Fiona and YouTube star Jake Paul. It's definitely a concert series you won't want to miss!
Anyone who has ever visited Vegas knows to head over to a Tix4Tonight booth to score discounted show tickets. New York has a similar company, called TodayTix. They sell last-minute theater tickets for up to half the regular price. So, if you've always wanted to see a famous Broadway show or laugh your pants off at a comedy show, you can do so without going broke.
You can browse the tickets being sold on TodayTix's website or mobile app. Once you make your purchase, you can pay via PayPal. Then, you may receive a mobile ticket, have the ticket delivered to you by a uniformed concierge or be required to pick up your ticket from a booth.
8 Stay In A Hostel
When you think about visiting New York, you might picture yourself in a high-rise hotel with sweeping views of the city. But, let's snap back to reality for a minute. Such a hotel will likely cost at least $120 per night (and that's if you get a special discount). Is there really a need for this? What will you get out of it that you wouldn't get in any other accommodation (besides some amazing IG shots and room service)? When you're in New York, you'll spend most of your time exploring the city anyway. So, stay in a hostel. They're much cheaper, but are often in prime tourist locations. There are also a variety of hostels in New York from which to choose, so you can look for one that best suits you.
7 Check Out The Botanical Gardens
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is simply stunning. It's divided into several smaller pavilions and gardens, including a tropical pavilion, rock garden and Japanese garden (which features a Shinto shrine). If you want to escape the characteristic hustle and bustle of New York City, this is the place to visit. If you want endless photo ops that are guaranteed winners on IG, then this is the place to visit. And if you want something free to do...you get the point. It normally costs $15 to enter the garden, but it's actually free on Fridays before noon during the summer months. So, wake up early and smell the flowers (literally!).
6 Watch A Free Outdoor Movie
If you want a true New York experience, you've got to do as the locals do! And every summer, crowds of locals flock to free outdoor movie locations. There's nothing like watching a classic movie under the stars, while wrapped up in a blanket. Where can you catch one of these movies? Well, there are countless spots around the city and some of them are near the water, making this the perfect romantic night out.
Some locations for free outdoor movies include Pier 1, Astoria Park Lawn and Socrates Sculpture Park. You can check online to see where the most convenient locations are for you.
5 Trusted HouseSitters
When we travel, we expect to pay for accommodations. We can only dream of the opposite (being paid to stay somewhere). Surprisingly, this can actually happen in real life, thanks to Trusted HouseSitters. This website operates in 50 countries and matches homeowners to people willing to house sit or pet sit. So, if you're responsible, love pets and need a free stay, we'd recommend signing up to be a member. There are so many perks to this beyond saving money. You'll feel super comfortable because you'll be in a real home with amenities and you'll probably meet some locals, too.
There is an annual membership fee of $119, but that's nothing in comparison to the money you can save around the world!
4 Stroll Through Central Park
What's a visit to New York City without a stroll through its most popular park? Central Park is 843 acres, so you're bound to find something to do or a quiet spot to sit and relax. The park contains playgrounds, sculptures, fountains, bridges, a formal garden, a carnival-style amusement park and more.
Some of the landmarks in the park make great photo ops, too. Notable ones include the statue of Balto the sled dog, the bronze sculpture of Alice in Wonderland and Belvedere Castle (which has an observation deck, offering panoramic views of the park).
3 Use the Living Social App
Living Social is very similar to Groupon. In fact, the app was Groupon's biggest competitor once upon a time. Then, it 2016, it was announced that Groupon bought over Living Social. So, what's the difference between the two? Well, Living Social has fewer deals; but, some would argue that these deals are of higher quality. You can see for yourself by comparing the deals you find on each app. Many of them may be similar, but there are bound to be a few unique ones on each app. The great thing about both Living Social and Groupon is that they're both completely free. So, you have nothing to lose by checking both!
2 Use Airbnb or CouchSurf
If you're not feeling the idea of taking care of someone's house or pets while they're gone, try Airbnb or CouchSurf. Once you create your free profile on Airbnb, you can select certain filters to narrow down your choices. For example, if you're looking for a place with laundry facilities or air conditioning, you can select those things. Then, you'll be presented with applicable choices, which you'll notice are being rented at reasonable prices by regular people. Airbnb accommodations range from spare rooms to mansions.
CouchSurf, on the other hand, is a service that connects travellers to locals. So, you may literally be staying on someone's couch or spare room at no cost to you.
1 Bask In The Energy Of Times Square
A trip to New York City isn't complete without a visit to the iconic Times Square. Located in Midtown Manhattan, Times Square is filled with stores including The Disney Store and Forever 21. There are also theaters, hotels and corporate buildings on or near the square. The area is adorned with colorful billboards and there are usually buskers walking around, too. So, you don't have to spend anything to have fun and take cool photos. It's one of the most visited attractions in the world and you could feel the excitement when you step foot into the square. Whether it's your first or fiftieth time in the city, Times Square will never get old.