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Where to go in New York City for free and how to save money in New York

Where to go in New York City for free and how to save money in New York 

Today I want to talk about what to do in New York inexpensively and what you can see for free. Although it would seem that such a mega-popular travel destination as New York City needs no introduction, and as if we all already know everything there. Nevertheless, when it comes to planning a trip to New York, it’s best to decide beforehand what to see in the Big Apple and, most importantly, to prepare and figure out prices not only for tickets to museums and viewpoints, but also to budget for your flight, accommodations in New York, food, shopping, tours, and sightseeing.

Inexpensive travel to New York City

It’s no secret that New York City is quite an expensive city (one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the world), and entertainment there isn’t cheap either. However, in my opinion, the lion’s share of the travel budget to New York City is worth spending on a good hotel in the center. This is very important because the right choice of accommodation in or near Manhattan will very much determine your impression of New York.

But the entertainment and atmosphere of New York is still something that can only be experienced one-on-one with the city. And they don’t all have to be very expensive. Some interesting places to see in New York will be quite inexpensive or even completely free.

So, let’s get started on our inexpensive trip to New York City!

  1. So, almost any trip to the U.S. (after getting a U.S. visa) begins with finding an airfare to New York and setting a timeframe for the trip. We always travel wisely: that is, we don’t throw money away, but we don’t stay in the cheapest hostels either. A sensible economy is better to choose a cheap flight with one short transfer, and use the money saved to choose a better hotel in New York.

When the plane ticket to New York is in your pocket, move on to the next point – finding and booking a good hotel.

By the way, you can ask for good maps of New York, as well as any useful informationin in these kiosks

  1. Now, if you want to continue to save money, it is worth taking care of your accommodation in New York in advance. Unfortunately, New York is not a place where you can very easily find a good hotel downtown.

But if the goal is to find a decent hotel in Manhattan, then you have to dig through a ton of material and read all the reviews to avoid running into a hotel with bedbugs or with an inoperable elevator and thin walls, behind which the neighbors swear when you try to get some sleep after a busy day.

As I said before, the rule of thumb works 100% in New York that it’s better to pay more but definitely get a cozy place to stay rather than a murdered room. It doesn’t have to be luxury accommodations, because we will only be there overnight, but preferably with a good breakfast. But it had to be a full-fledged vacation, so that we would have energy to conquer New York every day.

It was very important to us to find a hotel in the center of Manhattan or as close to it as possible. So we could walk around New York City every day, either to Central Park or on foot to Wall Street, and not get tired.

We ended up booking on Bookings just a great hotel on Long Island, near the Queensboro Bridge and close to the subway, just two stations from downtown Manhattan (Midtown) and Fifth Avenue. In general, we recommend a cheap hotel in New York – the Howard Johnson by Wyndham. I personally stayed there for 4 days and was very pleased with everything (fresh rooms, hot breakfast, daily cleaning).

One of the most famous hotels in New York, located next to Central Park – The Plaza! This is where the movie “Home Alone 2” was filmed.

  1. After buying airline tickets and booking a hotel, the two most important tasks before your trip to New York are completed. Next is to decide on the excursions, and think about what to see in New York for cheap or even free. Because there’s so much to see there, it’s hard to keep your eyes open.

By the way, we came to New York for 4 days and had time to visit all the major attractions in Manhattan. But we had prepared beforehand and studied what and on what day to visit, so as not to get too tired, but also not to waste our time. So I’ll advise you, too, on the best way to plan your leisure time, depending on how many days you have in the Big Apple.

Free concert in Union Square, New York – anyone can join in and sing mantras

Free sights and attractions in New York City

Skyscrapers, interesting buildings, cathedrals, monuments, parks, and squares are almost all free to visitors. Only the services are paid for. And to see it all, you just need to make a smart itinerary of New York.

For souvenirs and things with New York signs, head to Chinatown, not the specialty stores on the Upper East Side or near Wall Street, where everything is more expensive.
But on Wall Street you can visit the Bronze Bull for free and hold his different body parts and wish yourself to earn more

Here are the attractions in New York that are always free:

Central Park – In addition to walking, you can also get to various events and just relax by having a picnic or listening to musicians. There are several information kiosks in the park, where you can get a free map so you don’t get confused.

Watching squirrels is another of the free activities in the park. There are quite a few of them here.

Times Square – come, see and be amazed at the infinity and bright lights of New York City: daytime and evening. A must!

Staten Island Ferry – a chance to see the Statue of Liberty pretty up close without queues, and to take photos of Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the water. If you don’t have plans to come and see the symbol of America up close, this is a great option! I took this ferry on my first visit to New York, and I can tell you it was pretty interesting. The water ride takes no more than two hours.

The Statue of Liberty is best seen from the free ferry to Staten Island
View of Manhattan from the Upper Bay

You can also take a toll ferry to Liberty Island. The fare is $18.

National Museum of the American Indian – Museum of American History in Lower Manhattan.
New York Public Library – The New York Public Library is so stunning that it has been the location for the filming of many movies, from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to “Spiderman.”
How about a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge? Or the Queensboro Bridge?

The Brooklyn Bridge connects two boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge is pedestrian and is 1,825 meters long.

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Gothic wonder of New York City.
The High Line is a park built on the site of the old railroad line. For those who like urban planning and taking pictures for Instagram, this is the place to go!
The Roerich Museum in New York, where, in my opinion, the best paintings of the Russian artist are on display. This was my dream! And I finally managed to be there and see with my own eyes many of my favorite paintings.

Inexpensive attractions in New York

Broadway – the main theater street in the world!

If you really want to see a Broadway musical, but you do not know what, and to sort out is not in the mood and time, use the service of buying tickets at the last minute. You can go to the Times Square ticket booth on the day of the show and get tickets at the maximum discount for the show that is on today and is about to start.

Not only can you find and choose the best musical in Times Square, but you can also hang out with Minnie and Plush Elmo

what about New York City museums?

I honestly don’t really like museums. But even I decided to visit the famous Met with its gorgeous Egyptian and Mesopotamian halls on my first visit to the Big Apple.

Dinosaurs are the most popular characters at the Museum of Natural History! To avoid walking in the crowd, it’s best to run there, to the 4th floor, as soon as it opens and you buy tickets

A ticket to the Metropolitan Museum of Art costs $25, but you can pay as much as you like. Usually budget tourists pay only one dollar.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is $25. It is free to visit on Fridays from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
American Museum of Natural History American
– from $23. At the box office – you can pay as much as you see fit. We came a half hour before opening (museum is open from 10:00) and took a line. In the end we were almost the first ones at the box office and immediately bought tickets for $1.
Museum of Moving Image – $15 admission ticket. Free on Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
New York Botanical Gardens – $28. Free all day Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
9-11 Museum – from $24. Free on Tuesday from 5:00 p.m. until close of business.
For the exact free days, it’s best to check the museums’ official websites.

Is it worth buying the CityPass, a combined tourist ticket for the city’s top attractions?

The most interesting things for tourists to see on the City Pass:

  • Empire State Building ($39)
  • Museum of Natural History ($23)
  • Top of the Rocks Lookout ($34)
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ($18)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art ($25)
  • Guggenheim Museum ($25)
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum ($39)
  • Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum ($33)
  • Circle Line cruise around Manhattan ($43)
  • Hornblower Ship Tour ($30)

You must know exactly what you want to see and if you will make it to all the listed attractions.

The City Pass in New York is valid for 6 of the attractions on the list for 9 days and costs $126, which is 42% cheaper than if you pay for everything separately. And importantly, you can save time with this ticket because it allows you to get through faster instead of standing in line to get in with everyone else. The easiest way to buy it is online at

Another obligatory expense item in the budget of a trip to New York City is to pay the subway fare.

There are quite a few sights in Manhattan, and some are quite far apart, especially the Wall Street area in Lower Manhattan (the ferry to the Statue of Liberty leaves from there) and Central Park. Walking in downtown New York City is possible, but you get tired quickly. That’s why it’s worth considering the subway.

  • One trip on the New York subway costs $2.75 with a Metrocard (bought at the machine at the entrance to the subway and topped up there), and without the card it costs $3.
  • To go from New York airport to downtown or from Manhattan to JFK airport, you have to pay almost $8.5 (Air Train + subway fare). Air Train, by the way, can also be paid for with a Metrocard.
  • An unlimited subway pass for a week costs $32.

Tip. If you are not traveling alone, you can pass several people with one Metrocard, but each person must have his or her own unlimited pass.

How do you save money on restaurants in New York City?

You can’t. Either go or don’t go. If you don’t go, how do you eat? The same way New Yorkers do. Mobile kiosks and food trucks right on the streets sell the most delicious and time-tested food! When I lived in New York, I used to buy rice and vegetables and falafels all the time and was full. And it only cost $5! Now my favorite meal has gone up in price and costs $6-7, depending on the location. But the portions are still big and delicious!

There’s plenty of cheap food on the street in New York, it’s impossible to go hungry here.

For health-conscious eaters, there are farmers’ markets in New York City that are held in public squares.

Also you can buy a refreshing fruit shake or smoothie!

A Car in NYC

Is it worth taking a car in New York City?

No, you shouldn’t if:

  • you are alone/single or just the two of you
  • you do not like to stand in traffic.
  • don’t like to pay for parking or take time to find a free place to leave your car.
  • like to walk a lot, and only want to take the subway as a last resort.
  • would like to ride the BigBus or City Sightseeing buses in New York City.

City Sightseeing tours cost from $70, but you can buy tours at a discount on the official website.

Renting a car in New York City is possible if

  • You have a lot of people in the family, and especially children. It will come out more profitable and convenient in all respects.
  • You travel through New York City at night and then continue on your flight. In this case, you can save on housing by renting a car, and at the same time to see Manhattan. Typical price for renting a car in New York for a day – about 50-70 dollars, which is significantly cheaper than staying in a decent hotel and slightly less than the cost of an overnight stay in a hostel for one person. Find the right option conveniently at
  • You are traveling from New York City to travel around the U.S. by car. But let me tell you right away that renting a car in New York is more expensive than in other cities, especially compared to renting a car in Los Angeles. In addition, to leave from Manhattan or from JFK airport, which is in Queens, you have to drive over toll bridges (usually the price of the fare is $12-18).

There are horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park – but it’s certainly not the most budget-friendly thing to do in New York.

How to save money on car rentals in New York when traveling around the U.S.?

Don’t take a car in New York. You can fly to the U.S., and first look at New York and its interesting places, and then travel by bus to Washington (if the ticket to the bus Megabus booked much in advance, you can greatly reduce its cost, up to $ 1!), where you can also explore many free museums of the U.S. capital. And then rent a car in Washington and drive from there to Miami, Savannah, or various East Coast national parks or beach towns like Myrtle Beach.

Related Article:

Rent a Car in New York – Complete guide on how to rent a new car in the USA

So, does New York City seem less expensive now? Shall we go?

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