New York is the most expensive city in the United States and one of the ten most expensive cities in the world. But it’s among the most desired ones to visit by tourists. At times when the dollar is really strong, it is always a shock when you are looking at conversion prices…as of November 2017 it is 1 Euro = US$ 1,18 and US$ 1 = R$ 3,26. And for backpackers, like us, it is even more difficult… But there are a few secrets to save money in New York. We learned them from friends who had visited the city before and also from our New Yorker friend, who hosted us at the Big Apple. Now we will share them with you:
1) Buy the unlimited subway ticket
New York is all connected via subway lines. And when you have seen the city’s traffic, you will know that the subway is the best way of transportation. Next to your own feet. But buying single tickets is expensive: USD 3 per trip. Therefore, you should buy the MetroCard. There is a 7-day option available that costs USD 32 per person and the 30-day option for USD 121 per person. You buy directly at the subway station on the vending machines or at the box office.
You can find more information about the MetroCard here
2) Pay as much as you want in museums Most museums in New York have the suggested price of USD 25 per person, which is expensive, almost R$ 100. But this is a SUGGESTED value and in reality, you pay as much as you want. And nobody can say anything at all. Americans themselves never pay that much. To enter the Metropolitan, the largest museum in New York, for example, we paid USD 10 for both of us. Even though the suggested amount was USD 50. And if we would have said USD 5 or even USD 1, we could have gotten in anyway. Most museums still have free days. Because of that, I believe that tourist cards like City Pass or New York Pass aren’t worth it in New York, as they include museum values as if they were USD 25.
Anyone who thinks it’s an advantage to get the City Pass NY to skip queues for visiting 80 tourist attractions, you can buy them here with a 22 % discount.
3) Enjoy the free attractions
New York offers endless free attractions. So, you can be days and days in the city without spending anything on visiting attractions and for leisure. There are parks, museums, boat trips among other things.
4) Buy tickets for musicals and other attractions at discount
Of course for some attractions we had to pay, but we were looking for ways to buy discounted tickets. Always before you buy any ticket in NY, start with a Google-search to find out if there is any place where you can buy it at discount. To watch the Phantom of the Opera, we went to the TKTS box office, which is located under the Times Square grandstand and sells musical tickets up to 50 %. But be aware that the tickets sale is just for shows of the same day. And the very famous shows like The Lion King always are sold out. If you really want to watch these shows, you need to buy tickets in advance. Buy discount Broadway tickets without queues
South Americans, in general, aren’t very adapted to do picnics or to eat a snack on the street. However, in other countries, this is super normal. Everyone does and loves picnics. In New York, the beautiful parks are perfect for grabbing a snack, putting down a blanket and eating. And it doesn’t even have to be all prepared, you can go to a street market, buy some food, look for a place in the shade, or in the sun if you are cold and enjoy a probably even more delicious and economical meal than in a fast food shop or a restaurant. We did this in Central Park and it was great. We should have done it more often. 6) Shop in stores that offer great discounts New York is not one of the best places to shop in the US. It doesn’t have the big outlets like in Florida and the taxes are much higher, 12 % (NYC) versus the 6 % in Florida. But if you’re already there and want to go shopping, there are some options for department stores that sell products at a great discount: Century 21, Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Ross. Other stores that sell cheaper clothes are: Forever 21, H & M and Zara. Recently there have been several airfare promotions for NY and if you were still in doubt about getting to know the city because of the high cost, I hope these tips can help you. Well, NY is incredible, a city full of possibilities. 😊
There are so many options in New York that the difficult thing isn’t about to find about what you could do but actually to choose what you want to do, according to the days you have to explore the city. For a first visit you should plan at least four days to get to know the main attractions but the best is to have at least a week. I share with you our 7-day city tour, which we did in no rush, so it could be done in less time. Depending on how you want to explore, the same itinerary can be done in 4 to 7 days. In this city tour are also some places included which we only got to know because we were staying at a New Yorker’s house and he introduced us to them.
Central Park was the first thing we visited in New York. The park is over 150 years old and is 341 hectares big. It is considered as an oasis in the middle of the stone jungle of NY. As it is huge, the best thing is to plan your visit to the park before you miss a detail. On this website (http://www.centralparknyc.org/maps/), you can choose the places you want to visit and print or save a map of the park.
If possible you should spend a lot of time strolling around in the park to picnic and watching street performers. In Central Park are also offered the famous carriage rides. From late October to early April, Central Park is open to the Wollman ice rink.
Within the park or in its surroundings are also several museums open. Among the most important ones are The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. We visited the museums another day, but you can plan one full day for the park and the museums.
On one side of Central Park is New York’s most famous avenue, symbol of the city’s wealth. On that street are some of the main NY shops and also some of the most emblematic buildings located, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art itself, Empire State Building, New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Love and Hope
We walked down Fifth Avenue and then onto 6th Avenue crossing the 55, where you find the LOVE sculpture. Further on the 6th crossing the 53, is the sculpture HOPE. Both sculptures are made by artist Robert Indiana.
Next to the sculptures, is the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), at the crossing of the 54. We visited it on another day.
Times Square (https://www.timessquarenyc.org/) is in the center of some of New York’s most important avenues and is one of the city’s busiest places. It is always crowded with tourists, but it is one of the must-sees and you should visit it at least on one day, although many visitors go there several times. The best time is to arrive in the late afternoon and watch the lights go on. Around Times Square, you will also find great shops, especially of more popular brands.
A store that is worth the visit for those who travel with children is Toys “R” Us, a huge toy store, which even has a Ferris wheel inside.
Right in the center of Times Square is a grandstand and underneath it stands the TKTS box office, which sells musical tickets up to 50 % off. The tickets which are sold there are for the same day. So, it’s best to get to Times Square in the late afternoon, buy the tickets and to go for a walk around the area until the show’s opening hours. All musical theaters are close to Times Square.
To watch more famous musicals, like the Lion King, you must buy the tickets in advance, because the shows are always sold out.
We started our second day at the Chelsea Market, where you can eat breakfast, a snack or lunch before you start making your way through New York. In the market there are restaurants, bakeries, cafes and gift shops. Another option is to buy something in the market and eat it at The High Line Park.
The High Line Park
After Chelsea Market, we went up to The High Line Park. Yes, we had to go up because the park is a sort of hanging garden, built on a historic freight train line over Manhattan’s West Side Street. The park starts at Gansevoort Street and goes on until 30th street. From the top of the park you can overlook the Hudson River and on the way there you can see several panels of graffiti.
A short walk from the High Line Park exit off 30th street is the largest unit of Macy’s (https://www.macys.com/), a famous department store. The store at Herald Square is spread over 205,000 square feet, eleven stories high and is known as the world’s largest department store.
Empire State Building
Very close to Macy’s, on 34th crossing with 5th is one of New York’s most iconic buildings, the Empire State Building, better known as the King Kong movie building. The building is 102 floors high and for many years has been one of the tallest buildings in the world.
In the Empire State Building is a lookout for tourists, one of the most famous places to see New York from the top. We didn’t visit it as we preferred the Top of the Rock. But anyone who wants to visit it, can get more details here.
Going down 5th Avenue heading North, a few blocks from the Empire State Building, you will find the New York Public Library, one of the most important ones in the world. The building is beautiful from the outside and inside and you can visit it for free. In addition to the permanent library archive, which includes important books such as a Gutenberg Bible, temporary exhibitions are also displayed.
The Library is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. But arrive before 5:00 pm to be able to enter.
Behind the Library is Bryant Park located, which is a beautiful park with a few cafes. From the end of October to March, one of NY’s most popular ice skating rinks are open there. It has free admission as well.
The famous Wall Street is the most important commercial and financial center in the world. One of the most emblematic buildings of this street is the New York Stock Exchange.
On Wall Street crossing with Broadway is the beautiful Trinity Church, an Anglican church. The first part of Trinity Church got built in 1696, but the current building is the third version and was constructed in 1846.
Following Broadway to the South, you will find one of the most famous symbols of New York’s financial district, the Charging Bull, a bronze sculpture of a bull, by artist Arturo Di Modica. The bull is always surrounded by tourists, especially in the back, as the legend says that if you grab it by the balls, sorry for the bad language, you will have luck and money.
Ferry to Staten Island and Statue of Liberty
This was one of the most enjoyable tours in New York and the best is that it’s free. The ferry terminal is next to Battery Park, on the Southern tip of Manhattan. Just get here and wait for the next ferry. The best place to be on the boat is in the back or at the sides, on the right side, on the way to the island, and on the left returning. The ride takes 30 minutes and you can have an incredible view of Manhattan and also the Statue of Liberty. A good time to take this tour is in the late afternoon to watch the sunset from Battery Park.
This park, as I said, is located next to the Ferry Terminal to Staten Island. It offers a nice view of the Hudson River and you can even see the Statue of Liberty, although it is small. It is perfect for watching the sunset. For those who travel with children you can’t miss going on the carousel, which is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, all futuristic, with a sea bottom theme.
Our 4th day in New York was a Saturday, the best day to visit Brooklyn, because it’s the Smorgasburg market that day. We started the day by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. The best way to do this is going the direction from Manhattan to Brooklyn. If the day is cold, wear a lot of warm clothes as the wind is pretty strong. From the bridge you can have beautiful views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hudson River and you can also see the Statue of Liberty.
Williamsburg and Smorgasburg
Williamsburg is a neighborhood in Brooklyn district, one of the most charming, with many restaurants, great shops, thrift stores and flea markets. In Williamsburg, at the waterfront of the Hudson River, you can find every Saturday the Smorgasburg market, with several food stands.
Near the place of Smorgasburg, there is a flea market called Artists & Fleas, where clothes, accessories, art pieces and many other beautiful things are sold.
Another charming, upscale neighborhood in New York is Soho where we went after Williamsburg. Soho is famous for having art galleries, many shops and restaurants.
Our fifth day in NY was a Sunday, so we took the time to hang out with our host, New Yorker Michael, who took us to places that few tourists know.
Fort Tryon Park
This is one of New York’s most beautiful and quiet parks. It is in Hudson Heights, North Manhattan. The park has a beautiful view of the Hudson River and also lots of flowers and animals.
The Met Cloisters
In Fort Tryon Park is The Met Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met Cloisters has a collection of approximately five thousand medieval works, ranging from the 12th to the 15th century. They are especially religious pieces brought from various European countries. It is definitely a completely different place in New York.
Note that, like other NY museums, the suggested price for the visit is $ 25 per person, but you pay as much as you want. We paid $ 20 for the two of us, but our friend fought with us and said that $ 10 for us was more than enough! Haha
The Little Red Lighthouse
This is one of the secrets of NY that we only got to know thanks to our friend. A small red lighthouse, located just below George Washington Bridge, within the Fort Washington Park area. The official name of the lighthouse is Jeffrey’s Hook and it was built in 1889. The park is very beautiful, with picnic tables, children’s playground and areas for doing sports.
Moris-Jummel Mansion Museum
The Moris-Jummel (http://www.morrisjumel.org/) is a mansion built in 1765 as a summer home by Colonel Roger Morris and his wife, Mary Philipse. During the American Revolution, Mary and Roger had to leave their home because they were Tories (settlers loyal to Britain). After they left, George Washington and his officers moved into the house. Today, the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday. The entrance fee is usually 10 dollars, but we went on a Sunday and the entrance was free. Inside the house is furniture from the time of its construction. The interior is gorgeous, but the gardens and the view as well.
Next to the Moris-Jummel is a beautiful street of houses from the same period, called Greenstreet.
Despite being far away, after Moris-Jummel, we went to visit the MoMA – Museum of Modern Art in New York. But I think it’s better to visit it on the 6th day. Founded in 1929, the MoMA is one of the most important museums of modern art in the world. In its collection are art works of Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, among many other famous painters.
The MoMA operates every day, except for a few holidays, from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. Admission is $ 25 per person. In the case of MoMA this is the exact value, it isn’t a suggested price.
The New York Cathedral is dedicated to St. Patrick. The neo-Gothic style building was built between 1858 and 1878. The cathedral is on 5th Avenue, directly opposite to the Rockefeller Center. The admission is free.
The grand Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings occupying an area of 89,000 m². The complex belongs to the traditional Rockefeller family. The must-see is Rockefeller Center where an ice skating rink is open during winter and a gigantic Christmas tree is set up.
For those who like sweets, next to the Rockefeller Center is the Magnolia’s Bakery, which has wonderful sweets. 😉
Top of the Rock
New York has several lookouts where you can see the city from above by 360 degrees. We chose the Top of the Rock which is part of the Rockefeller Center because it is possible to have one of the best views, which includes Central Park and Empire State Building.
On the last day, we had a picnic in Central Park and visited The Metropolitan Museum. This is the main museum in NY and it is spectactular, so it takes many hours to visit. However, you still need to choose which exhibitions you want to visit. One of the most interesting is undoubtedly the one of Ancient Egypt. The Met is open every day, from Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 5:30 pm and Fridays and Saturdays until 9 pm. The suggested price is $ 25 per person, but you pay as much as you want.
9/11 Memorial (Ground Zero)
Despite being far from the Met, we decided to visit the September 11 Memorial on this day, because on Tuesdays admission is free. But you need to book the ticket the previous Monday through the website. The memorial museum is huge and very emotional. For me, the visit was very difficult and I got to feel bad especially with the audios and photos. In addition to the museum, two huge pools were built outside the World Trade Center Museum in remembrance of the victims of the attack.
To visit those two museums takes a long time, so I spent all day there.
For those who want to go shopping, right next to the memorial is the huge Century 21 department store.
This was our itinerary for NY, and they are suggestions for you to explore the best of the city according to the days you have to visit NY. Might be interesting for you as well: New York for the first time, tips to save money.