Things to Do in New York on a Budget

There’s more than a few reasons why the Big Apple is a favourite among travelers the world over. From the unrivaled art-deco and glass skyline of Manhattan, out to the bustling suburbs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York is one of a kind.

A global city in every sense of the word, it’s easy to be put off by tales of high prices. But with a bit of know-how, a trip to NYC could be much cheaper than you think. From boat rides to free food and getting your face on the small screen; here are just a few of our favourite things to do for nothing or next-to-nothing on your New York city break.

Take in the vista from a Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

Carrying a whopping 22 million people each year, the Staten Island Ferry is the way most New Yorkers travel between the borough and Manhattan. More than just a means of transport though, this ferry service offers spectacular views back out over the skyline, and passes by the Statue of Liberty for a close-up. It’s entirely free, and you’ll enjoy exploring Staten Island once you reach the other side.

Get lost in Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is probably the most famous – and certainly one of the most interesting – pieces of urban green space on the planet. You could spend an entire day just walking its tree-lined avenues, hunting the park’s 29 statues and monuments as you cross its collection of bridges. Highlights include the Bethesda Fountain and Strawberry Fields – the poignant memorial to former Beatle John Lennon. Exploring the park on foot is totally free, while an afternoon’s bike hire won’t cost you much at all.

Stroll along the High Line

It’s hard to believe anything could hold a candle to Central Park, but here in the 21st century, it’s gained a competitor. Meandering between the skyscrapers of Manhattan for miles, this elevated park runs the length of a disused railway line. Along the route you can enjoy wildflower meadows and tree canopies, in a beautifully designed and maintained environment. It’s free to visit, and open from 7am to 7pm in winter, until as late as 11pm in summer.

Walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

One of New York’s oldest and most beautiful landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge deserves its romantic reputation. An architectural marvel in itself, it also offers unspoiled views back over the city, and is best enjoyed by night when it’s elegantly illuminated. Crossing the bridge won’t be a wasted journey of course, the trendy Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO districts lie on the other side, and it won’t be long before you find a hip locals bar to hang out in.

Discover the city through the eyes of a local

Discover the neighbourhoods

The people who truly know this city, all the exciting little nooks and forgotten corners, the up-and-coming neighbourhoods and family-run eateries; are those who call it home. To get the lowdown from a bona fide New Yorker, arrange for a free tour through Big Apple Greeters. They’ll match you up with a local whose area of expertise suits your interests, and let you know where and when to meet. The organisation has a no-tipping policy, so it really won’t cost you a thing. Those that volunteer do so purely out of love for their city and a desire to meet visitors from all over the planet.

Explore a museum (at the right time)

Explore a museum

The Big Apple boasts some of the best museums on Earth, and you’ll be spoilt for choice as to which to call in at. The bad news is that they’re not always cheap, but fortunately almost all of them can be seen for free at a particular point in the week. Highlights you won’t want to miss include the Museum of Modern Art, which is free to enter between 4pm and 8pm on a Friday, the Guggenheim which is free between 5:45pm and 7:45pm on Saturdays, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum – free from 5pm until close on a Tuesday.

Find your favourite filming locations

New York is a city that’s rarely off the big or small screen. With so many iconic movies and TV shows using the Big Apple as their base, you’re never far from the spots where your favourite characters lived or hung out. Popular destinations include the apartment building from Friends over in Greenwich Village, the nearby Magnolia Bakery as seen in Sex and The City, as well as the Ghostbuster’s firehouse in Tribeca.

Be in a TV show audience

If seeing where your former TV favourites were filmed wasn’t enough, you could always try get on the box yourself. New York is the beating heart of America’s TV industry, with a whole host of shows going out live from the Big Apple every day. With a chance to get up close to some huge stars, try for a spot in the audience of Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, or The View – amongst others. For most you’ll be able to acquire tickets online in advance, while a certain amount will be held back for those queuing on the day. In almost all cases, a ticket is totally free.

Eat for free

Eat for free

It might sound too good to be true, but New Yorkers are famous for their hospitality. That may be why, at bars across the city, you’ll be served up some free food if you pop in for a drink or two at the right time. You’ll bag a delicious pizza slice with every beer at Alligator Lounge over in Williamsburg, while the West Village’s Blind Tiger has cheese and baguettes up for grabs at 6pm on Wednesdays. If you love cocktails, get yourself to Matt Torey’s for the $4 Bloody Marys and Mimosas – they come with an authentic New York bagel at the weekend.

Get enjoying your New York city break for less, with flights to New York from Manchester airport >