See More for Less: New York on a Budget

Take a bite of the Big Apple without breaking the bank. | By NGT Staff  
Times Square New York US
Watch the city come alive at Times Square. Photo: © NYC & Company/Joe Buglewicz

New York may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but as a traveller, there’s a lot you can do without spending a cent. Whether you want to get an insider’s view, go on a curated tour or score great deals on Broadway, here’s how to cut costs on your NYC break without losing out.

Free Gigs & Steal Deals

New York Museum of Modern Art

Get a free ticket to the Museum of Modern Art between 4-8p.m. Photo: © NYC & Company/Alex Lopez

Be a thrifty culture vulture by choosing your museum days. Slot a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (free, 4-8p.m.) or the Rubin Museum of Art (free, 6-10p.m.) on a Friday, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on a Tuesday (5-8p.m.), or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on a Saturday (pay what you will, 5.45-7.45p.m.).

Hop over to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on Tuesdays (all day), Saturdays (10a.m.-12p.m.) and on weekdays through the winter (December-February) for a free visit. Go here for a detailed list of the best days to visit museums and gardens in the city.

Kick off the holiday season in the city with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2015. Head there early (people begin camping at 6a.m. along the west side of the street on Central Park West from 59th to 75th Street) to get a good spot. The parade is on from 9-10.30a.m.

Empire State Building New York

New York’s familiar skyline is best observed from the towering observations decks atop buildings like Rockerfeller Centre and the Empire State Building. Photo: © NYC & Company/Marley White

If your trip coincides with Restaurant Week, Broadway Week or Off-Broadway Week, you stand to make a great bargain. Restaurant Week offers three-course prix-fixe meals twice a year at around 300 restaurants in the city, while Broadway Week brings you two-for-one tickets at a wide selection of shows. Off-Broadway Week offers you two-for-one tickets at shows in areas other than Broadway. Both Broadway and Off-Broadway Week happen twice a year, around January-February and August-September. Check the websites for up-to-date offers and listings. For bargains through the year, try TKTS ticket booths where you can get 20 to 50 per cent off on same-day tickets for Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, plays and dance productions. Go early in the day to avoid waiting in long queues.

Another way of getting more for less is making your travel plans in the summer (June-August). That’s when parks and beaches are accessible at little or no cost. Beaches in the city along with Governors Island open on Memorial Day Weekend (last Monday of May). The latter, a 172-acre island in the harbour, allows you to borrow a bike for an hour (Monday-Friday, 10a.m.-12p.m.) at Colonels Row and has hammocks to lie in at Hammock Grove. Check for jazz gigs and other music events that may coincide with your visit. (The three-day Governors Ball Music Festival is slated for June 3-5.) Each summer, concerts take place at the Central Park SummerStage, many of which are free. Check their calendar for the schedule. For tickets to Free Shakespeare In The Park, the Public Theater’s annual season of free plays at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, you could stand in line on the morning of the play, or take part in a virtual ticketing lottery by visiting the site.

Manhattan Central Park New Tork

Stroll through Central Park. Photo: © NYC & Company/Marley White

Parks across the city also hold free screenings of classics like Annie Hall andWhen Harry Met Sally along with more recent releases like Cinderella and aFrozen sing-along. For an updated schedule, go here. NYC Parks organises regular kayaking and canoeing trips down the city’s waterways. Keep track of them here. For non-summer music options, head to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcafé Live gigs (September-May, select Friday and Saturday nights). Check their line-up here. Get in the groove with some jazz at the Lincoln Center. See the schedule for their regular free gigs here. Alternatively, catch a taping of TV shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning America by signing up in advance online. Find a list of shows and details on reservations here. Check the New York Public Library’s event calendar for interesting events like film screenings and group writing activities.

Statue Of Liberty New York

Travel passes offer great deals to check out tourist attractions. Photo: © NYC & Company/Marley White

Manhattan New York Public Library

The New York Public Library hosts free events such as poetry performances and art shows. Photo: © NYC & Company/Will Steacy


The city also has multiple locations for a free wine tasting. For starters, there are tastings at Union Square Wines, Crush Wine and Spirits, and Acker Merall and Condit.


Discover life in the city with a local by signing up for a free tour. With Big Apple Greeter, have a volunteer show you around a neighbourhood. This service is conducted in over 20 languages. In addition, Free Tours By Foot organises pay-as-you-wish food tour and neighbourhood tours by foot or by bicycle (you bring your own ride).

Travel Passes

One of the best ways to sightsee on a budget is by buying a travel pass. The New York CityPASS gives you access to six locations including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History, and is valid for nine days from your first use. Try the New York Pass to get offers on Broadway shows and reduced entry charges at a range of attractions. The city offers multiple such passes; find a suitable one here.

For a list of updated free events and great bargains, visit

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