How to visit New York on a budget
There’s no escaping that a trip to New York can become a very expensive endeavor if you let it. But do your research beforehand, and that doesn’t have to be the case. There are countless ways to save money in the Big Apple – without missing out on any of the major sights – so here’s the lowdown on how to enjoy everything the city has to offer without breaking the bank…
Invest in a New York discount pass
A discount pass is one of the best ways to save money in New York. The choice of which pass to go for depends on the length of your trip and how many attractions you plan on visiting. The two main contenders are the New York CityPass and the New York Pass.
The New York CityPass gives you admission to six of the city’s top attractions: the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) plus a choice of the Guggenheim Museum or Top of the Rock, and the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Cruise. The pass is valid for 9 days from the first day of use, and you get to skip the queues – a massive bonus at the Statue of Liberty and Empire State building in particular, where the lines can be immense. In 2016 the pass costs US$116 for adults and US$92 for 6 – 17 year olds, which is a saving of up to 40% on individual ticket prices. A second, cheaper option – known as the New York C3 pass – is also available. This includes just three attractions, but may be more economical for weekend breaks where time is tight.
The New York Pass works differently. It covers more than 80 different attractions, including all those covered by the CityPass above, and offers visitors a choice of 1, 2, 3 5, 7 or 10 day validity. The passes must be used on consecutive days, and during that time you can visit as many attractions as you like (but only once per attraction). This means you’ll need to pack a lot in to get the best value out of the 1 and 2 day passes, but you can make substantial overall savings on the 5, 7 and 10 day passes. When booked online, prices in 2016 range from US$109 for the adult 1-day pass to US$319.20 for the adult 10-day pass.
Other types of discount pass include the New York Explorer Pass, where you can select a fixed number of attractions to visit over a 30 day period, and the New York City Entertainment Book, which contains money-off coupons for attractions, restaurants, cinemas and sporting events.
Free events in New York’s parks
The High Line is one of our favourite outdoor spaces in the city, and there are plenty of things to do in the park for little or no cost. Every Tuesday between April and October, the Amateur Astronomer’s Association of New York hosts a free stargazing night using high-powered telescopes. Also on Tuesdays are free guided walking tours, giving you an opportunity to learn more about the High Line’s design and history. You can also attend free meditation or Tai Chi sessions on Tuesdays between June and September. Most of all though, we just love hanging out at the park’s ‘10th Avenue Theater’, watching the world go by at our feet.
Central Park is not short on free events and activities either, with Conservatory Garden tours every Saturday morning between April and October. If you’re travelling with a budding LeBron James, then get them down to the free Youth Basketball Clinic for 5 to 17 year olds, where they’ll learn to shoot hoops like a pro. Younger kids will also be in their element in Central Park – it’s home to 20 different playgrounds and the Tisch Children’s Zoo (within the main Central Park Zoo) where little folk can pet and feed the potbellied pigs and other barnyard animals. Entrance is cheaper if you buy tickets online in advance.
Great value, high quality restaurants and food trucks
The food truck scene is still going strong in New York, and if you’re on a tight budget, this is a really good way to try a range of varied, quality food at reasonable prices. Keep an eye on nyctruckfood.com to find out what’s happening near you, or download their app for when you’re on the go. Some favourite trucks worth investigating include Gorilla Cheese, Korilla BBQ and the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck, who serve up classic American ice-creams made from scratch in Brooklyn.
For absolutely top-notch burgers – the ‘Classic’ is currently priced at US$9.75 – head to Bill’s Bar & Burger in Downtown, the Meatpacking district or the Rockefeller Center. Award-winning Daisy May’s BBQ in Hell’s Kitchen serves up plates of pulled pork and Texas-style chili for good value prices – and if you’re particularly hungry and fancy a splurge, US$480 will buy you a whole pig for 12 people.
For the perfect Sunday brunch head to the Clinton St. Baking Company on the Lower East Side – the queues might be long but the food is worth the wait. The Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich with scrambled eggs, melted cheddar, homemade tomato jam and hash browns will currently set you back US$11. For more breakfast ideas, check out our previous feature on New York’s best breakfasts.
Written by Maxine Sheppard