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Budget-Friendly Guide: Top 10 NYC Attractions and Activities for Frugal Explorers

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At first glance, you might believe New York seems to be all skyscrapers, elegant cocktail clubs, and busy businesspeople or fashionistas splashing the cash. Nonetheless, with a few insider tips and methods, exploring the Big Apple on a budget is quite simple.

There are many inexpensive and free attractions, transport passes, walks in all weather conditions, as well as top museums to explore on a budget. With the addition of low-cost micro-hotels, visiting New York City and having a good time without breaking the bank is entirely conceivable.

We look at a few of the top things to do and see in New York City on a shoestring budget. This is indeed a long read, and we’ll go into great detail, but in the end, you’ll have a clear image of the top things to do in New York City.

Let us start!

1. Take a walk

One ghost walk, a Williamsburg street-art tour, plus tours of Harlem, Little Italy, and Chinatown are among the many tours offered by Free Tours by Foot throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Greenwich Village Tour: From the Dutch’s founding of this patchwork of colourful downtown streets as Groenwijck (Green District) in the 17th century towards its heyday as that of the home of the 1960s folk scene, trying to take in Cafe Wha? and also the apartment where Bob Dylan wrote Blowin’ in the Wind, we’d recommend the tour of Greenwich Village. 

You’re urged to tip the guide at the conclusion, as with many ostensibly free walking tours: $10 or $20 does seem to be the standard.

2. See the 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial was created to honour the almost 3,000 persons who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Where the Twin Towers once stood, there are two large reflecting ponds with the names of all the victims.

There is also a museum with several multimedia exhibits about the attacks, as well as survivor stories and memorabilia. The memorial is free, but the museum costs $26 USD to enter.

3. Affordably see a Broadway Show

You can’t even visit Manhattan without seeing a Broadway show, which ranges from modern musicals to Shakespeare to odd, offbeat productions. Nothing beats live theatre, which is such an important aspect of living in New York. 

Don’t get full-priced tickets when you’re on a tight budget. To purchase half-price tickets, go to the TKTS booth in Times Square. You’ll have to queue, but you’ll be able to save a lot of money!

4. Pay a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City

The Museum of Modern Art houses some stunning (and bizarre) modern art. I am not a fan of that style (call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t get it), but the MoMA also houses Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” as well as many other impressionist & post-impressionist works. Even when you’re not a fan of modern art, it’s worth a visit.

And if you enjoy current and modern art, this is (supposedly) one of the best venues to see it in the world. On Fridays after 4 p.m., the museum is free!

5. See the Federal Building

Federal Hall has been one of the city’s most underappreciated museums. This is where George Washington swore his oath of office, having been built in 1700.  That was also the site of the United States Customs House in the late 1700s, as well as the country’s first capital structure.

The previous structure was dismantled in 1812, and the new structure was built in 1842. I’m particularly fond of the old vaults. The best part is that entrance is free!

6. Governors Island is worth a visit

If you’re looking for a way to get away from the city without breaking the bank, head to Governors Island, NY, which combines a park, an adult playground, and an outdoor art area into something like a single lovely haven for adventure. Riding the boat and visiting the car-free attraction is among the best things to do in the summer, so just use this handy guide to organise your trip. Governors Island is been returned to the public year-round after months of closure; don’t forget your mask!

7. Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is a ferry service that runs between Manhattan and Staten Island. You’ll need to go away from the crowds to get the greatest perspective of that famed city skyline. The boat is not only free, but it’s also a great opportunity to get out on the water and take in the beautiful views of southern Manhattan, Lady Liberty, and Ellis Island. In about 25 minutes, you can go across the harbour to the fifth borough and return.

On weekends, the Ikea Ferry also is free (weekdays are $5). From Wall Street to Red Hook, Brooklyn, it chugs along.

8. Journey across the Brooklyn Bridge

Since its completion in 1883, the bridge has served as a vital link between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The neo-gothic towers and dark limestone provide a beautiful setting for photographs. The wooden slates stand elevated above the road and create a wonderful postcard effect when facing Brooklyn with the skyline behind you. 

Individuals leaning over to connect the ‘forbidden’ padlocks to the bridge can get very crowded, but in the later months and frostier weather, the tourists fade away, leaving you free to photograph away. If you’re headed to Brooklyn, make a stop in the Dumbo district for a coffee or ice cream if the weather is nice, or a hot chocolate in one of the local cafés if the weather is chilly.

9. Eating like a New Yorker if you want to be a true New Yorker

Food in the city isn’t inexpensive, with most main courses costing $15-$20, however, if you choose wisely, you may sample a variety of traditional New York delicacies. Enjoy your breakfast with the obligatory cup of coffee. Zucker’s Bagels plus Smoked Fish are the “genuine deal,” according to Time Out and USA Today, who ranked them the best bagels in NYC last year.

Since it debuted in 1975, Joe’s in Greenwich Village has been attracting visitors from all over the world for its pepperoni. Grab the chocolate pizza at Adoro Lei on Hudson Street for something a little more hip. To have a taste of all of it, go out for local cuisine or visit the mall food courts, where you’ll find anything from Mexican to Asian cuisine, Ramen to burgers.

10. Go to a taping of a TV show

Try securing tickets toward a TV filming if you’re planning your vacation. Free tickets are available to shows such as Saturday Night Live, The View, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, and Late Night starring Jimmy Fallon.

However, because there is a limited amount of them, they must be booked in advance, so make repeated requests to enhance your chances of getting one or more. Details and bookings can be found on each show’s website.

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