How to Make New York on a Budget

How to Make New York on a Budget

New York is an expensive place – even the locals feel that the city charges them money just to open their eyes in the morning. But plan a trip here after the Christmas and New Year festivities when prices are at their lowest and you will find that it is not as hard on the wallet as you had expected. The city takes a respite, there are fewer visitors to the museums and reservations and tickets are easier to get (bar Hamilton). Be sure to pack your warmest coat and boots; January and February are the cruelest months here, with cold temperatures – the kind that freeze your breath on your scarf – and snow quickly compressing into slush and ice on the sidewalks.

Remember to arrange proof of vaccination: Restaurants, venues, theaters, concert halls, the opera and many museums require proof of vaccination and in some cases proof of a booster shot.

Main photo: Brooklyn Bridge (Getty Images)

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What to see and do

Some of the best things to see in New York are completely free. Wake up early to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and you will be rewarded with sun-drenched views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Heights and all of Lower Manhattan. Set a route through Central Park that takes you through the Sheep Meadow, past the Bethesda Fountain, around the lake and the boathouse, and out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

Bethesda Fountain and Central Park (Getty Images)

It is also possible to see the art at the city’s museums for free if you know when to go. Many have weekly free hours or “pay what you want”, such as the Frick Madison Thursday afternoon and the Guggenheim Museum on select Saturday afternoons, and while Moma’s free Fridays are currently suspended, children aged 16 and under are always free. Admission is always free at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, home to the largest museum shop, filled with extremely coveted items you did not know you needed (and a number of them cost under £ 20) .

It is possible to buy Broadway tickets at a piece of their usual price. For discounted tickets the same day or the next day, line up at the TKTS booth in Times Square or download the app. You can book tickets weeks or months ahead on the TodayTix app, which has some tickets starting as low as £ 25, and pick up your tickets from their friendly, red T-shirt staff, who stand outside the theater before show time.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk (Alamy)

The trip to Coney Island only costs a subway fare, but it’s a world away from Manhattan. The boardwalk and beach are virtually deserted in the winter, and the gray Atlantic Ocean reminds you that this is actually a coastal town. Most of the attractions are closed in the winter, with the empty loops of the Cyclone wooden slide deserted, but the New York Aquarium has a colorful sea life to spy on; there is free admission Wednesday afternoon if you book a ticket. Continue to Brighton Beach for the Russian on the seafront, where many types of dumplings (vareniki, pelmeni) or Tone Café on Neptune Avenue are served, serving heavy Georgian dishes such as ajaruli khachapuri (boat-shaped dough baked with cheese and eggs). Bartenders will pour you as much vodka as you can handle.

Where to eat

Food is where your money reaches farthest in New York, and you can eat well for £ 15 in pretty much every neighborhood, though wine and spirits are a very different story.

In the morning, street cars pop up on Midtown corners to cater for office drones and construction workers selling everything from hot coffee to breakfast tacos to Turkish eggs for just a few dollars. A hot toasted whole bagel with spring onions or vegetable cream cheese is also a cheap, delicious start to the day. And when it comes to fast food, nothing beats New York pizza, good value whether you buy a slice or a whole pie from the ubiquitous pizzerias found throughout the city.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan's Chinatown

Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan’s Chinatown (Getty Images)

Affordable restaurants serve dishes from all over the world in this immigrant city. Head to Chinatown for dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, but also lamb buns at Xi’an Famous Foods, or try hawawshi, an Egyptian beef dish, at Zooba in Nolita or a juicy American cheeseburger at 7th Street Burger in the East Village. If you can name it, you can eat it here, be it Uighur kebabs or Uzbek laghman noodles.

During Restaurant Week (more like Restaurant Month), which takes place over four weeks in January and February, many of New York’s best chefs such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelsson and Leah Cohen serve regular meals for either $ 21 or $ 39 ( or $ 125 if you want to push the boat out). This is the best way to eat at five star restaurants including Pastis, Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Lafayette, Sylvia’s and Babbo.

Experience Chinatown and Little Italy Food Fest

Where to live

This boutique hotel in Midtown near Herald Square has high marks for comfort and style as well as location. It is just minutes from Bryant Park, Times Square and the city’s theater district, and also close to most of the subway lines. The 195 rooms have a spacious feel due to the high ceiling, and the wooden furniture is handmade by Amish and Mennonite communities in Ohio, while the bathrooms have rain showers and Malin + Goetz toiletries. In the hot months, the Lookup Rooftop Bar opens on the 12th floor and has a great close-up of the Empire State Building.

Ace Hotel Brooklyn

Ace Hotel Brooklyn (Stephen Kent Johnson)

Ace Hotel Brooklyn
This new hotel has already become part of the structure of its Boerum Hill neighborhood. Locals and guests fill the large, low sofas in the lobby with the cast concrete walls heated by wooden beams and floors, or grab laptops on the communal table that share a double-sided fireplace with the indoor garden room (soon a natural wine bar). The 287 rooms are spacious with plywood panels, cotton rugs on low-hanging beds and clearly thought-out elements for travelers such as the shelves and the numerous hooks in the bathrooms. Book a room on the south side of the hotel for panoramic views of the low-rise Brooklyn neighborhoods of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.

The Collective Paper Factory
Located in a former factory in Long Island City, Queens, this boutique hotel is steps from two express subway lines and just 15 minutes from Midtown Manhattan. The 125 industrial-chic rooms feature polished floors, metal and wood furniture, mini-refrigerators and 12-foot ceilings flooded with light from the windows. Play table football or shuffleboard in the games room, take the Pilates mats in the 24-hour fitness center, or enjoy cocktails in the conservatory or outdoor patio. The hotel is also just a few minutes’ walk from the Museum of the Moving Image and three stops on the M-train from Moma PS1, the experimental art museum.

Take me there

Inspired to visit New York but not yet booked your trip? Here are the best packages from Expedia and BA Holidays. And if you are still in doubt about where you want to go or what type of holiday to book, please contact us here and one of the Designer Travel experts will contact you to help you arrange your perfect bespoke break.

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