Friday, 9 November 2018
New York, if you ask anyone who is from there, is where the world begins and ends.
It's the original American melting pot; a bustling and diverse city with so much to see and taste and do it can be mind-boggling.
It can also be crazy expensive. Luckily, the city is rife with free and cheap offerings, making it possible for you to have a fun-filled trip without going broke. A general stingy strategy is to do as New Yorkers do: Eat at neighborhood ethnic joints, take advantage of the parks and free art venues, and get around via public transportation. The introduction of ride-sharing services in the city is a budget booster, too, as they are tons cheaper than taxi rides.
All trains lead to Grand Central, the city's opulent transportation hub for the subway and the Metro-North Railroad, which takes you out to Long Island. Spanning 76 acres, it is the world's largest and busiest railway station, filled with shops, delis, and sit-down restaurants, most notably Grand Central Oyster Bar. Contemplate the constellations on the ceiling of the main concourse and test out the “Whispering Arches" by the dining concourse where the acoustics make it possible to hear a whisper from other side of the archway entrance. Free entry.
Do as commuters do (but perhaps you'll be more comfortable during off-peak hours) and get great views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Brooklyn from the ferry, which is free to walk on. Park yourself on the outdoor deck on the starboard (or right, to land lubbers) side of the ferry to get the best view of Lady Liberty. While on the island, visit the free Snug Harbor Cultural Center, an 83-acre botanic garden and arts center (but the Chinese Scholar's Garden and the art museum cost $5).
You can sometimes find discount tickets to Yankees' and Mets' games, but you can always count on the city's minor-league seats for $20 or less. Check out the Brooklyn Cyclones or the Staten Island Yankees. The farm teams play from June through September.
The five-minute ride soars 250 feet over the East River offering particularly stunning views at night. While you're there, visit the lighthouse and historic sites, stop for a bite at one of many restaurants, or relax in the park along the rare bank of the East River. The station is at 60 th and Second Avenue in Manhattan. A one-way ride costs $2.25.
The 1.5-mile stretch of old train tracks was revitalized in 2009 and runs from Gansevoort Street (& Washington Street) in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. There you'll find free events year-round, including concerts, art, stargazing, yoga and tours. You can see an events calendar at their website. Some of the events require an online RSVP.
Little Eloise was onto something years ago: There really is no place like the Plaza Hotel. Once the stomping grounds for the world's elite, it's become much more democratic with its lower-level Food Hall with a number of reasonably priced restaurants. At Épicerie Boulud, for example, star chef Daniel Boulud offers gourmet sandwiches for under $15 and you can get a gourmet hero at NO. 7 SUB for less than $12. Find something sweet at places like Billy's Bakery, Frannie's YoArt, or Lady M Confections.
Katz's origins go back to 1888 as one of the original landmarks on Manhattan's Lower East Side. You'll never go wrong with pastrami or corned beef sandwiches, which are big enough to share. Full sandwiches are around $22, but soup and a half sandwich is $18.50, which leaves room for a $4.25 New York signature black & white cookie. Kids or those with less voracious appetites can do a hot dog for $4.
It's pretty tough to find a bad bagel in New York, but you'll find the most adventurous ones at the Bagel Store in Brooklyn, home of the virally famous Rainbow Bagel (which has actually been around for about 20 years). “Bagel artist" Scot Rossillo is also the man behind the bagel/croissant mashup, the “cragel." Cragel and rainbow bagels cost around $4 each. Classic bagels cost $2 or less.
This is possibly the only way to take in most of New York in a single day. Built to a scale of 1:1200, this 9,335 square feet panorama represents 320 square miles of New York City. It contains the city's 895,000 buildings constructed prior to 1992, as well as every street, park, and some 100 bridges. The panorama was constructed for the 1964 World's Fair and now is the centerpiece of the Queens Museum. Suggested museum admission is $8 for adults and is free for children 18 and younger.
While New Yorkers love their classic carousels in Central Park, Bronx Zoo, and Forest Park, the recently installed Seaglass Carousel in lower Manhattan's Battery is perhaps the most novel. Riders sit inside iridescent fish and the 30 fish spin around on four separate turntables in a circular indoor pavilion with aquatic visuals and sound effects. Tickets cost $5.
You can see the Statue of Liberty from many boats, but the only way to get up close and tour the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island is with an official Statue Cruise ticket. There are several tour packages available, but make sure you get reservations early, especially during peak tourist season. Prices range from $18.50-$21.50 for adults and $9-$12 for children 4-12.
Brooklyn booms on the weekend with Smorgasburg, an open-air food market the New York Times dubbed “The Woodstock of Eating." Since it began in 2011, Smorgasburg has been attracting 20,000-30,000 to its weekend locations in Brooklyn (Saturdays on the Williamsburg waterfront and Sundays in Prospect Park). Admission is free and you can buy food at nominal prices. Smorgasburg operates from April into October.
New York still aches with pain from 9/11. Today, the site of the World Trade Center is a place to pay respects with its two reflecting pools and a 110,000-square-foot museum featuring multimedia storytelling. Museum admission is $24 for adults, $15 for children 7-17.
Theater Mania offers discount tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. If you have more time than money, you can wait in line for half-price, same-day seats through Theatre Development Fund's TKTS. TDF's OffOff@$9 program lets you get a ticket to an Off-Off Broadway show for only $9.
The funniest people you see on TV and in movies likely got their start on the farm team, The Upright Citizens Brigade. Check out talented newcomers at UCB's sketch, improv and stand-up shows. Tickets for these shows are no more than $15 and sometimes they're free.
Since 1920, a little 40-foot high lighthouse has sat patiently under the George Washington Bridge in Port Washington Park. The lighthouse, built in 1988 and moved there, was doomed for destruction until a popular children's book of the day swayed hearts and minds. Today, the lighthouse is only open a couple days a year, but you can hike there and enjoy a picnic by the Hudson River.
Every New Yorker has a favorite pizza joint, but nearly all of them can agree Koronet on the Upper West Side serves up a slice of cheese, sauce, and perfect crust that's more than enough to feed two people. A plain slice runs $5; toppings are extra.
For the past 60 years, college kids, poets, and other night owls have counted on Veselka to satisfy their around-the-clock Ukrainian food cravings. Here you'll find authentic Kielbasa, bigos, stroganoff, and the popular pierogies. A plate of seven pierogies costs $11 while those other entrées run $16-$18.25.
New York's museums are among the finest and most generous in the world. Many are pay-what-you-can, and some have special free days each week or month. Check out the American Museum of Natural History, the American Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, and the highly interactive Children's Museum of Manhattan. One note: New Yorkers love their free stuff, so you might find yourself at the end of a long line if you don't go early.
Enjoy a 1.3-mile stroll across the river on one of the world's most famous bridges. For an especially picturesque trip, take the walk at sunset and then go explore Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood on the other side. Free.
Well, of course the New York Transit Museum is situated underground in an authentic 1936 (and now decommissioned) subway station in downtown Brooklyn. Here you can sit at the wheel of a city bus and wander onto vintage subway cars that date back to 1907. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 2-17 years old.
Everyone knows about Central Park's greatest hits, such as the Bethesda Fountain, Sheep's Meadow, the Zoo, and the Alice in Wonderland statue. But lesser-known landmarks are the park's man-made waterfalls in “North Woods" Ravine section, accessible by the Glen Span Arch near West 102 nd Street.
It's easy to miss this food stall in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall in downtown Flushing, Queens. But if you spy the red sign you'll find some of the city's most beloved dumplings. The lamb and squash dumplings are one of the most popular dishes and you can get a plate of a dozen for around $5.
Unleash your inner '80s kid with pinball machines and more than 250 video arcade games (Oh, Hi, Galaga, it's been a while.). There's also a pinball museum. It's $14.95 for an hour of play, $16.95 for two hours, and $19.95 for three hours.
For generations, New Yorkers have come to Coney Island for good beachy fun. Try Deno's Wonderwheel, a 150-foot tall Ferris Wheel built in 1920 ($8 for adults, $4 for kids), check out the annual wacky Mermaid Parade in June, or scream your head off on a number of rollicking rides. Don't forget to get your hotdogs at Nathan's Famous, which is, well, famous for hotdogs.
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