At House of CoCo we love a little bit of daily luxury, but sometimes some luxuries must be sacrificed for others. New York City, in our opinion, is the capital of the world. Everything that you could ever want can be found there, and we’re not just talking about a delicious, greasy slice of $1 pizza at 4.30am. The city has a thriving arts and culture scene, some of the world’s most beautiful architectural masterpieces, and numerous neighbourhood’s and boroughs, all with their own distinctive charm that add to the city’s eclectic and metropolis nature. You may think that experiencing such fine things in life can come at a price, and while that can be said for a lot of the activities one can do in the Big Apple, you must remember that NYC is a microcosm of the world and not everyone there is spending their hard earned dollar bills on Caviar and champagne at Beluga Bar after their private helicopter tour over Manhattan.
At House of CoCo we have our own ex-NYC resident, who spent three months living in the concrete jungle discovering tricks for getting the best value for your money while still experiencing New York in all its glory. Luckily for you, we love to share, so we’re going to give you all of my NYC hacks so that you too can fall in love with the city. It’ll be the cheapest date that you’ll ever have.
Start with your Apps;
Given that the majority of people nowadays seem to have their smartphones surgically attached to their hands, you should take advantage of your addiction and use it to better your life. Download/Sign up for Time Out NYC. This site will tell you what’s going on in the city while you’re there, which museums and attractions have active deals and discounts, what restaurants are the best value for money, as well as answering any question that you might ever have about New York. It’s also useful to download Uber, for cheap cab rides, and Yelp, so that you can find the cheapest and best restaurants in whatever area you’re in.
NYC Bus Tours;
These are a great idea for your first full day in NYC, especially for those who initially feel daunted by the sheer size of the city. There are a number of hop on, hop off bus tours, some with audio options, which take off from the city’s central hub, Times Square. Your tickets are valid for anywhere between 24-48 hours from the time of purchase depending on the time of year. Staying on the bus tour for the entirety of its route is a great way to get your bearings, and then you can avail of its hop-on, hop-off service between all of New York’s major attractions. The bus tours usually come with discount vouchers for other major tourist attractions, as well as some of the lesser known ones.
TIP: Try to plan your sightseeing days around one area a day, so that you’re not wasting time in transit e.g. You could visit the Freedom Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge in one day.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of NYC’s most famous sites, and walking across it is completely free. What would the NYC skyline photographs be without the bridge glistening across the water? Beautiful, both day and night, I’d advise walking over it about an hour before sunset so that you can get a glimpse of the famous lights spectacle of NY’s skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge Park, just underneath the bridge. From here you can take the East River Park Ferry for just $6. The ferry runs throughout the day and stops at Wall Street (Downtown) and Midtown, allowing you to marvel at the city from a new perspective without paying the price of other Hudson River cruises.
Staten Island Ferry;
If seeing the city from the water floats your boat (yes, I did just use the worst pun ever!) then ride the Staten Island ferry for free from the ferry’s main terminal beside Battery Park. It’s the definitely the best way to see the Statue of Liberty, as well as the city itself. If you’re lucky enough, the security guards might let you stand outside, a la Sex and the City.
Brooklyn is swiftly becoming as popular as Manhattan, and it’s no surprise given the number of quirky and free activities there are for both tourists and locals. Williamsburg is the most happening area of Brooklyn, but don’t let the overpopulation of hipsters deter you. Artists and Fleas Market is open on a Saturday from 10am- and hosts a range of vintage clothes sellers and artists with their own weird and wonderful creations. It’s a definite must-see, and guess what? It’s free! Possibly because they’re tempting you to purchase a $400 fox fur coat.
Right across the street from the Artist’s and Flea’s, which also functions in Chelsea every day of the week, is the Smorgasburg Brooklyn Flea Food Market which hosts 100 Flea vendors and 30 food vendors. Winter hours vary and the market will be indoors, but for the rest of the year it litters the East River State Park, so you can enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline by day while munching on your Chinese pork pancake (definitely try these!). After you’ve had your fill of delectable foods and vintage finds, waddle over to the Brooklyn Brewery a few streets over. They issue free tickets on a Saturday and Sunday, all you have to buy is some beer tokens – 5 for $20; we’re sure that that’ll be an easy purchase. You might even be lucky enough to get some free pizza from the enthusiastic and informative tour guides!
This epic park planted in the middle of the concrete jungle is a haven for those sight-hungry tourists who are on a budget. Central Park is huge and there’s so much to see; if you do your research beforehand you’ll be able to navigate yourself around the park without missing any of it’s hidden treasures, however if you’re not confident in being a human compass, there are numerous free informative walking tours, with tour guides asking for a small donation, or if you fancy doing it in your own pace you can hire a bike from the Loeb Boathouse for $10. Cycling around Central Park is a great activity that won’t take all day. The park has an array of famous and free sights to choose from – Strawberry Fields, Alice in Wonderland Statue, Loeb Boathouse, Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, Belvedere Castle, The Resevoir, The Conservatory Gardens, and The Carousel… to name but a few. If you fancy treating yourself hire a boat ($15) or Gondola ($25) from the Loeb Boathouse, or take a horse and carriage ride around Central Park and enjoy the stories and wealth of information offered by the carriage drivers.
NYC’s museums are notorious, but sometimes so are their prices, however there are a few that are always free! Time Out NYC and NYC Go let’s you know on which days museums are free, as well as which ones only ask for a donation. Our personal favourite here at House of CoCo is the MoMa, which is free on a Friday evening from 4-8pm!
The Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock protrude the NYC skyline, as well as being at the top of the must-do list for tourists. We big fans of the Empire State however if you want a great view of Central Park and the Empire State Building, opt for Top of the Rock. Buying your tickets online is a little cheaper and you don’t have to queue when you’re scaling the heights. If you really want value for money, go up just before sunset and stay until dark, that way you get the view of the city in its daylight beauty, as well as in its awe inspiring nightly glow. If the price is a little too much for your budget, take advantage of the Sky Bars dotted around the city for your altitude sights. 230 5th in particular has a cracking view of the Empire State Building. Seriously, you could almost touch it!
Walking down the most expensive shopping street in the world is totally free for tourists eager to lay eyes on some of the greatest sites that NYC has to offer. Starting on E60th street and working your way downtown, marvel at the opulence of the Plaza Hotel (even sneak in and pretend that you’re a guest), be mesmerized by the window displays in Bergdoff & Goodman, as well as the other major designer stores who go all out for the visual pleasure of their customers. Keep trekking downtown and you’ll come upon Tiffany’s, Trump Tower, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the famous Saks, and the Rockefeller Complex. Get as far as Bryant Park and the New York Public Library, which is free to enter and browse.
Grand Central is not only a bustling transport hub but it’s also one of NYC’s most famous tourist attractions. Its sculpted exterior, gilded interior, and shopping and restaurant complex gather as many people as its trains. Fancy something clandestine and free? Locate the Whispering Rooms and tell a stranger one of your deepest secrets through a concrete wall. Check out other Grand Central secrets!
If you’re dying to watch a Broadway show but don’t want to splash out $100+, go to the ticket hub under the red stairs on Times Square at around 5.30 – you’ll recognize the stairs from the ‘Empire State of Mind’ video. As most shows start at 7pm, tickets prices will have fallen by 5.30 in order to fill the house. Some of the bigger shows aren’t discounted too much and there’s no guarantee that tickets will be available for your selected show, but it’s definitely worth a try!
The Chelsea Highline and Chelsea Piers;
Running along the Lower Westside of Manhattan, this linear elevated park was built on a disused railway track, running from the Meatpacking, north. The Highline is adorned with gorgeous plants, artworks and seating areas where one can sit and watch the city go by. You can get off the 3.4 mile long highline at a number of exit points and you’re guaranteed to land somewhere interesting. Situated right beside the Hudson River, highline walkers have the advantage of being able to enjoy the bustling Chelsea Piers as well. Two birds, one stone.
Ending with a huge bang for your buck – Needs no hype, really. Perfect for people watching, and witnessing all of the oddities the city has to offer. It’s a sight to behold and a definite must-see, AND it’s completely free!
We hope that you enjoy your stay in the Big Apple! Know anyone jetting off to the states? Share this article with them.
Make sure to return to House of CoCo for all your travel and luxury needs!