New York City on a shoestring: Fun for $15 or less
Savvy visitors are finding out what native New Yorkers already know: You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy New York. The city is bursting with hundreds of no-cost and low-cost pleasures that include concerts, plays, museum exhibitions and tours throughout all five boroughs.
Need some clues on where to look? Try browsing the city’s official tourism web site at www.nycvisit.com or drop by NYC’s Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street, the NYC Heritage Tourism Center downtown at the southern tip of City Hall Park, the Official Visitor Information Kiosk for Chinatown located at the triangle where Canal, Walker, and Baxter Streets meet or the Harlem Visitor Information Kiosk uptown at the State Office Building Plaza at 163 West 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. You’ll find hundreds of brochures and expert, multilingual visitor counselors who can advise you on all things New York. Order online or call for a free copy of the Official NYC Guide (800-NYC-VISIT in the U.S.and Canada or +1 212 397-8222 internationally), filled with helpful informati and coupons to save money on hotels, restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
Cultural treasures for a trifle
Take advantage of “pay what you wish” evenings at some of the world’s finest museums: Fridays from 6 to 9pm at the Whitney Museum of American Art (212-570-3676, www.whitney.org); Thursdays from 5 to 9pm at the Jewish Museum (212-423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org); and Fridays from 6 to 8pm at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (212-423-3500, www.guggenheim.org). “Pay what you wish” days are also in effect every day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters (212-535-7710, www.metmuseum.org). Target Free Fridays, sponsored by Target, are from 4 to 8pm at the Museum of Modern Art (212-708-9400, www.moma.org).
Suggested admission at the Museum of the City of New York (212-534-1672, www.mcny.org) – where you can explore five floors of New York City’s past, present and future – is just $7, or $5 for seniors, students and children; $15 for families.
Admire folk paintings, furniture, pottery, quilts and other decorative arts from the 18th century to the present at the American Folk Art Museum (www.folkartmuseum.org), which now houses its collection in two locations. The smaller branch, the Eva & Morris Feld Gallery on Columbus Avenue (212-595-9533), offers free admission at all times. The museum’s new home on West 53rd Street (212-265-1040) charges admission: $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, free for children 12 and under; free to all on Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
Historical and contemporary design can be viewed at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (212-849-8400, www.cooperhewitt.org) for $10 general admission or $7 for students and seniors, or “pay what you wish” at the Museum of Arts and Design (212-956-3535, www.americancraftmuseum.org) on Thursdays from 6 to 8pm. Unique urban art is showcased at the Municipal Art Society’s Urban Center Gallery (212-935-3960, www.mas.org) at no charge, 11am to 5pm. The gallery is closed on Sundays and Thursdays.
It’s free to explore the world’s largest collection of artifacts devoted to Native American history and culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (212-514-3700, www.nmai.si.edu). The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm, 8pm on Thursdays. Take advantage of special exhibitions free of charge at the beaux arts New York Public Library (212-930-0769, www.nypl.org) as well as free concerts, film series and other special events in adjacent Bryant Park (212-768-4242, www.bryantpark.org).
From ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary classics, the Brooklyn Museum of Art (718-638-5000, www.brooklynmuseum.org) offers a vast art collection and special exhibitions year-round. The suggested admission is $8 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12 or for everyone after 5pm, and all day the first Saturday of each month.
Socrates Sculpture Park (718-956-1819, www.socratessculpturepark.org), a free outdoor museum located on the East River in Long Island City, Queens. It serves as both a major art institution and reclaimed open space allowing public access to the waterfront with impressive Manhattan views. Open daily until sunset.
Visit Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center (718-448-2500, www.snug-harbor.org), an 83-acre National Historic Landmark district featuring remarkable examples of Greek revival architecture and free admission. The cultural program includes concerts, art and theater.
Experience the grandeur of Morningside Heights’ Cathedral of St. John the Divine (212-316-7540, www.stjohndivine.org) along with its Biblical garden and children’s sculpture garden. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday at 11am, and Sunday at 1pm. The fee for visitors is $5 per adult, and $4 for students and seniors. When completed, it will be the world’s largest gothic cathedral.
The Japan Society (212-752-3015, www.japansociety.org), New York’s leading cultural institution focusing on Japan, presents a range of lectures, musical performances and exhibitions. Admission to the gallery ranges from $10 for students and seniors to $12 for adults.
Enjoy contemporary art at its best through exhibitions at the Dia Art Foundation (212-989-5566, www.diacenter.org). Admission to the galleries, including entrance to the rooftop, is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students and free for children under the age of 12.
Founded in 1825, the National Academy of Design Museum (212-369-4880, www.nationalacademy.org) offers exhibitions of American art drawn from its permanent collection and from traveling shows – all for a $10 admission price for adults, $5 for students and seniors.
Enjoy natural science and historical exhibitions at the Staten Island Museum (aka Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, 718-727-1135, www.statenislandmuseum.org) for just $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and students. Admission is free for children under 12.
Music and more under the stars
Revel in the best classical music, jazz, drama, opera and dance that New York has to offer at free warm-weather performances in the city’s parks by the New York Philharmonic (212-875-5000, www.newyorkphilharmonic.org), Metropolitan Opera (212-879-5500, www.metopera.org), the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park (212-539-8500, www.publictheater.org) and others (City of New York Parks and Recreation Hotline, 888-NYPARKS, or Central Park Conservancy, www.centralparknyc.org).
Grab a friend and drop by for a stellar evening of live jazz, delicious tapas and drinks every Friday under the Hayden Sphere at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space (212-769-5100, www.amnh.org). The music is free with suggested museum admission of $14 for adults, $8 for children ages 2 to 12 and $10.50 for students and seniors.
Enjoy concerts and dance performances under palm trees at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden (212-945-2600, www.worldfinancialcenter.com), a stunning, glass-enclosed shopping and business complex on Lower Manhattan’s waterfront.
Where the grass is always greener
Explore the beauty of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (718-623-7200, www.bbg.org), free all day Tuesdays and from 10am to noon on Saturdays; and for seniors on Fridays. The regular admission fee is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors is in effect all other days, although children under 16 are always admitted free. The grounds of the Staten Island Botanical Garden (718-273-8200, www.sibg.org) are open from dawn until dusk at no charge while the world-renowned Chinese Scholar’s Garden is just $5 for adults and $4 for students, seniors and children at other times. Entrance to the beautiful Queens Botanical Garden (718-886-3800, www.queensbotanical.org) is free at all times.
Flowers at the New York Botanical Garden (718-817-8700, www.nybg.org) blossom all year. Situated on 250 acres in the Bronx, the garden includes 27 outdoor gardens and plant collections and a Victorian conservatory featuring a monumental 90-foot-high glass dome. The garden is free on Saturdays from 10am to noon and all day Wednesdays; regular admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and students, $5 for children ages 2 to 12 and free for children under 2. Parking is $7.
Also in the Bronx, enjoy spectacular views from Wave Hill (718-549-3200, www.wavehill.org), the acclaimed public garden and cultural institution overlooking the Hudson River and New Jersey’s soaring 500-foot cliffs, the Palisades. Entrance is free all day Tuesday and on Saturday from 9am to noon. All other times admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and students and free for children under 6.
Visit the only working historical farm in New York City. The Queens County Farm Museum (718-347-3276, www.queensfarm.org) has free admission and is open every day, year-round. There are weekend tours of the farmhouse and greenhouse, educational programs and a fresh produce stand.
Taste farm-fresh produce, homemade breads, cheeses, cider and more at the Union Square Green Market (212-477-3220, www.cenyc.org), where some vendors offer free samples.
Both the young and the young at heart can enjoy New York City’s carousels: Central Park (212-879-0244), year-round, 90 cents per ride; Bryant Park (212-768-4242, www.bryantpark.org), seasonal, $1.75 per ride; and Prospect Park (718-282-7789, www.prospectpark.org), April through October, $1 per ride.
The Dana Discovery Center (212-860-1370, www.centralparknyc.org) in the northeast corner of Central Park will lend you a pole for an afternoon of catch-and-release fishing in the Harlem Meer, a beautiful lake also frequented by numerous species of wild birds. Take advantage of the center’s educational workshops for children, or grab a pair of binoculars and sharpen your bird-watching eye. The center is free to all and is open daily, April to October, from 10am to 5pm (4pm in winter).
Finally, historic Green-Wood Cemetery (718-788-7850, www.green-wood.com) in Brooklyn is an “outdoor museum” filled with extraordinary works of sculpture and architecture. It is home to the gravesites of dignitaries and national figures including musical great Leonard Bernstein, artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, newspaperman Horace Greeley and William “Bill the Butcher” Poole, the 19th century gang leader who was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York. The cemetery conducts regular public tours year-round for $10.
Getting to know New York
Get a feel for New York through a New Yorker’s eyes with a free neighborhood exploration with a Big Apple Greeter (212-669-8159, www.bigapplegreeter.org). Experienced, multilingual local volunteers share the secrets of their favorite neighborhoods. Reserve at least three to four weeks in advance.
Explore Rockefeller Center (212-332-6868, www.rockefellercenter.com), a majestic Art Deco masterpiece, on a free, self-guided tour. Pick up maps in the main lobby at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
On Saturdays at 2pm, take a free walking tour offered by the 14th Street-Union Square Business Improvement District (212-460-1204, www.unionsquarenyc.org), including stops at New York’s first film studios, opera houses, grand theaters and nickelodeons, “Ladies’ Mile” and Union Square Park.
Take a tour of New York City landmark Grand Central Terminal with the Municipal Art Society (212-935-3960, www.mas.org) on Wednesdays at 12:30pm for a suggested donation of $10. There are also free tours of New York’s fascinating neighborhoods, including historic 34th Street with the 34th Street Partnership (212-719-3434, www.34thStreet.org), a grand tour of midtown with the Grand Central Partnership (212-883-2420, www.grandcentralpartnership.org) or a tour of Times Square with the Times Square BID (212-768-1560, www.timessquarebid.org).
Watch world history in the making on guided, multilingual tours of the United Nations (212-963-TOUR, www.un.org) with an admission fee of $11.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, $7.50 for students and $6.50 for children ages 5 to 14; children under five not permitted on tours. Or take in Chinese culture in the country’s most famous
Chinatown; walking tours offered by Toro Associates, Inc. (212-625-9977, www.chinatowninfo.com) at $15 for adults and $10 for children. Visitors can see a Buddhist temple, historical Chinatown landmarks, herbal medicine stores and hear the little known stories about this diverse neighborhood.
Take a cruise on the Staten Island Ferry (718-815-BOAT) for spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry runs 24 hours a day and is free at all times. Or take a walk across the footpath on the Brooklyn Bridge for a fantastic and free view of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn.
For just $4 round-trip, ride the Roosevelt Island Tram (www.roosevelt-island.ny.us) across the East River and enjoy fabulous views of Manhattan and Queens.
Your 15 minutes of fame
By planning in advance, you can attend free tapings of popular television shows including Late Night with David Letterman (212-975-5853, www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow); Live with Regis and Kelly (212-456-3054, www.tvplex.go.com/buenavista/livewithregis); The Montel Williams Show (212-989-8101, www.montelshow.com). Standby tickets are available on the day of taping for some shows.
Offering unique perspectives on the history of entertainment, the Museum of Television & Radio (212-621-6800, www.mtr.org) gives visitors access to its
collection of archived television and radio programs dating back to the invention of each form of media. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and $5 for kids under 14.
Kids of all ages won’t blow their allowance here
Enjoy toy boats and soldiers, presidential papers, paintings, Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs, objets d’art and other memorabilia at the Forbes Magazine Galleries (212-206-5548). Entrance is free and the gallery is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Guided tours of the collection are available free of charge, but reservations must be made one month in advance.
Providing hands-on, interactive exhibits, workshops and performances, the Staten Island Children’s Museum (718-273-2060) encourages children to learn by doing. Admission is $5 per person and children under 2 are admitted free. Just across the water, kids can explore science, culture and other areas of interest at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (718-735-4400, www.brooklynkids.org). Admission is $4 at all times, and free for children 1 or under.
Take advantage of free hours of admission (September 1 through June 30, Fridays from 2 to 5pm and Sundays from 10-11am) at the New York Hall of Science (718-699-0005, www.nyhallsci.org) in Queens. Regular prices, in effect during July and August, are $11 for adults and $8 for seniors and children. Parking is $7 per car.
The New York City Police Museum (212-480-3100, www.nycpolicemuseum.org), located in historic Lower Manhattan, captures the rich history of the New York Police Department, giving visitors an insider’s look at the world’s most famous law enforcement agency. Permanent exhibits include turn-of-the-century mug shots,
photos of notorious criminals and their “tools of the trade,” a display of police vehicles, a model of a jail cell and, in the most solemn of the exhibits, the museum pays tribute to every NYPD officer killed in the line of duty throughout the department’s history. Suggested admission is $4 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for children ages 6 to 18.
Experience animal attraction at the city’s Wildlife Conservation Parks (www.wcs.org). To start, don’t miss the Bronx Zoo (718-367-1010, www.bronxzoo.com), home to more than 4,000 animals. Pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays, otherwise admission is $12 for adults, $9 for children aged 2 to 12, $9 for seniors and students. In Manhattan, admission to the Central Park Zoo (212-861-6030, www.centralparkzoo.com) is $6 for adults, $1.25 for seniors, $1 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children under the age of 3. Discover an incredible world of wildlife at the Prospect Park Zoo (718-399-7339, www.prospectparkzoo.com) in Brooklyn where admission is $6 for adults, $1.25 for seniors and students and $1 for children ages 3 to 12.
Before you leave Staten Island, stop by the biggest little zoo in the United States– the Staten Island Zoo (718-442-3174, www.statenislandzoo.org) – at a cost of $5 for
adults, $4 for seniors or $3 for visitors ages 3 to 14. On Wednesdays after 2pm, admission is a suggested donation at this eight-acre zoological garden with wonderful horticultural displays and a large collection of mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, fish and birds.
Where America began
Explore New York City’s fascinating past at any of the 20 Historic House Museums (212-360-8282, www.historichousetrust.org) located throughout all five boroughs. Admission fees are minimal to none. Visit Manhattan’s oldest house, the 1765 Morris-Jumel Mansion (212-923-8008, www.morrisjumel.org), once the headquarters
of George Washington; or stride back into history at Brooklyn’s Old Stone House Historic Interpretive Center (718-768-3195, www.theoldstonehouse.org), which survived the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brooklyn and served as the 19th-century clubhouse for the team later known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Discover the historic Dyckman Farmhouse Museum (212-304-9422, www.dyckmanfarmhouse.org), built in the early 1780s and restored to provide a
window into the past of northern Manhattan. There are guided and self-guided tours available, as well as educational programs focusing on topics such as “Life on the Farm.” Admission is $1 for adults and free for children under 10.
Delve into the past on Staten Island with a visit to Historic Richmond Town (718-351-1611, www.historicrichmondtown.org) a living history village and museum complex with homes, shops and public buildings from the 1690s to 1900s. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3.50 for students and free for children under the age of 5.
Experience New York’s salty maritime history at the South Street Seaport Museum (212-748-8600, www.southstseaport.org). Museum admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, $4 for children ages 5-12, and free for children under the age of 5.
Stories of faith and courage that affect nearly every American are told at the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Immigration Museum (212-269-5755, www.nps.gov/stli). Admission is free but the ferry ride is $11.50 for adults, $9.50 for seniors and $4.50 for children ages 4 to 12. The interior of the Statue of Liberty Monument and the grounds of Liberty Island are open to the public as well as the gift shop and restaurant.
Learn about New York City’s famous transportation system at the Gallery Annex of the New York Transit Museum (718-694-5100, www.mta.info/mta/museum). Exhibits in the Annex (located in Grand Central Terminal) are free. The main facility at Boerum and Schermerhorn Streets in Brooklyn reopened in September 2003 after an extensive renovation.
The nation’s only independent public museum dedicated to the history of growth, opportunity and entrepreneurship in our democratic free market economy, the
Museum of Financial History (212-908-4695, www.financialhistory.org) offers $2 admission to visitors of all ages.
Shop ‘til You Drop
New York’s famous Fashion Institute of Technology (212-217-5800, www.fitnyc.edu) shows off thousands of designer costumes and accessories, fabrics from around the world and the work of renowned fashion photographers in the institute’s free museum.
For a fashion update, join a Macy’s (212-494-4662) group tour. Tours, offered at $10 per person, discuss the history of the world’s largest department store from its humble beginnings in 1857 to its status today with more than two million square feet of selling space.
For more information about visiting New York City, click on www.nycvisit.com, call 1-800-NYC-VISIT (U.S.and Canada), 212-397-8222 (international) or stop by NYC’s Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street.