New York on a Budget

Enjoy the Big Apple on a little budget with our suggestions for the cheapest spots to eat, sleep, visit and party in New York City.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil
New York City

New York City

New York City

Photo by: Ilda masa

Ilda masa

Enjoy the Big Apple on a little budget with our suggestions for the cheapest spots to eat, sleep, visit and party in New York City.

Budget Hotels
Enjoy a glimpse of the good life in the city's elegant Gramercy Park neighborhood. The Hotel Giraffe is a bargain by NY standards with top-notch amenities including a scrumptious breakfast buffet, cool rooftop patio, weekday wine and cheese receptions, passes to New York Sports Club, free Wi-Fi and snacks all day long. When you consider the cool boutique hotel setting with spacious and tastefully decorated guestrooms and convenient location, the Hotel Giraffe is a worth every dollar.

It's possible to find a room in the Big Apple for under $50 if you're willing to bunk in a dorm-style room for 4 at the Chelsea Star Hotel. If you're not willing to share your sleeping space, splurge for a comparatively inexpensive single or double, most with shared bathrooms, at this eclectic Chelsea hotel with a funky atmosphere and themed décor.

Head to Brooklyn and spend the night at the homey Sofia Inn. This classic Brooklyn brownstone has 4 rooms with shared bathrooms and 2 suites with private bathrooms and eating areas. There's no breakfast in the morning, but you're just steps from restaurants and cultural treasures beyond, including Grand Army Plaza, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. And there's a host of subway lines ready to take you to other BK hot spots or back to Manhattan.

Inexpensive Fun
Discounted Museums and Attractions

To get a deal at the city's top museums and attractions, purchase a CityPASS, a flat-rate ticket for entry to 6 attractions. You have 9 days to visit the Empire State Building, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History. You may choose between either the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line sightseeing cruise and the Guggenheim Museum or Top of the Rock Observation Deck. If you're only in town for the weekend and don't have 9 days to cover the best of the city, head to the MoMA on Friday between 4 and 8 for free admission thanks to Target's Free Fridays program.

Save on Show Biz
Take in a Broadway show for less by purchasing your tickets at an authorized TKTS discount booth. Stop by locations in Times Square, the South Street Seaport or downtown Brooklyn, and score seats at the hottest Broadway and off-Broadway plays and musicals for discounts from 20 to 50 percent. Inject some humor into your trip with a visit to the Upright Citizens Brigade where tickets for nightly improv shows are generally $5 or $10.

Take it Outside
There's plenty of free fun in the city's great outdoors with choices ranging from gawking at billboards in Times Square to strolling around the posh Upper West Side. In Central Park, you can stretch out on a blanket on the Great Lawn with the locals or amble along the many paths filled with runners, bikers, skaters and even horseback riders. Learn about the park's history and diverse ecology during a free volunteer-led walking tour. Get a glimpse at another of New York's iconic landmarks and avoid some traffic with a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge. Once over, continue on to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights for snapshots of the lower Manhattan skyline.

Free Walking Tours
In addition to the free walking tours around Central Park, there are a variety of informational strolls around Manhattan's streets and sites. Make reservations in advance for a free tour of the Gold Vault at the New York Federal Reserve Bank or walk a few blocks to Trinity Church. Meet in front of Katz's Delicatessen to learn about the history of retail in the Lower East Side on the Orchard Street Walking Tour.

Cheap Eats
Save money while sampling the gourmet goods at the city's best restaurants at lunchtime. Jean Georges offers a 2-course lunch for under $30, and Tom Colicchio's classy food is pared down to tasty sandwiches at 'Wichcraft

Dive into the melting pot of cuisine and save on ethnic food, including French bistro offerings and Japanese treats. Visit the New York outpost of Parisian fast-service bistro Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote for salad and steak frites. Slurp down a warm bowl of noodles at Ippudo where variations on ramen include Miso Ramen or the original Akamaru Modern with pork belly, cabbage, garlic oil and Ippudo's special sauce.

Sample Italian standards with home-cooked meatballs at the Meatball Shop, where you can customize your preparation with the type of meat, sauce (including classic red gravy or parmesan cream, among others) and sides like spaghetti or mashed potatoes. Go for the classic meatball hero on a baguette topped with tomato sauce and cheese. And no trip to the city is complete without a slice of pizza. Enjoy some of the city's best at Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn where the smell of the classic coal-fired brick-oven pizza just might draw you over the bridge to this beloved borough.

For information on free nightlife events, scour local publications like New York magazine, TimeOut New York and the Village Voice. Another resource for free booze around town is which compiles information on open bars around New York.

Take advantage of extended happy-hour prices on awesome craft beers at the Blind Tiger Ale House where happy-hour specials are available every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and there's free artisanal cheese on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. The Brooklyn Brewery also offers an extra-long happy hour in the tasting room on Fridays from 6 to 11 p.m. when the microbrews are just $4. You can also stop by for a free tour on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

If you're looking for live music, head to Arthur's Tavern where there's never a cover charge to enjoy the live jazz.

Getting Around
Save money on cabs and invest in an Unlimited Ride Metrocard for 1 day, 7 days or more. But if you're planning on heading out of the city, skip the train and opt for a reasonably priced bus ride with Bolt Bus or MegaBus with service to nearby cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC.

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