Visiting New York City is a definitely a bucket list item. It’s an amazing city full of historical landmarks, amazing restaurants, iconic stores, Broadway musicals and so much more. However, visiting New York City can be expensive and all the fun things to see and do add up fast!
I recently went to New York for a conference and managed to have my least expensive trip to date! I put together a list of some of my favorite tips and tricks and sneaky ways to save. There’s no reason a trip to the Big Apple has to break the bank. You can travel affordably and still have a fabulous time.
Basic Tips & Tricks
- Choose Your Season – Spring, Fall and Christmas are the busiest, most expensive times to visit New York City. Instead visit during Winter (January-March) or late Summer (July-August). Every time I’ve been to New York I’ve visited in July and it’s been great.
- Choose a Suite-Style Hotel – My best recommendation is to choose a suite style hotel when staying in New York City. We stayed at The Residence Inn World Trade Center and were thrilled with our room. It was so big by New York standards and had a refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and more. This makes it so easy to grab sandwich fixings and pack your lunch some days. You can also use the kitchen to heat up your dinner leftovers for a midnight snack. Plus having a kitchen and fridge makes it so easy to have snacks for the kids and feed them an early, kid-friendly dinner before you head out for the real meal later in the evening.
- Skip Mid-Town – Many tourists think it’s most convenient to stay in the middle of Manhattan. While it is central to some attractions, you will still need to travel to many, many others. Instead, head Downtown. The whole area is being revitalized with cute shops, nice restaurants and brand new hotels, like The Residence Inn World Trade Center. Plus you are a stone’s throw from tons of popular attractions and you often find lower prices on the weekends when business travelers head home.
- Stay Near Public Transportation – There are so many great neighborhoods to explore and activities to do in New York. Regardless where you plan to stay, you will likely be traversing the city to see all the attractions. Pick home base that’s near a Subway station. This ensures that it’s easy for you to affordably travel to all your destinations. We stayed at the Residence Inn World Trade Center which was right next to the Fulton Street Station. It really couldn’t have been more convenient! This is a major hub in the Financial District and we had no problem traveling uptown and to our other events around the city. It was the perfect location!
- Take the Subway from the Airport – If you fly into JFK it’s super easy to take the Subway into Manhattan. Follow the signs to the AirTrain. It’s the same direction as all the parking garages and very well marked. Once the AirTrain drops you at the Subway station, you can purchase a combo pass for $8. This will let you exit the AirTrain and still gives you enough money to hop on the Subway. You will hop on the A line which takes you straight into the Financial District. Our hotel was right next to the Fulton Street station. I came out and there was the hotel. So easy and way more affordable than the $45 cab ride + tolls – especially if you are a single traveler.
- Walk! – New York City is a great walking city. There are so many cute boutiques and eateries, little art galleries and neighborhood bars. You will see so much if you walk where you need to go. You can also take advantage of free walking tours and learn a little while you are out and about. You can see a list of free walking tours here or from a local historian here or use the New York Map and Walks app to take your own self-paced walk.
Arts & Entertainment
- Free Concerts – Nearly every night you can find a free concert in New York. Concerts are everywhere – especially in the summer. Head over here for a list of free concerts and see if there’s one you find interesting.
- Museums – Many museums offer ticket specials. There are free museum days and many locations are actually pay what you wish with a suggested donation. If the suggested donation is out of your budget, pay what you can. See this list for participating museums.
- Theater – Broadway shows are a top attraction but you don’t need to pay top dollar! You can check Broadway Box for reduced tickets. Another great resource is Broadway for Broke People. They feature last-minute deals at theater box offices. You can get tickets for as little as $20 a few hours before showtime. These are often lottery deals so make sure you have a Plan B.
- TV Show Tapings – There are tons of great shows that are taped in New York. You can request tickets to attend a taping. Tickets are free but limited so do your research in advance. Some shows have standby tickets to fill extra seats so if you miss tickets you can give that a shot! Here are a few shows you can try: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, Late Night with Seth Myers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Rachael Ray Show and more!
- Art Galleries – Create your own Chelsea Gallery Crawl and take advantage of some of the city’s best art for free. Many galleries have Thursday evening wine & cheese events so you could nibble and drink your way across Chelsea.
Activities & Attractions
- Central Park – This one is probably a no-brainer but one of the most famous landmarks in New York is totally free! There are trails, playgrounds, the Belvedere Castle and if you are willing to spend a little, the famous Carousel. Need ideas about what to do? Here are ten things you must do in Central Park.
- The Bronx Zoo – The Bronx Zoo has free admission on Wednesdays, though they do encourage you to pay what you can. This is a great alternative to the Central Park Zoo if your kids are dying to see some animals.
- Brooklyn Brewery – They offer free brewery tours on the weekends and even offer a free sample at the end. The tour is for all ages but the sample at the end is 21 and up. So you can take the whole family.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park – Within Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6 is a favorite spot for kids with a splash pad, slides, rope swings and more. Even if you don’t have kids it’s worth checking out for the hundreds of free activities and events here.
- Go Kayaking – The Downtown Boathouse offers free 20-minute kayaking tours on the Hudson on the weekends. It might not sound long, but 20 minutes is a long time when you are paddling!
- Ice Skating – If you are dying to go ice skating in New York in the Wintertime, head to Bryant Park’s Winter Village. They offer free admission to the rink so bring your own skates. If you don’t have any, you can rent theirs for a fee but even if you do, it’s still significantly cheaper than Rockefeller Center or Central Park!
- Staten Island Ferry – The Staten Island Ferry is a public passenger ferry service and totally free to ride. It runs 5 miles through the New York Harbor. Skip the pricy harbor cruise and hop on the ferry and enjoy beautiful views of the city skyline, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Food & Drinks
- Choose a Hotel with Free Breakfast – You can significantly reduce your dining expenses by not having to purchase breakfast. Also, if you eat a big breakfast you can usually get away with a lighter lunch! We stayed at The Residence Inn World Trade Center and they offered full, hot breakfast. We filled up each morning and even grabbed a piece of fruit to-go to snack on during the day. It also saved us time because we didn’t have to hunt for breakfast each morning.
- Take Advantage of Restaurant Week – Restaurant Week happens in New York twice a year (January/February and July/August). While they say it’s a week, it’s really more like three weeks so you have time to take advantage. Get three course meals at some of New York’s hottest restaurants as a fraction of the regular price!
- Go to Happy Hour – Dining and drinking in New York is really expensive, with dinner being the priciest meal by far. If you’re up for eating early, hit up restaurant happy hours. You can get great deals on food and drinks and save big.
This post was brought to you by The Residence Inn World Trade Center. Newly opened in January 2015, the building is a historic preservation originally occupied by the American Gemstone of Jewelry. The Residence Inn World Trade Center is in the heart of Downtown on Broadway within walking distance from One World Observatory, The 9/11 Memorial Museum, Wall Street, Battery Park and some of New York’s trendiest neighborhoods.
All rooms feature free high speed Internet, free breakfast and oversized studios with kitchenettes. We were blown away by the customer service during our stay. Their attention to detail is incredible and it’s evident in their glowing customer reviews. If you are heading to New York City, definitely consider The Residence Inn World Trade Center.