Everybody wants to visit New York City at least once in their lifetime. The city has everything. And by “everything” I mean EVERYTHING. The city embraces all that America is about. It’s a mixed bag of cultural influence in one compact little island. Unfortunately there is a price to pay to have everything at your fingertips. A big price. This place can be expensive! But, if you know where to look and where to go you will find that there are a lot of cheap (and even free) experiences to be had for the traveler on a budget. Don’t fall for the tourist traps or the $5 coffee. Here are some of my finds for visiting Manhattan on the cheap.
1) Broadway ticket lottery:
While in Manhattan just about every tourist wants to take in a Broadway show. The trouble with this is most Broadway shows are never less than $200 or $300 per person! However there is a good solution. Almost every Broadway theater has Rush tickets or a lottery every day of the week. Meaning about 2 to 3 hours before each show time there are a certain number of tickets available for as little as $25. It’s on a first come, first serve basis but if you get to the theater of the show you want to see early enough you can buy a dirt cheap same-day ticket. While you’re waiting for the show to start you can easily occupy your time in Time Square. Chicago, Mamma Mia, and Les Miserables are a few popular shows that offer such tickets.
2) Chelsea Galleries on Thursday Nights
(For free art and booze):
Between 10th and 11th Avenue through the West 20’s in Chelsea there are dozens of art galleries all right next to each other. Many premiere artists show their new works at a series of gallery opening every Thursday evening. Essentially there is a big block party within this 7 block radius as people stroll in and out of different galleries looking at a variety of art. All of which are free to enter. Another big plus is that a lot of these galleries give out free champagne and hors d’ouvers to their visitors. So, if you want a completely free Manhattan night life experience or you just enjoy some art and get buzzed, this is a must.
3) Take a ride on the East River Ferry
Another popular tourist attraction is boat rides on the East River or the Hudson. There are a number of tour boats, day cruises, party boats and dinner boats. The problem is that none of them seem to cost less than 50 bucks and the ones that serve food aren’t less than 150. Doesn’t really seem worth the cost when there is a beautiful commuter boat called the East River Ferry that only costs $6! Technically it’s meant to be transportation rather than touring but the view is exactly the same and the boat is just as nice (although simple). If you find yourself on Wall Street, just walk to the water and find pier 11. The ferry runs every half hour. You can see all of the city along the beautiful river for the price Starbucks charges for a scone.
4) Get designer clothes at hidden consignment shops:
Manhattan is synonymous with fashion. While walking well known strips like 5th avenue you’ll see beautiful window displays from the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, and Louis Vuitton. The issue? So beautiful, so not cheap! But what you may not know is that there are a few hidden little consignment shops in the village that sell top quality designer labels for about 80% (or more) off. No joke! Most tourist are completely unaware of these shops as you have to be a native to know where they are. But, I guess I’m letting you in on the secret (you’re welcome ladies). Here are my 3 faves:
1- Beacon’s closet (on 13th Street and 5th Avenue)
2- Buffalo exchange (on 11th Street and 1st Avenue)
3- Tokyo 7 (on 7th Street and 2nd Avenue) <– I once got Helmut Lang jeans for 30 bucks at this place!
5) Check out the Union Square Green Market
Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Union Square (at 14th Street and 4th Ave) has beautiful farmers market. Not only is it fresh organic food but most of the vendors are super cheap. While in Manhattan you’ll probably want to eat something special without spending 50 bucks a head. Regional farmers and bakers offer tons of pies, cookies, sammies, fruit and veg. Even if you’re not hungry it’s fun to pass through and smell the flower booths, baked breads and apple cider. A definite for the foodie traveler.