One of the most-visited cities in the world, New York City now hosts more than 50 million annual visitors. From its world-class entertainment options, to its iconic landmarks, to the bustling nightlife, the Big Apple has a bit of something for everyone. However, New York City can be tough to navigate for travelers on a budget. Thankfully, there are some excellent activities that don’t cost a fortune. With a bit of planning, you can find lodging and flights to New York City for a reasonable price, and these must-do activities are itinerary essentials for budget-conscious travelers.
Check Out the New York City Library
Although you may not immediately think of a library visit as a fun activity, the New York Public Library is not your average book renter. Along with its archive of more than 53 million books, the library commonly hosts rotating exhibitions, book readings by famous authors, expert panels, and much more. The New York Public Library’s Children Center also offers regular programs and events for children. The third largest library in the world, the New York Public Library is always free to the public.
Stroll Through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Although a few botanical gardens are found throughout NYC, each with their own charms, no botanical garden is more popular than Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Located off Washington Avenue in Brooklyn, the 52-acre park is a nature lover’s urban oasis. Explore the Shakespeare Garden, which features 80 plants from the famous writers works, or stroll through the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden with its charming pond bridges and Japanese Maple-lined walking trails. For only a $10 entry fee, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is a must-see, especially for visitors with a hotel in Brooklyn.
Explore Little Italy
New York City is the most diverse city on the planet, and it’s rich cultural heritage can be seen throughout the five boroughs. By 1920, New York City was home to more than four million Italian immigrants, and Little Italy is a living homage to the city’s diversity. The small urban village in southern Manhattan is an excellent destination for authentic yet affordable Italian cuisine and art.
Visit the Guggenheim
New York City’s world-class museums are some of the city’s most popular attractions. From the Museum of the City to the American Museum of Natural History, NYC is home to more than 80 museums, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is arguably the city’s most famous art museum. Works by famous artists such as Norman Rockwell and Pablo Picasso are showcased inside the iconic coiled-shaped building on 5th Avenue. Although admission is typically $22 for adults, the museum offers patrons a “pay want you want” entrance fee on Saturday nights. It’s recommended to pay something, but the policy can still save you a few dollars.
Attend a Broadway Show
You may not consider visiting Broadway as a budget-friendly activity, but you don’t need to pay a fortune to see a world-class play. With over 40 professional theater groups, Broadway hosts a staggering amount of famous plays and musicals. Most productions follow the same schedule with nightly performances Tuesday through Saturday. However, to save a few dollars, consider attending a matinée on Wednesday or Sunday. These showtimes are typically cheaper. Also, for those staying at a New York City hotel, check with your concierge for Broadway ticket promotions or hotel guest discounts.
Explore Coney Island
In operation for over a century, Coney Island is both a historical site and an excellent destination for family fun. Known as the People’s Playground, newly renovated Coney Island offers an exciting, updated lineup of amusement rides, and the 2.7-mile boardwalk is a great place to decompress from the city. Although rides and games differ in cost, a family could spend a fun afternoon for around $40. And, of course, don’t forget to have a hot dog or two, a culinary treat synonymous with Coney Island.
Take a Breath in Central Park
Much more than sprawling lawns and a few ponds, Central Park is home to a number of famous New York City attractions. From the majestic Bethesda Fountain to the Belvedere Castle, the attractions in Central Park are seemingly endless. Although entrance to the park has been free since 1858, some activities in the park do cost money. If you feel like splurging a bit, the Central Park Zoo costs $18 for adults and $13 for children, but the zoo is definitely worth the price of admission.
Visit Rockefeller Center
From its seasonal ice skating rink and tree-lighting ceremony during the holidays to the daily crowds drawn to “Today Show” tapings, the Rockefeller Center is always abuzz with excitement. An iconic New York City landmark, Rockefeller Center is also home to NBC Studios. For budget travelers, free studio tours are offered daily. Although the tours are free, be careful not to splurge too much on nearby shopping and food. Rockefeller Center’s location between 5th and 6th Avenue puts it in one of the most expensive areas of Manhattan.
Although New York City can be expensive at times, the Big Apple doesn’t necessarily have to come with a big price tag. Yes, you can spend $200 on dinner, stay at an ultra-luxurious midtown Manhattan hotel, and shop on Madison Avenue. However, with a little planning, NYC can still be an exciting destination for budget travelers if you can take advantage of promotions, deals, and free activities found throughout the city. And remember, the NYC public transportation system, namely the subway, is the envy of the world, so you may consider staying in a nearby Newark or Long Island hotel and commuting to the city.
By booking with Hipmunk, you’ll find the latest and most up-to-date deals on flights and lodging to begin your budget-friendly trip to New York City. If you are aware of more affordable NYC activities, please share in the comments section below.