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Planning a New York Itinerary is no easy feat – choosing from the copious number of NYC sights, incredible things to do and endless options of delicious food can be overwhelming. And, as New York City is ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the United States, visiting NYC on a budget can add even more anxiety to the planning process. No need to fret! Our New York City Itinerary is packed with everything your need for your budget trip to NYC!
Best Trip to New York on a Budget
On our trip to New York City, we challenged ourselves to experience NYC on a budget. Even on a short trip, costs can add up quickly when paying for expensive admission to sights, pricey meals and high-dollar accommodations.
However, thrifty travelers need not worry. There is plenty to do and see (and eat!) in New York without breaking the bank. We planned 4 days in New York City and created a Budget NYC Itinerary that includes iconic sights, a ferry ride, neighborhood walks and classic, cheap NYC eats.
We think this is the best New York itinerary for budget travelers, as we focus on the free things to do in NYC. (In fact, it might be the absolute cheapest way to visit New York.) However, we also happen to think that these are some of the absolute best things to do in New York City! So, even if you are not on a rock-bottom NYC budget, you can use our guide to help plan your trip!
Planning a New York Budget Itinerary
When we decided to visit NYC on a budget, we found multiple resources offering suggestions of what to do in New York on a budget, but nothing that wrapped it all up into an easy-to-follow New York sample itinerary.
After spending hours planning our trip to NYC on a budget, we came up with the perfect way to visit the city without going broke. We are sharing our complete, detailed outline of how to spend 4 days in NYC on a budget so that fellow travelers can easily plan their perfect trip.
In addition to our day-by-day New York City itinerary planner, we include detailed tips for a New York budget trip – such as how to find an affordable place to stay, how to get there (and around) and what to pack.
Just like the city itself, this New York DIY Trip Plan blog post is humungous. It contains absolutely everything you need for planning a trip to New York on a budget.
Pro Tip: We are sharing the specifics of how to visit New York City on a budget, but you will need to keep track of your trip specifics. We suggest using our Trip Planning Templates to research and organize your NYC vacation!
How Many Days to Spend in New York
We are detailing a day-by-day plan for a New York 4 Day Itinerary – but what if you have more – or less time in NYC? No problem! We provide NYC itinerary planner tips on how to best spend your time in the city.
Whether you have 1 day in New York or are planning 7 days in New York, you can use our sample New York itineraries, which we feature at the end of the post.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our NYC trip plan so you can use it to create your best itinerary for New York City!
NYC Budget Trip: New York Itinerary Planner Tips
Before we dive into our incredibly comprehensive New York City Itinerary, we have some essential tips that will help you prepare for a trip to NYC on a budget.
NYC on Budget: Subway and Shoes
Our suggested itinerary for New York covers some ground (up to 10 miles a day)! In order to keep up, you will need two things: comfortable travel shoes and a MetroCard for the New York City Subway. An unlimited weekly MetroCard costs $33 USD, plus $1 for the card. More info about using the subways and the MetroCard are included at the end of the post.
NYC Sightseeing Map
We provide a New York itinerary map link for each day’s adventures. But if you are visiting New York City for the first time and are unfamiliar with the city, a paper NYC map is essential! Understanding the layout of the city will help immensely in navigating the city.
Sightseeing in New York City on a Budget
The big (not so) secret tip on how to do NYC cheap is to skip the expensive, ticketed attractions.
In our 4-day New York trip plan, we include many free and cheap NYC attractions. However, our New York trip itinerary does not include visiting any museums or skyscrapers (many of which cost more than $30 USD to enter!). There are plenty of things to see and do in New York City without ever ponying up for pricey tickets.
That said, our NYC sightseeing route passes by many of the city’s high-dollar attractions, so they are easy to add to your itinerary if the ticket price is within your budget. Additionally, we have a few tips for how to balance New York on the cheap with expensive admission to top attractions.
Top Tips for Sightseeing NY on the Cheap
Soaring to the top of skyscrapers (like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or One World Observation Deck) is expensive. Rather than going to the top of all 3 buildings, choose just one. Or, if you are really trying to see NY on the cheap, eliminate the cost of the ticket altogether.
Instead, you could enjoy skyline views from a rooftop bar (but, don’t be fooled, the drinks are not cheap!) – or, better yet, take in the city skyline views from a free vantage point – like the Staten Island Ferry, The High Line, the Brooklyn Bridge or Roosevelt Island – all of which are featured in our outlined itinerary of how to do New York on a Budget.
Likewise, spending time at a museum (like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History) requires a high priced ticket. If one of the pricey NYC museums is high on your New York travel itinerary must-sees, pick one – just one – to see on your trip. Then, budget for it and be sure to make room in your sightseeing schedule to really enjoy it!
The New York Botanical Garden is another top attraction that charges a steep admission price. We recommend skipping it in favor of the free NYC parks and green spaces. Swap out visiting the NY Botanical Garden with other outdoor things to do in NYC cheap – like Central Park, Prospect Park and the Hudson River Greenway – which, again, we feature in our itinerary!
Top Tip: We chat more about ticketed sights and money-saving NYC Sightseeing Passes at the end of the post!
About Our New York Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in NYC, you can see the major NYC attractions, feel the distinct vibe of New York neighborhoods and get a taste of some of the city’s best food! Our robust and easy-to-follow NYC itinerary will help make your NYC trip planning easier.
Budget Itinerary for NYC: Sights, Info and Directions
For each sight in our New York tour itinerary, we include information, facts and (if applicable) a link to more info.
To help you better navigate the city, we indicate which is the closest subway station to the first sight of the day. We also include a link to Google Maps so that all you need to do is click the link to get directions from wherever you are.
When visiting New York on a budget, the best way to get around is on your own two feet. In our NYC trip itinerary, we group sights together and list them in order in the form of self-guided walking tours. However, if public transportation is required to get from one sight to the next, we have include a link to Google Maps that will provide the recommended subway route.
Bathrooms and Water Fountains
Our New York Itinerary includes long stretches of being outdoors and eating on-the-go, so we’ve indicated where there are convenient public bathrooms along the route. (And, McDonald’s, Starbucks and department stores are good options for restrooms, too!)
With so much walking in our budget New York trip plan, it is important to stay hydrated. It is safe to drink the water in the city – and there are numerous public drinking fountains where visitors can fill up water bottles along the way. Use this link to Google Maps for water fountains in NYC.
NEW YORK BUDGET TRAVEL ITINERARY
Now that we have covered the important details of planning a trip to NYC on a budget, we are ready to share the best New York trip plan. Find the rest of our NYC budget tips at the end of the post.
Day 1 of your New York Vacation on a Budget
On the first day of your 4-day trip to New York City, see the city’s most iconic sights. Start in Lower Manhattan to get a view of the Statue of Liberty; then embark on a self-guided walking tour through Midtown to the most iconic NYC buildings and sights. Start at Subway Station: South Ferry or Whitehall St.
Lower Manhattan is the district located on the southern tip of Manhattan that is often referred to as Downtown. The district is both historic and modern – and it is the perfect place to kick off your budget New York trip!
Statue of Liberty via the Free Staten Island Ferry
There is no doubt that Lady Liberty is one of New York’s most recognizable sights. Every visitor to NYC should get a look at her – which is why we include it as the first thing to do on your budget NYC trip.
Expensive Statue of Liberty tours allow visitors to get up close and personal, but the cost may exceed your New York travel budget.
No worries – there is a free way to get a fabulous view: The Free Staten Island Ferry. In fact, we think riding the Staten Island Ferry is one of the best things to do in New York City on a budget.
The free ferry transports passengers from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. The route passes by Ellis Island and Liberty Island, providing a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty…and the ride doesn’t cost a dime! In addition to the views of Lady Liberty, passengers also get a phenomenal view of the NYC skyline.
The best boats offer plentiful outdoor space on the upper deck. However, the boats that don’t have an outdoor upper deck allow passengers to stand in the open air at the back of the ship…space is limited though, so grab a spot as soon as you board.
Taking the Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry Website. To catch the ferry from Lower Manhattan, simply go to the Whitehall Terminal, get in line, get on the ferry and get a spot on the starboard (right) side of the boat (or the back if there is no outdoor space)! Boats make the journey every half hour.
When you arrive at Staten Island, get off the boat and circle around to the entrance to ride back to the city (this time standing on the port side for a second look at the Statue of Liberty).
Once back in Manhattan, spend time exploring the NYC Financial District in Lower Manhattan on foot.
Lower Manhattan Walking Tour
The best way to see the sights in Lower Manhattan on a New York Low Budget Trip is on a self-guided walking tour. The district is highlighted by historic places, iconic buildings and poignant memorials. The 1.5-mile walk begins at The Battery and ends at The Oculus – and we have highlighted the best sights to see along the way. The walk should take about 1-2 hours. Below you will find a map of Lower Manhattan sights, but you can use this link to Google Maps for walking directions.
The Battery (previously known as Battery Park) is the reserved green space at the southern tip of Manhattan. The name dates to the time when the area housed a fort and artillery batteries for defense purposes. The Battery website.
Charging Bull on Bowling Green
The iconic Charging Bull sculpture was created by artist Arturo Di Modica in 1989 (following the stock market crash of 1987) as a nod to the self-determined (some might say bullish) spirit of America to prosper. Weighing 3.5 tons, the bronze sculpture made its first appearance in front of the New York Stock Exchange, left there mysteriously by the artist in the middle of the night. It was quickly removed and relocated to nearby Bowling Green, where it stands today.
It is estimated that 1,000 tourists stop to see the sculpture each day, many posing with it for a photo and then rubbing its nose, horns and genitals (no joke) for good luck. Charging Bull information.
Wall Street and the New York City Stock Exchange
Wall Street is at the center of Manhattan’s Financial District. Standing at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street is the New York Stock Exchange, one of the world’s top financial markets. Even travelers who visit New York City on a budget should check out the iconic Financial District.
The street, which runs 8 blocks to the East River, is also home to the Museum of American Finance, the Old Stonington Custom House, the Trump Building and Federal Hall (where George Washington was sworn in as the first United States president in 1789). Wall Street information.
New York City Trinity Church
The first Trinity Church was built on the location in 1698, but was destroyed by the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The second Trinity Church was built in 1790, and was the place of prayer for President Washington. The current Trinity Church with its soaring spire was built in 1846 and, at the time, was the tallest building in the US. Trinity Church Website.
The Sphere in Liberty Park
Opened in 2016, Liberty Park is located south of One World Trade Center. The raised park provides an elevated view of the National September 11 Memorial. At the center of Liberty Park is The Sphere.
The 25-foot-tall sculpture once stood in the plaza between the Twin Towers. After the 9/11 attacks, The Sphere was recovered from the rubble at Ground Zero, surprisingly intact. Left in the condition in which it was found, The Sphere was first placed in Battery Park, but was relocated to Liberty Park, closer to its original location. The Sphere information.
The National September 11 Memorial honors and remembers the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks – and is a must-see on every itinerary planner for New York.
In place of where the Twin Towers once stood are now two reflecting pools. Etched in the railing surrounding the pools are the names of the victims who died during the attacks (in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, as well as those who died in a World Trade bombing in 1993).
Among the many trees at the monument is The Survivor Tree, which was discovered in the wreckage but still lives. It serves as a reminder of resilience and rebirth. The 9-11 Memorial Museum offers detailed information. 9-11 Memorial Website.
One World Trade Center
Also known as Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center was built from 2006 to 2013 on the north side of the 9/11 Memorial. The building stands at 1,776 feet (the year of US independence), which makes it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 6th tallest building in the world.
The One World Observatory, which offers a birds’ eye view of the city, is located on the 102nd Floor – and tickets start at $34. However, when you visit New York on a budget, you can simply stand at the base of the tower and look up at it. One World Trade Center Website.
To the east of the 9/11 Memorial is The Oculus, which was designed to look like a dove in flight. The unique building, which serves as a memorial and houses both a train station and a mall, cost an astounding $4 billion to build (most certainly NYC’s most expensive train station ever). Public Bathrooms. The Oculus information.
From The Oculus, walk to the Cortlandt Street subway station and take the subway to East 23nd Street Station.
Link to Map of Sights in Lower Manhattan for Day 1 of our New York Itinerary
NYC Midtown marks the middle of Manhattan – and it is the district you will explore in the afternoon of Day 1 of your New York trip on a budget.
The district is home to the city’s most iconic buildings – and visiting the district is an absolute must on every New York tourist itinerary. Walking among the skyscrapers is one of the best things to do in NYC – which is great for people visiting New York City on a budget, because walking in Midtown is absolutely free!
LUNCH – Shake Shack at Madison Square Park
Before you set off on your discovery of Midtown, stop for a budget Manhattan lunch at Shake Shack. In 2001, Shake Shack was just another food cart in Madison Square Park. However, by 2004, they transformed from a cart into a permanent residence in the park, grilling up hot dogs and burgers for long lines of waiting customers. Today, the popular fast-food chain has more than 150 locations…but nothing beats the original! A burger at Shake Shack costs about $7. Read this article for tips on what to eat at Shake Shack.
Midtown Walking Tour
Our self-guided Midtown Manhattan walking tour passes by the best buildings in NYC! Additionally, we offer suggestions for where to eat in Manhattan Midtown that won’t stretch your budget.
The route through Midtown starts at the Flatiron Building and ends in the Broadway Theater District. The walk covers about 3 miles and will take 2-3 hours to complete, without stops. Use this the link to Google Maps for walking directions to Midtown sights.
The 22-story, triangular Flatiron Building was completed in 1902 – at the time, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. The name comes from the design resembling a clothes iron. Tip: Stand with your back toward the pointed tip of the Flatiron Building for a great view of the Empire State Building. Flatiron Building information.
Empire State Building
The Art Deco Empire State Building has been a symbol of New York since it was built in 1931 – and survives as an American icon today. It’s total height, including the antenna, is 1,454 feet and it reigned as the world’s tallest building from 1931 until 1970 (now it’s the world’s 28th tallest building).
For many visitors, a trip to the 86th and 102nd story observation decks is a must-do in NYC. However, a trip to the top is a bit pricey, so you will need to determine if you can squeeze it into your New York travel budget. Empire State Building information.
New York Public Library
The main branch of the New York Public Library opened in 1911 and is now a New York City landmark. At the entrance, two stone lions (named Patience and Fortitude) guard the doors. However, the real gem of the library is the Rose Main Reading Room, which is lined with thousands of books. New York Library information.
Behind the library is Bryant Park. Designated a park in 1847, in the 1970s Bryant Park was the site of rallies and drug deals. In 1988, the park was completely renovated, including the bathrooms, which had been closed for 35 years. Today, the bathrooms are an odd highlight of the park, as the public toilets are said to be the nicest in the entire city (complete with floral arrangements and an attendant). Bryant Park is also home to one of the best NYC Christmas markets! Bryant Park Website.
New York City Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Station has been a hub of NYC transportation since the year 1913. Today 750,000 people pass through GCT every day, not only to hop a train, but also to visit the shops and restaurants within the terminal.
First time visitors, however, will want to pass through the Main Concourse to look up at the impressive zodiac ceiling and the classic opal clock perched above the information booth (which has an estimated value of $20 million). Public Bathrooms. Grand Central Terminal Website.
Built in 1930 for the Chrysler car corporation, the Art Deco Chrysler Building features an iconic ‘crown’ of steel (not a crown of hub caps, which is a popular urban myth). The building held the title as tallest building, but only for 11 months when the Empire State Building was completed. The observation deck has been closed for decades, but fans of Art Deco and historic places might want to take a peek inside the lobby, which is the only portion of the building open to the public. Chrysler Building information.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Build between 1858 and 1878 (and replacing Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy), St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Neo-Gothic Catholic church in North America (taking up an entire city block). Main features of the church include the 330-foot spires, the stained-glass Rose window, the Tiffany & Co altars (of St. Louis and St. Michael) and the organ. It is free to visit – so even if you are visiting New York City on a budget, you can go inside. St. Patrick’s Cathedral Website.
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 buildings, originally designed and developed between 1930 and 1939 by the Rockefeller family. The Art Deco structures were declared both a New York City Landmark and a National Historic Landmark in the 1980s. Among the most popular buildings are the Top of the Rock and Radio City Music Hall.
The two most recognizable statues at Rockefeller Center are Prometheus (a glittering statue in the Lower Plaza fountain of the Greek Titan bringing fire to man) and Atlas (a 45-foot-tall sculpture across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral of the Greek Titan holding the heavens). The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and ice-skating rink are main attractions during wintertime in NYC. Rockefeller Center information.
Radio City Music Hall
Home of The Rockettes dance company, Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 featuring (at the time) the world’s largest auditorium. In 1978, the building was designated a New York City Landmark. Today, the 7-story-high neon signs still glow bright and the theater is still used for performances and shows. Radio City Music Hall information.
Nicknamed “The Center of the Universe,” Times Square is part of the entertainment district in NYC. It is probably the busiest, most congested area of the city (an estimated 330,000 people walk through Times Square each day). However, it is not a square at all, in fact, but two triangles created by the crisscrossing of 7th Avenue and Broadway.
Electronic billboards featuring video advertisements light up the square – day and night – and brand name shops line the streets. (Pop into the Hershey’s Store for a free mini-chocolate bar.) The Times Square Ball that drops annually at midnight on December 31 to mark the new year is located at the southern end of Times Square. The popular discount theater ticket seller, TKTS, office is in Times Square. Times Square Website.
Broadway Theater District
Although there is only one Broadway Theater, there are actually 41 theaters in New York’s Theater District that are collectively known as “Broadway”. Highly regarded as the top theater performances in the world, tickets are expensive (easily more than $300 per ticket for the best shows).
However, if you are planning a cheap NYC trip, you might be able to get more affordable tickets to Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows that cost less – and TKTS sells deeply discounted tickets the day of the show.
Besides seeking out the one-and-only Broadway Theater, other theaters that may be of interest are the famous 1970s disco, Studio 54 and Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall. Broadway Theater District information.
DINNER IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN
Now that you have discovered how to see New York on a budget and taken in some of the top sights in the city via a self-guided walking tour, you have undoubtedly worked up an appetite! The good news is, we have two Midtown dining recommendations where you can eat in NYC on the cheap.
The Halal Guys Food Cart
The Halal Guys is a classic New York success story. What began in 1990 as a hot dog cart transformed into filling a void in the Halal food market – and now they have more than 200 franchised locations. However, the original cart at West 53rd and 6th Avenue still operates, cranking out platters and sandwiches of chicken or gyro (or mix) topped with their secret ‘white’ or ‘red’ sauce for as little as $8. TripAdvisor Reviews for The Halal Guys.
Xi’An Famous Foods
Xi’An Famous is another well-known budget food stop in Midtown (with more locations around the city). The menu features a combination of Chinese and Middle Eastern fare, which is found in the city of Xi’An, China. The ‘cheap’ option is their Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger for about $6, but for a little more, the dumplings are even better ($10)! Yelp Reviews Xi’An Famous Foods.
Link to Map of Sights in Midtown for Day 1 of our New York Itinerary
Day 2 of your NYC Trip on a Budget
On Day 2 of your 4-day trip to New York, wander the city’s most-loved and largest park and explore two often-missed neighborhoods: Roosevelt Island and East Harlem. Start at Subway Station: Cathedral Pkwy
Every New York Itinerary should include a visit to Central Park – and with four days in New York, there is ample time to see the park’s many attractions. While the museums at the park charge a fee to enter, the park itself is free to visit – so it is perfect to include in a budget trip to New York. Central Park Website.
Begin your exploration of Central Park at the northwest corner of the park and make your way south on the west side of the park. At the south end of the park, we make a detour to Roosevelt Island via the Roosevelt Tramway and then return to the park for more sightseeing. (The detour can easily be eliminated if you would rather stay in the park.)
Return to the park for more Central Park sightseeing (outlined in Part 2). Our tour of Central Park ends in the northeast corner, which is where we begin our late afternoon discovery of the often-missed East Harlem neighborhood.
Central Park Walking Tour – Part 1
Start your exploration of the west side of Central Park (Part 1) on a self-guided walking tour from north to south visiting some of the most best park features. The route extends 3.5 miles and should take about 2-3 hours. Use this link to Google Maps for walking directions.
1. North Woods, 2. The Ravine, 3. The Loch
One of the most secluded and natural sections of Central park, North Woods, The Ravine and The Loch are also the most beautiful part of the park. The wooded area features ponds, streams and waterfalls.
4. North Meadow
The North Meadow is comprised of 23 acres of open space, which is most often used for organized sports in the summertime.
5. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Built as a temporary water supply for the city in the 1860s, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir holds one billion gallons of water (which would only last the city 4 hours today!). It is named in honor of the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis, as it was one of her favorite spots to run. Other celebs who have been spotted on the 1.5-mile track are President Bill Clinton and Madonna.
6. Great Lawn
Located in the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn has been the site of many concerts, like Simon and Garfunkel, Bon Jovi and the New York Philharmonic. Public Bathroom at south end.
7. Belvedere Castle
Built in 1869, the fairytale Belvedere Castle provides fabulous views to the north (over Great Lawn) and to the south (over the Ramble). Weather instruments are hosted on the castle’s tower, allowing weathermen around the world to report the current weather in Central Park.
8. The Ramble
Designed as a natural landscape, the Ramble is one of the popular places to visit in Central Park. The 38 acres of woods features several intertwining paths.
9. Strawberry Fields (and 10. The Dakota)
Dedicated to famed Beatles member John Lennon – and named after one of his songs, “Strawberry Fields Forever” – the tear-shaped garden (designed by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow) is classified a Quiet Zone for meditation. At the center is a black-and-white tiled mosaic, spelling out “Imagine,” the title of the best-selling single; written and performed by John Lennon.
The Dakota, or The Dakota Apartments, is the historic building on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. The building is where John Lennon lived from 1973 until 1980 – and where he was murdered.
11. Tavern on the Green
A restaurant since 1934 (and a sheep fold for the 700 sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow before that), Tavern on the Green is an NYC landmark restaurant serving upscale cuisine and classic cocktails. While we did not include a meal there on our trip to New York City on a budget, we did take a quick peek inside.
12. Central Park Carousel
The carousel first opened in Central Park in 1871 (when the carousel was powered by a mule and horse that were hidden below the ride). In total, there have been four carousels on the site; today’s carousel dates to 1908 and was restored for the park in 1990. There is a $3 fee to ride.
13. Wollman Rink
The Wollman Rink, with NYC’s incredible skyline as a background, was opened in 1950 and has been featured in several films (like Serendipity and Love Story).
14. Gapstow Bridge
The picturesque Gapstow Bridge was built in 1896 and provides stunning NYC skyline views. It’s also a good spot for photo ops in Central Park.
LUNCH AT CENTRAL PARK
Central Park is the perfect place for a picnic lunch – whether you are traveling to NYC on a budget or not! There are grocery stores and corner delis where you can pick up picnic items before you begin your walk. On the other hand, indulging in a famous New York City hotdog is a top tip for how to visit NYC cheap and still eat out!
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cart
At the southeast corner of Central Park, seek out the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cart by the William Tecumseh Sherman Monument.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cart was started in 1916 by a Polish immigrant with a secret spice recipe. The original stand was on Coney Island and, back then, hot dogs only cost a nickel. Today, they are a bit more expensive, but should still fit into your New York trip budget.
Roosevelt Island is a slender, 2-mile-long island in New York’s East River. In the 1800s, the island was used to conceal the ill and poor from the rest of society. A smallpox hospital, almshouse, penitentiary and asylum were built on the small spit of land that was renamed Welfare Island. Today, apartments are clustered on the island, but a few historical structures remain – along with a memorial.
Detour from Central Park for a quick trip to Roosevelt Island via the Roosevelt Tramway. Exit Central Park from the southeast corner and walk east on 59th Street. Pass Bloomingdale’s and continue another block to the Roosevelt Tramway Plaza. The detour roundtrip walking distance is about 2 miles (including Roosevelt Island sights) and will take about 2 hours. Use this link to Google Maps for the detour from the park to the Tramway; Use this link to Google Maps your Roosevelt Island exploration.
The 3,100-foot-long Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial commuter tram connecting Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island (which sits in the middle of the East River). Opened in 1976, the tramway has two capsules, each of which can carry 125 passengers on the 3-minute ride. Tip: The cost of the ride is included with the weekly unlimited MetroCard – so it is essentially free to ride! Roosevelt Tramway information.
Explore Roosevelt Island
There is an inexpensive bus that makes a loop around Roosevelt Island, but we think the best part of the island is the southern end…which is just a short walk from the Tramway station.
The southern end of the island hosts a memorial dedicated to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the remains of a hospital. Additionally, from the west side of the island, there are fantastic views of the NYC skyline. Public Bathroom. Roosevelt Island information.
Walking Tour of Central Park – Part 2
Re-enter Central park where you exited (on the southeast corner) and start your discovery of the east side of the park, traveling all the way to the northeast corner of the park. Central Park Website.
The 3-mile walk should take about 1-2 hours. Use this link to Google Maps for walking directions on our Self-Guided Central Park Walking Tour – Part 2.
18. Balto Statue
Balto is the famous Siberian husky that in 1925 led a team of sled dogs from Anchorage, Alaska to the town of Nome with the necessary medicine to stop a deadly epidemic. The dogs were considered heroes and Balto’s statue in Central Park commemorates the dogs’ efforts.
19. The Mall
The Mall is an elegant and wide pedestrian path (not a shopping center) that is canopied by towering American elm trees. The Literary Walk begins at the southern end of The Mall, featuring famous writers of the past. Follow The Mall to the north, which ends at Bethesda Terrace.
20. Bethesda Terrace, Fountain and Arcade
The grand and opulent Bethesda Terrace is a highlight of Central Park. The terrace overlooks The Lake and Bethesda Fountain. Beneath the terrace is the tiled arcade where musicians perform and wedding couples are photographed. Paddleboats can be rented nearby and The Loeb Boathouse restaurant is a popular spot to stop for an afternoon refreshment (although, we would not recommend either for how to travel New York on a budget).
21. Hans Christian Andersen Statue
Author of The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen’s statue is a favorite for children visiting the park – and it’s one of our favorite spots in the park, too.
22. Conservatory Water Pond
Conservatory Water is a well-known pond used for navigating model boats.
23. Alice in Wonderland Statue
In 1959, the bronze cast of characters from Alice in Wonderland was installed at the park.
24. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or just The Met, is New York City’s most popular museum. The Met opened in 1880 and features major artworks from around the world. A ticket to the museum is required for entry…and it is not one of the cheap places to visit in New York. While the museum is a top city attraction, you will need to determine if you want to include a visit in your 4 Days in New York Itinerary. If you do intend to visit the museum, make sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy it!
25. Cleopatra’s Needle
The Obelisk, often called Cleopatra’s Needle, dates to the year 1450 BC, which makes it the oldest object in Central Park. It stands at 69-feet and weighs 220 tons and was erected in the park in 1881. A matching Obelisk stands along the Thames River in London.
26. Conservatory Garden
The formally-planned Conservatory Garden features flowers, manicured hedges and fountains. It is a beautiful and peaceful place to relax in the middle of the city.
27. Duke Ellington Circle
At the northeastern tip of Central Park is Duke Ellington Circle. A statue of the famed jazz musician, Duke Ellington, stands in the center of the plaza. (Public Bathroom behind the statue.)
Link to Map of Sights in Central Park and Roosevelt Island for Day 2 of our New York Itinerary
End the second day of your New York City trip on a budget in East Harlem. The neighborhood, which is also called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, is the district that lies between the Upper East Side and Harlem. Once settled primarily by Italians (and earning it the nickname of Italian Harlem), the area saw an influx of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigrants in the mid-1900s. Today, it’s a diverse neighborhood filled with bodegas, inspiring street art and a variety of Latin American restaurants. East Harlem information. Use this link to Google Maps for East Harlem sightseeing.
East Harlem Sights
East Harlem is a district to be experienced, not necessarily explored with a checklist in hand. We recommend wandering freely in the neighborhood, keeping an eye out for intriguing street art along the way.
Graffiti Hall of Fame
East Harlem is a hotbed of street art. The walls of the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex Playground are covered in paint; the spot is now known as the Graffiti Hall of Fame. Graffiti Hall of Fame information.
Street Art in East Harlem
However, the Graffiti Hall of Fame isn’t the only spot to find murals and painted messages in El Barrio. While Street art is ever-changing, a few of our favorite murals when we were there were Tito Puente Oye Como Va (at 110th and 3rd Avenue); Angel Wings under the tracks (at Park Avenue and 111th); and a sketch by local street artist, James De La Vega (at 111th and Lexington Avenue).
DINNER IN EAST HARLEM
One of the things we love best about East Harlem is that there are a variety of restaurants in a range of prices – which is fantastic if you are traveling to New York on a budget!
Drinks in East Harlem
Drinking at bars and restaurants in NYC is expensive. However, seeking out Happy Hours can definitely assist in keeping the budget in check. In East Harlem, we found a couple of places offering great happy hour prices for drinks.
Craft beer enthusiasts should head to East Harlem Bottling Co for a great selection of beer. For those craving a Latin-inspired cocktail, go to Cascalote for happy hour margaritas! While there, if it’s in the budget, splurge for dinner – as the prices are fairly affordable for the modern Latin fare. At the very least, pony up for a snack of beef empanadas, which pair perfectly with a classic margarita!
Restaurants in East Harlem
If you want to keep your New York City trip cost to a minimum, but you still want to eat out, you need to check out the food options in East Harlem. We recommend eating cuchifritos, popular Puerto Rican soul food. Two East Harlem restaurants devoted to the trade are the aptly named Cuchifritos (on 116th Street) and El Chevere Cuchifritos (located on 3rd Avenue).
Meals of whole roasted chicken with sides and a large drink cost less than $25 and are enough to feed at least 4 people! Don’t need so much food? Sample an array of the fried Latin goodies displayed in the restaurant window; each nugget costs about $1.
If you are interested in dining at a historic establishment, try one of the Italian restaurants still operating in the neighborhood. For a classic restaurant, go to Patsy’s Pizzeria (a large coal-oven Margherita pizza costs $25). Opened in 1933, Patsy’s legendary regulars included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Francis Ford Coppola (who used the scene at the restaurant as inspiration for The Godfather films).
Link to Map of Sights in East Harlem for Day 2 of our New York Itinerary
Day 3 of your Budget NYC 4 Day Itinerary
Day 3 of this NYC trip itinerary is all about visiting the diverse districts in New York. Enjoy a scenic view, take a walk on an elevated park, then spend the rest of the day on the ground immersing yourself in a few of New York City’s best neighborhoods.
The Hudson Yards Vessel
Opened in 2019, The Vessel is a unique architectural structure of intertwining staircases and viewing platforms…and it’s completely free! As one of the best Free NYC attractions, tickets are required to handle the crowds – and should be booked in advance, but some same-day tickets may be made available in the morning. UPDATE: Closed indefinitely, but still a cool sight to see on your cheap New York trip. Check for the latest Vessel info here.
High Line Park
The High Line is NYC’s elevated-tracks-turned-park – and one of our favorite spots in the city! Visiting the park is free – so it won’t add a dime to your New York trip cost, either.
The High Line Park – similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris and Chicago’s Bloomindale Trail – hovers above the Meatpacking District in Chelsea. From 1934 until the 1980s, trains ran along the tracks on Manhattan’s west side transporting meat and other goods from the industrial zone.
When the use of the trains became obsolete, the tracks were set to be demolished, but residents took up the cause to turn the relic into usable green space.
Throughout the modern park are art installations, amazing viewpoints and a few remaining railway tracks, which can be seen running through flowerbeds. Walk the length of the park from north to south – but detour at 16th street, taking the stairs down to street level to visit the Chelsea Market. (Public Bathroom at 16th Street) High Line Park Website.
Briefly detour from the High Line Park into the Chelsea Market. The upscale fare at the uber-hipster Chelsea Market (which is essentially a fancy food court) is most likely over-priced for budget NYC travelers, but it is still worth a walk through. Tip: Check for free samples on the counter at Li-Lac Chocolates (which claims to be the oldest chocolate house in the city). Chelsea Market Website.
After walking through Chelsea Market, return to the High Line and continue walking south to the end of the park.
Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway is just steps from the High Line and a fantastic place to walk along the Hudson River. Part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway walking and biking trail that follows almost the entire shoreline of Manhattan, walking south on the Greenway offers fantastic views of the Hudson River and the Lower Manhattan skyline.
The Hudson River path is just steps from the High Line; walk for a couple of blocks and then take West 11st Street back into the heart of the city to explore a favorite NYC neighborhood, Greenwich Village. Hudson River Greenway Website.
Greenwich Village – or simply The Village – is known as the artsy, bohemian district in Manhattan. The Village is home to NYU and Washington Square Park and the neighborhood is best explored with wonder. Greenwich Village information.
LUNCH IN GREENWICH VILLAGE
If you have already worked up an appetite, you are in luck because three of the best cheap places to eat in New York are located in atmospheric Greenwich Village.
Hands-down our favorite dollar pizza in the city is Percy’s Pizza. It’s not just the crispy crust and ample cheese used to top each slice of pizza that gets us excited about this NYC $1 slice pizza (even though now it’s $2!), but also the friendly neighborhood vibe and shake-it-yourself Parmesan toppings. TripAdvisor Reviews Percy’s Pizza.
Mamoun’s Falafel has been serving up their signature Falafel sandwich (just $6) from the original Village location since 1971. The tasty sandwich gets bonus points for having fresh lettuce and tomatoes (as fresh produce isn’t something we have included much of in our itinerary for New York City). TripAdvisor Reviews Mamoun’s Falafel.
Top Tip: It would be a shame to have to choose between pizza and falafel! We recommend getting just one slice of pizza and then getting the falafel sandwich as well. Seriously, you won’t regret it!
Craving an amazing Banh Mi sandwich for a great price in NYC? Be sure to save room for a stop at the Saigon Shack! Crispy bread and fresh ingredients make this an absolutely tasty and inexpensive bite…and the best Banh Mi we’ve had outside of Saigon! Saigon Shack website.
Washington Square Park
Before leaving Greenwich Village, walk through the centrally located Washington Square Park. It has the most interesting history of any NYC park. The park was originally marshland, then farmland, then graveyard (20,000 bodies are said to still be buried below the park!), then Military parade grounds, and (since 1950) a park. The notable features are the Washington Square Arch (which commemorates the inauguration of President George Washington) and the large, center fountain. (Public Bathroom) Washington Square Park information.
NEW YORK SOHO
From Washington Square Park, it is just a short walk south to Soho – which marks the next district to explore on Day 3 of our 4 Day Itinerary NYC.
Top-end retailers and art galleries line the streets of Soho, but history buffs and architectural nuts (and people taking a vacation in NYC on a budget!) will enjoy a stroll around the neighborhood without ever stepping foot in a store.
The Cast Iron Historic District is a sub-district of Soho, which consists of more than 200 buildings featuring cast iron design. The district has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Fun Fact: The name Soho comes from the location of the district South of Houston…and Houston is pronounced House-ton.
LITTLE ITALY NYC
New York Little Italy, which has dwindled to just 3 blocks on a single street, sits east of Soho. Although not the flourishing district it once was, we think visiting is a must when planning a trip to New York.
In 1910, 10,000 Italians lived in the area of Lower Manhattan nicknamed Little Italy – including many high-powered members of the Italian Mafia. The district now is centered on 3 blocks along Mulberry Street.
The shops and restaurants mostly cater to tourists who, like myself, are enthralled by the tales of NYC’s crime families and the feeling of stepping into the scenes from The Godfather. Tip: Follow this useful self-guided tour what on see in Little Italy. More Little Italy information.
NEW YORK CITY CHINATOWN
This wouldn’t be the best NYC Itinerary on a budget if we didn’t visit Chinatown – and the district is just a short walk from Little Italy.
Manhattan’s Chinatown is a thriving community that is distinctly Chinese. Walk down Chinatown’s Pell Street, where neon signs display Chinese symbols and dried fish products overflow from markets.
Known for a high concentration of Asian restaurants and street vendors hawking knock-off merchandise, a stroll through the neighborhood is truly a feast for the senses.
DINNER IN CHINATOWN
One of the best things about NYC Chinatown is the food! And, with so many affordable restaurants in Chinatown, even travelers planning a cheap trip to NYC can eat in Chinatown without over extending the budget.
Our favorite way to feast in Chinatown is to grab mini take away meals from numerous establishments. To start, get a cheap portion of pork dumplings from Fried Dumpling. Then, make your way to Mei Li Wah Bakery for delicious baked pork buns ($1.50). Finally, pop into a noodle shop for more fantastic fare.
Link to Map of Sights for Day 3 of our New York Itinerary
Day 4 of your New York City Itinerary 4 Days
On the last day of your 4-day trip to New York City, spend the day in Brooklyn before ending your stay with a classic NYC deli meal. Start at Subway Station: Bedford Avenue Station
The Brooklyn borough is three times larger than compact Manhattan island and quite a bit more time consuming to travel around. (Today will test your skills – and patience – at riding the subway.) The once inexpensive, diverse neighborhood has seen a sweep of gentrification in recent years…but it’s a process that is still on-going and there are many enclaves in Brooklyn to check out that will fit into a cheap New York trip budget. Brooklyn information.
Williamsburg is the original hipster district in Brooklyn known for its incredible nightlife and trendy brunch spots – and it is where we kick off the last day of our 4 day trip to New York. Note, however, that eating in Williamsburg is not one of the things to do in New York on a budget. Williamsburg information.
Instead, on cheap trips to New York, take a stroll around the stylish neighborhood (you can even use this self-guided Williamsburg Walking Tour) then continue your journey to The Bushwick Collective via subway from Bedford Avenue Station to Jefferson Street Station.
Bushwick Collective Street Art
Unlike Williamsburg, which is being polished clean, Bushwick is a gritty industrial neighborhood. The buildings’ exterior walls are perfect for artists to use as canvases for street art murals.
In now what is known as The Bushwick Collective, artists have livened up the district with colorful and contemplative art. One of the fun things to do in NYC on a budget is to peruse the neighborhood in search of the latest and greatest street art.
Top Tip: Find the best street art in the neighborhood using this self-guided tour complete with helpful map.
CHEAP LUNCH IN BROOKLYN
There are so many things to love about Brooklyn – and the food scene is most certainly one of them. From classic American eats to the best New York bagels to international fare to legendary markets, Brooklyn food is divine. While many Brooklyn restaurants will exceed the budget for a cheap trip to New York, there are still many affordable places to eat in Brooklyn, too.
Top Tip: After lunch, we head to Prospect Park, so you can grab a bite to go and eat in the park picnic-style.
An American greasy spoon, Tina’s Place cranks out cheap breakfast sandwiches and classic breakfast platters – but get there before 11am for the best deals. The diner is located in Bushwick – so you can walk there after (or before!) seeking out street art.
A&A Bake and Doubles Shop
Typical Trinidadian fare that is soft on the budget, but big on the taste buds, A&A is an absolute gem! Grab a couple of doubles (curried chickpeas in fried dough) – they are only $2 each. To get to A&A, use the subway to Nostrand Ave Station.
Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe
The bagels in NYC are out of this world – and they are one of our favorite things to eat in New York City on the cheap.
A bagel with schmear (that’s cream cheese!) is a perfect light lunch. There are several bagel shops in Brooklyn where you can get your fix, but we recommend popping into Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe, where they make fresh bagels on site. Find the best route to the bagel shop from The Bushwick Collective using this map.
If it’s a summer Sunday, head inside Prospect Park (the next destination on our New York in 4 Days Itinerary) to the Smorgasburg Market, an open-air market with 100 food vendors dishing out delectable fare.
Designed by the same duo who laid out Central Park, Prospect Park features open fields, ample paths, a zoo, a amphitheater and several lakes. Wander through the park from the Prospect Park subway station to the northwest to the Grand Army Plaza. (Public Bathrooms in park.) Prospect Park Website.
Brownstones of Park Slope
The Park Slope Brownstones are quintessentially Brooklyn. The term ‘brownstone’ comes from a type of sandstone building material used in many structures in NYC, but also refers to the architectural element of a staircase rising from street level to the front door on the second level (designed to avoid the animal waste that covered the streets).
There are a high concentration of brownstones in Brooklyn, with some of the most beautiful buildings in Park Slope. Tip: Head south on 8th Avenue from Grand Army Plaza and zigzag through the neighborhood or follow part of this walking tour.
Then, from Park Slope, take the subway from the 7 Av Subway Station to York Street Subway Station to DUMBO.
DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” was once an industrial district in the city. Today, the warehouse buildings are being used as galleries by artists and as offices by tech firms. The riverside park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. DUMBO information.
After visiting the sights in DUMBO, it is time to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – one of the best free activities in NYC and an absolute must on your New York 4 day trip. To get to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade, use this link to Google Maps, or find Prospect Street and walk under the bridge to the stairs that lead up to the walkway.
Taking 14 years to complete, the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River. At the time, the 1,595-foot-bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and an instant icon for the city for its distinguishable towers and web of cables. Often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World, the bridge is crossed by an estimated 150,000 vehicles and 4,000 pedestrians every day. Those who walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan are treated to the most spectacular Manhattan skyline views. Brooklyn Bridge History.
New York City Hall
At the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge is City Hall Park. At the center of the park is the landmark New York City Hall, which was completed in 1812 and is the oldest city hall in the United States. The Office of the Mayor of New York and city council chambers are still located inside the building. NY City Hall information.
From City Hall Park, walk north on Center Street and take the subway from Chambers Street Subway Station to the Essex Street Station. Walk north to Katz’s Deli.
A bit of a splurge on a low-budget New York trip, we think a meal at Katz’s Deli is worth it!
With a history that dates to 1888 – and meat that takes 30 days to cure – Katz’s Delicatessen is legendary in New York City. Many movies and TV shows have filmed scenes at Katz’s Deli, including a famous scene from When Harry Met Sally (the table where they sat is marked with a sign hanging from the ceiling, which reads, “Where Harry met Sally…hope you have what she had! Enjoy!”).
Pastrami on Rye is the thing to order, but it’s a bit of a budget-buster, costing more than $25. However, it can easily be shared with two people and is oh-so tasty! TripAdvisor reviews Katz’s Deli. Katz’s Deli Website.
Pro Tip: If the prices at Katz’s Deli push the budget for your New York trip, opt instead to eat at Veselka. The nearby Ukrainian restaurant is a favorite NYC diner for hearty yet inexpensive eats. Established in 1954, the restaurant is open 24/7…but we have yet to dine there!
McSorley’s Old Ale House
The final stop on our NYC travel itinerary is a classic and much-loved New York bar, McSorely’s Old Ale House.
Claiming to be NYC’s oldest continuously operated pub, McSorely’s Old Ale House was opened in 1854. The historic ale house, which was a “men’s only” bar until 1970, has been visited by many famous people (including Abe Lincoln, Dustin Hoffman and the New York Rangers hockey team after they won the Stanley Cup in 1994).
Inside the cozy tavern, newspaper articles and old photos cover the walls, sawdust covers the floor and classic bartenders pour the beers. They keep it simple with just two choices of house beer: light or dark. The beer costs $7, but every beer is 2-for-1! TripAdvisor reviews McSorley’s. McSorley’s Old Ale House Website.
Link of Map of Sights on Day 4 for our New York Itinerary
New York Itinerary Suggestions
Whether you are trying to see New York in a day or have a week in New York, we can help! Using our New York City Itinerary 4 Days as a base, we have created alternate NYC itineraries with our best suggestions for sightseeing in the time you have in the city.
1 Day in NYC Budget Trip Plan
Trying to see NYC in a day is a huge challenge – but it is possible to get a sweeping overview of the city in a single day using our succinct New York One Day Trip Planner.
NYC Itinerary 1 Day
The best way to create a NYC 1 Day Itinerary is to simply follow Day 1 of our New York City 4 Day Itinerary. If time permits, add a visit to Central Park to the end of your day, strolling through the southern end of the park after sightseeing in Midtown.
2 Days in NYC Itinerary
Planning 2 days in New York on a budget is a breeze! Whether you are visiting mid-week or trying to create a Weekend in NYC Itinerary, there are numerous ways to plan your time in the city.
NYC Itinerary 2 Days
Don’t stress about what to do in New York for 2 days – we’ve got it covered! We recommend following Day 1 of our 4 Day NYC Itinerary as outlined above – then, on Day 2, combine our suggested activities for Days 2 and 3 to create an optimal NYC 2 Day Itinerary.
For example, on the second day, spend the morning in Central Park and then, in the afternoon, explore some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods (like Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown).
Alternatively, the second day of your New York weekend itinerary could be spent entirely in Brooklyn (using Day 4 of our above outlined trip plan).
To create your absolute best weekend in New York City on a budget, simply pick and choose the sights that most align with your interests from our outlined plan above.
3 Days in NYC on a Budget
The choice of things to do in New York in 3 days is endless – but we have designed the best 3 Day Itinerary NYC.
NYC Itinerary 3 Days
With 3 days in New York, use our NYC Itinerary 4 Days as a guide – but switch around the days for the best sightseeing. For the best 3 Days in New York City Itinerary, follow our tips for Day 1 (Lower Manhattan and Midtown), then on the second day, use Day 3 (High Line and NYC neighborhoods). On the last day, combine Days 2 and 4 (spending the morning in Central Park and the afternoon in Brooklyn).
5 Days in New York
Our tips for what to see in New York in 5 days includes more district discovery and a possible spurge in the budget.
NYC Itinerary 5 Days
Spending 5 days in NYC is incredible! To plan a 5 day New York Trip, use our detailed guide of what to do in New York in 4 days, then use your last day to see any of the sights you had to skip…or add more neighborhood exploration.
For example, if we had already ticked off all the sights on a 4 Day Itinerary New York, then on the last day of 5 days in New York City, we would add neighborhood exploration in Hell’s Kitchen and/or Harlem.
7 Days in New York
Looking for a 1 week in New York Itinerary? Check out our suggestions for New York Itinerary 7 Days in our New York City One-Week Itinerary.
Best Itinerary for New York City
We think the truly best New York itinerary is one that suits the traveler! Our New York City Itinerary 4 Days is packed with sightseeing on foot (which we happen to think is the best way to tour NYC!), but that much walking might not be for everyone.
Use our NYC itinerary as a guide, but make adjustments in order for your New York itinerary to fit your travel style. Visiting NYC for Christmas? It’s magical! Be sure to check out our complete guide to New York for Christmas!
How To Plan a Trip To New York on a Budget
When we talk about how to visit NYC on a budget, we are not only talking about sightseeing and attractions, but how to plan every aspect of the trip. We have already discussed in detail how to visit NYC cheap for sightseeing. However, we have a few more budget-saving tips that apply to the overall cost of a trip to New York, too.
Trip to New York Cost and Money Saving Tips
On our 4-day trip to New York City, we were determined to experience NYC on a budget – and we did!
As outlined in our New York Itinerary, our only costs while sightseeing were the MetroCard ($33) and meals (which can cost as little as $10 per day). However, there are other costs involved in a trip to New York City…like a place to stay, flights and transportation!
We are sharing our top tips on how to plan a trip to New on the cheap and keep your budget in check when searching for hotels and transport.
Finding Cheap Places To Stay in New York City
Accommodations can easily account for the biggest cost of a trip to NYC, so it’s not surprising that one of the biggest concerns when planning a cheap trip to the city is where to stay in New York on a budget.
We wont’ lie: booking cheap accommodation in NYC is quite the task! Cheap hotels in NYC don’t really exist (and you wouldn’t likely want to stay in the absolute cheapest places anyway).
Budget Accommodation New York
If you are searching for where to stay in NYC on a budget, then we have a few recommendations.
First, start your search as early as possible, as the best value hotels get booked the quickest.
Second, consider looking outside of Manhattan. Brooklyn, Harlem and even Jersey City are where to stay in NYC for cheap. Although, finding anything less than $200 might still be a struggle (especially on weekends).
Third, if you do stay outside of Manhattan, be sure to choose accommodations that are close to subway access! This will save heaps of time when transiting into the city for sightseeing.
Airbnb in NYC
For more affordable accommodations, consider staying in an Airbnb apartment. We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. While an entire apartment in Manhattan will still cost a bundle, there are private rooms in Queens, Harlem and Jersey City that cost less than $100.
Getting Around NYC for Cheap
One of the top tips for travel to New York City on a budget is to avoid taxi cabs! Cabs in NYC are notoriously expensive – not to mention, the traffic is horrendous in the city. If you do want to take a car, Uber is a better option (but still expensive!). We do not recommend driving in the city either, as it costs a small fortune for parking.
For our outlined 4 Day New York City Itinerary, we recommend using the subway, buses and walking – it’s the cheapest way to travel in New York! The unlimited weekly MetroCard is one of the best New York City travel trips for budget travelers.
MetroCard: How To Travel Cheap in New York
A weekly unlimited MetroCard allows access to the subway, buses and the Roosevelt Tramway for seven days. The 7 day unlimited pass becomes financially beneficial if used for at least 12 rides. Our 4 Day New York itinerary (assuming each day will start and end with a subway ride), includes 16 rides.
In our New York Itinerary, we recommend specific subway routes that will get you from one sight to the next. We do not, however, give recommendations on bus routes, which may be more direct and save time.
For the best, up-to-minute NYC public transportation options, we recommend using Google Maps (just make sure to carry a portable power bank for your phone, as we needed the extra boost for our phones by the end of the day!).
Tips for using the NYC Subway
- Before entering the subway, check for a direction on the station sign. Some stations are direction-specific, but not all.
- Swipe your card at a steady pace. Going too fast or too slow won’t work. Keep swiping until it unlocks the gate.
- When a train approaches, check the sign on the front and side of the cars to ensure it is the train you want (several trains use the same platform).
- Forget what you’ve heard about New York attitudes – most New Yorkers are actually incredibly nice and helpful, especially when it comes to assisting with the subway. If you are unsure where to go, just ask a fellow passenger!
- For more tips on using the NYC subways and buses, go to the official MTA Website.
Getting To NYC
New York City is well connected to major US cities and worldwide destinations. The city can be reached by plane, train, boat and car. However you arrive, you should include the cost in your vacation budget for New York City.
Finding Cheap New York Flights
There are three major airports that service NYC: John F Kennedy International (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark International (EWR). When you travel to New York on a budget, your flight will likely account for a big portion of your overall trip cost.
That said, our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSettingFools, after all!). When we need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets and cheapest flights to New York on Skyscanner.
Trains to NYC
New York City is connected to major US cities by train, too – like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Although train travel in the US can be slow and expensive, short train trips from destinations on the east coast can be one of the ways to travel to New York cheap. In fact, budget travelers may find it is cheaper to fly into an alternate east coast city and take the train into NYC.
More Tips for New York Travel on a Budget
We have shared some of our best tips on how to visit New York on a budget, but we have a few more pieces of advice for planning a cheap New York trip.
Cheap Eats in NYC
Eating at sit-down restaurants in NYC is expensive, which is why we chose eat-on-the-go food for our NYC Budget Itinerary. However, if you have a week in NYC – or if you just can’t stomach ‘street meat’ – pop into one of the many New York grocery stores, corner markets or delis, where you can easily buy affordable food, snacks and fruit.
Top Tip: Our guide to NYC doesn’t include breakfast recommendations. Instead of eating out for breakfast, we started our day with a healthy granola bar and inexpensive apples we picked up from the store.
Cheap Sightseeing in NYC
Our New York Itinerary includes incredible free sightseeing in NYC that doesn’t cost a single cent (which is the best way to sightsee in New York if you are on a budget!). However, if visiting some of the iconic New York sights is high on your list, buying a New York sights pass might be financially beneficial.
New York Sightseeing Deals
Top NYC sightseeing passes promise to save you time and money – and they certainly can…but only if you choose the right one for your sightseeing style.
We recommend researching the different cards to find that one that will provide you with the best experience at the best price.
Some cards offer unlimited sights for a specific number of days (1 to 10 days), while others offer a number of sights (2 to 12 attractions) that can be visited over a certain time period.
- The New York Sightseeing Pass offers both types of passes (one for a specific number of days and another for a specific number of sights). Get details, like included sights and prices, for the Sightseeing Pass.
- The New York Pass is a great way to visit New York on a budget – as it offers access to more than 100 attractions and tours for time periods of 1 to 10 days. Get the details!
- New York CityPass is another fantastic sightseeing card for a cheap trip to New York City. The card features the top city attractions at one low price. Find out more!
- You can also save money with discounts of up to 40% on New York City tours and Activities with Viator.
Shopping in New York on a Budget
New York is one of the premier shopping destinations in the world. However, many budget travelers skip shopping on New York cheap trips…but you don’t have to! Rather than shop at the luxury stores on posh 5th Avenue, seek out the city’s top thrift stores – they are the best places to shop in NYC on a budget!
Top picks for thrift threads on Cure Thrift, Beacon’s Closet and AuH20. The Bloomingdale’s Outlet on the Upper West Side is another great place to find clothes for cheap in NYC.
Travel to NYC on a Budget: Packing Checklist
Walking Shoes for New York
A good pair of city walking shoes are a must for your 4 day trip to New York City! I like lightweight shoes, like these by Columbia, and Kris prefers wearing Merrell trail shoes. Read our top tips for the Best Travel Shoes!
NYC Weather Gear
Nearly all of the sights on our 4-Day NYC Itinerary are outdoors. Make sure you are prepared for weather with season appropriate gear and a day pack to carry it all in! In the summertime, make sure to pack sunscreen, your sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. If rain is in the forecast, bring a travel umbrella and travel rain poncho – or a better raincoat.
Travel Camera for NYC Photos
New York is a stunning city…but it can be difficult to photograph (especially with a phone camera!). We recommend using a proper travel camera with a zoom lens for your trip to NYC. We travel with a Canon Rebel and use an everyday 18-135mm lens, which takes amazing photos. We also carry a Canon PowerShot ELPH, which is small enough to fit into a zippered pocket and an ideal budget camera for city sightseeing.
NYC Sights Map
Having a good paper NYC Map and Subway Map can help immensely when trying to sort out directions for sightseeing. Phones rarely work in the subway and batteries lose their charge quickly in the city – which is why we also recommend carrying a portable charger.
Day Bag for New York
NYC Travel Insurance
If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to NYC, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
Traveling to more Top USA Destinations?
We have it covered with detailed trip itineraries to some of the best US cities! Whether you are spending a Weekend in San Francisco, 3 Days in Chicago, planning a trip to Denver or are creating a Phoenix, San Diego, Portland, New Orleans or Seattle Itinerary, we have top tips for what to see, do and eat! Looking to hit the open road? Fantastic! Check out our guides to the ultimate road trips for the Columbia River Gorge, Montana, California Highway 1 and the Oregon Coast!
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