6 Budget-Smart Tips to Get the Best of New York City

How would it be to visit New York City without seeing a Broadway show? The view from the Empire State Building? An Opera or Ballet? Would you still go? Would it be worth it?

New York conjures up images of high fashion, live entertainment, famous landmarks and incredible museums. But what about the ‘other’ New York, the one more than eight million people call home?

Thanks to a very generous friend who opened her door to me (fortunately she loved my cooking), my recent visit to New York grew from three weeks to six. Strolling in Central Park shortly before my departure, I was stopped by a French couple waving and pointing in vain, as they tried to make sense of their map.

“Excusez-moi madame, 5th Avenue? Le Guggenheim? You know?”

“Yes, I know,” I smiled, happy to have been considered a local. “Come with me, I’ll show you the way.”

After calling this place ‘home’ for a while, I came up with 6 Tips for getting the most out of your time, and the least from your pocket, while visiting New York City.

1. Walk Everywhere

NYC is a walker’s mecca with parks lining Manhattan’s perimeter: Riverside Park (Upper West Side), Carl Schurz Park (Upper East Side), Battery Park (Lower Manhattan), and the big one, Central Park (see #2)

The Highline is a true gem. ‘An historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side’,
completed in 2011.


Little Italy and Greenwich Village are well worth a visit. A stroll over Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn Heights affords wonderful views of Lower Manhattan.


Take in a neighbourhood walk to see apartment pooches being walked en masse, toddlers with nannies, and street vendors selling fruit and veg for a song.  Walking, you overhear countless languages, and on Sunday afternoons, cheers emanating from bars broadcasting the NFL game.


2. Explore Central Park

Central Park stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street in the heart of Manhattan. With 58 miles of trails it keeps its many runners, walkers, and tourists happily occupied. This vast space of playgrounds, picnic sites, outdoor theatres, fields, baseball diamonds, lakes, a reservoir, a carousel, a castle, and a skating rink, has to be the best park a city could offer its people.

Spend time wandering in Central Park and you’ll be constantly amazed by the variety of entertainment; musicians playing everything
from sax to harp, dancers performing ballet to hip-hop, wedding couples being photographed. There’s even a giant bubble blower and a guy telling jokes for a $1. You start to get an idea of its obvious appeal.

3. Take Advantage of Special Offers

Unless money is no object, do some homework before arriving in New York about where to find deals and offers. Broadway theatres offer stand-by tickets at http://www.tdf.org Here are a couple of others:

* Save yourself the $25 admission to MoMa by visiting on Fridays between 4-8 pm for FREE.

* The Metropolitan Opera House offers $20 tickets ($25 at weekends) two hours prior to show time. (Depending on the opera, regular priced Orchestra tickets run at $150 and up.)

4. Discover Movie Locations

New York may have been featured in more films than any other city in the world! Wandering around you suddenly find yourself in movie locations. It’s kind of fun! Central Park probably tops the list (think Kramer vs Kramer, Marathon Man, The Out-Of-Towners). Scenes from You’ve Got Mail were filmed on the Upper West Side; Sex in the City, on the steps of the New York City Library; Serendipity, at the Rockefeller Centre; Moonstruck, at Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts. The famous deli, Zabars, at Broadway & 80th is mentioned in numerous TV shows (Will and Grace, The Daily Show, 30 Rock). The list goes on.

Grab a bowl of homemade soup and check out the pictures
of Jerry and friends lining the walls at Tom’s Restaurant at 2880 Broadway, the diner in Seinfeld.

5. Window Shop

This is New York City, not the place for a bargain, unless you head over to Chinatown. But it costs nothing to browse, or try on designer wear in Bloomingdales (59th & Lexington) or for the brazen, in one of the many Madison Avenue boutiques. It only costs money when you BUY.* 

SoHo’s high-end designer stores are housed along lovely narrow cobbled lanes, and the Meatpacking District enjoys a wonderful outdoor market, a beer garden and is home to designer stores the likes of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

* It’s worth making an exception if you’re looking for shoes. Harry’s Shoes at Broadway & 83rd carries footwear from around the world. The selection is huge, the price range too.

6. Be Entertained off Broadway

New York City is blessed with a constant stream of speakers and presentations. Here are some great options:

  • 92nd Street Y (www.92y.org) for poetry readings and author visits. We lucked out with a night of Mary Oliver. Nick Hornby was scheduled to read a couple of nights later.


If you’re considering a trip to NYC in the near or distant future, I hope you find these tips useful. They certainly allowed me to see the best of this wonderful city…with money left for a plane ticket home.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the Comments for all to see.





5 comments on “6 Budget-Smart Tips to Get the Best of New York City

  1. Becky, I so enjoy your blogs, the descriptions and details make me believe I am with you on your journeys, thankyou.

    1. Thanks Gail. You always make me feel so good 🙂 It’s always heartening to receive words of encouragement when you put your words out in the world.

  2. So, now Becky you must come and write a blog about Washington DC!! Just a $30.00 bus ride away from NYC! Talk about beauty and attractions! We have countless monuments, art galleries, statues, water bodies, and museums — all for FREE! Our taxpayers dollars put to great use. White House, Capitol, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Smithsonian, National Cemetery, Tidal Basin, and Memorials – Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Viet Nam War to name but a few. Washington Monument, Ford’s Theatre, Kennedy Center, not to forget the National Cathedral, Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria. We know a sweet little free B&B with housesitting possibilities over the holidays….

  3. Becky, you’ve done it again. Captured the essence of a place in a concise, lyrical way that has me wanting to pack my bags tout de suite! I am so glad you happened to NYC — what a richer place it is for having had you in it for a a few short weeks!