How to See New York on a Budget? (Ultimate Budget Tips)
New York City, the city that never sleeps, is known for its grandeur and glamour, but it can also be known for its hefty price tag.
A trip to New York can quickly drain your bank account, given the sky-high hotel rates and expensive meals at top-tier restaurants. But don’t worry, frugal travelers!
You can experience all of New York ‘s culture, food, and iconic sights without breaking the bank with some careful planning and insider knowledge.
In this blog post, we’re going to share our ultimate budget tips for visiting NYC.
This guide will help you navigate New York City without draining your savings, whether you’re a student backpacker, a family on a budget, or just someone looking for money-saving tips while traveling.
We’ll go over everything from where to find budget hotels to where to eat delicious meals on the cheap, free attractions and events, and how to get around the city on the cheap.
Now, let’s get started!
1. Visit During the Off-Season.
If you want to take a cheap trip to New York City, the price you pay will be heavily influenced by the time of year you visit.
Airfare and hotel prices are typically lower during the off-season, which typically occurs in the winter months (excluding the holiday season) and late summer.
You’ll almost certainly find better prices and more availability.
During the off-season, many of the city’s most popular attractions, such as Times Square, Central Park, and major museums, are less crowded.
This means shorter lines and more room to roam.
Keep in mind, though, that winter in New York is a serious business.
To take advantage of this low-cost season, you must be prepared with warm clothing and a list of winter-friendly activities.
For winter, New York City provides ice skating in Central Park, as well as winter markets and lovely holiday decorations.
Visiting NYC during the off-season can be a perfect way to save money and avoid crowds if you’re prepared for the weather and flexible with your plans.
Always double-check the operating hours of attractions and events before you go.
2. Use Discount Websites.
Using discount websites can help you on your budget NYC trip.
These sites frequently provide discounts on hotels, flights, rental cars, and attractions and activities.
If you’re very lucky, you can even get free tickets to a Broadway show, museums, tours, and other attractions!
Here are some ways you can use discount websites to save money on your NYC vacation:
Websites like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hotels.com often offer discounted rates on hotels and rental properties.
You can filter by price, location, and amenities to find the best deal for your needs.
Websites like Groupon, Travelzoo, and LivingSocial usually have deals on popular attractions, such as discount Broadway tickets, sightseeing tours, and museums.
The New York Pass can also save you a significant amount on admission fees if you plan to visit multiple attractions.
Groupon and LivingSocial also have deals for dining.
This can be a great way to try out pricier restaurants at a discount.
If you need a rental car, check out websites like Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline for deals.
Websites like Expedia, Skyscanner, and Google Flights can help you find the best deals on flights to New York City.
They allow you to compare prices from different airlines and choose the most suitable and economical options.
Inclusions differ depending on the deal or package.
A New York Pass, for example, might include admission to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other attractions.
A Groupon deal could include free entry, a discounted meal at a restaurant, or a discount on a guided tour.
However, before purchasing a deal, always read the fine print to understand what’s included and to ensure there are no blackout dates or other restrictions that may impact your trip.
Also, compare the discounted price to the regular price to ensure you’re getting a good deal!
3. Use Public Transportation To Get Around New York City.
Here are some public transport options to consider:
The New York City Subway: Subway is widespread, open 24 hours a day, and serves the majority of the city.
It’s a fast and inexpensive way to travel, especially over long distances.
Buses: While slower due to traffic, buses cover the whole town and can be an excellent choice for shorter distances or areas not well served by the subway.
Citi Bike: If the weather is nice and you only travel a short distance, consider using the city’s bike-share program.
It is inexpensive and allows you to begin and end on your own schedule.
Ferries: The Staten Island Ferry is free and provides great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
For a fare comparable to a subway ride, the NYC Ferry service connects Manhattan with Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Walking is also an excellent (and totally free) mode of transportation, particularly in Manhattan, where many hot spots are within walking distance of one another.
It also allows you to take in the sights and sounds of the city.
4. Eat Like a Local.
Eating like a local in an expensive city like New York has several advantages that go beyond simply saving money.
To begin, you will be immersed in the city’s authentic culinary culture, whether it is the typical hot dogs or the new york style pizza.
Aside from interacting with the community, another advantage is that affordable restaurants often serve larger portions and use higher-quality ingredients because they cater to repeat customers who value good food and value for money.
This means you can have a delicious meal and save money at the same time.
Finally, by patronizing cheap eats, you are helping to boost the local economy and preserve the city’s rich culinary heritage.
Small businesses often need help to compete with larger establishments in an expensive city like New York, so your patronage can make a significant difference.
5. Use a New York Pass.
For some, the New York Pass is the ultimate tourist pass.
But it is heavily dependent on your itinerary and the attractions you intend to visit.
This all-inclusive pass grants access to over 100 attractions, free tours, and museums, including top attractions such as the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Statue of Liberty.
It also allows you to skip lines in certain congested areas, saving you a significant amount of time.
So, if your itinerary includes a high number of attractions per day, the pass allows you to save money.
Individual tickets, on the other hand, maybe more cost-effective if you intend to explore at a slower pace or are only interested in a few of the covered sites.
Also, keep in mind that some of New York ‘s best experiences, such as strolling through Central Park or exploring diverse neighborhoods, are free.
But we will discuss more about it later!
The New York Pass is valid for two years from the date of purchase.
Every pass includes a one-day Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus trip and a guidebook.
The prices start at $134 for adults and $99 for children aged 4 to 12.
Before making a decision, compare the cost of the pass to the total cost of individual tickets for all of the attractions you wish to visit!
6. Stay in Budget Hotels.
If you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out where to rest your weary head in New York without draining your travel piggy bank, we have some money-saving tips for you: venture beyond the glittering isles of Manhattan!
You’ll stumble upon some fantastic bargains on hotels, and Airbnb tucked away in the city’s other vibrant boroughs, and trust us, your New York experience won’t skip a beat!
Brooklyn, with its charismatic neighborhoods like Park Slope and Williamsburg, is brimming with that superior New York allure, complete with a collection of diverse restaurants, buzzing bars, and inviting parks.
Snagging a comfy three-star hotel here could mean pocketing an extra $100 per night compared to hotel prices in Manhattan.
Feeling a bit more adventurous?
Consider the ultimate budget-friendly option, which is camping in scenic upstate New York.
Nestled in the Adirondacks and the Catskills, some local guides can help you plan an unforgettable camping or hiking experience.
You can even camp for free anywhere at least 150 feet from a water body or trail unless the site is posted as “Camping Prohibited.”
Who said saving money had to be boring?
7. Don’t Miss Out on Museum Deals.
When exploring New York, don’t miss out on the plethora of museum deals available – they’re a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the city’s rich culture and history without splashing out too much cash!
The Brooklyn Museum, New York City’s third-largest museum, is a prime example of this.
It boasts an impressive collection of art and offers a “suggested admission” policy to all visitors, meaning you can pay what you wish for an entry ticket.
Under this policy, instead of a fixed admission price, museums suggest a donation amount but allow visitors to pay what they feel comfortable paying, even if that’s less than the suggested amount.
In some cases, visitors can even enter totally free if they can’t afford to pay anything.
Another great spot for deals is the American Museum of Natural History, home to a spectacular array of exhibits ranging from dinosaur fossils to a stunning planetarium.
There is free admission for New York City school and camp groups, and pay-what-you-wish for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents.
If you’re a fan of all things cosmic, don’t forget to check out the Space Museum.
While not as well-known as some other New York City museums, Space Museum offers a fascinating look at the history and future of space exploration.
Last but not least, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known affectionately as “The Met.”
They also offer a “pay-what-you-wish” policy for New York residents and New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
So, when you’re planning your New York itinerary, remember to take advantage of these museum deals.
Not only will they help your budget, but they’ll also enrich your understanding and appreciation of the city’s vast cultural, historical, and scientific offerings!
8. Look out for Discount Broadway Tickets.
Scoring discount Broadway tickets can be a real game-changer for your New York City adventure.
As the world’s theatrical epicenter, a Broadway show is a superior part of the NYC trip.
Yet, the price of Broadway tickets can sometimes be a hurdle.
The bright side? There are numerous ways to snag discounted tickets to these fabulous performances.
Broadway makes its magic accessible to all, regardless of budget.
Several discount ticket services and websites can offer 50% savings or more of the standard box office price.
One popular option is the TKTS Discount Booths run by the Theatre Development Fund.
These booths offer same-day tickets for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at a significant discount.
They’re a fantastic way to catch a spur-of-the-moment show without breaking the bank.
Lotteries are another way to get discounted Broadway tickets.
Many popular shows, including the likes of “Hamilton” and “The Lion King,” offer digital lotteries where you can win the chance to purchase drastically reduced-price tickets.
Remember, though, that discounted tickets, especially for popular shows, can sell out quickly.
It’s always wise to have a few different shows in mind and be flexible with your plans.
9. Take Note of the Free Events and Free Things to Do on Your NYC Trip.
When exploring New York City’s bustling streets on a budget, keep an eye out for various free events, tours, and activities that will enrich your experience without emptying your wallet.
Do not pass up on a free walking tour.
These free tours provide fascinating insights into the city’s rich history, diverse culture, and remarkable architecture, from the historic cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village to the iconic sights of Lower Manhattan.
For music enthusiasts, free concerts and performances are a must.
New York City comes alive with the sounds of talented musicians and artists all year.
Look out for outdoor concerts and music festivals held in parks, public spaces, and cultural institutions.
At the Festival in Prospect Park, you can sway to the rhythm of various genres for free.
Exploring different NYC neighborhoods is also one of the most entertaining yet free things to do on your New York trip.
Each neighborhood has its distinct personality and provides a cultural experience.
Immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, visit local shops, discover hidden gems, and savor the flavors of diverse cuisines.
Take a walk through the tree-lined streets and soak in the vibrant energy of each neighborhood you visit.
Washington Square Park also offers a range of free things to do for visitors.
At Washington Square Park, you can take a leisurely stroll through the park, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.
Take photos of the park’s historic landmarks and marvel at the iconic fountain and arch.
Enjoy a picnic on the expansive lawns, watch street performers, play chess, or simply relax on a bench and take in the sights and sounds of this beloved Greenwich Village oasis.
Washington Square Park, with its lively ambiance and diverse offerings, provides ample opportunities for free entertainment and relaxation in the heart of New York City.
10. Find less expensive versions of popular tourist destinations.
Discovering cheaper (and often more authentic) alternatives to popular tourist spots can help you save money, which you can then use for other purposes or even to extend your trip.
Because of its extensive collection of plants, flowers, and trees, as well as its world-renowned reputation, the New York Botanical Garden is an expensive option.
However, several less expensive alternatives to the New York Botanical Garden in NYC provide a comparable experience.
For example, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Central Park Conservatory Garden, and The High Line are all less expensive options that provide a unique experience for garden and nature enthusiasts.
Another popular tourist attraction is the One World Trade Center, which can really be expensive.
But here are some less expensive alternatives to World Trade Center in New York.
While these alternatives may not be as tall as the World Trade Center, they can still provide impressive views or unique experiences.
Here are some options:
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
This Observation Deck, located at Rockefeller Center, provides stunning panoramic sceneries of the New York City skyline, including Central Park and the Empire State Building.
While it is not as tall as One World Trade Center, it is a great alternative at a lower cost.
One Vanderbilt is a newer skyscraper near Grand Central Terminal.
While it lacks an observation deck, it does have a stunning lobby with an art installation, restaurants, and public spaces.
You can enjoy the architecture and atmosphere of the building without purchasing an observatory ticket.
The High Line is an elevated park constructed on a historic freight rail line.
It runs along Manhattan’s West Side and provides spectacular views of the cityscape, including the Hudson River and various architectural landmarks.
High Line is a low-cost and entertaining alternative to traditional observation decks.
Staten Island Ferry
If you want to see the New York City skyline on the cheap, take the Staten Island Ferry.
The ferry ride offers breathtaking panoramas of Lower Manhattan, the harbor, and landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The ride in Staten Island Ferry is about 25 minutes each way, so there’s plenty of time to take in the sights.
Walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge for panoramic views of Manhattan.
The bridge provides a unique viewpoint and is popular among both tourists and locals.
It’s a great way to see the city’s architecture while also enjoying the waterfront.
11. Visit Free Attractions
Visiting free attractions in New York City is a perfect option for those on a tight budget.
It allows you to visit the city’s famous landmarks, cultural offerings, and natural beauty without paying admission fees.
Many of the city’s most famous landmarks, including Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Times Square, are free to visit.
These locations provide one-of-a-kind experiences and photogenic spots, allowing you to engage yourself in the culture and history of the city without spending a dime.
There are also several beautiful parks in New York City, including Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park, where you can enjoy outdoor activities and relax in green spaces.
These parks offer a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and their free admission makes them accessible to all.
While free attractions can improve your budget trip, it is critical to strike a balance.
Some paid attractions and experiences may be worthwhile because they provide one-of-a-kind and memorable experiences.
Based on your interests and budget, consider prioritizing a mix of free and paid attractions using our helpful tips above!
Also, take note that some attractions may have limited availability or require reservations, so check their websites or contact them ahead of time.
12. Take Advantage of Happy Hour.
When you visit NYC, taking advantage of a happy hour is a practical way to save money while enjoying the city’s vibrant bar scene.
Happy Hour offers discounted prices on drinks and sometimes even food at various establishments.
Participating in a happy hour means experiencing a wide range of cocktails and local beverages at more affordable prices.
It’s also an opportunity to explore different bars and restaurants, discovering hidden gems and local hangouts you might not have encountered otherwise.
The social atmosphere during happy hour creates a lively ambiance, making it a chance to meet locals, fellow travelers, and potentially make new friends.
Also, by timing your happy hour activities in the late afternoon or early evening, you still have plenty of time to explore other attractions and events in the city.
Just remember to drink responsibly and plan your transportation accordingly, ensuring a safe and enjoyable visit to NYC.
13. Gain Some Insider Recommendations from New York Residents.
No one knows New York City better than its locals!
Since New York is their home, they are well-versed in the greatest activities, attractions, and experiences that can be had on any budget.
Whether you are looking for hot dogs or the famous new york pizza, the locals will probably know the cheap eats around your area.
You’ll get to see everything you want to without wasting time with unnecessary activities, thanks to the personalized plan your local expert makes for you.
And who knows, you could definitely become best friends!
You’re now prepared to experience the best of New York City without draining your finances!
Indeed, visiting New York City on a budget is a realistic and gratifying goal.
All of these helpful tips on how to see New York on a budget are achievable, but they will be useless if you don’t track your expenses.
It is quite simple to splurge in New York City. A hot dog here and an admission ticket there will quickly add up.
And if you don’t write them down, you won’t know how far over budget you’ve gone!
So, better figure out your overall budget for your NYC vacation and keep yourself accountable to it!
See you in New York!