What to Do & See in New York
New York City seems so vast when you first arrive that it seems it would be impossible to see it all in one visit. That is 100% true, but it’s certainly a place where a plan is essential. Once you enter into the whirlwind carousel of NYC life it’s difficult to get off again!
Whether a new local, a frequent visitor or a complete first-time out-of-towner these are some of the things that New York has to offer, which simply must be experienced in a first visit. These are also great things to do when visiting on a budget.
Statue of Liberty
When it comes to a list of things to do in New York for first-time visitors, seeing the Statue of Liberty is always number one. Without a selfie with Lady Liberty in the background, how is anyone going to believe that people have actually visited the Big Apple?
Fortunately, if just seeing the statue is enough then this is not only simple, it’s completely free!
The Staten Island Ferry travels pretty close to her and leaves every half hour from the ferry terminal in Manhattan. As there’s no payment there’s no queue for tickets either, so it couldn’t be simpler, or cheaper.
All you have to remember is to get on the right side of the ferry (starboard for nautical people) for the best view. The ferry ride takes about 25 minutes, after which you can simply get on another ferry coming back (also free).
Anyone who wants to land on Liberty Island and get up close with the statue will need to book a tour. The cost of this is less than $20 for adults with kids going half price. The best thing about a tour is that it can be combined with a worthwhile visit to Ellis Island, the first port of call for immigrants to the US back in the day.
It’s difficult to appreciate the sheer scale of this man-made park when first stepping into it. It’s easy to experience one small corner of it and then leave without realizing what’s been missed. At 693 acres in size, it is quite likely that a large chunk has probably been missed!
This huge attraction has the added bonus of being largely free to enjoy too. That’s 693 acres of gardens, hills and even forests to explore, all for nothing.
It’s not all greenery either, there are monuments and sculptures, fountains and playgrounds. There are bridges to cross and archways to walk under. There’s even a castle.
For a cost, there’s also a zoo and in winter an ice skating rink.
If anyone ever says they’ve walked around the park in full they’re probably lying. Walking down every pathway in Central Park would mean that they’ve covered more than 58 miles!
Another iconic must-see. The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York landmark that used to be the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is free to experience and takes around twenty minutes to walk all the way across.
It’s possible to hire a bike to cross the bridge. It costs as little as $3 but while it may seem an idyllic way to experience the bridge, due to the fact that it’s a busy pedestrian thoroughfare it’s actually quite a stressful way to cross!
Walking means that views can be appreciated and the ideal photo plotted without worrying about crashing into busy commuters and other tourists.
Bear in mind though that plenty of other tourists take the bike option to cross the bridge. Keep a lookout!
Grand Central Station/Oculus
There are not many cities in the world where a visit to a train station is recommended just to see it. New York has two.
Grand Central Station is probably the most famous of these and rightly so. Even if it’s never been seen before in real life it’s easily recognized as it’s likely popped up on a film or TV series, previously seen.
It’s well worth a visit, especially for visitors who are into architecture.
One very interesting part of the station, especially for visitors with children, is the whispering wall. This is a section of the walkway where two people can stand either side and whisper to each other. Not only will one be able to hear what the other is saying, but the people passing in the middle won’t be able to hear a thing!
Oculus is a new station, built twelve years after the September 11 attacks to replace the station destroyed at the time.
This bright and modern glass and steel structure couldn’t be more different from Grand Central Station but is no less impressive. The structure is supposed to resemble a dove in flight, the internationally recognized sign of peace.
Best of the rest
Other free or cheap things to do in New York City include a visit to Greenwich Village or Brooklyn, taking in a great view of the city from Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building, walking the High Line, or eating at Chelsea Market.
For anyone traveling with any fans of Friends, the iconic outside building shot can be found on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets!
Ways to Save in New York
Ditch the Cab
It’s very convenient to come out of the airport, jump in a cab and then spend the rest of your stay doing the same. A cab may be comfortable and simple, but getting from JFK to the city center can end up taking over an hour thanks to the traffic. It can also set you back more than $60. Getting the train and subway to your destination can save up to $50.
It will also get there much quicker!
Whilst staying in New York City it’s also worth using the subway whenever possible too. The network is huge and there are few places it doesn’t reach. For people staying six days or more who plan to travel about the city, an ‘unlimited card’ is definitely the way forward in terms of cost.
Pocket-sized subway maps are available everywhere, but in order to be a real expert download the comprehensive app that will not only advise how to get to a destination, but it will also advise when to get off a train too.
Though awareness of either traveling uptown or downtown is still fairly essential!
This is easier said than done in a major world city. Eating out is almost always going to be expensive if choosing to sit down in a restaurant. Especially if you choose to eat in places like Times Square or Midtown. If you want to eat cheap, don’t eat there!
Fortunately, one thing that New York does have is plenty of choices when it comes to eating.
As with any city, eating in a restaurant is always going to be expensive, that’s before even working out the complex tipping system associated with the service industry in the US!
However, New York does have an extensive army of street trucks and carts selling everything anybody could possibly desire in the way of food. They are cheap, convenient and offer usually fantastic tasting wares too.
Finding a decent food cart without prior knowledge is simple. Just look for the one with the biggest queue!
Also, keep your eye out for $1 pizza slices. They’re everywhere and huge!
Another way to eat cheap is to eat at home. This isn’t going to be possible if staying in a hotel. Hotel restaurants hardly have a reputation for being cheap.
However, anyone who’s rented corporate housing from TheSqua.re will have accommodation complete with a fitted kitchen, so preparing a meal at home is as easy as if you were, well…at home.
Look for Discounts
Coming to New York on a shopping trip probably means that the resignation of spending a lot of money is already there. But that doesn’t mean bargains shouldn’t still be carefully sought out!
There are discount shops all over the city and they offer fantastic value and genuine bargains.
Century 21 Department Store is one of the classic discount department stores and can be found at the World Trade Centre. There’s also Nordstrom Rack and Burlington, both of which can be found in Union Square.
For anyone who insists on shopping at Macy’s, and when in New York you probably should remember to take ID proving that you’re not American in order to claim a 10% discount.
Online coupon companies such as Groupon are also worth checking ahead of time too. Some events shows and even spa treatments can be found at discounted rates.
For anyone looking to see a show on Broadway, don’t go directly to the theatres to buy tickets. First, try the various discount ticket booths found around the city on the morning of when you want to go to the show. Last minute deals are almost always available.
If going out for a drink in the city try to find places that offer a happy hour deal. They’re everywhere so you’ll be spoilt for choice, especially between the house of 16:00 and 19:00. After enjoying happy hour at a few establishments it will probably become easier to pay full price for drinks later on!