How To Explore NYC On a Budget

Visiting New York City can be a bucket list experience, but it is also an expensive place for a vacation.

Between Broadway show tickets, travel expenses, food, and admission fees, you can easily blow your budget on the first day. 

times square nyc

Thankfully, exploring the Big Apple on a dime is easier than you may think.

With a little planning, you can see all of the iconic sights, enjoy some unique experiences, and still have enough left over to treat yourself.

Get Around Like a Local

Depending on what you want to see, you may be able to walk or rent a bike to get around.

But, at times, the places you want to see may be out of walking distance. And the last thing you want to do is pay hefty New York cab fees!

That’s when it’s time to follow the locals’ example and hit the subway.

Grab a subway schedule (you can find one in most hotel lobbies) and a MetroCard, and get ready to see the sights for a fraction of the cost of an Uber or taxi.

The subway stops near virtually every major New York attraction, and also runs to the boroughs around Manhattan, making it easy and affordable to add a visit Brooklyn, Queens, or Coney Island to your trip.

A single one-way trip costs about $3, and you can also purchase a 7-day unlimited pass for longer vacations.

guggenheim new york city

Find Free Museums

New York is home to some world-class museums, but the ticket cost may be out of your budget if you’re traveling on a dime.

However, don’t give up on that visit to the Guggenheim or the MET just yet!

Many of the Big Apple’s most popular museums have free or pay-what-you-wish days that will let you explore the exhibits for less.

Keep in mind that some of these offers do require you to be a New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut resident, so check the museum websites for full details.

And if you prefer exploring more unconventional art, the street art of New York City is sure to impress.

Banksy’s Hammer Boy is on display in the Upper West Side. Protected by plexiglass, it is one of the artist’s only surviving murals in NYC.

The East Village is home to the First Street Green Art Park, famed for its stunning murals.

The street art created by the LISA Project NYC can be found in various neighborhoods around New York as well, and Brooklyn is well known for its collection of colorful street art.

All these outdoor attractions are free to visit and explore, and the subway runs close by, making getting there easy.

statue of liberty

See the Statue of Liberty for Free

The Statue of Liberty is one of the city’s most iconic and enduring sights. A gift from France in the 1800s, the statue symbolizes hope, friendship, and freedom.

If you want to splurge, tickets to Liberty Island, Ellis Island, and access to the crown of the Statue of Liberty itself are very reasonably priced, at just under $25.

But, if your budget doesn’t allow for that, you can still enjoy some amazing views of the infamous Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island without spending a penny by hopping on the Staten Island ferry!

This ferry runs between Manhattan and Staten Island, and offers the chance to enjoy stunning views of both the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

Just keep in mind that the ferry transports an estimated 70,000 people daily, so don’t plan on making your journey during the peak rush hours!


Spend the Day in Central Park

Encompassing 843 acres, the iconic Central Park is one of the largest in the world. In fact, spending an entire day wandering the paths still won’t be enough time to see everything.

Beatles fans will want to stop by the iconic Strawberry Fields, and if you visit in the spring, be sure to make time to see the Cherry Trees in bloom.

Don’t forget to stop and make a wish at Bethesda Fountain! One of the largest fountains in the city, it is also a perfect place to relax and people watch.

Belvedere Castle is worth a visit to enjoy some great views of the surrounding area. The castle, which was completed in 1872, features a visitor’s center, gift shop, and terraces overlooking Central Park.

For those that love birdwatching, the castle also lends out free Discovery Kits, containing binoculars, a guidebook, maps, and sketching materials.

With so many different free attractions and sites to see, visiting Central Park should be a must on every visitor’s itinerary. And it’s also one of the best things to do in New York with kids!


You Can Explore NYC On a Budget

From grabbing a slice of inexpensive (and iconic) pizza from Joe’s Pizza to joining the Good Morning America audience in Times Square, it really is possible to visit NYC on a budget!

And the best part is that you’ll likely discover some hidden gems and local secrets most people visiting the city never see.

So take the plunge, and enjoy everything the Big Apple has to offer, without breaking the bank!

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