How To Do NYC On A Budget

Did you laugh when you read the title of this post? I laughed a little when I started writing it. But as a once and future New Yorker, I can personally attest to the fact that the City of Lights can be survived – hell, even enjoyed – on a budget, even if you’re traveling from the UK, Spain, and other European countries.  Some of the hotels New York offers are affordably priced for those on a budget.  Here are a few quintessential New York experiences that can be had on the cheap – or at least won’t require selling a kidney.

Going to a Broadway show

If you arrive in Manhattan planning to find affordable (or any) tickets to The Book of Mormon, be prepared to part with that kidney after all. But if you’re just looking for the chance to hit Broadway and take in one of the boulevard’s legendary theater performances, head to Time Square first.

There you’ll find one of three TKTS booths in the city. (The other two are located a bit farther away at the South Street Seaport and downtown Brooklyn.) TKTS booths sell same-day tickets to major Broadway shows at anywhere from 25-50% reduced prices. Pulling this off requires being flexible regarding which show you see and being willing to wait in line, but it also allows you to eat with the cash saved. Dinner and a show – very New York.

Doing brunch 

Brunch – it’s about as sacred to New Yorkers as hating New Jersey and almost as much fun. But brunching at the best spots in the city can get pretty pricey, especially since the joy of brunch lies largely in inappropriate amounts of day-drinking.

Fortunately, even some of the best brunch places in New York offer great deals. Staples like Meade’s Bar, Hudson River Cafe and Taproom 307 all offer flat rate all-you-can-drink prices (AYCD – every New Yorker’s favorite acronym.) And places like City Winery and the Astor Room offer quality, live entertainment at brunch o’clock, meaning you get more value out of the meal than just eggs and a hangover.

Visiting Museums 

New York City museums boasts some of the most impressive art collections in the world. Many of them also boast impressive entry prices. But usually they offer one afternoon a week or day a month that’s free. So it pays off (literally) to do your homework before visiting.

MoMA, for example, hosts Target Free Fridays, when the museum’s collections are free to view between 4pm and 8pm. The Whitney Museum is always free for visitors under 18 years old, offers several free days a month (which can be found on their website,) and every Friday from 6-9pm admission is “pay what you want,” with a minimum of one cent. Take time to cut through the confusion of museums’ admission tricks and plan a tour of almost any museum in NYC for free.

Enjoying the nightlife 

Partying in New York City is notoriously expensive. Drink prices are outrageous, many of the best places charge a cover and then there’s the taxi ride home. My best advice for the ladies is to show a little cleave when ordering at the bar.

Kidding! Don’t do that, New York is a classy place (supposedly.) One of the best ways to stick to your budget while in New York is to go out close to wherever you’re staying, even if that means changing locales every couple of days. Not only do you get to experience life in a few of the boroughs New York City has to offer (it’s not just Manhattan, after all,) you decrease your changes of burning cash on cab rides. A subway and bus route map doesn’t hurt, either.

Contrary to popular belief, New York can actually be a pretty friendly town. Chat up some local in the pub next to you for a recommendation on great spots that won’t break the bank. Not only is word-of-mouth one of the best ways to save your dollars, it’s also the best hands down for abandoning the tourist boards and having a true NYC experience. Remember – New Yorkers are on a budget too, and they’re still having fun. Watch. Learn. Repeat. Just don’t ask us which way to the Hard Rock.