Cheap/Free Things to Do in NYC – Summer 2019
Summer is officially here! Whether you live in the 5 boroughs full time or you’re just stopping in for a vacation, you’ll be looking for something to do that won’t break the bank. You might find it hard to believe, but there are many ways to enjoy the city and not go bankrupt in the process!
Visit a museum
In any city, museums can be a great option for making the most of a rainy weather day or escaping the heat. Oh, and for the whole cultural experience, too, obvs. But in NYC, the sheer number of options is staggering: well over 100 museums big and small with focuses from the ancient and austere to the modern and quirky. There’s even an area known as Museum Mile, a stretch along 5th Avenue in Manhattan where some of the city’s finest art collections can be found. No matter your interest, there’s sure to be a museum in NYC that features it.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – (metmuseum.org) New York’s largest (and finest) museum, affectionately known as The Met, you can easily spend hours (or days) wandering through its collection of art ranging over 5,000 years of history. It is overwhelming in the best possible way. If your thirst for culture is somehow still unsatisfied, swing by their Cloisters and Breuer locations to get your fill.
American Museum of Natural History – (amnh.org) Always a big hit with kids of all ages. You’re greeted by a giant dinosaur as soon as you walk in and it’s also home to the Hayden Planetarium, so the sense of awe never goes away.
El Museo del Barrio – (elmuseo.org) A museum dedicated to celebrating Latin American and Caribbean art and cultural history. You can’t help but feel infused with energy from the moment you walk in, absorbing all the ways these vibrant cultures work and play.
Other standout museums to visit:
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Morgan Library and Museum
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
The Frick Collection
The Skyscraper Museum
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Pro Tip: Many museums have special days or hours when entry is free, so check their websites in advance and plan your visit accordingly for even more savings!
It is said that if you visited a new restaurant in NYC every day without repeating, it would take more than 65 years to try them all! With all these options, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers really enjoy dining out. And if you think you’ll need to take out a loan to sample these eateries, think again. Twice a year, NYC hosts “Restaurant Week”, but it typically lasts 2 – 3 weeks. Restaurant Week is a chance to sample delicious fare from restaurants all over the city at a fixed price. Ever since its inception 26 years ago (when it actualy ran for a week), Restaurant Week has been an opportunity to celebrate the incredible and diverse NYC culinary experience. The food represents a wide variety of cuisines and the restaurants themselves include everything from fine dining to cozy neighborhood spots.
NYC Restaurant Week – (nycgo.com) This summer, Restaurant Week runs from July 22 – August 16. Check out out the list of over 350 participating restaurants offering a 2-course lunch for $26 or 3-course dinner for $42.
Walk the High Line
The story of the High Line is a classic NY tale. You see, along with food, New York’s other great loves are commerce and culture. The engine of business is always reaching forward, seeking ways to innovate, never afraid to tear down what is old for the shiny and new. In contrast, there exists a deep love for the historical, beautiful and culturally relevant elements of times gone by. These opposing forces struggle for balance and shape the city as we know it today.
The High Line was once the site of freight trains busily transporting millions of tons of meat, dairy and produce between Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. As use of the elevated freight lines dwindled through the 60’s and 70’s, the call to demolish the entire structure steadily grew in volume into the 80’s and 90’s. Portions of the High Line were actually destroyed to make room for new construction. But in true New York fashion, there were those who took note of the wild beauty of the overgrown rail lines and the balance began to tilt in favor of those who wanted to preserve it. Friends of the High Line was formed in 1999, this non-profit group has successfully advocated for conservation of the space and navigated it through sweeping transformation.
Today, the High Line is 1.45 miles of public space with beautiful gardens, regularly host to art installations, food vendors, workshops, performances and other special events. Hands down, one of the best plces in New York City to go for a stroll, there’s no charge to enter the High Line and many of the events here are also free of charge.
The High Line – (thehighline.org) This must-see landmark runs along Manhattan’s West Side from 34th Street down to 14th Street with several access/exit points along the way. It’s also wheelchair accessible, so everyone can come up, wander and take in the spectacular views.
Take the Ferry
Traffic in NYC is legendary – was the word gridlock created to describe the condition of our roads? It definitely feels that way sometimes. As a result, the powers that be have increasingly turned their attention to New York City’s waterways as an alternate means of transport. And why not – the city’s five boroughs are practically surrounded by water! The Bronx lies at the southernmost tip of mainland New York State, Brooklyn and Queens sit at the westernmost end of Long Island, and Manhattan and Staten Island are each islands themselves.
Not only are the ferries an effective means of transport from point A to point B, the ride is enjoyable in and of itself. Hopping on a ferry can be a great way to beat the heat – skimming along the water will be several degrees cooler than in the middle of the concrete jungle. It also provides an opportunity to take in panoramic views of the city or to be the view youself, capturing that perfect Instagram-worthy shot.
Staten Island Ferry – (siferry.com) The OG of New York’s ferries. The Staten Island Ferry runs 24/7 from Whitehall Terminal in Downtown Manhattan to St. George’s Terminal in Staten Island for free. It’s my preferred way to see the Statue of Liberty – you get close enough to give Lady Liberty a wave and snap some pics free of charge. Did I mention it’s free?
NYC Ferry – (ferry.nyc) For the cost of a ride on the subway (currently $2.75), you can take a boat ride to several locations throughout the city. You can hop from trendy Williamsburgh in Brooklyn over to Midtown Manhattan then swing over to new restaurant hotbed Astoria in Queens. During the summer, you can also ride from Wall Street to Governors Island, service is weekends only.
New York Water Taxi – (nywatertaxi.com) The best value with this service is clearly the IKEA Shuttle, which travels between Wall Street in Manhattan to IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn for $5. Their All Day Access Pass is more expensive, but it does allow you to travel between 4 popular tourist locations at your own pace.
That’s a wrap on this first installment of inexpensive tips for enjoying New York City this summer. There’s still so much more to explore, so stay tuned for part 2 where we explore options for music, movies and more!