(1) Eat on the street. It's not just hot dogs any more; street carts offer all kinds of options for just a few dollars. I never visit without having at least one knish with mustard - price $2.
(2) Look for small pizza joints. I'm not sure why, but pizza slices almost anywhere in NYC are better than in the finest restaurants elsewhere in the US; thick, cheesy, gloppy and delicious.
(3) Use the buses. They're easier to navigate, you don't have to keep climbing up and down stairs or worry about some nut pushing you onto the tracks, and transfers are free. If you're a senior, the senior fare is currently only $1.10, no special card necessary. And it's fun watching the passing show.
(4) Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. They don't publicize it, but they have pay-whatever-you-want policies, and no, you won't get a dirty look if you offer up $5 instead of $15 or $20 and ask for a ticket. The Natural History museum does charge extra for special IMAX-type shows. But the Met never charges extra for special exhibits. All other museums have fixed prices, but they also have lower rates for students and seniors.
(5) Use public transit to get in and out of airports. There's really no cheap way in and out of Newark airport, but the M60 bus will get you between 125th street and LaGuardia almost as fast as a taxi, for a regular city bus fare. You can buy a day pass there at the Hudson Newstands on the ground floors. I don't know the drill for JFK as I never use it, but I used to take the slow but reliable Q10 bus in and out of it and also the free bus they had from the Howard Beach subway station.
(6) Check listings in the thick and comprehensive Village Voice newspaper, which is free and available in boxes everywhere. NYC has lots of free events in parks and elsewhere.
On thing about some of the museums in NYC is that fee posted is "suggested" at a certain amount. The Metropolitan Museum, on 5th Ave is one of the as is the Museum of Natural History. Both of these places have special exhibits that have additional costs but for most of the exhibits it really is for whatever you want to pay. I often give a buck or two each for me or my wife. I work at a library in Queens and the Young Adults are all amazed when I suggest that they give less that the suggested amount.
I hope that this is useful to travelers to this great and fun city. Don't forget that right behind both of the museums is Central Park and that also is free.
I searched and searched, and bid again and again on Priceline for a hotel room for our single night stay in September. We had 3 simple requirements: we wanted to be in Manhattan, we wanted at least a 2 star rating and we wanted a private bath. I might add that hotel room taxes in NYC are the highest in the country.
After a couple of weeks, I finally managed a Holiday Inn Express room in Chelsea for $140, taxes included. Also included was breakfast, with sausage and scrambled eggs as well as the other usual items. The room was reasonably comfortable, the hotel filled with young noisy budget travelers and, while the breakfast was fine, the dining area was so crowded you could hardly move and so noisy you could hardly hear yourself talk.
Other cities are much less expensive. A year ago, I scored a Hilton in downtown Philly for $50, and this last January, a mini-suite in the historic Morrison-Clark in downtown Washington, DC for about $85.
It's run by a duo from NYC who specialize in letting people know about cheap (and free!), social, unique and fun events throughout the city. They have even put together some NYC Big Adventures that you can recreate on your own. Some great ideas on that blog...discovered the Free Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Truck and Bryant Park Movies through them...
There was an article in the NY Times about the Bryant Park movies. It included the number one rule of Bryant Park movies ettiquette - take your shoes off before walking over someone else's sheet or blanket, or risk being yelled at. Walking over others'blankets barefoot is considered OK.
Depending on what activities you want to do, it may be a good idea to purchase the New York Pass card. This pre-pays for a alot of things and can also save you some time in lines. I don't work for them, but we went last month and this card worked great for us.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” - Fitzhugh Mullan
Within the last week or so, there was an article in Frommer's on-line newsletter that listed free things to do in NYC. I read through them (quite an extensive list) and thought they would be great to remember if I actually still have the memory to do that, but there was the option of e-mailing the list to myself for future reference. If you go to that website and do a search, you can probably find the same article. As far as transportation to/from the airports, if you don't want to try to manage luggage on public transportation, there is a shuttle service that is quite economical, especially if you book ahead of time on-line where you get a discount. If you are traveling with 3 or more in the group, a taxi would probably be about the same cost when split among you, but if you are traveling alone, the shuttle will get you there for much less. I believe round trip Manhattan/LaGuardia was about $24 last fall. The roundtrip is also cheaper than buying two one-ways.
I want to correct myself on my previous post. The site where I found the list of free things in NYC wasn't Frommer's. It was the NY Times Travel section. If you go to that website, you can probably find it easily. It was in last Saturday's edition (Oct. 13, 2012).
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