New York City on a Budget
5 Fun Things That Won't Break the Bank
May 12, 2015
By Buffy York
Buffy and I were both in New York for Spring Break in March with our families and I bet I spent way less than she did.
New York City is an expensive place no matter how you slice it. It’s also one of my favorite places to visit, and I start feeling antsy if I don’t hit the streets at least every few years.
So in March my husband and I left our Southern nest with our 3 teenagers and headed to New York City for 5 days determined not to tap into their college fund to pay for it.
I planned each minute of our trip in my typical micromanagement style, and we did plenty that wasn’t on the cheap, but I did find 5 fun adventures in New York that were either FREE or almost free:
1) Eat at The Burger Joint at Le Meridien Hotel (more than once). Tucked away behind a mammoth red velvet ceiling high curtain in the lobby of this fancy 6th avenue hotel, this place is literally a hidden gem. Expect ONLY burgers, fries, shakes, beer (Sam Adams) and wine (one kind). I laughed at the signs on the wall on cardboard announcing that they are vegan-friendly (hold the meat) and paleo friendly (hold the bun). A full meal is $15 – hard to find in New York. Our teens loved the yacht music with a rock twist playing in the background and all of us loved people-watching. We were the only Americans in the place and the menu was offered in 10 languages. In my book this was a truly cultural experience.
2) Book a Free Tours by Foot walking tour. Our Pay-As-You-Wish tour was through SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown and lasted about 2 hours. I was a little suspicious about this tour and was a little worried that we would be shot at our meeting point. Much to the contrary, our tour guide, John, was a true New Yorker who knew his stuff, and couldn’t have been more professional. He taught us all of the history behind the architecture and the people in the three areas. The kids loved interesting tid bits like seeing the apartment where Heath Ledger lived and died. I have always been intimidated about how to navigate Chinatown, but not anymore! We stepped indoors twice – once for a pastry in Little Italy and at the end for $1 dumplings in Chinatown (to die for).
3) Join a free “Highlights” tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered most hours on the half hour. This tour is a short and sweet way to sample this labyrinth museum. A nice, poised woman guided us to about 7 pieces and gave an in depth explanation of its significance to the museum. After the tour we enjoyed a quick sandwich at the cafeteria on the ground floor and then set off on our own to see more.
4) Go see the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show Monologue Rehearsal (follow @fallontonight on Twitter to see when tickets are released). Before every show Jimmy and the writers run through his monologue with a live studio audience! Before you are seated, one of the Tonight Show writers gives your small group an hysterical pep talk and then suddenly Jimmy is about 20 feet in front of you (I could see his guy liner). Jimmy was kind, funny and definitely cuter in person. The rehearsal itself only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was 5 minutes of sheer bliss (can you tell I am obsessed with Jimmy Fallon?) For a FREE viewing of my favorite star, I would do this every day if I could!
5) Shop Smart. Stroll through the high end shops on 5th Avenue, meander through Saks Fifth Avenue, and memorize everything you see. Then, head down to Zara and H&M and buy the same looks for less. I know Buffy said she took her girls to the shoe salon in Barney’s for inspiration and then they headed to Forever 21. She said the Times Square, Midtown and SOHO locations were all very different with with distinct personalites, and each worth seeing.
| shop some of our New York finds by clicking the images below |