It’s no secret, New York City is not cheap. With accommodation starting around $100 a night it can be daunting to plan a trip to NYC on a budget, but it is not out of the question. Luckily there are a lot of free things to do in New York, as well as lots of cheap places to eat to keep costs low. In this article I will share tips on cheap places to stay and eat if you’re on a budget as well as the top 13 things to do for free in NYC.
Where to stay in NYC if you’re on a budget
Carlton Arms Hotel – Private single room with shared bathroom from $65 a night
Hotel 31 – Private double room with shared bathroom from $75 a night
Da Vinci Hotel – Private double room with private bathroom from $80 a night
Canal Loft Hostel & Hotel – Private double room with private bathroom from $90 a night
Soho Garden Hotel – Private double room with private bathroom from 190 a night
Holiday Inn NYC Times Square – Private double room with private bathroom from $110 a night
Where to eat in NYC if you’re on a budget
1) Try a New York bagel from Best Bagel & Coffee for around $3
2) Enjoy a slice of pizza at Joe’s Pizza from $3
3) Try a number of different cheap cuisines at Chelsea Market
4) Chomp down a veggie burger at Superiority Burger in East Market for around $6
5) Devour a Banh Mi at Banh Mi Saigon from $6
6) Enjoy some Dan Dan noodles at Han Dynasty for around $8
7) Taste the Curry Flower at Inday for around $7
Free Things to do in New York
There are so many sites to discover in New York City and fortunately lots are free!
1) See the Statue of Liberty
For an amazing FREE view of the Statue of Liberty and NYC skyline you can catch the Staten Island Commuter Ferry across Upper Bay. If you go during the week I would advise going around 10am so you avoid the commuters. Check out the ferry schedule to plan your trip.
TOP TIP – You want to be on the right side of the ferry going from Whitehall Terminal to Staten Island and the left side of the ferry going from Staten Island to Whitehall Terminal. Please note you will need to disembark the ferry you arrive in on and board another if you plan on leaving straight away.
2) Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
There is nothing quite like watching the sunrise or sunset from Brooklyn Bridge!
TOP TIP – The best view is on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, as this way you can see the skyscrapers in Manhattan! You can enter the bridge from a staircase at the end of Washington Street (/Prospect Street)
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Banged my head on a low bridge 🤕… it would have been ok if viaduct 🤣 :::: Watching the sunrise from Brooklyn Bridge 🌉 was one of the highlights of my trip to NYC 🍎 :::: Firstly it is so much quieter than sunset and secondly the colour the buildings is just 😍🌞 :::: TRAVEL TIP – I prefer the view from the Brooklyn side of the bridge as this way you can see the skyscrapers in Manhattan! 🏙 You can enter the bridge from a staircase at the end of Washington Street (/Prospect Street) ::::: 📷 by @khemric and edited with my Golden Hour Preset (coming soon) 💫 :::: #gingerpresets #thewanderlustfamily #newyork #newyorkcity #newyorkcitylife #nyc #nycityworld #ilovenewyork #newyork_ig #brooklynbridge #brooklyn #speechlessplaces
3) Walk around Central Park
Central Park is the largest urban park in the USA and it’s the perfect place to spend the day walking around (without spending any money!)
Find out more about the best photo spots in Central Park
4) Enjoy the view of Manhattan from DUMBO
Walk under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges and check out the pebble beach in DUMBO. Don’t forget to go to Washington Street to find the Humphrey loft from Gossip Girl.
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I heard that in DUMBO Ellie-phants can fly! 🐘🤣 :::: You might recognise this street from Gossip Girl, as it’s where the Humphrey loft is! :::: If, like me, you’re a fan of Gossip Girl then you will want to check out these NYC film locations: – Washington Street in DUMBO (pictured) – Bethesda Terrace (Central Park) – The Pond (Central Park) – Steps of the MET – Museum if the City of New York – Grand Central Station – The Campbell Apartment – New York Palace Hotel – Empire Hotel :::: Find out more info in my new blog post! (Link in bio and stories) 💫 :::: Also how perfect is the line up of the Empire State Building with my headband? 🤣🙌 :::: Edited on @lightroom for desktop with my Golden Glow Pop Preset #gingerpresets :::: #thewanderlustfamily #DUMBO #gossipgirl #brooklyn #washingtonstreet #manhattanbridge #empirestatebuilding #newyork #newyorkcity #newyorkcitylife #nyc
5) Admire the Empire State Building
One of the most iconic buildings in the world, the Empire State Building is a must see if you’re in NYC. You can see it from afar in DUMBO, or from up close whilst walking around Manhattan. Head to Madison Square Park for the best view from the street. Find out more photo spots of the Empire State Building.
TOP TIP – You can also get a great view of the Empire State Building from Monarch rooftop bar (however the drinks aren’t cheap)
6) Walk along the High Line
The recently opened high line is creating quite the buzz in New York. This raised walkway, which includes hundreds of species of plants, stretches over 2.33 km. You can stop for food and drinks along the way if you get hungry.
7) Marvel at the unique architectural piece, The Vessel.
At the end of the High lane in Hudson Yards is a beautiful and unique piece of architecture, currently named the Vessel.
Entry is free however tickets are limited to time slots. A limited number of tickets are available to book online in advance, or you can book them at the digital kiosks when you arrive (but be prepared to wait a bit).
8) Sit and chill in Washington Square Park
Whilst walking around lower Manhattan make sure to stop in Washington Square Park to see the grand arch and fountain.
TOP TIP – Come around 3pm on a sunny day to spot a rainbow in the fountain!
9) Marvel at the lights at Times Square
Did you know that by law, Times Square’s buildings must have a minimum amount of display lighting? At night the whole square is lit up, there is nothing quite like it! It’s a good place to try out some night time photography, especially portraits, as it’s so bright.
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NYC, Be there, or be (Times) square 🍎 :::: Did you know that Times Square was once named Longacre Square? It took on its current name in 1904, when The New York Times moved its headquarters to the area. 📰 :::: By law, Times Square's buildings must have a minimum amount of display lighting 💡, so it’s the perfect place to try out night portrait photography! In these pictures I used the following settings: 1/90 f/4 ISO400 📷 :::: #BTS – @shauniebegley and I actually waited for yellow cabs to be caught in the red light so that we could get the perfect NYC shot 🚕 we even had one cab slow down as he drove past as he saw my tripod and yelled out the window that he wanted to be in the shot 🤣 :::: #thewanderlustfamily #newyork #newyorkcity #newyorkcitylife #nyc #nycityworld #ilovenewyork #nycprimeshot #nycdotgram #timessquare
10) People watch at Grand Central Station.
Grand central station is an absolutely beautiful train station with a grand curved ceiling. You will recognise this station from a number of films and TV shows (including Gossip Girl).
11) See the iconic Friends apartment
Does anyone not like friends?! When I was planning a trip to NYC I knew I had to make a stop at the friends apartment, as well as check out some film locations from Gossip Girl.
TOP TIP – You’ll find the Friends apartment at 90 Bedford Street.
12) Enjoy a free museum
There are a number of free museums in NYC, make sure you check out:
13) Check out the iconic Flat Iron building
Another district to explore is the Flat Iron district. Take a photo with the clock and iconic flat iron building and wander around Madison Square Park.
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I heard New York was a concrete jungle so I wanted to blend in 🐆💁♀️🤣 :::: I have had an amazing last 2 weeks in the USA exploring New York and Chicago and got to tick so many things off my bucket list! 🇺🇸 :::: There are quite a few differences between British English and American English which led to a few hilarious misunderstandings like: Me [loading my luggage onto the X-ray machine at Airport security] Airport security “You will need to put your bag in the bin” Me “Wait what?! I’m not putting my bag in the bin 🗑!” Airport security “Lady, you have to put your bag in the bin” [points at tray] Me “o bin as in tray” 🤦♀️🤣 :::: TRAVEL TIP – If you come to the Flatiron District make sure you check out the Flatiron building, Madison Square Park and SERRA by Birreria for food/drinks. :::: 📷 by @haroldcamilo and edited with my Golden Glow Pop Preset #gingerpresets 💫 :::: #thewanderlustfamily #flatironbuilding #flatiron #flatirondistrict #newyork #newyorkcity #newyorkcitylife #nyc #nycityworld #citygrammers #ilovenewyork #womenwhoexplore
I hope you manage to keep to your budget in New York City, it might be hard but it’s not impossible with all the free things to do.
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