A Budget Tour of New York June 23 2013
Visiting any major city can be expensive but it can be done on a budget if you are in the know. Unless you've suddenly hit jackpot on the lottery and cost isn't going to be an issue, you will want to keep the cost of your visit to as little as possible without missing out on the sight seeing and shopping. And if you're on a budget and let's face it, most of us are on a budget of some sort, here's a list of some of things I did in New York that doesn't have to cost the earth.
This one of the most famous skylines in the world. Sitting on the mouth of the Hudson River, Manhattan, is one of the smallest boroughs of the State of New York but yet one of the densely populated. You can get a really good view of the tall buildings the reside along the East River leading up to the Brooklyn Bridge. From Brooklyn Bridge Park you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the famous Manhattan skyline that you see in so many films, photos and postcards.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in 1886. If you are not particularly interested in going up The Statue of Liberty and you don't want to pay the earth on a boat trip around the Hudson Bay, you can still get a good view of the lady herself on the Staten Island Ferry which leaves from Whitehall and Water Street... And it's free! The boat ride is run by New York City to transport locals between Staten Island and Manhattan but many tourists also get on the boat just to see the wonderful New York skyline. The boat ride is about 25 minutes each way and as soon as you get off Staten Island, you quickly embark to another boat going back to Manhattan by walking off the boat you just arrived on and hopping on the one leaving for Manhattan. You have to be quick though or you may miss the boat and you'll have a long wait for another! But you can get some fantastic photos of not just of the Statue of Liberty but of the New York skyline as well.
Home to NBC since 1933, you are better off going up The Rockerfeller Center than going up the Empire State Building. Although the Empire State is the taller of the two, it also the better looking of the two in architecture. To see a panoramic view of New York from the top of the Empire State Building, you view the scenery through mesh wire whereas from the Rockerfeller Centre, you view the city through glass and you can poke your hands through the gaps between the panes so you don't have to take a photo through the glass and you get to see the magnificent Empire State in all it's glory. Also, you can't see Central Park from the Empire State Building but you can see how big Central Park really is from the Rockerfeller Center. And if you look hard enough, you can see the apartment block where John Lennon lived and was sadly assassinated outside but if you go up at night, you won't be able to see Central Park as it is not lit up at night. Opening hours are 8am-12am with the last lift going up at 11pm. It's not cheap though, $27 for adults but well worth the visit. We stayed up there for about an hour and half just taking in the views, sitting and chatting.
A wonderful scenic park situated behind the New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd Streets which in surrounded by trees and skyscrapers. It is only small in comparison to Central Park but in the Summer, you can sit at tables or just lie on the grass and have a picnic and people watch. There are even ping pong tables shaded by the trees if you fancied a game. In the Winter this park turns into an ice skating rink. There are cafes in the park but there are a few places around that you can grab a sandwich from if you prefer. If you're like me and a bit of a chatterbox, the local New Yorkers seem friendly to strike up a conversation with and they'll happily sit and chat for ages if you let them!
Along the way to the flea market in Lafayette Avenue, we stopped off for a bite to eat at this truly scrumptious eatery. It was only by coincidence that we stumbled across it but seeing that it was popular with a lot of people, we thought we would give it a try. It was particularly hot this day and the restaurant had opened up its glassed front for diners to sit in comfort and diners alike sat inside and out with fans blowing inside. We didn't have to wait long for a table and were seated inside. A glass of chilled water was poured for us (pretty much all restaurants in the US automatically do this and it is free) with the "Best Hot Dogs in Brooklyn", a Joint Dog with either pulled pork, beef or chicken as a topping and a large cup of creamy coleslaw (the Americans know how to make good coleslaw!), it all came to $8! So if you are looking for somewhere cheap and yummy to eat, be it a Hot Dog, Spare Ribs (which are massive!), fries, salad, fish, chicken, beef or pork this is the place.
From vintage baseball gloves to vintage clothing, furniture from the 50s and 60s to old vinyl, the Brooklyn Flea Market offers an eclectic choice of stalls. Set in the grounds of a High School and between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues, I found a lot of things here rather expensive (really no different to a vintage fair in the UK) but if you look hard enough, there are things you can pick up rather cheaply, it all depends on what you want and are willing to pay! And don't be shy to do a bit of haggling!
The best homemade burgers I've tasted in a long time, the Piper's Kilt is a small bar/restaurant that is reasonably priced. In actual fact, the Piper's Kilt reminded me of how a bar would have been in the 1970s with its old fashioned tills they still use and with "Love Like Oxygen" by Sweet blaring out the speakers. Prices for a burger vary between $7.95-$12.95 depending on what toppings you have, Blue Cheese, Canadian Bacon with Cheese or just tomato. Water is served if you want to keep the price down because drinks can bring your bill right up but a soft drink is around $1.75. Remember to give a 20% tip on top of your bill as this is expected in all bars and restuarants in the US. I would recommend you make a table reservation before you go as it gets quite packed or you may have a bit of a wait until you are seated.
Guggenheim Museum, 5th Avenue, Manhattan NY10128
A contemporary and modern Art Museum with various exhibitions to see. General admission is $12 but I'm not entirely sure if this was because part of the museum was closed off when I went for a pending exhibition because I thought entry was $22... But if you are on a budget, from 5.45pm until 7pm, admission is free. There are works by Bauhaus, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and many more. If you are not wanting to see a particular exhibition, then this should give you enough time to have a look around. If you are walking up Fifth Avenue, then I suggest that you take a walk in Central Park, a path that runs along side and leads you up to the Museum Mile. It is a lovely walk and away from the hustle bustle of the cars.
This is restaurant is a little gem! Homemade authentic Asian dumplings and noodles that are very reasonably priced. The staff are very friendly and attentive and the place itself is quite quite small but clean and modern, I would say it seats around 20 people but you can get a carry out (that's a takeaway to you and me) if you please. I ordered a Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (you get 4 giant Dim Sums that I did share!), Roast Duck with Rice and Chicken Broth Soup with Scallion (it was meant to be noodles but I customised it and asked for rice instead) and Steam Custard Buns (5 Egg shaped buns, again I shared I'm not a complete little piggy) all for about $20!!! They do Curry Puffs which were also delicious and Fried Ice Cream! On asking how they fry ice cream , the waiter said that the ice cream is rolled in breadcrumbs, then quickly fried and served so although it is hot on the outside, the ice cream is still cold and solid on the inside. Clever... If you want to give this a try, I would call up and book a table before you go as it does fill up quickly.
I was in my element here!! Unlike the UK and other countries I have been to, the US doesn't seem to have a seasonal sale. They do have Summer and Winter sales but there is always a discount of some sort going on. I'm told no one in New York ever pays full price and in some shops even if an item is already in the sale, you still get further money off depending on what the discount is for that day or week. Even if you don't have a voucher for discount, most stores will have a voucher at the till you can use. Have a good look around first to see which places are doing deals and better deals. For example, I found the department store Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue having a week 25% discount on most items except chocolate candy and 10% discount off perfume. But Bloomingdales on Third Avenue just had a half price sale on selected items. So it's worth having a mooch just to get your bearings about the place. Just make sure if you don't have an actual discount voucher that the till you are paying at has one you can use or you will be charged full price.
Clothes and especially shoes can be expensive in New York but sportswear by Nike (futuristic looking Basketball boots and Converse are big here) underwear by DKNY and Calvin Klein is cheap and even cheaper if you go to a shop with discount. UGG boots are a lot cheaper in the US (also big here) as is believe it or not, Hunter wellies even though they're British! I was told there is an 8% tax on any single item that costs over $100 to purchase and anything under that, even if you buy 3 items and they come to a total of $115, you will not be charged the 8% tax.
They say New York is the city that never sleeps, well this is because the subway in New York never stops. Of course there are more trains running during the day than after midnight but the trains never stop running even after midnight. No matter how far or short you go on the New York subway, it is $2.50 a ride. You can buy a 7 day Metro Card for $30 and go on as many rides in NYC as you want provided it is within the 7 days. Or you can buy a refillable Metro Card for as little as $1 and top it up as and when you need it. For example $ 10 will get you 4 rides. Just watch you don't accidentally swipe your card twice when entering the subway or you'll be one ride down than you think and then you'll have an insufficient fee for what you think is your last ride. You can pay by cash or by card but best to just use cash if you have it. So getting around on the subway is cheap.
I know I haven't covered everything to do in New York but I hope my little insight of the place has helped plan part of your trip and to show that you can do the city on a budget if you really want to. I will say this much though, be prepared to be filling your suitcase full of clothes, underwear and shoes! Seriously, even if you think you won't be buying anything, you will once you see how cheap certain things can be! New York is a truly amazing place, I absolutely loved it and I think myself lucky that I got to go. I heart NY, I really do...