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Pirates on Tour: free and affordable things to do in New York City 🗽

The best things to do in New York for free or on a budget? Yes, please! Our Pirate, Caitlin, has returned from a 4-night trip and has some tips and inspiration for you.

Published by
Caitlin Moore·08/12/2022

Ahoy mateys, I recently returned from an amazing 4-night trip in New York City and wanted to share with you my favourite free and affordable things to do to help keep your trip on a budget.

Trust me, it's easy to over-spend in New York, especially as the exchange rate is currently pretty low, meaning your money doesn't go as far. Despite this, we managed to stick to our budget and still see everything we planned.

Our top free things to do and see:

We spent the majority of our time in New York walking around and taking in all of the sights - which costs nothing!

  1. Central Park

  2. Brooklyn Bridge

  3. Times Square

  4. New York Public Library

  5. Grand Central Terminal

  6. Dumbo (Manhattan Bridge view point)

  7. 5th Avenue

  8. 9/11 Memorial Pools

  9. The Vessel

  10. The High Line

Save money on attractions

If, like me, it's going to be your first time in New York, then you probably want to see all of the top attractions too, and not everything is free, unfortunately. One thing I would 100% reccomend is getting a city pass. There are a few different types available, we chose the New York City CityPASS which included 5 attractions and saved us alot of money on booking seperate.

It includes:

1. Empire State Building tickets (you can even go again on the same day at night!)

This was definitely one of my favourite attractions, the journey to the top is an experience in itself with some really unique features, and the views are just WOW. We went at sunset, which was crowded, but worth it!

2. Ticket to the American Museum of Natural History

This place was seriously overwhelmingly huge, there's even an app so that you can direct yourself to the exhibits you want to see.

3. Either Top of the Rock® Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum

We did Top of the Rock® as we wanted to see another viewing platform at nighttime and you can see the Empire State Building from this one.

4. Either ferry access to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line sightseeing cruise

We chose the Circle Line sightseeing cruise as our time was limited, but we still got amazing views of the Statue of Liberty from the cruise.

5. Either 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

We chose to do the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Cheap things to do and tips:

  1. We ate ALOT of pizza slices, they range from about $1-5 per slice depending on where you go. Our favourites were at Joe's and Little Italy.

  2. Look for local coffee shops and cafes that aren't in the main tourist areas for food - the prices are significantly cheaper.

  3. If you do the walk over Brooklyn Bridge, there are lots of affordable restaurants and cafe's on the other side, we went to the Time Out Market which had loads of amazing vendors and was our favourite food of the trip!

  4. If you head over that way make sure to take the East River ferry back over to Manhattan (get on at Dumbo pier and get off at East 34th St Pier), it costs $4 and will give you the most incredible sky line views of the city - much cheaper than a sightseeing cruise.

  5. We planned our days out so that we could pretty much walk everywhere, one day we walked from Times Square to the 9/11 Memorial which was over an hour, but we planned in sights we wanted to see on the way.

  6. If you're not walking, make use of the subway system, you can download an APP called NYC Subway which is really helpful.

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