“New York is such a great city to visit, but I could never live here — it’s just too expensive!” I’ve heard some variation of this complaint too many times to count, almost always from tourists who have fancy accommodations in midtown and who rarely venture further than a few block radius of their hotel. So yes, if you were to live in Times Square, taking your meals at the Rainbow Room or The Palm, spending your days at Madame Tussaud’s and traveling by double-decker bus, you would go broke in a heartbeat. What most people who visit the Big Apple don’t realize, however, is that New York can be one of the most affordable cities in the world. But even if you are a tourist, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to liquidate your 401k to have a great weekend in America’s greatest city.
In this post, I’m going to provide you with some ideas on how you can spend 3 days and 2 nights in NYC for under $200 (yes, you heard that right), proving that you do need to break the proverbial bank to have an amazing time. Note that the following suggested itinerary does not include accommodations, but if you’re willing to Airbnb it, you can find a great place in Astoria or Brooklyn for between $40-$60 per night.
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick up an unlimited MetroCard, at any subway station, to get around town. As anyone who’s gotten stuck in midtown traffic can tell you, the subway is not only safe, but many times faster and cheaper than taking a taxi. You can pick up a weekly unlimited pass at any subway station for just $32.
Some of downtown Manhattan’s best attractions are either free or very inexpensive. For example, you could spend $28 to get the full Statue of Liberty tour, but if you don’t care about climbing the 350+ steps just to get into the lady’s head, you could opt for taking a round trip on the Staten Island Ferry (free) which passes by Liberty Island offering a fantastic view and, as a bonus, operates 24 hours a day. Afterwards, you can work your way back north and take in some of the historic sites in the Wall Street area, such as the Charging Bull, The New York Stock Exchange, and Trinity Church (all free). While in the area, consider stopping by the 9/11 Memorial ($24) commemorating one of the most historic and fateful days in the city’s history. Once you’ve reached Chinatown and the Lower East Side, you’ll probably feel a bit peckish from the walk, and if you are, I strongly recommend checking out Vanessa’s Dumplings on Eldridge Street, where you can get a full dumpling meal for under $5 (if you don’t mind standing on line.) Finally, end your day by relaxing in Washington Square Park (free) where you’ll be able to take in entertainment from the best buskers and street performers the city has to offer.
Start off your second day at 23rd St. and 5th Ave., where you’ll find the Flatiron Building (free), which was built in 1902 and remains one of the oldest and most iconic works of architecture in the city. Afterwards, walk 10 blocks north on 5th Avenue where you’ll find the most iconic New York skyscraper, The Empire State Building. Tickets to the 86th and 102nd floor observatories will set you back $32, but you won’t find a more breathtaking view of the city anywhere. You can then meander up to 42nd and 5th and visit The New York Public Library (free) where, if you visit in the summer, you may be able to catch one of the free movies that are screened in the adjacent Bryant Park. When you get hungry, head over to Margon at 136 W. 46th St – an old school Cuban diner, where you can enjoy the best cuban sandwich in the city for just $7. For the evening’s entertainment, you could spend $100+ for a Broadway show, but since we’re saving money, just head over to the TKTS kiosk in Times Square, where you can often get last minute Broadway tickets for as little as $30-$40.
Two of the best museums in the city, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The American Museum of Natural History are on the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan respectively, with only the city’s largest park standing between them. While both have “suggested donations” for entrance, I recommend you give at least $5 because, as nonprofit institutions, they rely on visitor donations and are in a perennial struggle to survive. Hit The Met first, and then enjoy a leisurely stroll through Central Park (free), perhaps even renting a rowboat if the weather is nice and you can afford the $15 hourly fee. After you’ve taken in the Natural History Museum, stop by Gray’s Papaya at 73rd and Broadway for a classic New York hot dog dining experience (about $10), before ending your evening at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (free), which stays open for visitors until 8:30pm.
There you have it – three days in the greatest city in the world for under $200 ($175 to be exact). And since you undoubtedly have friends back home who are going to ask what you brought them from your trip, why not pick up a gift that celebrates so many of the NYC landmarks you’ve visited. Our Giftzza boxes all contain a Statue of Liberty shot glass, a MetroCard pen, a NYC pretzel, Times Square taxicab chocolates, a Brooklyn Bridge notebook, and Empire State Building luggage tag, and a pizza fridge magnet — all wrapped up in a classic NYC pizza box. A complete NYC experience you can fit in your purse, to top it off, a portion of the PROCEEDS GO TO CHARITY — a great gift and a great donation!
The Snack@desk Giftzza
Available at Pizza by Certe 132 E 56th St.