The best of New York on a budget

Jon Price

New York City is best-known for its towering skyscrapers, brusque citizens and brilliant Broadway shows, but it also has a reputation as one of the single most expensive tourist destinations to visit in the United States, if not the world. 

If you’re looking for a trip to the Big Apple that won’t break the bank, here’s five fantastic recommendations of free and inexpensive things to do across the city. 

Cross over to Brooklyn for the ultimate sunset 

Stretching from the iconic Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Atlantic Avenue, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a sky-high pedestrian walkway offering unrivalled views of Downtown Manhattan. So, why not cross over the water for a sunset stroll? 

Popular with runners, walkers, roller-skaters and tourists alike, this 1,826-foot-long path was first built in the 1950s and towers above several storeys of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It offers a great vantage point over the likes of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and even the Statue of Liberty. But the best part? An evening stroll along here won’t even cost you a dime. We’d recommend starting out at Brookyln Bridge park and taking a few pitstops to snap plenty of Instagram snaps along the way.   

Take in NYC’s best street art in Bushwick 

Bushwick is one of New York’s hippest neighbourhoods and one of the city’s most prolific artistic hubs. So, if you’d like to see the best street art and graffiti NYC has to offer, doing so isn’t going to cost you any more than a subway ticket. 

We’d recommend getting off at Jefferson Street and taking a leisurely stroll down to The Bushwick Collective, just off Flushing Avenue. This not-for-profit outdoor art gallery acts as a daily playground to some of the world’s best contemporary street artists, such as YouTube sensation “Vexx” and urban legends “Buff Monster” and “Beau Stanton”. Keep an eye out for the giant Biggie Smalls and Simpsons murals, but be warned that the artworks here are replaced and repainted on a regular basis – meaning that no two visits will ever be quite the same.

Lose yourself in Central Park 

Manhattan’s enormous Central Park is the ultimate inner-city green spot, covering a colossal 863 acres, or 1.34 square-miles. Without seeing it with your own eyes, it’s difficult to appreciate the size of this awe-encompassing oasis, which makes losing yourself for an afternoon and completely forgetting you’re in one of the world’s largest megacities surprisingly easy.

We’d recommend either hiring a bicycle or setting aside half a day to hit-up Central Park’s prettiest and most familiar sights, such as the cast-iron Bow Bridge, the Bethseda Fountain and Belvedere Castle, all of which have featured in innumerable TV shows and films over the years. The park itself is completely free to enter, but you’ll need to pay a small ticket fee ($20 per adult, $15 per child) if you’re planning on visiting the brilliant Central Park Zoo. Same goes if you’d like to hire a paddle boat to explore the lakes.

Marvel at movie magic in Queens 

Tourists visiting New York very rarely head over to Queens, but if you’re on a budget and/or a big fan of film and television, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is absolutely unmissable.

Home to as many as 1,400 original props, puppets and mementos from classic movies and TV shows ranging from “The Exorcist” and “Star Wars” to “Breaking Bad” and “The Muppet Show”, this magnificent museum is a true hidden gem, with surprisingly reasonable ticket prices considering the ultra-rare artefacts inside. The standard entry price is just $15, but students, senior citizens and under-17s get exclusive discounts, bringing each ticket down to just $11 or $9. Check the website and plan your visit accordingly, as the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as on some holidays. 

Head over to Dumbo for unbelievable photo ops 

It is often said that the best things in life are free, and that’s almost certainly true in New York if we’re talking killer views and amazing photo opportunities. The affectionately named Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass in Brooklyn) is another neighbourhood famed for its influential street art – but the real jewel in Dumbo’s crown is its astonishing views of the city. 

Browse the cool local indie shops and converted warehouse boutiques dotted along Dumbo’s cobblestone streets, then take a sunset stroll down Washington Street to stand in between Front Street and Water Street for one of the greatest views of the Manhattan Bridge and Empire State Building anywhere in New York. Don’t forget your camera. 

Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay