Even though New York is notorious for being expensive, you can still enjoy the Big Apple on a budget. Free ferry cruises and walking tours, affordable Broadway tickets, and flea markets are just some of the top tips we have for Bookers who want to enjoy a memorable trip to NYC without paying a premium.
Shopping – Brooklyn Flea Market
Browse Brooklyn's best vintage clothing and enjoy a jalapeño fritter or two
Brooklyn Flea Market was only founded in 2008 but has already made a name for itself, regularly topping polls as the best of its kind. Started by two entrepreneurial Brooklynites—Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby—the market sells a diverse range of antiques, jewelry, vintage clothing, art, and food. Take your time to browse the market and maybe find that quirky clock you’ve always wanted while enjoying a jalapeño fritter. The market is held outdoors every weekend from April to October and indoors the rest of the year. After a day of bargain-hunting, come back home to Brownstone Penthouse, an affordable and stylish apartment in Brooklyn with an exposed-brick-and-marble kitchen and high ceilings.
Sightseeing – Grand Central Terminal
Go people-watching on the marble main concourse of Grand Central
Not only is Grand Central Station a NYC must-see – it’s free. The whole world knows what it looks like from its countless appearances in movies and TV, but it’ll feel completely different to see the streams of people weaving across the marble main concourse in person. This historic station would’ve been demolished if it hadn’t been for the efforts of First Lady Jackie Kennedy in 1975, who raised money for its preservation. Look up at the ceiling mural with constellations painted in gold against a teal background, then take a picture with the station’s Greek statues and four-sided clock. Hotel Chandler is a reasonably-priced NYC accommodation, especially when considering the fact that it’s only a few feet away from the Empire State Building, Madison Square Park, and Grand Central.
Walking – Take a free tour
Free walking tours are a great way to see the city in a new light
Exploring on foot is one of the most rewarding ways to see a city, and New York offers tons of free walking tours for Bookers. Free Tours by Foot is one of the more popular options, offering tours based on different districts or themes. Options include a Greenwich Village food tour, a street art tour, and city ghost tour. Listen to stories about mobsters, authors, movie and rock stars, as well as important moments in America’s cultural history. Tours are free, but we recommend tipping your guide at the end. Washington Square Hotel is a very affordable accommodation in the Greenwich Village, especially considering its location and in-house spa.
Cruising – Take the Staten Island Ferry
Check out the Statue of Liberty by boat on the Staten Island Ferry
Hop on board the Staten Island Ferry to enjoy a great view of Manhattan’s skyline. Head onto the outdoor deck as soon as you board, and watch the city’s skyscrapers shrink behind you as you cruise out into New York City Harbor. A one-way ride takes around 30 minutes and offers great views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the southern tip of Manhattan. Many native New Yorkers make this trip as a part of their commute every day, so it’s also a great chance for Bookers to immerse themselves in the local culture. Save money on staying in Manhattan by checking into the highly rated Boyd Street Apartments in Staten Island once you get off the ferry.
Nature – Take a walk in Central Park
Spend hours exploring Manhattan's Central Park
Central Park is a quintessential part of the NYC experience, so it’d be a shame to miss it – especially when it’s free to visit. You can easily spend hours at this urban oasis in the heart of Manhattan. Explore its sprawling network of paths, lawns, lakes, and even a zoo, as well as various seasonal attractions. Visit in the summer to enjoy free or cheap concerts, theater performances, film screenings, and exhibits. In the fall, there are free guided walks on weekends that take you around the park’s meadows and historic monuments. If you’re looking for accommodations in the area, HI NYC Hostel is only a 10-minute walk from Central Park.
Theater – Do Broadway on a budget
You don’t need to pay premium prices to see top Broadway shows
Looking for discounted theater tickets? Check out the TKTS booths around the city (at Times Square, South Street Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn) for cheap, same-day tickets. Download their app to see which tickets are on sale that day. You might have to wait in a long line—especially at the Times Square location—but the discounts are definitely worth the wait, with savings of up to 50% off. Stay at the Broadway Hotel & Hostel on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Art – Go to the Met
The Met's admission fee is actually just a suggested amount
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the US, and has a vast collection of pieces from the classical age and ancient Egypt, as well as important Byzantine, Indian, Islamic, and African art. Check out its extensive collection of period costumes and antique weaponry, then make your way up to its gorgeous rooftop garden with views of Central Park. What you might not know about this museum is that the $25 admission fee is actually just a suggested amount, so you’re free to pay whatever you want. Pod 51 nearby is a great home base for Bookers in NYC, with cute rooms and an impressive rooftop garden of its own.