New York is renowned for being an expensive city to visit. It is vast and there is so much to see, it is easy to spend far more than you were expecting. Before my last visit I was determined to see the City on a shoestring and I managed to find some great things to do that won’t break the bank. Here are my favourites –
See the Statue of Liberty for free
I have been to New York several times but never felt the need to visit Liberty Island. You can see from this picture that many people do actually visit but I much prefer to see the Statue of Liberty when sailing passed. I feel like it is a more authentic way of seeing Lady Liberty in all her glory and you can get a cracking view of the southern tip of Manhattan at the same time. There are lots of river cruises you can do to see this view but you can also do this for free, by jumping on the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you can jump on every 20-30 minutes. When you get to Staten Island, you can either walk around and get back on to go back to Manhattan, or you can have a wander around Staten Island itself.
Walk the High Line
The High Line didn’t exist the last time I visited New York but it is top of my list of things to see in the City. An old disused freight line that is suspended has been transformed into green space with clear walkways to either view the City from above, or appreciate the beauty of the High Line itself. There are fragrant plants, art spaces and even a bar along the way. Something for everyone and such a pretty take on something that had been left to go into disrepair in the City. It is free to walk the High Line and I would recommend you walk from start to finish, although you can jump on and off at frequent intervals.
Discover foodie gems at Chelsea Market
Not far from the finish of the High Line, you will find Chelsea Market. Once the home of the National Biscuit Company, this historic building has been transformed into a hub for local food traders, shops and film production in the heart of the Meatpacking District of the City. It is free to visit and it reminds me of our Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor, in some respects. Take in the incredible building or stop for a quick bite. The prices here are reasonable and I particularly loved these hot wings from Mok Bar. I also got my ramen fix sat up at their open kitchen, which is such a great way to order and dine in a relaxed setting.
Relax in Central Park
Central Park will be high on most visitor’s list when it comes to a trip to New York City and I am totally on board with it. You can easily spend the full day here with a picnic on the grass, watching the busy New Yorkers go about their daily lives. Dotted about the park you will find murals and statues, like the Alice in Wonderland statue above. There is a boating lake where you can sit and enjoy a glass of fizz, as well as the exquisite Bow Bridge which guides you to Belvedere Castle. If I ever get married, that’s where it will take place. Grab a map at the Visitor’s Center and tick off as many as you can, including the ice rink if you visit in Winter.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
Somewhere else that did not exist the last time I visited New York City is the 9/11 Memorial. Two reflecting pools now stand where the two towers used to dominate the skyline, and are lined with bronze plaques engraved with the names of those who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001. Each day, someone walks around the names and leaves roses in the names of the victims who would have been celebrating their birthday that day. Having stood at the top of the World Trade Center on my first visit to New York City, the site has always held such a special place in my heart and I visit every time I am in the City. The regeneration that has happened around the area is a true testament to the place and their sheer determination that terrorism won’t win. They actively encourage touching the names on the plaque, yet there is still a quietness around the place that moved me to tears. It is free to visit the Memorial but I would also recommend visiting the museum. I didn’t get chance this year but I will on my next visit.
Eat 99c pizza
You’ll find 99c Pizza shops dotted around the City and they are a lifesaver when it comes to grabbing a quick snack if you are on a budget. Every day they have a few pies (or pizzas if you are in the UK!) where they sell off slices for just 99c! They don’t scrimp on size either, you’ll get one of those iconic huge slices of pizza, or even better, 2 slices with a can of soda to share for $2.75. It is some of the best pizza I ate in the City, at a fraction of the price.
Find the best happy hours
Drinking in New York City is also incredibly expensive, but most bars and restaurants offer some excellent deals in some of the best happy hours in the world. There are loads of websites dedicated to finding the best happy hours in the City and it obviously depends on what your tipple of choice is as to where you may end up. But, let me tell you, margaritas are popular in this City and are regularly knocked out for $5 as well as Moscow Mules and an array of premium beers. O’Hara’s at the back of the 9/11 Memorial is a good spot with great happy hour prices. The place is adorned with Police and Fire badges from around the world and the bar was severely damaged after 9/11. Located next to the Fire Station that responded to the Attack, ask to see the memorial book for a true glimpse of the horror of the day to learn more for the price of a pint.
Visit the Fire Museum
More 9/11 memories are housed in the New York City Fire Museum as well as a view of the Fire Service in the City throughout history. It’s not one of the most popular museums but there is lots to see and your kids (big ones included) can dress up in a New York City Fire uniform and take in what these guys do on a daily basis. Did you know the majority of Fire responders in the City are volunteers? Truly humbling stuff! You can be around and out in a couple of hours so it doesn’t take too much time out of your day, and only costs $10.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most iconic in the City and you can walk all the way over into Brooklyn itself for free. The walkway is over the road so there is no risk of being run over, which is always a bonus, and the views from up there are truly phenomenal. If you look close enough you can see Lady Liberty or watch all the boats sailing underneath.
You can either walk back or head into Brooklyn itself. The neighbourhood of Dumbo is the first you will come to and there is a spot where you can capture the Empire State Building within the struts of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s no wonder Instagrammers flock here to take their fashion images. There are also trendy bars and shops to visit to catch a breath before heading back into the madness of the City.
Go back in time at McSorley’s Ole Ale House
My favourite bar was McSorley’s which has been operating since 1854, by the same family. They still spread sawdust on the floor like they did when they first opened and it largely remains the same as it did back then, only women have been allowed in since the 1970s. Little has changed in the fact that they only serve 2 types of ale and their food menu is small. It still includes a cheese platter which comes with raw onion and an unopened full packet of crackers. The most poignant part of the place are the wishbones which hang over the bar. Story goes that patrons going to war in WW1 left them there and took them down when they returned. The wishbones that remain were hung by the boys who did not return. Beer is reasonably priced and well worth it to experience the history within the walls of this quaint bar.
And there you have it! Budget friendly New York City. Would you add anything?