Oh, New York. The City that I adore but one that can be so very expensive sometimes. While it’s known for being on the pricier side, exploring NYC on a budget is entirely possible. In this guide, I’m going to show you the various tips and tricks to help you make the most of your visit without draining your wallet. From free activities and events to affordable accommodation options. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with New York, so let me SHOW you how to enjoy the city for a fraction of the cost.
NYC Budget Recommendations
Listen, i know that it’s an expensive city, but you can visit it without going into debt. There’s a few things that you should consider as you start to plan out your trip:
1. Seasonal Considerations:
When planning your visit to New York City, you’ll want to take into account the different seasons and the opportunities they present for budget-friendly exploration.
- Walk or rent a bike in Central Park if weather permits
- Sit in Washington Square Park and listen to the music, people watch, drink coffee or read your book/journal
- Take the ferry and watch sunset across Manhattan (better yet, go over to Williamsburg or Dumbo pier and watch from there)
- If the tulips are in bloom, head to Park Avenue and take photos!
- Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Tuesdays (free admission).
- Attend the Annual Dance Parade in May (free to watch and participate).
- Enjoy free outdoor movie screenings in various parks, such as Bryant Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
- Explore the High Line, an elevated park with stunning views of the city (free to access).
- Attend SummerStage, a series of free concerts and performances in parks throughout the city.
- Grab a bagel and head to a park to enjoy
- Sit and journal / enjoy coffee at a local shop
- Take a ferry ride to enjoy the views of Manhattan + catch a breeze
- Eat the tacos in Chelsea Market (literally only like $5-6)
- Take a walk through the enchanting Central Park during the fall foliage season.
- Visit the New York City Marathon in November and cheer on the runners (free to watch).
- Have brunch outside somewhere (to take advantage of the good weather)
- Grab a slice of pizza from Prince St. Pizza and enjoy it at a local park
- Walk around the different neighborhoods and enjoy the changing colors & stoops
A warning about visiting NYC during the winter months is that it’s one of the most expensive times to visit the city. Hotel prices will be a lot more and in general there will be a ton more people visiting. Keep that in mind as you plan your travel.
- Embrace the holiday spirit by visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (free to see).
- Head to Hudson Yard and go into the mall to see the lights (unreal!)
- Walk around 5th avenue to see even more Christmas decor / lights
- Watch the Saks Fifth Avenue Light show
- Have hot chocolate at a local coffee shop or Angelina’s (if you’re feeling fancy)
- Lace up your ice skates and glide across the ice at Bryant Park’s Winter Village (free admission, skate rental fee).
- Take a tour of Dyker Heights (over in Brooklyn) 10/10 — HIGHLY recommend
Find your next flight to NYC with Skyscanner – my favorite flight finding tool!
2. Free Activities and Landmarks:
Now that we’ve discussed the different seasonal considerations to keep in mind, New York City also offers an array of free attractions and activities that showcase its rich history and cultural diversity.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers “pay-what-you-wish” admission for New York residents.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free on Fridays between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM.
- Explore Times Square, the heart of the city, and take in the dazzling lights and bustling atmosphere.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline.
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which offers free admission on Tuesdays after 5:00 PM.
- Parks and Outdoor Spaces:
- Wander through the enchanting Central Park, which boasts beautiful landscapes, lakes, and iconic landmarks.
- Take a ferry to Governors Island and enjoy picnicking, biking, and free public events during the summer months.
3. Affordable Accommodation Options:
Believe me, I know that finding reasonably priced accommodation in New York City can be challenging, but there are some budget-friendly options available.
a. Hostels and Guesthouses:
- Consider staying in hostels like HI NYC Hostel or The Local NYC, which offer affordable dormitory-style accommodations.
- Look for guesthouses or bed and breakfast options in neighborhoods like Harlem or Brooklyn.
b. Vacation Rentals and Apartment Shares:
- Explore websites like Airbnb or VRBO for affordable apartment shares or vacation rentals that cater to different budgets.
- Budget Hotels and Motels:
- Check out budget-friendly hotel chains like the Pod Hotels (I’ve actually stayed in one of the Pod Hotels, over in Williamsburg, and it was quite nice and inexpensive!), The Jane Hotel, or YOTEL New York for more affordable options.
Ultimately, New York City doesn’t have to be synonymous with a high price tag. I personally know that with careful planning and a bit of research, you can have an incredible and budget-friendly experience in the city that never sleeps.
From enjoying free activities and exploring iconic landmarks to taking advantage of seasonal events and considering affordable accommodation options, there are endless opportunities to create unforgettable memories in the Big Apple without straining your wallet. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and embark on a New York City journey that won’t break the bank!
P.S. See my favorite coffee shops across NYC — I frequent them every time I’m there 🙂