THINGS TO DO IN
NEW YORK ON A BUDGET
The city that never sleeps might be famous for its glitz and glamour, but there are also plenty of things to do in New York on a budget, too. Our handy guide covers where to get cheap tickets to the Empire State, how to see the views for free from Brooklyn Bridge, where you can find the cool vintage markets and much more, so you can make the most of your New York holidays.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
If you’re in New York, make time to walk the scenic Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can also bike across but if you plan to pause and click pictures of the Manhattan skyline, then walking the dedicated pedestrian walkway is a better idea. You’ll be greeted with great views of the Statue of Liberty, East River, Governor’s Island, the harbour and iconic NYC skyline. It can get crowded though, so it's best to go early or at sunset. If you’ve walked to the Brooklyn end, walk down the stairway to the artsy neighbourhood of DUMBO (once called Two Bridges) for a spot of sightseeing and to grab a pizza at Grimaldi’s.
What to see in Central Park
Spend a slow-paced afternoon at Central Park and sunbathe in Sheep Meadow, hire a bike and cycle the scenic pathways, or catch a music concert - all for free! Be sure to take a look at the free concerts in Central Park by Summerstage in Rumsey Playfield, or why not sign up for a free walking tour across the city with Free Tours NY? Go on a guided walk and discover all there is to know about this world-famous park, which covers a whopping 40 blocks. John Lennon fans can visit his memorial park, Strawberry Fields, while kids are guaranteed entertainment at the park's zoo. You can explore the park at your own leisure and with plenty of quaint picnic spots such as Cedar Hill, Cherry Hill (offering great views of the Lake) or the benches at East Meadow, it's the perfect place to enjoy an al-fresco lunch.
Things to do in Times Square
New York's busiest district is a whirlwind of entertainment. It's here you can get your shopping fix, catch a world-famous Broadway show, indulge in instagram-worthy street food and get lost in the buzzing city atmosphere. When you're not staring up at the neon-lit billboards (and dodging the iconic yellow taxis) you can visit some of the biggest department stores in the city, including Macy's and Bloomingdales. The best way to explore the city is on a hop-on-hop-off bus, which passes all the top sights and makes for great entertainment if you've got the kids in tow. Equally, a New York City Explorer Pass is a handy purchase if you plan on filling your itinerary with activities.
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island tour
The world-famous Statue of Liberty on historic Ellis Island is a must-visit while in NYC, but skip the long queue for the ferry from Battery Island and take the Staten Island Ferry a few blocks away instead - a free ride that saves you up to $12 and gives you wonderful views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn. Pack a picnic and enjoy an al-fresco lunch on the small tables set up near the docks, offering a stunning view of the city skyline over the twinkling waters. If you're set on seeing the Statue of Liberty up close, look out for discounted tickets online to save money.
Catch a show on Broadway
Love the theatre and musicals? Catching a Broadway show is on many a bucket list, but tickets can be expensive. Book early to find good deals on top-selling shows, or from September to May you can catch free musical shows by jazz and experimental artists, courtesy the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Music lovers should take a tour of the iconic Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Centre, you can pick up discounted tickets online. The theatre district extends from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, busy 42nd Street and Times Square to 52nd Street.
High Line walking tour
Don't worry, you won't be hanging from a zip wire as high as the Empire State. The High Line is a train track-turned park on the west side, which runs along the Hudson River. A guided High Line tour is pretty reasonably priced, but you can easily create your own tour of this urban parkscape. It runs along eight blocks and is lined with green gardens, public art, food stalls and iconic billboards. The lush Chelsea Thicket, a mini forest with redbuds and American holly at West 20th Street, is beautiful during spring and summer, while at the passage on 14th Street, you can often find outdoor theatre performances and screenings. Drop into the Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District and head to 10th Avenue, for views of the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty.
Visit the Grand Central Terminal
Built in 1871, the Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan was saved from being torn down in 1975 after Jacqueline Kennedy raised money to preserve it. It continues to be one of the busiest stations in the world, with nearly 200,000 people occupying its 44 platforms each day, but you don't have to be catching a train to admire its beauty. The station's architecture is awarded for its lofty ceilings, giant windows and ornate pillars, which you can discover by walking through yourself or hopping onto a free historical tour on Wednesdays. Gaze up at Grand Central Station's stars painted on the ceiling, share a secret in the Whispering Gallery as commuters crowd the central hallway or drop in at the high-end restaurants, such as the Oyster Bar in the basement.
Browse markets in New York
You'll find a market on every street corner in this atmospheric city and if you want a taste of local life, they're worth the visit. You've got Chelsea market, an urban food court and shopping mall in Manhattan, Brooklyn Flea, an outdoor bazaar selling vintage furniture, clothing and collectables, and the Meatpacking District dotted with high-end stores, trendy restaurants and open squares. If you're a foodie (if you've travelled to NYC you must be!), head to Smorgasburg - the largest weekly open-air market in America brimming with hundreds of local vendors serving up hefty portions of delicious, cheap snacks - think baked cheese, burritos, burgers and waffles. For sweet tooths, treat yourself to some of the city's mouthwatering cookies at Levain Bakery or Milk Bar near Central Park, or if you're a cheese fanatic fill up your basket with all the wines and cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket.
The best views in town
When visiting New York, taking home that perfect panorama of the city skyline is a priority - right? While you'll undoubtedly find one of the best views from the top of the Empire State, or Rockafella building - there are other ways to see the sights without travelling all those flights. Belvedere Castle in Central Park offers fantastic views over the lawns from its two balconies, with telescopes provided by the Henry Luce Nature Observatory for a closer look. The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic landmark worth walking down for panoramic views of the city's skyline, or head to the Green-Wood Cemetery on Battle Hill, the highest natural point in Brooklyn. You also get wonderful views of the harbour and Hudson River from lively Battery Park, near Lower Manhattan, hosting sculptures, fountains and street performances - perfect for an afternoon stroll.