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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.

New York City Holidays

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

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If you’re in New York, you must walk the scenic Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can 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, the East River, Governor’s Island, the harbour and epic NYC skylsine. It can get crowded so 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 some sightseeing and to grab a pizza at Grimaldi’s. 

What to see in Central Park

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Spend a relaxing day at Central Park and you can sunbathe in Sheep Meadow, hire a bike and cycle the scenic pathways, or even catch a musical concert - all for free! Be sure to check out the free concerts in Central Park by Summerstage in Rumsey Playfield and you can also get free walking tours all around 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, kids can visit the zoo and feed penguins or visit the observatory inside Belvedere Castle. Explore the park at your own leisure and with plenty of quaint picnic spots to stop by, such as Cedar Hill (shaded by pine trees), Cherry Hill (offering great views of the Lake) or the benches at East Meadow, it's the perfect place to enjoy a lunch alfresco. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located nearby, too.

Things to do in Times Square

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New York's busiest district is where you can get your shopping fix, watch Broadway shows and soak up the NYC pace of life. 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. Catch a hop on-hop off bus and take in some top city sights or if you've got the kids in tow or the New York City Explorer Pass is perfect if you plan on filling your itinerary with activities and attractions.

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island tour

Statue of Liberty Ellis Island tour New York

Checking out the iconic Statue of Liberty and historic Ellis Island is a must but skip the long queue for the ferry from Battery Island (or get there early) and take the Staten Island Ferry a few blocks away, 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 lunch by the small picnic tables set up near the docks, offering a stunning view of the city skyline. If you're set on seeing the Statuew of Liberty up close, you can check out discounted tickets online for the ferry and Statue of Liberty and ensure you book ahead to miss the queues.   

Catch a show on Broadway

Broadway theatre show tickets discount New York

Love the theatre and musicals? Catching a Broadway show is on many people's bucket lists but tickets can be expensive. Book early to find good deals on the iconic shows or from September to May you can even 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 and 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

high line public parks in new york city

The High Line is a train track-turned-park on the west side, along the Hudson River - and a local favourite. The guided High Line tour is pretty reasonably priced but you can easily do your own tour of this urban parkscape. It runs along eight blocks and is lined with 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 in spring and summer, while at the passage on 14th Street, you can often find ooutdoor theatre 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. You can enjoy drinks or a picnic alfresco and do some sunbathing on reclaimed teak benches at the lawn on 23rd Street, open seasonally. 

Visit the Grand Central Terminal

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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. Still among the busiest stations in the world, nearly 200,000 people travel up and down its 44 platforms daily but the station is also an iconic architectural gem and its lofty ceilings, giants windows and ornate pillars are famous the world over. Check out the free historical tours 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 restaurants, such as the Oyster Bar in the basement.

Browse markets in New York

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New York has several markets that you can browse. Take a stroll through Chelsea market, check out the Brooklyn flea market, window shop in the Meatpacking district or pick up cheap bags in Chinatown near SoHo’s winding streets. Treat yourself to some cookies at Levain Bakery or Milk Bar near Central Park. Prepare to be assailed by a variety of scents at Smorgasburg, the huge food market in Brooklyn, where you can indulge in tacos, beers, hot dogs and more. There’s also the charming LIC Flea Market at Queens, to browse a plethora of ethnic multicuisine, art and craft stalls. Pick up your wines and cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket or put together a picnic basket and settle down near the park to watch the world go by.

Views from New York rooftops and more!

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Making it to the top of Empire State Building for panoramic views of the city lit up in the night sky, is on every tourist’s bucket-list. Paying extra can get you to the observation deck on the 102nd floor. However, another great view (and cheaper one) can be seen from the Top of the Rock (the rooftop of Rockefeller Center), another iconic point that offers outstanding views of the Empire State Building. The High Bridge in Harlem, whose pipes once carried water from Westchester to Manhattan, arches grandly above and offers spectacular views of the city to walkers. The main High Bridge entrance is near 173rd street and Amsterdam Avenue. You also get wonderful views of the harbour and Hudson River from lively Battery Park, near Lower Manhattan, hosting sculptures, fountains and street performances.

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