New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. After 12 days enjoying the big apple on a budget it became one of our favourite places! Sure, we skipped most of the expensive, typical touristy stuff but probably had a more authentic New Yorker experience!!!
Here’s our top tips for having a great time in New York on a beer budget:
Find a sweet Airbnb and book in advance. Hotels are super expensive in NY so if your on a budget like us then Airbnb’s the best option. Just make sure you book in advance as there’ll be more places available. All the best ones will be taken if you leave it to the last minute. It also gives the host time to reply to your queries and we found New York Airbnb hosts to be quite choosy! Staying with a New Yorker in a local neighbourhood is also a great way to get to know the city that never sleeps.
The Subway is the way
Download the Mapway App – New York Subway MTA Map & Route Planner. Then you can skip the expensive cabs and do as New Yorkers do and catch the subway and walk. This app gives fantastic guidance and route directions on how to get anywhere, just follow the letters and colours. You’ll also get a super fit New York bod in the process! Ride this underground marvel of engineering everywhere in NY for just $2.75 a go and you’ll save heaps on getting around. New York is bigger then you think!
Say G’day to the Visitors Centre Helper
Visit the information kiosk near The National Museum of the American Indian, in lower Manhattan. Pop in, pick up some maps, and have a chat with the friendly attendant to get the low down on what to do and see. These maps are also a great way to plan your walking tours of the city. As we don’t carry heavy guide books or plan too much in advance, local info spots are a necessity!
Museums and galleries
There are loads of museums and galleries around NY. Most of them are expensive and can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars , breaking your beer budget. Here’s a couple to visit to get a taste of New York but not the expense:
- The MOMA is free on Fridays from 4pm-8pm. Make sure you get there early otherwise you’ll be lining up around the block. Once you’re inside it’ll be a shoulder to shoulder bustle. But if your on a budget, take a deep breath and try not to get too annoyed at all the people taking selfies infront of the famous art.
- The MET was an awesome experience and is actually ‘pay what you like’ all the time. It recommends a $25 entry but definitely don’t feel bad handing over a fiver to get in. These guys have a billion dollar portfolio!!! And the staff won’t bat a eyelid.
- The National Museum of the American Indian. This museum in the financial district is absolutely free. It’s in an amazing building (lots of original Ghostbuster scenes were shot here) with some cool displays so make sure you pop in after touching the Wall Street Bull’s nuts.
- The Chelsea galleries, located just off the high line, are a great free way to see some spesh NY art and rub shoulders with some fancy people.
Diy walking tours
The best way to see this city is on foot. But New York is huge so divide it into bite size chunks, such as:
1. The High Line – Times Square – Rockafeller Centre
Start at the south end of the High Line and work your way up. Take your time relaxing at different vantage points. At the end there’s a nice area on the water. Pop over to the nearest service station to grab some beers then come back to chill for an hour and recharge the legs before walking the few more blocks to Times Square. This place is excessive and overwhelming and full of tourists. So be prepared to fight the crowds and if your lucky you’ll find a few spots where the tourists seem to thin out. Once your through to the other side make your way to the chilled areas around the Rockafeller centre fountains and get some photos in front of “The Tonight Show” entry 😉
2. Financial district – 911 memorial – Ferry to Staten Island
Fight through the crowds to touch the bronze Bull’s balls before hitting Wall St. There’s also a great free museum in the NPS operated Federal Hall (just next to the stock exchange), dedicated to the history of independence and Americas president’s – notably George Washington. His statue adorns the front as this was the site that he was sworn in as the first American President. If all the site seeing is making you hungry there are loads of budget food trucks parked in this area. Grab something to eat and watch the NY business people bustling around. From here it’s a short walk to the Freedom Tower and 911 Memorial. Make sure you head underground into the new Westfield development. From here you’re close to the Staten Island ferry terminal. So if you’re keen to brave the crowds then catch one of these free ferries in the afternoon to see the sun set over the Statue of Liberty. This is a loose guide so visit these attractions in any order you fancy.
3. DUMBO – Brooklyn Heights – Brooklyn bridge
Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan and Brooklyn Overpass) and Brooklyn Heights was one of our favourite areas. Get off the Subway at High Street on the A-C line. Then meander through the cobbled streets of Dumbo. Don’t miss the famous chocolate shop ‘Jacques Torres Chocolate’ for a tasty treat. From here, walk around the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge past the iconic carousel to the Brookyln Bridge Pier Parks dotted along the esplanade. From here climb to Brooklyn Heights on the hill for fantastic views of Manhattan and the Bridge. Walk along the elevated promenade towards the Bridge for a sunset walk over this icon.
4. Chinatown – Little Italy – Nolita
New York is such a huge and diverse city and this is so apparent when you do your walking tour through all the different boroughs and neighbourhoods. Walking through Chinatown, we were transported to, well, China! Asian people everywhere, street and shop signs printed in Mandarin and all the wafting cooking smells were distinctly Chinese. Futher up the road and you find yourself in Italy! Restaurants spill onto the sidewalk, small grocery stores selling traditional Italian providores and romantic fairy lights hanging over the street. Then ‘North of Little Italy’ you have the funky borough ‘Nolita’. This is the place for all the bright young things of Manhattan to congreagrate in the evenings at the many bars and restaurants.
5. Central Park
At 6 miles long and half a mile wide this park has it all. Historic squares, embellished fountains, romantic bridges, spooky tunnels, wide open spaces, forests, ponds, glacial rock formations, forts, a troll? The list goes on and on. So put aside a day to come and explore this oasis in a concrete jungle. Start at one of the parks information kiosks to grab a map of the park as its easy to get disorrientated and lost in this place. Halfway through your walk visit one of the supermarkets a couple of blocks out of the park on the Upper West Side to pick up some pre-made lunch goodies then head back to find a nice spot to dream an hour away. When your legs are gone and your finished for the day there are plenty of metro stops along the park to take you home.
6. SOHO – Washington square – Flat Iron – Empire State
Get off the subway in the SOHO area to wander around then head towards Washington Square. People watching it is in this bustling Park. There’s plenty of busking performances to take in, and if you dare, take your shoes off and frolick in the fountain. If it’s lunchtime or beer o’clock there’s an excellent supermarket just around the corner to shop then relax in the beautiful park. From here walk north to Union Square Park that intersects with Broadway to follow this icon to the its next intersection with 5th Ave. Here is Madison Square Park and the Flat Iron District! From here there’s nice views to the Empire State as well.
State of New York- East River State Park
This scenic state park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has prime views of the Manhattan skyline including the sea planes landing on the waterfront every 15 minutes or so. Bring a picnic with a bottle of wine and make it an afternoon.
Bushwick street art tour
Brooklyn is like Manhattan’s cooler messier younger sister. This place is far less touristy with a relaxed authentic vibe. It’s a melting pot of real people from all over the world. It also boasts some of the best street art we’ve seen. So hit the streets around Bushwick and East Williamsburg. Here along Jefferson and Troutman Streets between Cypress and Knickerbocker Ave, you can see some local talent including many works by the Bushwick Collective. Also check out the murals along Grattan and Siegal Streets and also on Morgan Ave at the corner of Harrison Place.
Corner store deli’s
Eating out is expensive so do as the locals do and pop into some of the corner stores with the big ‘deli’ sign. The local cook will whip you up anything from bacon & eggs and French toast to a philly cheese hero. And at a fraction of the restaurant cost. Take it away to the local park or NY building stoop and you’ll be a local in the making. Watch the kids playing in the broken fire hydrant if you’re lucky and even join in if you’re cooking in the summer heat!!!
If you want a fun filled day then visit Coney Island. This place has it all – the wide Boardwalk along the beach filled with interesting people, music, parties, eateries and of course theme parks. Ride the original timber roller coaster to travel back in time then walk out to the pier to get a scenic view back to the shore – perfect at dusk as the amusement park lights come on.
Local shows not Broadway
There’s a lot of talent in New York and there’s a lot more to see than just Broadway. There are many underground improv clubs where actors go to practice their skills and many are even feeders to show like Comedy Central and SNL. We saw a few shows at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and the Annoyance Theatre. You’ll save a lot of money doing this as well as meet some really interesting people and see some cutting edge comedy. You might even end up as part of the show – Jade was called on stage to be part of a mime performance! Only in New York! Most of the venues also have cheap bars too, so grab a beer or wine before and after the show and mingle with the locals.
Bars on Bedford St, Brooklyn
This place is pumping and its full of actual cool people not the pretentious people in many Manhattan bars. Everyone is NY is interesting, creative and loves their city, so your bound to make some new friends over a drink or two. Stroll down the street and hit a few ‘hole in the wall’ bars to be absolutely surprised at what you’ll find inside. One of our faves was ‘Lucky Dog’ where locals are encouraged to bring their dogs to roam in the beer garden out back.
New York Pizza Slices
Are you hungry from walking around all day and don’t want to spend a load of cash on a meal, plus tax and tip? There are New York pizza shops on every corner, open all hours in the city that never sleeps. So grab a slice of delicious pizza, for around $2, and sit on a bar stool in the window and people watch.
This list is just a summary of fun things we found to do during 12 days in New York without blowing our budget. But there’s so much more to this place that we didn’t get time to explore and enjoy. So go with the flow and you’re bound to stumble on some gems in the most exciting city on earth!!!