When you think of frugal, the most expensive city in the world probably doesn’t cross your mind. It’s true, the big apple is known for it’s overpriced groceries and sky-high rent – but the city is also home to a plethora of things for city dwellers and tourists alike to do on a budget (most are free!).
Spending my college and early-career years in the big city definitely provided me a crash course on being nimble and finding entertainment for cheap while I saved for rent and textbooks. I get asked for advice on free events or websites to check out when visiting New York City, and below are always my go-to’s.
Most well-known museums in New York City offer free admission on certain nights. The Guggenheim has pay-what-you-wish on Saturday evenings starting at 5:45pm. The Museum of Modern Art (or MoMa, as you’ll hear it be called) has free admission from 4-8pm on Fridays, The Museum of Natural History also does a suggested general admission, which means you’re able to pay less if you need to. One of my favorite (and highly underrated) museums, MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, has a suggested admission fee of only $10! Since the weather in NYC is usually unpredictable, it’s good to have a museum day planned in case you’re caught in the snow or rain.
This is about as outdoors-y as NYC gets, and what you can do in the parks is almost limitless. Grab cheap lunch at any of the cafes surrounded either park and enjoy a picnic while you people watch (which is entertaining enough, trust me). You can rent bikes for pretty cheap and explore the park that way, or take a stroll and enjoy coffee by the pond in central park. If you’re visiting NYC during the fall, central park should be at the top of your list.
The Skint was pretty much my best friend while living in the city. The website is dedicated to showcasing everything cheap and free going on in the city. It should be the #1 bookmarked page in your phone while pursuing the city. And no, they aren’t paying me to say this — it’s just something that should be known!
This is a comedy venue and act (commonly referred to as UCB) that hosts a bunch of super cheap ($5-10) comedy shows and a singular free comedy show every Sunday night. I’ve never paid for a show because I would attend the free showing every Sunday religiously, but you can’t go wrong with whichever option you choose. While you will need to wait in line upwards of 2 hours for the free showing, bring some friends, food and board games and enjoy yourself. The wait flies by and is worth it – I’ve seen Amy Poehler numerous times there hosting, as well as Adam Scott and Rachel Dratch. This was by far my favorite thing to do in Manhattan.
When in Rome, right? I’ve seen David Letterman for free by simply waiting in line at 8amfor a free ticket. The same goes for Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. It costs you nothing but time, and the info can be found here.
Most of the time, the best thing you can do in NYC is just walk around and observe – that’s what makes it one of the best cities on earth. You literally don’t need to do anything except walk and see. Some of the best walking tours can be found on The Highline, Chelsea Galleries and more. TimeOut New York has a great list that features these two and more, found here.
While the outdoors version is bigger and more fun, the indoors version of this famous flea market is just as interesting. Loads of artisan food and unique crafts make this a staple should you find yourself in Brooklyn (which, you should). https://brooklynflea.com
What you can do in NYC on a budget while visiting doesn’t stop there, either. Check out these staples and you’ll be adding on more to your list in no time. And remember — wear comfortable shoes!
One of our awesome team members and former NYer now living in Seattle, Erica wrote this article. You can check out her blog at TheTruthTea.com