By guest blogger – Leandi Schoonraad
New York is not somewhere you go, it’s not something you see. New York is something you do. The Big Apple. There is no other city like it on earth. The bright lights from the adverts throw colours that dance across the night air to indulge the awestruck spectator. There is absolutely no doubt that like Alicia Keys and Jay Z sing – this is the concrete jungle where dreams are made. Unfortunately, finances are often what stand in the way of us chasing those dreams. We don’t want that to be the case with New York, so we’ve put together a few suggestions for how to do New York on a budget.
Explore Central Park
Most people enter Central Park from the south, walk around for 20 minutes and think they’ve seen Central Park. Not true. This enormous space can take a week to explore if you wanted to. Museums flank the east and west of the park, and the children’s zoo is in the south-west corner. Meandering walkways are everywhere and it’s easy to lose yourself in your thoughts as you amble through the oasis of peace. Don’t miss the pretty lakes throughout the park. You might recognise the Loeb boathouse in the middle of the park; it’s one of Central Park’s most iconic spots. In winter, release your inner child by spending some time ice skating on one of the temporary rinks.
Be Part of an Audience
Many of the TV shows – such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – air from New York and have a live studio audience. Most of these shows are completely free to attend; you just need to apply online and in advance for a ticket. If that doesn’t work for you, check it out on the day. Some have first come first served standby tickets available to fill the seats of no-shows.
See a Discounted Broadway Show
There are literally dozens of Broadway shows a day, and all of them are fantastic. Does it really matter which one(s) you go to see? Some of you might have a strong preference, and that’s OK. But if your goal is just to see an award-winning musical on Broadway, then I’ve got great news. In Times Square, there is TKTS; a red booth which sells discounted (up to 50% off) tickets to same-day shows. It’s open from 4pm to 7pm and there’s almost always a line, so get there as close to 4pm as possible. That means you have the most shows to choose from and first pick at the best seats still available. If there’s a particular show you’re desperate to see, it might be worth approaching the theatre ticket office directly. Some shows will sell standing room only entry for sold-out performances.
Retail Therapy for the Cash-Strapped
It would be criminal to visit New York without indulging in some shopping. Now while NYC is considered cheap for international travellers, we know not everyone can afford the big brand names. Enter Century 21. Our favourite branch is the one in the Financial District, where several floors are jam packed with designer brands at heavily discounted prices. There’s nothing wrong with the stock; it’s just last season’s supply of clothing, accessories and homewares. We’re talking Emilio Pucci dresses, Armani jackets, Juicy Couture tracksuits and everything in between. At around 70% off. It’s also a great place to pick up a new suitcase. You know, just in case the shopping was so good that you went a bit overboard.
The Statue of Liberty
Most tourists wanting to see the great Lady Liberty take a dedicated ferry trip to Liberty Island. Mistake. Not only is the ferry ride expensive, ($25.50 per adult) but waiting times are long, so it’s potentially going to waste hours of your day. True travellers know that the best view of the Statue of Liberty is from the Hudson itself, not from underneath the statue. Jump on the Staten Island ferry instead. It gives you an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty as you sail past it and take your iconic photo. Best of all? It’s completely free. Look back too; the Manhattan skyline is incredible.
Look for Promo People
Along 7th Avenue, there are normally plenty of people handing out promotional fliers advertising various evening entertainment. Keep an eye out for something you might be interested in going to. A little friendly conversation and some back and forth banter is always very well received, and we’ve scored free tickets to comedy shows or gotten back-stage invites more than once.
Walking through the Districts
Plan your route to pass by green spaces such as Bryant Park, which has some cute cafes where you can grab a coffee. Hit the High Line, which is a long elevated walkway offering superb views of Chelsea. While you’re there, pop into the Chelsea Market and browse some of the unique offerings in the boutiques. Little Italy, SOHO and the meatpacking district all have their own charm and are just as worthy of a visit. Actually, every corner of New York is different and amazing. For much more detail on each individual area, our favourite book is “New York: The Big City and its Little Neighbourhoods”.
Now you have some top tips on how to do New York on a budget, so stop dreaming and start planning!
Leandi Schoonraad was born in South Africa but is now a citizen of the world. She has been to 61 countries on 6 continents and loves to inspire others to go travelling too. Leandi and her best friend share their photos, stories and top destination tips on their website; WhistleStops. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.