I constantly wonder when I’m going to wake up from this dream life living in Manhattan. A dream where the city is a Super Target and every step outside of my box unconsciously leads to $200 less in my bank account.
After week seven of unemployment, my husband and I were down to our last one hundred dollars. We mapped out a seven-day itinerary and spent a total of $20 that week on activities – the best week we have had in the city so far. I didn’t even miss my $21 cocktails (okay, maybe a little).
You can have the best time of your life in NYC for under $20 – here’s how. Organized by weather then to most to least expensive because I can be organized if I really, really try.
Nice day plans:
Brooklyn Bridge – $7.50 (subway and ice cream)
This is an absolute must for anyone visiting NYC – trust me. Take the A subway from Manhattan to High Street then walk to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (cash only) for some all-natural deliciousness overlooking one of the oldest ports in America – Manhattan. Take a stroll through the Brooklyn Bridge Park to dance through iconic artwork. Skip the park to jump-start your short trek over the Brooklyn Bridge. Soak in the Manhattan skyline along with views of the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. This is a day you will never forget.
Bronx Zoo – FREE admission on Wednesdays – $5 subway and bus transportation
This is the second largest zoo in the WORLD. All your favorite animals are here from penguins to red pandas. This is a full-day activity and is truly worth the 45-minute ride out to the Bronx. Bring your own lunch unless you want to eat carnival-style food.
Chelsea Highline – FREE
The Chelsea highline is an old, elevated freight line running through one of the hippest areas in the city. Start from the north end of the bridge and work your way through winding gardens, trickling fountains, interesting statues and breath-taking skyline views. If you have some extra money end your walk at The Standard Beirgarten to grab a beer with the locals.
Central Park – FREE
“It’s just a park,” you say. Oh, but it’s so much more. Head to The Boathouse and soak in the romantic view of the Bow Bridge. After, keep heading south towards Bethesda Fountain. Be sure to walk under the bridge decorated with beautiful mosaics. The park is best at golden hour (two hours before sunset) when the musicians, live performers and free concerts start throughout the park.
Whitney Museum – FREE admission on Fridays
This is one of the most high-class museums in the city displaying interesting live-art pieces, sculptures and constantly-rotating themed levels. Go straight to the top floor to check out the view of Manhattan at the Skydeck Cafe. New, modern art is rotated monthly – there is truly an endless amount of funky art to see. You will feel swanky the moment you enter this classy museum.
Rainy day plans:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)– Donation Based
I watched someone walk in and donate ten cents one time. I know, I forgot what a dime looked like, too. You know what I donated the next time I came? A dime. They recommend donating $25 per person, but don’t feel obligated to go all the way. Hint: everyone’s entry sticker looks the same. Walk to the right when you enter – towards the Ancient Egyptian entrance. They excavated an entire tomb and it’s definitely one of the whoa-worthy pieces in the museum. It’s also where they host the reception for the MET Gala – the fundraiser making-up for my lack of donations.
New York Public Library – FREE
Disclaimer: There are no books here. Only a magical, marble-cased lobby filled with Hogwarts-esque staircases, one of the first books ever printed in the world (the Gutenberg Bible) and fresco paintings throughout. It’s a quick stop, but well-worth a visit.
Modern Museum of Art (MoMa) – FREE Fridays
MoMa is only free on Friday nights and the line starts outside wrapping around the block. We started at the end and it only took 15 minutes to get our free ticket. Do not bring a backpack/big bag or they make you check it – coat check can take up to an hour. This museum features some of the only technologically advanced, moving art in the city. You will spend a few hours glancing at Andy Warhol’s famous pictures and plenty of Monet’s, Van Gogh’s, Dali’s, (need I say more?) along with some interesting pieces from students around the world.
The city is an experience that doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There’s an endless list of budget-friendly activities on many local’s must-see list – if you know the right people (or blogs) to take you there.
Want to see what else I do around Manhattan? Follow me on Snapchat: kaygourlay