NYC On A Budget: Where to Stay, Eat, Sight-See and Shop
If you live a state or two away and don't want to drive your own car, find a Megabus or Boltbus in your area. Just keep in mind you might have to walk a few blocks when you arrive, so you'll want to use rolling luggage. If you're flying, of course check expedia.com and priceline.com.
If you've never taken a subway before, or if you're used to a cleaner Metro like in St. Louis or D.C., you'll probably be intimidated by the NY Subway system. But cabs are expensive and not everything is in walking distance, so suck it up and get on the subway. Besides, it's not like in Gossip Girl where the second Serena or Blair wave their pretty little hands, a cab immediately appears out of nowhere. Sometimes you can get to a subway station quicker than you can hale a cab. When you purchase your card, get the value card for $20.00 if you'll be there for a few days. Trust me, you'll use it up!
Where to Stay:
You definitely want to find a hotel discount. At Hostels.com you can find cheap lodging. If you're single and on a tight budget, a hostel is the way to go. On that website, you will also find discount prices for regular hotels an Inns at about $50.00 a night. You can always check out discount travel sites like Priceline.com if you're wanting to stay somewhere nicer but still get a discount. Keep in mind that if it's your first time to The Big Apple (and if it isn't your honeymoon) you'll only be in your room to sleep, so just find something cheap and something that is within walking distance of a subway station.
Where to Eat:
To save the most money on dining, eat like the natives. Grab something cheap but delicious from a street vendor. For something nice and healthy but reasonably priced, go to Pret A Manger. For a New York hot dog, go to Nathan's. If neither of those are in walking distance, just find a local deli. New York is swarming with delis. If you see a hole-in-the-wall sandwich and salad bar cafe, go there! This is where the locals eat, and they do so because it's delicious, fast and cheap. At Naturally Delicious, you can get a breakfast or lunch for $10-$15.00. I got this full-size quiche, a salad, Vitamin Water and coffe for about $12.00.
What to Do:
There are plenty of travel discounts at CityPASS New York for tours of The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and all of the major museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
But if you're really on a budget, these discount sites might not be for you as far as entertainment and dining goes. When I was searching for last minute Broadway tickets, even with a deep discount, my ticket would've been $80.00. Considering everything else I wanted to fit into my vacation, I wanted to spend between $20.00 to $35.00 on any one meal, event or tour. I stuck to my budget, and I couldn't believe how much we packed in to four days. The biggest thing to keep in mind for inexpensive entertainment in New York is sightseeing.
I started with Rockefeller Center. The outdoor plaza consists of beautiful statues, the famous Rockefeller skating rink, gardens and fountains.
Inside Rockefeller Center you can do lots of things on a budget. Click here for a list of their shops and restaurants. Window shopping is an experience in Rockefeller Center. Don't miss this glammed-up couch in the Swarovski boutique. They'll even let you take a picture on it!
You can't go to New York without visiting Time Square. Yes, it is just an intersection, but all of the lights and billboards are breathtaking, and it's free! Visit Time Square in the evening or night time to get the full effect of the bright lights.
If you're an American, you can't go to NYC without visiting Ground Zero. You can visit the museum or take a walking tour, but you really don't need to spend anything to see the site. Across the street from Ground Zero is another free attraction, St. Paul's Chapel, otherwise known as The Little Chapel That Stood Still. Famous for remaining entirely intact despite it's vicinity to the Twin Towers, this chapel has become a museum and dedication to both the firefighters and policemen of NYC and to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And if you're a history buff, you'll be delighted ot see the pew that was reserved for President George Washington.
Grand Central Station is another great freebie. It's beautiful inside and out and has become an iconic New York destination.
Fifth Avenue is the best shopping destination in NYC, home to shops like FAO Schwarz, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and Tiffany's. If you're a fan of Audrey Hepburn's film Breakfast At Tiffany's, you'll want a picture infront of Tiffany & Co.
Little Italy is a must-see. And you can eat on a budget there too. Again, pick the local hole-in-the-wall places. Those are the cheapest, most authentic, and by far the most delicious! I'd suggest Cafe Pallermo.