So you’re on a travel budget, right? The belt has been tightened, the purse strings are drawn shut, and yet you still want to get away. And then you decide you want to go to the big apple. Are you crazy?! Surely there are less expensive alternatives?! Even if you do manage to score cheap flights to New York, what on earth are you going to do once you get there?! Doesn’t everything cost an arm and a leg?! Don’t you need to take out a loan to see anything interesting?! Yes and no. But thank your lucky stars ‘coz we’re here to give you the top ten New York attractions that you can see for less than a buck. Perfect for budget travel. Read on.
1. Central Park
OK so this is a pretty obvious one, but 40 million visitors annually can’t be wrong. Wandering round parks and generally getting into the great outdoors is usually very cheap – if not free – and central park is no exception. It is just perfect for budget travel. Be sure to check out local listings in the summer months for the hundreds of free concerts available too. Cental Park is affectionately nick-named “the lungs of the city” you’ll see why when you get lost in its 843 acres of greenery and breathe fresh air right in the heart of Manhattan.
Made famous by a gazillion films and a certain friendly TV show, Central Park is a must visit on any trip to New York. And don’t miss the John Lennon memorial even if you’re not a fan of The Beatles.
2. Brooklyn Bridge
Another extremely famous stalwart of the New York skyline is The Brooklyn Bridge, which you’ll most likely see Spider Man hanging from. It is easily as iconic as The Empire State Building, but visiting The Brooklyn Bridge is a fraction of the cost – because it’s free. Why don’t they emphasize that in any New York travel guide?! We might have mentioned before that we like free things. Wander across at sunset for a truly breath-taking view of New York, taking in views of the Statue of Liberty while you’re at it. But there are a few things to be aware of. Bring a coat, because it can get pretty cold up there – especially at sundown, and there are a lot of cyclists to look out for.
If you don’t fancy the walk, why not join them and hire a bike to see this beautiful landmark? Alright so it’s not quite free but nobody’s perfect!
3. Times Square
Time’s square has to be seen to be believed. It’s a crazy experience of lights, people, sounds, people, lights, sounds and people. And lights, sounds and people. In case we forgot to mention that. For that reason, the only real time to visit is at night, when it really comes alive, and the billboards will dazzle you. It’s often called “The Crossroads of the World” and is one of the busiest intersections on the planet. It’s also famous for its New Year’s Eve “ball drop” which draws millions of people each December, when a giant glitter ball descends to mark the turn of the year.
And it’s the major theatre district in the city, but while taking in a Broadway show might be a little pricey, standing and gawping at Times Square will cost you nothing – and is every bit as entertaining.
4. The Highline
If you’ve been to Paris (and you’ve been on a budget) the chances are you’ve trodden the famous Promenade plantée. Well The Highline is the New York City equivalent. Stretching just over 2 kilometres, this abandoned and disused railway line – which, as the name suggests, is up high – was converted into a beautiful walkway above the streets, filled with greenery that became indigenous to the old tracks.
Apparently it used to be a main line for the shipping of biscuits through the area, but was left to wrack and ruin before being converted into the pleasant stroll is has become today. An oasis in the middle of a bustling city and well worth a visit, and like its Parisian counterpart it’s very romantic too!
5. Take in a brewery tour
There’s no doubt about it, the States are coming out with some awesome microbrews of late, giving Europe a run for its money. So while you’re over here why not see what all the fuss is about. And one of the best things about it is, there are many microbreweries operating in the big apple, and most of them do free tours and free sampling! The Brooklyn Brewery is an excellent place to start.
Get your (really cheap) night off to a bang with free beer, and learn how you make it in the process! Is there anything better than that?!
6. Go on a walking tour
Walking tours are free in most cities, delivered by a local who is usually very friendly, helpful and knowledge about his or her home town. In most cases you only pay a tip to your – which is however much you want depending on how good you thought the content of the tour was. It’s a wonderful way to learn about New York on the cheap, but of course if you don’t want to pay anything at all – just do it yourself. Get hold of a map, do a bit of research and you can be your own New York travel guide. Pounding the street won’t cost you a dime.
7. New York City Public Library
Another famous star of the silver screen (and rightly so) is the New York City Library. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful and impressive libraries in the world, and a must if you’re into history, architecture, and…books.
Obviously. It’s got some 53 million titles, but it’s stunningly beautiful (and enormous) main reading room that really will take your breath away. We like to go and pretend to be intellectual, but we’re really just reading Harry Potter.
8. Museum of Modern Art
OK, so technically you have to be there on a Friday for this one, otherwise it’s about 30 bucks. But if you arrive there between the hours of 4pm and 8pm you’ll get a free ticket to enter. You lucky thing you.
There’re some of the great masters here, including the guy who cut his ear off, and that one that does all the squiggly pictures and went through a period of being very blue. (That’s Van Gogh and Picasso – but of course you knew that!) Arrive on the early side to avoid disappointment.
9. Visit ground zero and the 9/11 memorial
A more sombre and sobering attraction is the 9/11 memorial. While access to the museum costs money (and is only free for people who were directly affected by the disaster) you can wander around the memorial complex for free and it’s very beautiful.
While places like ground zero might be difficult to visit for many, we always try to pay our respects at such sites. It’s important to learn the lessons of history and remember the victims and their families. An emotionally touching tribute that should not be missed.
10. Grosvenor’s Island
A free ferry? Why thank you very much New York – we’ll take it! You don’t have to pay a bean to get out to Grosvenor Island and you can easily spend a full day exploring there. It used to be a military outpost and only opened its doors not so long ago. It takes about 10 minutes to cross on the (did we mention free?) ferry, and there’s more stuff to do on the island than you can shake a stick at. With historic buildings, art exhibitions, festivals, games, and acres of gorgeous parkland to get lost in, it’s become one of the city’s new hot spots. Get there before they decide to charge for it!
On the surface New York appears to be a city that the budget traveller can ill afford, but we think these top picks are up there with the best the city has to offer – and they won’t cost the earth. That’s because they’re free. All together now…”start spreading the news…!”