Save Money in NYC
New York City has a wealth of pricey museums, attractions, restaurants and hotels. Sigh. But you don't need to cash in your gold to visit. The city is rich with freebies and discounts, especially in summer when Central Park and other swaths of greenery play host to outdoor events.
There’s no need to lie awake in the City that Never Sleeps worrying about how to pay for the morning bagel. Here are some tips to snag a few great deals.
Before You Go
Don’t use a car to get around. Parking garage fees are silly expensive, and gridlock is a Top 10 attraction. Subways and buses run 24/7 and a taxi is yours with the wave of your hand. An affordable buy is the Unlimited Ride Metro Card ($29) that's good for 7 days and offers unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight (for sale in subway stations). If you do decide to drive, check out Priceline's "Hotel Freebies" (priceline.com) for the few hotels that offer free parking.
You can fly into JFK, LaGuardia or Newark, the 3 major area airports, and take a cab into the city. A cheaper option is a shuttle bus where you share a ride. JFK and Newark Liberty are also accessible by AirTrain, a light-rail train that travels to points near the city where you transfer to another train or subway for the final leg into town. Pennsylvania Station is a hub for Amtrak, which offers low fares from other Northeast cities. The station is located smack in midtown.
When booking your hotel, visit nycgo.com, the online site of NYC & Company, which partners with travelocity, for the latest deals and steals. The site also dishes out restaurant discounts.
A tour is a fun way to explore the city, but some are expensive. Big Apple Greeter is unique in that its tours are led by 500 local volunteers and conducted in over 30 languages. Yes, they're free, but you need to reserve at least one month out.
While You're Here
Head for the Official NYC Information Center (810 Seventh Avenue; nycgo.com) for Broadway discounts, Metro cards and budget tips from information specialists.
Museum-hopping in New York can be costly, but there is an art to saving on admission. Many of the museums offer "pay-as-you-wish" times. And, while some museums advertise a suggested admission fee, you can actually pay what you can afford instead of the suggested price at those museums. Also, a handful of museums are always free. Here, a sampling of admission policies at a few museums:
The American Museum of Natural History $16 suggested admission
Museum of the Moving Image Free Fridays 4 to 8 p.m.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Free Fridays 4 to 8 p.m.
Whitney Museum of American Art Pay-what-you-wish Friday 6 to 9 p.m.
There's an NYC tour for every passion. Central Park Conservancy offers 8 free tours year-round. Grand Central Terminal also features 2 free tours.
Theater lovers can buy day-of and next-day matinee Broadway and off-Broadway tickets (up to half-price) at TKTS booths run by the Theatre Development Fund.
Also visit Lincoln Center's David Rubinstein Atrium for day-of discount tickets to Lincoln Center events.
When the temps heat up in summer, the City's parks are hot spots. Bryant Park hosts free weekly outdoor flicks. Central Park's Delacorte Theater is where you'll line up at dawn for free tickets to performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
A good bang for your buck is the New York Pass, which allows access to more than 55 attractions, including tours and museums. A 3-day pass is $130 ($115 for kids).
For $79 ($59 for kids) CityPass gives you access to 6 attractions including the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Buy your CityPass booklet at the first of the 6 attractions you visit, or at citypass.com.
For updated listings of free and cheap events, grab a copy of Time Out New York, The New Yorker and New York Magazine.
New Yorker Laurie Wilson is the author of New York City Made Easy and New York City with Kids. She has written for The New York Daily News, The New York Times, New York Post and others.