78 Cheap Things to Do in New York City - TourScanner (2024)

Table of Contents
1 – Embrace the controlled chaos that is Times Square 2 – Grab a bite at Chelsea Market 3 – Head underground at the New York Catacombs 4 – Dial up the romance with a candlelight concert 5 – Pay a visit to the infamous Grand Central Terminal 6 – Wander around the Museum of Modern Art 7 – Check out the Statue of Liberty (up close, or from a boat) 8 – Race against the clock in an escape game 9 – Enjoy the views from the Empire State Building 10 – Step inside the 19th-century St. Patrick’s Cathedral 11 – Craft delicious potions at The Cauldron NYC 12 – Fuel your need for adrenaline on The Beast Speedboat 13 – Spot sharks and stingrays at the New York Aquarium 14 – Meet your heroes at Madame Tussauds 15 – Hang with Joey, Chandler, and the gang at The FRIENDS™ Experience: The One in New York City 16 – Climb the Vessel, where amazing views await 17 – Mix new-wave science with art at ARTECHOUSE New York 18 – Escape the crowds at the peaceful New York Botanical Garden 19 – Join one of the bounties of fascinating neighborhoods tours 20 – Unleash your inner shutterbug at Fotografiska 21 – Walk in famous footsteps with a TV and movie tour 22 – Find some cheap eats in Chinatown 23 – Sign up for one of the locally-led (often free) walking tours 24 – Soak up the panoramic view from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt 25 – Attend a live TV show taping! 26 – Roll around the city with a bike tour 27 – Head to the beautiful, yet eerie site of the World Trade Center 28 – Visit a true NYC hidden gem: The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine 29 – Chat with the cheetahs at Central Park Zoo 30 – Get a little nostalgic at Roller Wave 31 – Check the Metropolitan Museum of Art off the bucket list 32 – Hear the bell ring on Wall Street 33 – Step into a dynamic art world at Wonderland Dreams by Alexa Meade 34 – Spend a morning at the underrated Guggenheim Museum 35 – Ride the historic Deno’s Wonder Wheel 36 – Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Museum of Ice Cream 37 – Slow down and unwind at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden 38 – Take the elevator to the Top of the Rock observation deck 39 – Admire the art, and the sunset, at the Whitney Museum 40 – See who’s playing at Madison Square Garden 41 – Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel 42 – Soar 100 stories above the streets at the Edge Observation Deck 43 – Get your city bearings with a convenient hop on hop off bus tour 44 – Dress to the nines for a night at the Metropolitan Opera House 45 – Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum 46 – Shop till you drop at Brookfield Place 47 – Snap your new profile pic at the Color Factory 48 – Master the art of espionage at Spyscape 49 – Look out over the entire city from the One World Observatory (Freedom Tower) 50 – Venture off the beaten path with a street art tour 51 – Pop into the Museum of the Moving Image 52 – Spice up a day of sightseeing by joining a scavenger game 53 – Turn a few pages at the New York Public Library 54 – Take part in a Hamilton walking tour 55 – Step back in time at the American Museum of Natural History 56 – Make your way to little-known Governors Island 57 – Appreciate the streetside diversity on an architecture tour 58 – Grab a cheap lunch at Essex Market 59 – Play the Game of 1000 Boxes 60 – Learn a thing or two at the New York Hall Of Science 61 – Watch the Rockettes dazzle (or any of the other myriad performers) at Radio City 62 – Head to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island 63 – Spend the day at the Bronx Zoo 64 – See what’s happening at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts 65 – Fly over the Big Apple on RISE 66 – Check out actual fighter jets at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum 67 – Stroll along the gentrified High Line 68 – Snap a selfie in front of the Ghostbusters Firehouse 69 – See what’s playing at the Rooftop Cinema Club 70 – Make your way to the Broadway Comedy Club 71 – Stretch, relax and unwind with a unique yoga class 72 – Visit some of the “other” amazing museums around the city 73 – A cheaper animal alternative; check out the Staten Island Zoo 74 – Spice things up at the Museum of Sex 75 – Get a little wild on a pub crawl 76 – Max out the credit card at the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets 77 – Hear terrifying tales on a moonlit ghost tour 78 – Sample classic NYC fare at the cornerside food trucks Visiting New York City on a budget? Final thoughts

It’s the center of the universe, the city that never sleeps, and the place that beckons millions of tourists year after year – snap-happy visitors who come in search of movie moments, towering skyscrapers, legendary restaurants, and the endless things to do in New York City that makes it America’s most famous metropolis.

The buildings, from the Empire State to the Freedom Tower and the Top of the Rock are sky-high; but, at times, so are the prices, with everything from hotels to food costing more than a pretty penny in recent years.

And while helicopter flights might be out of the question for some, fortunately, for all of us budget-conscious (read: savvy) travelers, we’re still left with a smorgasbord of free and cheap things to do in New York City.

From walking the High Line and checking Grand Central Station off the bucket list, to the pay-what-you-want museums, the free Staten Island ferry (where sublime Statue of Liberty views await), or the slew of free walking tours that venture through Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich, SoHo and more, there are myriad affordable ways to explore this concrete jungle.

So, what are you waiting for? Forget about taking out a new credit card; instead, hunt down the deals and enjoy a budget-friendly break in The Big Apple. So, without further ado, here’s our definitive list of 79 of the most wallet-friendly NYC activities. Thank us later.

Note: While we have focused on activities that cost less than $50, this amount might still be steep for some, but the aim was to offer a range of affordable options in a city known for its often high-priced attractions.

1 – Embrace the controlled chaos that is Times Square

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The most famous intersection in the world, where the lights shine bright 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Times Square – located at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan – is never shy of a dull moment.

Beyond the bright billboards, it’s where you’ll find M&M World, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, RiseNY, the Disney Store, and the Hard Rock Cafe – just a sliver of the top things to do in Times Square.

As you meander from one attraction to the next, you’ll be greeted by costumed superheroes, colorful cartoon characters, and street performers – none more famous than the Naked Cowboy – ready to strike a pose.

Within arm’s reach, you’ll also find a slew of comedy clubs, the famous Rockefeller Center, and rooftop restaurants and bars aplenty (check out the W hotel’s restaurant for a cheap meal with a view).

And we haven’t even touched on the theater scene yet! With over 40 operational theaters, you’ll never be short on shows to watch — whether you’re looking for a Broadway classic like Wicked or something fresher like Hamilton or the Book of Mormon, always something to suit your taste. Plus, with discounted tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square every day from 3 PM onwards, it doesn’t have to break the bank either!

The best part? The pedestrian-only plazas are free to wander around, so it’s easy to soak in the endless energy – and that’s no exaggeration with over 300,000 people passing through the intersection daily – without spending a penny.

2 – Grab a bite at Chelsea Market

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A foodie haven and local hangout, nestled over in the now-gentrified Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market invites hungry travelers to explore its smorgasbord of diverse flavors — from fresh seafood at the Lobster Place to melt-in-your-mouth Mexican at Los Tacos No. 1, to artisanal doughnuts at Doughnuttery or sweet pastries at Amy’s Bread for desserts.

Beyond food, you’ll find Artists & Fleas, a marketplace of local artists and designers with vintage treasures aplenty; ArtecHouse, an immersive art exhibition; and the Chelsea Music Hall, where world-renowned DJs and up-and-coming local acts take the stage.

And for all you history buffs, the market itself is actually housed in a former Nabisco factory – the industrial charm and exposed brick walls remain, but the atmosphere has taken a full 180.

While you’re there: Right next to the Chelsea Market is the High Line, a repurposed elevated railway that serves up stunning views of the city. So, if the weather’s kind to you, grab some takeaway treats from the market and go for a little stroll!

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Hot tip: Check out our list of the best food tours in NYC.

3 – Head underground at the New York Catacombs

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At street level, New York City is a cacophony of noise and activity. But underneath the bustling sidewalks lies a hidden world, the eerie and historic New York Catacombs — the former 19th-century mass burial site for prominent New Yorkers.

Found at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in the Nolita neighborhood, the underground attraction is most known for its Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass features.

Venture a little further into its depths, however, and you’ll find an extensive network of underground tunnels with original tombs, unaltered vaults from the 19th century, and walls lined with skulls. And if that’s not enough to curdle the blood, then the mummified remains of John Connolly, St. Patrick’s first bishop, ought to do the trick.

But don’t let the haunted house vibes scare you off – like everything else in New York City, the catacombs offer something truly special for those willing to head off the beaten path.

4 – Dial up the romance with a candlelight concert

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Searching for a touch of romance and culture in the city that never sleeps? Look no further than New York City’s candlelight concerts, one of the top things to do in New York City at night if you’re traveling as a couple.

Ticket in hand, you’ll step into one of many intimate venues, each bathed in the soft glow of candlelight – shows take place in old churches like the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity or the Church of the Heavenly Rest, the historic Opera House in Brooklyn, and the stunning Sheen Center on Broadway, to name a few.

The multiple-piece bands play soothing melodies that transport guests to another world. And sure, there are plenty of classical symphonies to choose from (including Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky), but there’s something for everyone – from ABBA, Coldplay, and Radiohead tributes to hip-hop and reggae-themed performances, and even Anime soundtracks, each of these concerts offer a unique twist on the traditional music experience.

The ambiance is enchanting, the acoustics are amazing, and the affordability is, well, music to our ears.

5 – Pay a visit to the infamous Grand Central Terminal

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So much more than just a transit hub (having been the city’s main station since 1913), Grand Central Terminal is a historic landmark that oozes elegance and charm – if not for the celestial-themed ceiling on the Main Concourse, then for the bounty of dining options and high-end retailers spread throughout its multiple floors.

Its lower level hosts a 13-vendor underground market (which is almost as old as the station itself, having operated since 1917) that sells fresh bread and cheese and a handful of handmade artisanal products too.

While it’s a bustling hub for commuters, Grand Central Terminal’s beauty and history make it a must-visit attraction for tourists as well – which is exactly why it’s a common staple on free walking tours of Manhattan.

Beyond the grandeur, don’t miss the Whispering Gallery, where whispers mysteriously travel across arches from one corner of the room to the other. The kids will love it!

While you’re there: Bryant Park, the New York Public Library, and the high-end 5th Avenue shops are all within easy walking distance – three free landmarks (although be prepared to fork out if you buy anything on 5th) that make for a great afternoon of Midtown exploring!

6 – Wander around the Museum of Modern Art

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Calling all art aficionados! A treasure trove of artistic innovation, MoMA’s collection spans more than 200,000 diverse works of art – everything from pieces by iconic names like Jackson Pollock and Vincent van Gogh to new-age, avant-garde creations from emerging local painters, photographers, and digital media artists.

Tucked away in the heart of Midtown (not too far from the Rockefeller Center), MoMA isn’t just an art museum; it’s one of the city’s most treasured cultural hubs, hosting hundreds of different events (live performances, film screenings, hands-on workshops, lectures and more) throughout the year.

After you’re done wandering the three main floors, make sure to take a few minutes to check out MoMA’s Sculpture Garden – it’s a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hot tip: Entry to the MoMA’s permanent collection is free on the first Friday of the month between 4 PM and 8 PM for New York locals. Outside of these hours, the ‘expected’ entrance fee is around $25. However, what most visitors don’t realize is that MoMa is one of New York’s many pay-what-you-wish museums – so if you’re running a little low on cash, just pay whatever you can afford!

That’s not all: MoMA also offers tons of discounts for students and seniors. So if you qualify for either, be sure to bring along some extra proof of ID when visiting the museum!

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7 – Check out the Statue of Liberty (up close, or from a boat)

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A symbol of freedom and democracy (being a gift from France in 1886), the Statue of Liberty stands proudly on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

Through the early 1900s, Ellis Island processed millions of immigrants arriving in the United States – and the Statue of Liberty was often their “welcome to America” landmark.

These days, the Statue isn’t just a poster child of the city and a symbol of multiculturalism, it’s also a fantastic lookout! You can actually explore the pedestal and climb up to the crown, where panoramic views of the Downtown city skyline and the harbor await.

Since it’s considered one of the best tourist attractions in New York City, most history-curious visitors opt for a guided tour. If that sounds like something up your alley, there’s a good chance it’ll be combined with Ellis Island next door. This is where you’ll find the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, where you can trace the stories of millions of immigrants.

Money-saving tip: Don’t feel like actually setting foot on the island? You can also admire the Statue of Liberty from the free Staten Island ferry, which serves up fantastic panoramas of Manhattan’s famed skyline and the Verrrazano Narrows Bridge in one go.

Read more:Statue of Liberty Last Minute Tickets

8 – Race against the clock in an escape game

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Think you’ve got what it takes to solve clues, crack codes and decipher riddles before the clock runs out? If you consider yourself somewhat of a Sherlock Holmes, then why not test your skills in an escape game?

The Escape Game offers fun, highly interactive experiences that challenge you to work out puzzles in order to complete a mission – whether that’s breaking out of prison, carrying out an art heist, or digging for nuggets in the Gold Rush, to name a few.

You’ll usually have just 60 minutes on the clock, and you’ll need to muster up all of your logical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills – so, think you’ve got what it takes?

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9 – Enjoy the views from the Empire State Building

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While this renowned landmark no longer holds the title of the tallest in the world (it’s not even the top 5 tallest in the city), the Empire State Building remains the most iconic and immediately recognizable fixture in the New York City skyline.

Despite losing the title of New York’s tallest building – which now goes to the Freedom Tower, standing at 1,776 feet – the observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors still dish up absolutely breathtaking views of the city.

Looking towards Downtown, you’ll be served vistas of the Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty – all in a single panoramic view. Look north, and you’ll witness the incredible juxtaposition of Central Park sandwiched between the concrete and steel of the Upper West and Upper East Sides.

Prefer your sky-high photos to feature the Empire State Building? Then make your way to Top of the Rock or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, both of which are available at an affordable price.

Money-saving tip: If you plan to visit the Empire State Building AND Top of the Rock on the same day, consider picking up a CityPASS ticket – you can save up to 40% off the combined admission costs.

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Read more:Empire State Building Tickets Price

10 – Step inside the 19th-century St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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A masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has stood as a spiritual and cultural beacon since the late 19th century. Found right across the road from the Rockefeller Center on the corner of 50th and 5th Avenue, this breathtakingly beautiful church is easy to tick off on a day of Midtown walkabout.

Even though construction began in 1858, the Civil War put a halt to progress. It wasn’t until some 20 years later that the project was completed. But take one look at the stunning facade and you’ll agree, the drawn-out timeline was well and truly worth it. The interior of St. Patrick’s is just as impressive, with stained glass windows, hyper-detailed frescoes, and a towering alter, it requires a moment to sit back and simply appreciate the grandeur.

If you want to learn more about the history behind the iconic church, consider signing up for one of the 50-minute, $20 self-guided audio tours. Looking for a more in-depth experience? VIP guided tours (of which all proceeds go to the cathedral itself) run daily at 10:30 AM, although they’ll set you back $99 each.

11 – Craft delicious potions at The Cauldron NYC

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Calling all witches, wizards, and muggles alike! The most magical attraction to hit New York in decades, The Cauldron is a whimsical experience dedicated to all things (unofficially) Harry Potter.

You’ll be kitted out with a wizarding robe and wand before taking part in an interactive mixology class where you can make your own shimmering, bubbling alcoholic potions.

With special effects (like dry ice smoke), you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into Professor Snape’s classroom!

While you’re there: The Cauldron is hidden inside the Bavaria Bierhaus near Wall Street, so make sure to snap a selfie with the Charing Bull.

12 – Fuel your need for adrenaline on The Beast Speedboat

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Craving an exhilarating dose of high-octane adventure? Then look no further than The Beast Speedboat.

Departing from Pier 83 in Midtown, not too far from the Intrepid Museum, The Beast is a high-speed boat ride that takes you on a 30-minute wind-in-your-face tour of the Hudson and Upper Bay (where you’ll find the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island).

Achieving thrilling speeds of up to 45 miles per hour thanks to 1400-horsepower twin engines, the ride promises an adrenaline-fueled journey against the breathtaking backdrop of The Big Apple’s iconic skyline.

And with a local guide with you along the way, you’ll not only be treated to a heart-pounding adventure, but you’ll also gain fascinating insights into the city’s storied history and celebrated landmarks while you’re at it.

Keep in mind: On rainy days, the boat tour will be canceled – don’t fret, you’ll still get a full refund or a rescheduled ride. So it’s best to have a plan B, just in case (perhaps one of the several award-winning Hell’s Kitchen restaurants within walking distance?)

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13 – Spot sharks and stingrays at the New York Aquarium

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Embraced as a beloved family-friendly gem )ever since it first opened its doors back in 1896) the 14-acre New York Aquarium takes visitors on a see-all journey of the underwater world.

With more than 500 species of marine life calling this place home – everything from cute-as-can-be penguins to sinister sharks, adorable otters, and curious jellyfish – the aquarium combines education with excitement in one place, making it an ideal excursion for both kids and adults alike. In particular, it’s one of the top indoor activities in New York City when it rains.

The touch pools are always a hit with the little ones, while the Ocean Wonders: Sharks exhibit is sure to make a splash with older visitors. Animals aside, the 4D Theater, as well as the myriad daily feedings and presentations make the experience even more special.

Don’t forget to grab a souvenir in the aquarium’s gift store, either – it’s packed full of marine-themed trinkets and treasures.

Located on Coney Island’s famed Boardwalk, the Aquarium is an easy attraction to tack on to a day of fun-filled activities in the neighborhood – ride the Wonder Wheel at Deno’s, wander around the Coney Art Walls, or just bask in the salty sea breeze on the beach!

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14 – Meet your heroes at Madame Tussauds

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Where else can you meet your favorite Hollywood celebs, superstar athletes, and historical figures like Einstein and Edison all in one place? Madame Tussauds New York, that’s where.

Smack-bang in the heart of Times Square, this infamous, family-friendly wax museum is home to more than 200 incredibly lifelike figures.

You can chill on stage with the likes of Beyonce or Harry Styles, wander through the Oval Office and say hello to the president, or even be the guest of honor on The Tonight Show – just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to photo opportunities.

Interactive attractions like the Marvel Hall of Heroes and the Play Your Part Broadway zone make the visit even more fun – plus, there’s a Clown Chaos 7D Experience and a Wax Hands workshop where you can take home a memento of your visit.

Even if you’ve been to another Madame Tussauds somewhere else in the world, this location continues to expand its already awesome collection by consistently adding new figures from popular movies – which is exactly why it’s considered one of the best things to do in Manhattan, especially on rainy days.

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15 – Hang with Joey, Chandler, and the gang at The FRIENDS™ Experience: The One in New York City

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A TV show that’s as iconic as the city itself – and largely, because of the city itself – Friends has become a cult classic that stands the test of time. Now, you can experience it all in person with the FRIENDS™ Experience: The One in New York City.

Located in Midtown Manhattan, a stone’s throw from the Flatiron Building, this immersive exhibition boats all kinds of sets and props from the show’s 10-year run – so yes, you can finally grab a cup of coffee or some cheesecake at Central Perk, and hang out with the entire gang in Monica & Rachel’s living room. Heck, you can even try your hand at pivoting the couch up the stairs (only the diehard fans will get that one).

On top of that, there are tons of exclusive memorabilia to see – from scripts and posters to the quirkiest of costumes (like Chandler’s bunny suit and Rachel’s famous cow jacket). You can even take a selfie in front of the iconic fountain featured in the opening credits!

16 – Climb the Vessel, where amazing views await

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Nicknamed the Beehive (for obvious reasons), this ultra-modern structure is one of the newest public spaces to grace Hudson Yards – NYC’s largest single development project since Rockefeller Center (yes, really!).

Rising 16 stories high and consisting of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs (2,500 individual steps all up), this massive honeycomb-like structure is lined with outdoor balconies, each of which presents a fresh, new perspective on the city’s ever-changing skyline.

Hot tip: Visiting in summer? After climbing your way around the Vessel, make sure to check out one of the live, free outdoor concerts that the Hudson Yards community puts on. They take place every Wednesday at 6 PM in the Public Square & Gardens, between June and August.

17 – Mix new-wave science with art at ARTECHOUSE New York

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Forget everything you thought you knew about art museums. At Artechouse New York, you can explore interactive digital installations that totally blur the line between art and technology.

And at just $25 a pop for adults (with discounts for students, kids, military, and locals), it’s one of the cheapest places to catch fresh new art in Manhattan.

Developed in collaboration with NASA, the exhibits are constantly changing, usually refreshed every 3-6 months. Over the years, they’ve had themes like Magentaverse, Life of a Neuron, Machine Hallucination, Submerge, Beyond the Light, and Geometric Properties, each of which has floor-to-ceiling projections, interactive exhibits that come alive with the flick of a finger, and soundscapes to add another layer of magic.

Before you leave, you can also check out the ARTECHOUSE café, a great spot for a coffee, or pop into the shop, where all kinds of artsy souvenirs await

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18 – Escape the crowds at the peaceful New York Botanical Garden

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The Big Apple is chaotic – sometimes in the best way possible, and honestly, sometimes to the point of overwhelm.

Thankfully, a little slice of Eden awaits at the New York Botanical Garden, a sprawling, 250-acre oasis in the Bronx, up near Fordham University (if you needed an excuse to get out of Manhattan, this could be it!).

Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of heirloom roses, towering trees, and flowing water features home to all kinds of fish and bird life. Each of the themed areas – from the Native Plant Garden to the Rose Garden, Rock Garden, and Oaks Lawn – has something special to offer.

Founded in 1891, it is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States. But its modern additions, like the restored Victorian-style Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and the Tram Tour, make it feel truly timeless.

Hot tip: While the ticket price is $35 for visitors, there is a trick to it. On Wednesdays, admission is free for NYC residents all day – for all other visitors, you’ll need to arrive between 10 am and 11 am.

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19 – Join one of the bounties of fascinating neighborhoods tours

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New York is one city, but it’s also a culmination of dozens of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own unique culture, character, and (for all of you foodies out there) cuisine.

Your hop-on-hop-off style tours (see #43) will give you a highlight reel of the city. If it’s a real taste for the city that you’re after, the New York behind the tourist lens, then take one of the many walking tours available.

Those that venture through the likes of Soho and Little Italy mix fashion in the former with food in the latter (of course, you can’t miss Lombardi’s), while most of the Greenwich Village tours center on the art and music scene of the area – it was, after all, the home of the 1960s counterculture movement.

Then, of course, there’s Chinatown. Rich in history and heavy in flavor, here you’ll learn about the Chinese American experience in New York. Typically, you’ll stop at places like Mahayana Buddhist Temple, the oldest temple in the Eastern USA, as well as several street food stalls.

For something a little off the beaten path, you’ve got several Brooklyn tours to choose from. Whether you’re after that iconic DUMBO shot or want to learn more about the Brownstone architecture in Park Slope, the Borough of Kings has something for everyone.

Hot tip: If you’re on a budget, scroll down to the end of the page for the “free walking tours” section. You’ll find a range of no-cost options, all led by knowledgeable locals – just bring a few bucks for a tip.

Hot tip: Explore the cultural melting pot of New York with the best NYC city tours, featuring guided walks through historic districts.

20 – Unleash your inner shutterbug at Fotografiska

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A quintessential destination for photographers, Fotografiska New York is the city’s first museum dedicated to photography – an offshoot of the internationally acclaimed Stockholm institution.

With five floors of both permanent and traveling exhibitions, here you’ll find everything from intimate portraits to epic landscapes. Through dozens of snaps from different cameras and different countries, you’re sure to gain a fresh perspective on whatever the theme of the moment may be.

But it’s not a look-don’t-touch kind of deal. In fact, the museum runs a slew of interactive workshops and photography classes that can help you level up your shutter game – simply check out their website for more details.

The restored landmark building from the 1800s sits down in TriBeCa, a stone’s throw away from the Flatiron Building. So why not check them both out on the same day?

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21 – Walk in famous footsteps with a TV and movie tour

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Behind Los Angeles and Hollywood, arguably New York City has served as the backdrop in more films than any other American city. And to pay homage to this fact, why not take a movie walking tour and see the sites for yourself?

Movie fanatics, you can all rejoice as you walk in the footsteps of the characters from classic flicks like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, King Kong, Sex & The City, Ghostbusters, When Hary Met Sally, and so much more. From Central Park to Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, these tours cover all the Silver Screen magic.

Depending on your specific tour, you might find yourself wandering through Washington Square Park (seen in I Am Legend and August Rush), Grand Central Terminal (seen in literally hundreds of films, too many to list), and Central Park (namely the Bethesda Fountain, where Home Alone and Enchanted have starring scenes).

And those are just a sneak peek of the best TV and movie location tours in New York City!

Throw in sets from TV shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and Gossip Girl, and you’ve got a tour that will take you through generations of pop culture – and a few incredible sights in New York, too.

22 – Find some cheap eats in Chinatown

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One slice of the melting pot of cultures that is New York, Chinatown is full of delectable restaurants serving up tasty dishes at even tastier prices.

Whether you’re looking for authentic dim sum, melt-in-your-mouth noodles, or an ungodly amount of dumplings, Chinatown’s got it all.

For cheap eats, Noodle Village on Mott Street and Xi’an Famous Foods are both crowd favorites. Sanmiwago and Sobak (Korean) have loyal followers as well, while the Mei Lai Wah Bakery might be small but it’s got a massive selection of Chinese pastries to satisfy all your sweet tooth cravings.

So, if you’re looking for an incredibly cheap and delicious way to spend the day in New York City, Chinatown is definitely the place to go!

23 – Sign up for one of the locally-led (often free) walking tours

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We touched on neighborhood tours a little earlier (see #19), but they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educational walking tours in New York City.

For a more comprehensive deep dive into some of the City’s iconic areas and attractions, a bounty of tours are on offer to give a different perspective and understanding of the city — whether you’re into architecture, history, cultural life, art, or food.

Every tour company and guide offers something a bit different, but if you’re looking for a good place to start, a Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo walking tour, a Wall Street and Financial District walking tour, superheroes in New York walking tour (great for movie buffs) or a food tour in Hell’s Kitchen could be exactly what the doctor ordered be your best bet.

Plus, the price tags for most walking tours come in at much less than half the cost of some other attractions and experiences, making them a very budget-friendly way to explore more of what this concrete jungle has to offer.

Of course, if you’re looking for something more lavish, you can always book a private New York walking tour that comes with your own personal photographer.

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Hot tip: Too many options? Discover the most popular walking tours in New York City and choose the one that fits best your itinerary and budget.

24 – Soak up the panoramic view from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

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Decades ago, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York City. These days, it’s not even in the top 5 — and one of the colossal structures to surpass it is the aptly named SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.

Towering 1,401 feet tall (427 meters), SUMMIT One Vanderbilt serves up unparalleled views of the city – including a view of the Empire State Building. Besides the sweeping vistas, the building also boasts the Kenzo Digital art installation, Air; as well as Levitation, a heart-pumping glass cube that juts out from the side of the building, leaving you staring straight down to the street below.

As one of the top 30 tallest buildings in the world, the skyscraper stands as a testament to the power of modern engineering – in any other city in the country, it would be nothing short of iconic. But in New York City, it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with a handful of other remarkable buildings.

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25 – Attend a live TV show taping!

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Who says you need to go to Tinseltown to get up close and personal with Hollywood stars? New York City is home to plenty of iconic TV shows of its own, from Saturday Night Live on NBC to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and America’s Got Talent, to name a few – many of which are filming in famous locations like the Ed Sullivan Theater and 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

With some notoriety, you’d expect to have to fork out a fortune for tickets, but in New York City, this isn’t usually the case. In fact, most shows offer free taping sessions! All you have to do is secure your seat ahead of time – that could mean waiting in line in the morning, or signing up online – and you could be part of the action.

Every show has its own process, so once you’ve narrowed down your show of choice, take a look at its website or call the ticket office directly to get the inside scoop.

Note: it can be hard to get tickets for popular TV shows, so have a plan B, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the one you want.

26 – Roll around the city with a bike tour

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There’s only so much you can see of New York on foot. And bus car or big bus, you’re limited to the streets and traffic. But when you hop on a bike, the whole city is yours to explore!

Bike tours are a great way to pack both major sights and hidden gems while getting some exercise at the same time (burning off those 99c pizza slices, anyone?).

Even better, whether you’re joining a Central Park bike tour, a Brooklyn Bridge bike tour, or one of the many other underrated options (like the beer-tasting bike tour in Queens), you can easily find affordable two-wheeled excursions – perfect for anyone on a tight budget.

  • bike tours in New York City

Insider’s advice: To truly experience the city’s charm, take a look at our top picks for New York City’s best bike tours.

27 – Head to the beautiful, yet eerie site of the World Trade Center

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Standing around the site of the former twin towers, the World Trade Center is a powerful reminder of the city’s proud history and resilience.

Now home to two memorial pools, inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives on that fateful 2001 September day, ground zero is both moving and hauntingly beautiful.

While the memorial pools are free to visit, for as little as $33, you can visit the 9/11 museum. Showcasing objects left in the rubble after 9/11, and telling the stories of the past (the leadup), the present (the day of the attack), and the future (the rebuild), this poignant museum is a must-visit for anyone visiting New York.

Money-saving tip: you can explore the 9/11 Memorial Museum for free on Mondays from 5:30 PM to 7 PM. Alternatively, join one of the World Trade Center tours to get a broader understanding of how the attack affected the wider area.

  • World Trade Center tours in New York City

28 – Visit a true NYC hidden gem: The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

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While St. Patrick’s Cathedral may take the headlines, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is every bit as impressive – and free to explore!

Located in Morningside Heights, near the top of Central Park next to Columbia University, this stunning late-19th-century neo-Gothic church has the claim to fame of being (believe it or not) the largest Anglican cathedral in the world and the sixth-largest church by area.

The round, stained glass windows, the colossal dome structure, and the detailed stone carvings make this one of Manhattan’s grandest attractions (in the literal sense). The views from its balcony, which looks down toward the Manhattan skyline, shouldn’t be missed either.

Daily services take place at 12:15, while daily highlights tours run from 1 PM to 2 PM.

29 – Chat with the cheetahs at Central Park Zoo

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Lions, tigers, bears (oh my), and more! The Central Park Zoo – made famous by the Madagascar movies – serves as a wonderful place to take the family without breaking the bank.

Home to over 130 species from all corners of the planet, you can see everything from snow leopards and red pandas to puffins and polar bears (not to mention one of the nation’s largest colonies of Antarctic penguins) – all in beautiful surroundings that take advantage of Central Park’s vast green space.

Throw in a handful of educational programs run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, including the chance to learn all about what does on behind the scenes in the Zookeeping for Grownups (or Zookeeping for Kids) program, and you’ve got yourself one of the top things to do in Central Park..

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30 – Get a little nostalgic at Roller Wave

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Overflowing with nostalgia, Roller Wave brings back the old-school fun of roller skating and takes it up a notch with glow nights and neon out of the wazoo. Each skate session lasts for about 2 hours, giving you more than enough time to bust out your fancy footwork skills.

Looking for other options, a little closer to where you’re staying? Take your pick from the Pier 2 Roller Rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Dreamland Roller Rink in Brooklyn, and The Standard Plaza down near Chelsea Market (which is inspired by the 1960s).

31 – Check the Metropolitan Museum of Art off the bucket list

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Undeniably one of the best museums in New York City (scratch that – the world), the Metropolitan Museum of Art is also one of the cheapest – that is, if you know about its pay-as-you-wish policy.

Here, you’ll find an extensive collection of over 490,000 works of art from around the world, spanning 5,000 years and counting. You can wander around for hours on end and still not see everything – but with audio tours available in a handful of languages, as well as docent-led tours if you’re after something more thorough, you’re never far from learning something new.

Spread across the multiple floors of this Central Park-straddling institution, you’ve got sections dedicated to everything from ancient Egyptian treasures to Dutch masterpieces, Pueblo Pottery, and Japanese Art.

It’s not a matter of if you visit the Met, but when.

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Read more: Metropolitan Museum of Art Tickets Price

32 – Hear the bell ring on Wall Street

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The beating heart of America’s financial industry, Wall Street is one of the most iconic districts in New York City. It’s here that gleaming skyscrapers are home to some of the world’s most powerful bankers, as well as the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.

You can explore much of Wall Street for free – even if it’s just grabbing a selfie on the famed Charging Bull sculpture. But if you’re after something more, there are plenty of tours available that make sure you don’t miss a single piece of information about the historic neighborhood.

The Trinity Church, Federal Hall, City Hall Park, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum are all typically included in tours of the area.

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33 – Step into a dynamic art world at Wonderland Dreams by Alexa Meade

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Part art gallery, part selfie spot, Wonderland Dreams is an explosion of color, patterns, and creativity that’s sure to light up your social media feed.

The works on display here come courtesy of Alexa Meade – an LA-based artist who takes hyperrealism to the next level with her 3D painting illusions. You can wander around the galleries and snap yourself in front of her paintings – making it the perfect backdrop for a quirky Instagram shot.

THROUGH THE WINDOW and CHESS GRANDMASTER are crowd favorites, but it’s often the neon-lit DOWN THE RABBIT-HOLE scene that steals the show.

34 – Spend a morning at the underrated Guggenheim Museum

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While often overshadowed by the likes of the Met and the MoMa (see #6) due to its comparatively small size (“only” 8,000 pieces of art), the Guggenheim Museum remains a marvelous example of both enviable art and architecture.

Before you even set foot inside, the spiral-designed building itself, designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, is sure to catch your eye. As for the collection, you’ll be treated to works by big-name artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, and Pablo Picasso as you make your way up the museum’s central spiral ramp.

The Guggenheim’s unconventional design and commitment to pushing creative boundaries make it a hidden gem for art aficionados.

Money-saving tip: Saturday, from 6 PM to 8 PM, is “Pay What You Wish”. While it’s definitely going to be busier than usual, it’s a great way to save a few bucks – which you can spend at the old-fashioned Lexington Candy Shop around the corner.
Guggenheim Museum tickets

  • Guggenheim Museum tickets

35 – Ride the historic Deno’s Wonder Wheel

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A Coney Island staple since 1920, Deno’s Wonder Wheel has stood the test of time, and it continues to serve up breathtaking views, delightful thrills, and plenty of smiles to this day.

The ride has two options; sliding cars or stationary cars. Either way, you’ll be taken on a slow rotation around the outer rim, which peaks at 150 feet above the bustling boardwalk below.

At the top of the wheel, you’ll get a great view of the Manhattan skyline in one direction and the bright blue Atlantic Ocean in the other. What’s not to love?

36 – Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Museum of Ice Cream

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Combining everyone’s favorite childhood treat with modern art, sprinkled with an extra dose of selfie-friendly moments, the Museum of Ice Cream is everything you need for a fun, relatively cheap, couple of hours away from the crowds.

Like stepping into a giant playground – you’ll be treated to 12 different larger-than-life installations: think giant sprinkle pools and bright pink subway cars!

And, of course, you won’t leave without a sugar hit – you can expect to try the delicious dessert in at least 5 different forms. So long as you make up for it with a few veggies later on, it’s easily one of thebest family things to do in New York City with kids.

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37 – Slow down and unwind at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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When you’re craving a breath of fresh air in the city, you can’t go wrong with Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Spread across themed areas like the Japanese Garden, Cherry Walk, Oak Circle, Lilac Collection, Maple Grove, and the Cranford Rose Gaden (to name a few), the 52-acre oasis is home to more than 12,000 species of plants, trees, and flowers – making it one of the most diverse and beautiful botanical gardens in the world.

It doesn’t really matter what time of year you visit either – from early spring’s colorful cherry blossoms to late autumn’s orange-tinted foliage, there’s always something bright and beautiful to admire.

And, at less than $20 for adults and free for kids, not only is it one of the best things to do in Brooklyn, but it’s up there with the top cheap things to do in New York City, period.

38 – Take the elevator to the Top of the Rock observation deck

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Perched high above Midtown, Manhattan’s Top of the Rock Observation Deck dishes up fantastic 360-degree views of the New York City skyline.

Looking south, you’ll get to appreciate the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, while a glance out to the east blesses us with views of Brooklyn and Queens. To the north, you’ll spy the vast Central Park, the Upper West Side, and Harlem; while the west is where the Vessel and the Hudson Yards come into focus.

While you’re in the area (in fact, in the same building), consider doing one of the NBC studio tours, where you can go behind the scenes of hit shows like Saturday Night Live.

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Read more:Top of the Rock Tickets Price

39 – Admire the art, and the sunset, at the Whitney Museum

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Tucked away down next to Chelsea Market, a little away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown, is one of the best cheap things to do in New York City: the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The museum’s mission is to showcase work by American talent — all up, paintings, sculptures, photography exhibits, and drawing from over 3,500 homegrown artists are on display.

With both indoor and outdoor exhibit space, as well as a charming cafe that boasts views of the High Line and the city skyline, it’s easy to while away an afternoon (and a sunset) here.

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40 – See who’s playing at Madison Square Garden

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America’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden has been hosting the biggest names in sport, music, and entertainment for over 130 years.

Nowadays, you can catch a New York Rangers hockey game or an NBA match featuring the Knicks here, though concerts are also regular fixtures. In fact, MSG hosts more than 400 events each year — so from pop stars like Taylor Swift to comedy bigwigs like Kevin Hart, you never know who might drop in!

While gameday (or concert) days are always the most electric, you can also get a behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens on one of the regular Madison Square Garden tours.

Madison Square Garden tours start at $46.

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41 – Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel

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Encased by glass to protect it from the elements, Jane’s Carousel is one of the historic, and cherished waterside attractions in all of Brooklyn.

This 1922 merry-go-round has been painstakingly restored and was awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Now, it welcomes visitors from all over looking to take a spin in its 48 hand-carved horses while taking in views of the Manhattan skyline.

The carousel is located inside Brooklyn Bridge Park, so you can plan to grab a bite at the Time Out Market or snap that iconic DUMBO photo when you’re done.

42 – Soar 100 stories above the streets at the Edge Observation Deck

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Sporting the claim to fame of being the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, The Edge Observation Deck at 30 Hudson Yards is every bit as thrilling as it is breathtaking.

After rising some 100 stories on one of the world’s fastest elevators, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of New York City as far as the eye can see. To really get the heart racing, lean against the angled glass walls, take a walk on the glass-floor deck, or (if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks) sign up for the City Climb and scale the side of the building.

If you want to grab something to eat or sip before taking to the skies, there’s an entire restaurant and bar on-site on the 101st floor too — aptly named Peak.

Edge also boasts live interactive events from time to time, like 6 AM yoga classes or DJ sets — which you’re welcome to take advantage of for a special fee.

  • Edge Observation Deck tickets

43 – Get your city bearings with a convenient hop on hop off bus tour

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Short on time but want to make sure you don’t miss a single attraction? One of the best ways to see everything New York City has to offer is a hop on hop off bus tour.

These tours are flexible and will take you all over town, stopping at famous places like Times Square, Little Italy, Wall Street, Central Park, and Chinatown. You can get off at any stop that interests you for a few hours and then jump back on when the next bus comes back around.

Highly educational too, the double-decker tour buses are also equipped with an audio commentary system that will give you all kinds of facts about each landmark as you pass by.

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Read more:Hop on Hop off NYC Bus Tours – Which One is Best?

44 – Dress to the nines for a night at the Metropolitan Opera House

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Feeling just a little bit fancy? Ideal for a romantic evening out, the Metropolitan Opera House is a classical music venue where you can watch top-notch operas, ballets, and concerts.

Everything from La Bohème to Romeo & Juliette, Don Giovanni, and Carmen take place here, with golden chandeliers, red velvet staircases, and grand balconies making you feel like a VIP even before you’ve taken your seat.

The tickets here are usually on the expensive end but there are bargain matinees if you’d like to take advantage of them.

Or, you can always sign up for one of the guided tours and have the backstage experience instead – these run at 3 PM on weekdays and at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM on Sundays (during performance season only), and tickets are $35 for the general public.

45 – Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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One of the most powerful museums in the country, rolling back the curtain o the tragic events of 9/11, the memorial & museum is a solemn but important place for anyone who wants to gain an understanding of this dark chapter in history.

The outdoor memorial features two reflecting pools that take up the footprints of the Twin Towers and are lined with bronze panels inscribed with victims’ names; it’s particularly moving around sunset when the sun casts a gentle glow on them.

The museum itself showcases everything from first-responding fire engines that were recovered from the wreckage to scorched objects belonging to victims, to the dramatic news coverage of the unfolding event of that day.

All in all, across 110,000 square feet of space, the museum tells the story of the leadup, aftermath, and legacy of the event in an incredibly moving fashion.

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46 – Shop till you drop at Brookfield Place

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A shopper’s paradise, Brookfield Place is a massive shopping center situated right in the heart of the Financial District. With over 100 stores and restaurants, it’s easy to get lost here for a good hour or two.

The mall houses luxury brands like Club Monaco, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton, as well as wellness shops like Clean Market and ADAM Grooming Atelier.

If you’re feeling peckish, casual eateries are aplenty (Dos Toros Taqueria is a crowd favorite). On the flip side, for something heartier, grab a table at Springbone Kitchen or P.J. Clarke’s.

Hot tip: keep an eve on the events page. From volleyball tournaments to art walks and mindful tea reflection, there’s always something happening.

47 – Snap your new profile pic at the Color Factory

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Vibrant, bright, and oh-so-Insta-worthy, the Color Factory in Soho is a downright fun experience, no matter if you’re six or 60.

The interactive museum offers more than 20 larger-than-life installations and experiences that are meant to evoke curiosity, playfulness, and creativity. Wander through the rainbow rooms, play in giant ball bits, immerse yourself in a sea of colorful ribbons, play with confetti like you’re a kid again, or even join in on the action with activities like painting classes.

There’ll be plenty of sweet treats throughout the exhibit (read: ice cream, anyone) as well, so why not check it out?

48 – Master the art of espionage at Spyscape

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If you’re drawn to espionage and all things undercover (not that you’d reveal that, obviously), then Spyscape near Times Square is bound to be your kind of destination.

This interactive museum takes you through the world of espionage and international intelligence with tons of displays, hands-on games, VR experiences, and even artifacts from former spies to keep you entertained.

You’ll get to see real-life surveillance tech (from WWII all the way up to the modern day), learn how tech has been used to spy on citizens, see the inner workings of cyber security systems, and so much more.

And before you call it a day, you’ll get an idea of your very own Sky Profile. Are you a hacker, handler, field agent, cryptologist, or intelligence analyst? There’s only one way to find out.

  • Spyscape tickets

49 – Look out over the entire city from the One World Observatory (Freedom Tower)

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The observation deck on what is officially the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is, unsurprisingly, nothing short of spectacular.

From One World Observatory, which sits sky-high on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center (better known as the Freedom Tower), you’ll get unprecedented views of New York City and beyond.

On a clear day, you can see for up to 50 miles away – that means everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge, the New Jersey suburbs, and even Long Island is within view.

Plus, you don’t just have to stick to the observation deck – a visit here also includes 100 different interactive “City Pulse” multimedia displays that will show you exactly what makes this city so great.

Don’t miss the show in the Forever® Theater, and if you’re feeling peckish, both the restaurant, ONE Dine, and bar, ONE Mix combine lip-smacking fare with views to boot.

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Read more:One World Observatory Tickets Price

50 – Venture off the beaten path with a street art tour

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Every nook and cranny of the city that never sleeps overflows with character – and there’s no better way to explore the city’s many faces than by checking out its street art.

Whether you’re barreling through Brooklyn on a street art biking tour, or strolling through SoHo on foot, New York City’s graffiti and murals capture the spirit of each and every corner of town. It is, after all, considered by some to be the birthplace of graffiti, with roots that go back to the early 1900s.

Harlem, Brooklyn (the Bushwick neighborhood in particular), and Chinatown are all excellent places to check out some of the city’s most dynamic murals. While private tours are more intimate, group tours are more affordable and a great way to meet fellow travelers.

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51 – Pop into the Museum of the Moving Image

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You won’t find this museum in the tourist guides – but that’s exactly why you should check it out.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens – a spot well and truly off the beaten track (read: not in Manhattan or Brooklyn) is dedicated to exploring and understanding the history and science of film and TV.

From silent films in the early days to the first “talkies”, to modern multi-billion-dollar-grossing blockbusters, you can learn all about the evolution of the silver screen through all kinds of educational screenings and displays.

Heavily interactive too, you can create your own animations, check out dozens of props from famous films, and even discover how it all works behind the scenes.

Money-saving tip: even though tickets won’t cost you more than $20, you can visit for free every Thursday between 2 PM and 6 PM (no reservations required).

52 – Spice up a day of sightseeing by joining a scavenger game

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Forget about your slow, run-of-the-mill walking tours. If you’re on the hunt for cheap things to do in New York City and want to level up the excitement, then why not signup for an interactive scavenger game?

The Big Apple’s got plenty of themed adventures that will lead you through the city – and if you’ve got a smartphone, it doesn’t cost much at all (usually less than $15). Along the way, you’ll explore different neighborhoods, discover off-beat attractions, and experience the city from a different perspective.

Take your pick from Brooklyn street art scavenger hunts, a Famous Artists-themed game, or hunts based in Midtown, SoHo, Museum Mile, the Flatiron District, or Central Park!

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53 – Turn a few pages at the New York Public Library

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Housing no less than 45 million different items – books, manuscripts, old newspapers, photos, and plenty more – across a whopping 90 miles of bookshelves, the New York Public Library is one of the greatest libraries in the world. Not to mention you can visit for free!

While there are actually 92 different locations around the city, the crown jewel is without a doubt the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in Midtown Manhattan.

The beautiful Beaux-Arts building, which sits across the street from Bryant Park (and which you might recognize from Ghostbusters and The Day After Tomorrow), is home to the Rose Main Reading Room, the spectacular Astor Hall, and the magnificent Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, where dangling chandeliers cast a lovely glow on the detailed ceiling painting.

54 – Take part in a Hamilton walking tour

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If you’ve already seen the show-stopping Broadways musical, then it’s time to take your experience up a notch. Hamilton fans – this one’s for you.

Led by guides who not only know the award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, but the real-world story as well, these in-depth walking tours roll back the curtain on Alexander Hamilton’s life – from his days as an orphan to rising to become one of America’s Founding Fathers.

The two-hour (sometimes three) Hamilton walking tour takes you through downtown Manhattan, where you’ll visit places like the King’s College, Thomas Jefferson’s house, Trinity Church, and Wall Street (given that Hamilton was the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, there’s plenty of relevance here), to name a few.

  • Hamilton walking tours in New York City

55 – Step back in time at the American Museum of Natural History

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With a T-rex skeleton looming large at the entrance, the American Museum of Natural History – which you might recognize from Night At The Museum – has long been a quintessential destination for science and nature buffs.

Spread across 26 connected buildings, the museum promises hours of learning with more than 32 million items on display – everything from a blue whale model to a Butterfly Vivarium, 2,000+ fossils, and displays on both animals and human evolution can be found here.

The museum’s multiple floors are filled with interactive exhibitions that dive deep into topics like astronomy, evolution, climate change, and biodiversity – you can wander around at your own pace, or join a guided tour for a more comprehensive experience.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space, which features the massive Hayden Planetarium, is also worth checking out (just check showtimes before you visit).

  • American Museum of Natural History tickets

56 – Make your way to little-known Governors Island

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Heavily underrated, Governors Island just might be the best-kept secret of New York City. Just a short ferry ride from downtown Manhattan (only 800 yards away), this car-free island dishes up top-notch views of the Statue of Liberty and the Downtown skyline, and serves as a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The 172-acre green space is open year-round, but it’s from June to October that Governors Island comes alive – with tons of outdoor activities, art installations, food vendors, and events like movies in the park, the ‎Rite of Summer Music Festival, or the delightful Jazz Age Lawn Party.

Head out for a bike ride (there are plenty of bike rentals available) or explore some of its unique historic sites, including Castle Williams – an 1811 fortification that served as a military prison during the Civil War.

It costs less than $5 to cruise there, with ferries departing daily from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport.

57 – Appreciate the streetside diversity on an architecture tour

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With 420 skyscrapers and counting – some ultra sleek and modern (Freedom Tower, Central Park Tower) and some classic (the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center) – New York City ranks as one of the world’s premier architectural destinations.

But it’s not just about the high-rises — throw in classic Brownstones, Art Deco wonders, and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, and you’ve got a smorgasbord of architectural eye-candy that few cities around the world can match.

The best way to take it all in? Sign up for one of the many low-cost architecture tours available throughout the city.

You can ride a yacht down the East River and soak up the landmarks from afar, or wander the streets of Manhattan and uncover its architectural gems on foot, passing through the Flatiron District, TriBeCa, or Midtown.

Want to check off the architectural icons solo? The list will grow long, but Grand Central Terminal, the Rockefeller Center, the Flatiron Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Chrysler Building should certainly be on the list.

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58 – Grab a cheap lunch at Essex Market

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Chelsea Market (see #2) steals most of the limelight, which allows this hidden gem to fly under the radar—and keep its prices low.

Essex Market, a bustling market hall located down in the Lower East Side near the Tenement Museum, whose historic roots date back to the 1940s, is where you can pick up all kinds of classic New York City fare without breaking the bank.

For foodies, Luna Brothers Fruit Plaza specializes in tropical fruits; Cafe D’Avignon bakes classic bread and pastries daily; Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery offers melt-in-your-mouth desserts, and the Porto Rico Importing Co. boasts some of the region’s finest coffees.

You’ll also find Japanese delis, vegan cheeses, the L.E.S. Ice Cream Factory, pizza shops, bagel joints, meat markets, olive oils, spices, and an on-site beer-tasting shop. As you can see, Essex Market has something for everyone.

59 – Play the Game of 1000 Boxes

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Part scavenger hunt, part art installation, part TV game show, the Game of 1000 Boxes is one of the newest interactive activities to hit Midtown (located right next to Penn Station)– and since it launched, it’s caused quite the stir.

The premise works like this: in teams of four, you’ll make your way through 12 mini-games led by a live host. You’ll need to complete challenges, crack clues, race against the clock, and muster up all your team to make it to the end– and when you do, you’ll be rewarded with a novelty prize.

The game only takes place on the weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and it’s essential to book ahead of time.

60 – Learn a thing or two at the New York Hall Of Science

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Considered one of the best places to visit in New York City for anyone with an inkling of physics, chemistry, technology, or the natural world, the New York Hall of Science is an interactive museum for all ages.

The 450+ hands-on exhibits here range from robotics to astronomy (don’t miss the planetarium), the human body, mental health and happiness, medical science, and so much more.

The Maker Space, the 3D Theater, and the Daily Demos (like Cool Chemistry, Flight, and the Air Cannon) all provide a much more interactive experience compared to your typical museum.

A surefire hit for scientists-to-be, the hall also boasts the nation’s largest outdoor science playground as well as the Rocket Park Mini Golf course!

But that’s not all. The Hall also puts on hundreds of programs throughout the year, including workshops on 3D printing; lectures by leading scientists; summer camps for kids; and all kinds of special events – simply check the website to see what’s on when you’re in town.

61 – Watch the Rockettes dazzle (or any of the other myriad performers) at Radio City

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As the temperature drops around New York City, Radio City Music Hall comes to life with its renowned Christmas Spectacular show – a holiday tradition since 1933 that stars the infamous Rockettes.

And while the Rockettes have been thrilling audiences for decades, they make up just a small piece of the larger Radio City experience.

You can join a guided tour of the hall – which, with a seating capacity of approximately 6,000, is one of the largest indoor theaters in the world – and learn all about its Beaux-Arts architecture and the mighty Wurlitzer organ while going behind the scenes.

Make sure to check out the upcoming events calendar too. From film premieres to live concerts, even RuPaul’s Drag Race, Radio City plays host to dozens of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

  • Radio City Music Hall tours

62 – Head to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island

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In need of some relaxing respite from big-city life? Look no further than the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

Set in Staten Island, this hidden gem is home to 83 acres of enchanting greenery – all surrounded by the tranquil waters of Upper Bay. As you wander around the grounds, you’ll come across everything from a castle to a maze and a walled secret garden. The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is another coveted highlight.

But it’s not just plantlife here; around the grounds, you’ll find the Staten Island Museum, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Neptune Fountain, The Noble Maritime Collection, and the Newhouse Center Of Contemporary Art.

Snug Harbor also has three performing arts theaters, the Music Hall Theater, the Caprenter’s Shop, and the Veteran’s Memorial Hall Playhouse, so you’ll find occasional concerts on the menu too – especially in the summertime.

63 – Spend the day at the Bronx Zoo

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From anteaters to zebras and everything in between, the Bronx Zoo plays home to over 4,000 animals (covering over 650 species) and has long been considered one of the top attractions north of Manhattan.

Covering 265 acres of land in the heart of the Bronx, it’s also one of the largest urban zoos in the world. As you wander around, you’ll come across elephants, anacondas, giant tortoises, tigers, iguanas, snow leopards, sea lions, gorillas, cute-as-a-button red pandas, and the oh-so-playful lemurs.

The Butterfly Garden and Children’s Zoo both offer a fun-filled day out for anyone traveling with kids in tow. Meanwhile, the add-on experiences like the animal feedings, the Treetop Adventure (zipline and ropes course), and the Cheetah Encounter are tailor-made for the more daring explorers.

Visiting around Halloween? The zoo also plays host to a number of seasonal events, none more exciting than the annual ‘Boo at the Zoo’ Halloween celebration.

  • Bronx Zoo tickets

64 – See what’s happening at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

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A cultural epicenter that’s been welcoming audiences for more than 60 years, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is where you can find everything from opera to ballet, to classical music, to modern dance.

Taking center stage here is the Metropolitan Opera House (see #44), home to some of the world’s most renowned opera productions. But it’s also where you can find The New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic (at the David Geffen Hall), Jazz at Lincoln Center, and plenty more.

Away from the grand performance spaces, there are also restaurants and cafés dotted around the Upper West Side location, not to mention a range of free activities taking place throughout the year – From outdoor movies in the summer to holiday caroling events around Christmas time, it’s worth checking out what’s going on before you plan your visit.

65 – Fly over the Big Apple on RISE

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One of the newest tourist attractions to hit the Big Apple, RISE – which sits at 160 West 45th Street, right next to Times Square – is how you can check off all of the major attractions in just one day.

Similar to a “FlyOver” experience that you’ll find in other cities around the world (including at Disneyland), RISE is a virtual adventure flight that takes you 30 feet up into the air.

With a giant 40-foot projection dome screen and built-in sound system, you’ll be able to take a simulated aerial tour of the city’s most iconic landmarks, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and everything in between – all without leaving the room.

The thrilling ride aside, RISE also has a handful of themed galleries focusing on seven distinct themes (Finance, Music, Broadway, Skyline, TV/Radio, Fashion, and Film), each of which provides an educational overview of the metropolis.

66 – Check out actual fighter jets at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

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Displaying some of the best feats of military engineering over the last hundred years, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is a floating showcase of supersonic jets, nuclear submarines, space shuttle capsules, and so much more.

Located on Pier 86 (right next to The Beast’s departure point – see #12) on the Hudson River, the main draw here is the decommissioned aircraft carrier that sits at the heart of it all (the USS Intrepid), which was used during WW2 before being transitioned to an attack carrier.

You can wander around the decks, and check out dozens of Navy, Army, and Air Force vehicles – with the odd NASA spacecraft thrown in for good measure.

Money-saving tip: Check the website to see when “Free Fridays” are taking place. Typically during the summertime, these special days welcome you from 5 PM onwards, free of charge.

  • Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum tickets

67 – Stroll along the gentrified High Line

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Once an abandoned railway track, the High Line has been rejuvenated into a delightful urban park. Inspired by Paris’ Promenade plantée, it stretches for almost 1.5 miles all the way from Chelsea Market up to the Hudson Yards, right next to the Vessel (see #16).

It’s not just a lovely view of the city that it provides though; the High Line is also a gardener’s delight, boasting over 500 species of plants along its open-air route. Art installations dot the path too, with rotating exhibits and sculptures.

Given that you’ll already be doing a fair amount of walking around town, why not take to the High Line for a different kind of stroll, away from the loud street-side traffic?

It’s 100% free to visit, and you’ll only pay if you opt to join one of the locally-led High Line tours that combine the elevated park with local food and drinks haunts.

  • High Line tours in New York City

68 – Snap a selfie in front of the Ghostbusters Firehouse

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Who you gonna call?

There’s no shortage of famous film sets lining the streets of the Big Apple (see #21). But one that often flies under the radar is the iconic Ghostbusters Firehouse!

A 120-year-old fire station that’s home to New York City’s Hook & Ladder Company 8, this building serves as the headquarters for the famous paranormal investigators in the cult film franchise.

The building, which you’ll find at 14 North Moore Street in Tribeca is still a working firehouse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still snap a selfie outside and bask in its spooky glory!

While you’re there: the high-end fashion SoHo district is right around the corner, where you’ll also find the Museum of Ice Cream (see #36).

69 – See what’s playing at the Rooftop Cinema Club

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A New York summer staple, the Rooftop Cinema Club takes movies al fresco, showing everything from the latest cinematic blockbusters to cult classics like Pulp Fiction, White Chicks, Rocky Horror, and so much more.

The open-air rooftop of 60 West 37th Street in Midtown (not too far from Bryant Park) hosts films from roughly the start of June to the end of September, with a full bar, classic movie snacks, and individual headphones for a private viewing experience.

Prices range from around $20 to $30, depending on the seat type you choose, so it’s similarly priced with regular movie theaters – with the bonus of the city’s brilliant skyline acting as the backdrop.

70 – Make your way to the Broadway Comedy Club

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Side-splitting entertainment every night of the week, the Broadway Comedy Club – up there with the Gotham Comedy Club, the Comedy Cellar, and Stand-Up NY – is regarded as one of the best places to see top-tier comedians without breaking the bank.

Right around the corner from the Ed Sullivan and Gerschwin Theatres, the club at 318 West 53rd Street serves up open mic nights, improv showcases, cultural-specific themed nights, LGBTQ-themed nights, and, of course, their Signature Show — all for around $25 a pop.

And with literally hundreds of names on the roster, you can expect to see a diverse mix of up-and-coming talent and big-name performers alike.

  • Broadway Comedy Club tickets

71 – Stretch, relax and unwind with a unique yoga class

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Traveling can take its toll; sometimes, you just need to check out and relax. And it’s hard to beat a good yoga session for doing exactly that.

New York has plenty of “regular” studios – from the likes of Y7, YogaMaya, and Sky Ting (to name a few) – offering classes all over the city in various styles and at different prices.

But the city also has its fair share of unique yoga experiences too — from a downward dog in Central Park to a child’s pose on the open-air sky-high observatory at 30 Hudson Yards.

So whether you’re on the hunt for a Bikram sweat session, or just looking to stretch it out without breaking the bank, you’ve got a stack of options to choose from.

  • yoga in New York City

72 – Visit some of the “other” amazing museums around the city

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We’ve already touched on some of the amazing museums New York has to offer, and let’s face it: there are a lot.

From the Met (#31) and the MoMa (#6) to the Museum of Natural History (#55) and the 9/11 Memorial Museum (#45), we’re truly spoiled for choice. But did you know that NYC is also home to some of the world’s best smaller museums as well?

Take, for instance, the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side — a unique look at New York’s immigrant history; or the free-to-enter Bronx Museum of Arts — which pays homage to contemporary American works.

There’s also the New Museum on Bowery or MoMA PS1, if you’re modern art itch still needs scratching, or The Frick Collection if you prefer more conventional (read: older) art.

For anyone with kids in tow, the Children’s Museum Of Manhattan, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and Queens County Farm Museum (where children can explore a working farm on the city’s only remaining tract of land from the colonial era) are all worth checking out.

Or, if you’re more inspired by the history of the concrete jungle itself, then the Museum of the City of New York is definitely worth considering.

Still searching? The National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Jewish Heritage both shine a spotlight on the varied histories and diverse cultures that have all contributed to making New York the vibrant city it is today.

73 – A cheaper animal alternative; check out the Staten Island Zoo

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Central Park Zoo and The Bronx Zoo get the most attention from tourists, which leaves this hidden wildlife gem in the fifth borough to keep a low profile.

Not only does that mean fewer crowds, but it also means you can explore the Zoo’s extensive collection at a cheaper price (just $10 for adults).

With 1,400 animals on site, representing over 320 different species, you can easily spend a good half-day wandering around Staten Island Zoo’s 20+ zones. From the Australia section to the Saraha section, and from the Reptile Wing to the Aquarium, nearly all corners of the globe are represented here.

74 – Spice things up at the Museum of Sex

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Quirky, erotic, and easily the most promiscuous museum in town, the Museum of Sex is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a deep-dive into the culture and history of sex, from erotica to artworks, toys to films, and everything in between.

Exploring topics like gender, identity, pleasure, intimacy, romance, and more, even mating in the animal world, this eye-opening experience provides insight into the evolution of human sexuality through a range of mediums – ancient artifacts, film screenings, sex toy showcases, and plenty more.

It’s not the cheapest on this list, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something different, it’s certainly memorable, to say the least

  • Museum of Sex tickets

75 – Get a little wild on a pub crawl

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Ready to let your hair down for a few hours? Being “The City That Never Sleeps”, New York’s bar scene is bursting with an eclectic mix of hole-in-the-wall pubs, beer gardens, and co*cktail bars.

Whether you’re after a wild night of dancing or more simply a few pints and some of the historic pubs (look no further than Fraunces Tavern or P.J. Clarke’s), you’re never too far away from a quenched thirst.

Led by locals, official pub crawls take place all over town – from Greenwich to Williamsburg to the East Village and Little Italy.

Plus, with Prohibition-themed crawls on the Lower East Side or boozy literary-themed adventures in Times Square, you’ve got quite a variety to choose from.

  • pub crawls in New York City

76 – Max out the credit card at the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets

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Shopaholics, this one’s for you.

About an hour’s drive away – during which, you’ll probably cut through New Jersey – Woodbury Common Premium Outlets is the ultimate retail destination for bargain hunters.

Boasting over 220 outlets, it’s a sprawling complex that sells top designer brands like Burberry, Coach, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nautica, Kate Spade, L’Occitane, Prada, and Versace at discounted prices. Depending on the store, it’s not unrealistic to save up to 60 percent off the original retail value.

Don’t have your own car and can’t be bothered taking the ShortLine Hudson bus from the Port Authority? No problem

There are official tours that’ll take you from NYC directly to Woodbury Common, and back again – some of which will escort you in a limo! On face value, the tours are expensive, but if you’re traveling as a group (like a bachelorette party) then it will actually prove to be very affordable.

  • Woodbury Common Premium Outlets tours

77 – Hear terrifying tales on a moonlit ghost tour

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Beneath Manhattan’s bustling streets lies a hidden side, full of mysterious secrets and fascinating stories.

And what better way to explore this than by joining one of the city’s many ghost tours?

Go ghost-hunting in Greenwich Village (and then check out the Ghostbusters Firehouse!), where you’ll see the infamous Hanging Tree, the eerie murder house on West 10th Street, and the site of the devastating Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Join an East Village gangster and ghost-themed pub crawl, or hear all about the mobsters that ran amok in Little Italy – either way, you can expect a bounty of spine-tingling stories to come from it.

  • ghost tours in New York City

78 – Sample classic NYC fare at the cornerside food trucks

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New York City is known for its iconic food trucks, and there are so many of them throughout the city that offer up delicious treats – in you’re wandering through Manhattan, you’re never more than a block or two away from a quick, cheap eat.

From hot dogs to tacos to bags, pretty much anything can be found on a food truck (although, technically, some are more ‘cart’ than ‘truck’) — and if you can’t find it on a street corner, then you’ll find it in a bodega, the New York equivalent of a corner store.

Over the years, certain hot dog stands, streetside bagel joints, and food trucks have risen to fame, arguably none more popular than The Halal Guys. The original stand, on 5th Avenue & W 53rd Street, serves up some of the best gyro and falafel around, and prices are often very low – so low that you can get a full meal for less than $10.

Visiting New York City on a budget?

Just because New York can be an expensive city to visit, doesn’t mean it has to be. The Big Apple is so diverse, so eclectic and so incredibly exciting, that it can be whatever you want it to be – and if that’s a bargain-basem*nt trip, then so be it!

A great way to save a few bucks is to base your wanderings around the dozens of free walking tours in New York City. These not only help you to get your bearings but will give you a great insight into the city’s history and culture.

You can also take advantage of the many free sights and activities in NYC; explore Central Park without spending a penny (aside from some outdoor snacks!), ride the Staten Island Ferry, wander across the Brooklyn Bridge, and wander the High Line.

If you do plan on checking off a lot of the more typical things to do in New York City, then it’s worth investing in a tourist pass. Each of the New York City passes – like the Go City Explorer Pass, CityPASS, or Sightseeing Flex Pass – comes with incredible discounts to many of the iconic attractions (like the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty) and can be customized to suit the length of your stay.

Final thoughts

Well, there you have it! Did you know that New York could be that affordable? We hope you liked our list of 79 cheap things to do in New York City, and we’d love to hear about your experiences (or any other great budget tips!) if you ever visit the Big Apple. Just leave your suggestions in the comments below.

And, as always, happy travels!

78 Cheap Things to Do in New York City - TourScanner (2024)
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