How to Plan a Day in NYC on a Budget

Heading to the Big Apple? Well, it’s notorious for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, and certainly the most expensive city to visit in the US. Here are some tips for planning a day in NYC on a budget without worrying about money.

Getting Around

New York cabs are expensive, so walk as much as you can, making the most of the fact that the grid system is super simple to navigate. That said, NYC is a big place which means you’ll need to use public transportation of some sort unless you want to walk for miles. The Subway runs 24 hours a day and you can buy a fare for as little as $2.50, but just expect it to take up to an hour to travel from the outer boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn into Manhattan, and at least 30 minutes to move from stop to stop in Manhattan itself. And if you want to get around on the water, too? Jump on the Staten Island Ferry for free, or use the Ikea ferry (it’s free at the weekend).

Hunt Down Discounted Attractions

There are literally hundreds of attractions to enjoy in New York, so if you only have a day to see things (and you’re doing it on a budget), consider some that are available at a discount. For example, if you fancy paying a visit to the Metropolitan Museum or Art, or the Museum of Natural History, bear in mind that the admission fee is actually just a suggestion. You can actually pay whatever you can afford, and sometimes these museums will offer hours where the suggested fee is waived altogether. If you fancy your entertainment a little louder, head to Broadway. Broadway isn’t known for being cheap, but you can get discounted Broadway tickets online – book ahead and look for show times that are less popular than others to score the best deals.

Find Free Entertainment

As well as discounted entertainment, there’s a whole lot of free entertainment to be had in New York. For example, you can join a studio audience at a live taping of a TV show such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon or The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – totally free of charge – reserving tickets online or trying your luck on the day.

Also, if you like cycling, you might enjoy a moonlight cycle through Central Park. Once a month, the Time Up project organizes a ten-mile ride beneath a starry sky through Central Park (and there’s also one at Prospect Park in Brooklyn too). It happens on the first Friday of every month, and it doesn’t cost a dime to join the group itself. All you need to cover is the cost of a bicycle, you need your own bike of course, so hire one cheaply: Central Park bike tours offers 30% discount if you book online.

Cheap Sightseeing

Also, save your money by doing some free sightseeing of NYC’s famous landmarks. You can easily spend half an hour marvelling at the architecture of Grand Central Terminal, listening to this free podcast about its history. Then, stop by the September 11 Memorial to pay your respects and reflect on the magnitude of what happened here. While it’s a serious place to visit, it’s beautiful and far too important to miss.

Big Bus Tours New York

Cheap Eats

With all this sightseeing and walking to do, you’re bound to work up an appetite. So, find some places where you can eat delicious food on a budget. For excellent dim sum (they’ve been making it in New York for almost 100 years), head to the Nom Wah tea parlour in Chinatown where you can buy fluffy char siu bao (roast pork buns) for less than $4. If seafood is more your kind of thing, stop off at Red Hook Lobster Pound. You can devour a bowl of lobster and muscle ‘Down East’ chowder for $8 in their Manhattan restaurant, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for their food truck as it roams across NYC. Mighty Quinn’s serves some mouth watering BBQ food, including slow-cooked paprika-rubbed brisket for less than $10, and sides such as maple drizzle sweet potato casserole for a little over $3. And if it’s a slice of authentic NYC pizza you’re craving? Call into Lee’s Tavern on Staten Island: an individual sausage pizza costs only a fraction more than $7.

Cheap Bars

Order a cocktail in NYC and you’ll be lucky to get much change from a $20 bill. But there are some cheap options if you know where to look. First, try McSorley’s Old Ale House – it’s the oldest bar in NYC and, while there are only two choices of beer (dark or light, that’s it), you’ll get both for $5. Seriously cheap! If it’s a midday Bloody Mary or Mimosa you’re fancying, head to Paganis. You’ll find this Italian restaurant in the West Village, and they serve brunch drinks for $2.89. Finally, if you’re passionate about supporting small businesses, go and prop up Jimmy’s bar. Jimmy’s Corner is one of the few remaining locally owned bars in Midtown Manhattan, and the owner is so passionate about good prices that he’s refused to raise his drink prices, despite raising rent and affluence in the area. The strategy works as his customers are totally loyal to him – and you’ll get a drink for a few bucks… if you can elbow your way past everyone.

Armed with all this information, you should be feeling pretty relaxed about money when you’re visiting New York. So what are you waiting for? Go and enjoy it!

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