5 Budget Things to Do in NYC

A week in New York City doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s a rundown of free/cheap activities that I loved in the city that never sleeps - they’ll get you on your feet and burning off all that amazing food you’re going to have there.

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5. Peruse the Markets

If you’re going to be there during the weekend, head to Williamsburg for Artists & Fleas for handmade gifts and Smorgasburg for cuisine. While you’re in Williamsburg, Atlas Cafe is on the corner of a street and is best for watching the world go by. Also try a doughnut from Peter Pan’s Bakery, notably their sour cream one.


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4. Relax in the Parks

My top picks are Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (free on Tuesdays) and Washington Square Park.

Walking through BBG in the morning is the most serene way to start your day. There are different gardens to explore within, my favourites being the Shakespeare Garden (housing 80+ plants featured in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays) and the century-old Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.

Washington Square Park is very lively on a sunny day; full of students, families, and chess players. Get your caffiene fix from the nearby Third Rail Coffee.


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3. Bridge Hop

If it’s sunny and you’re up for a walk with a view, walk a bridge or two. I’d do these in the morning and spend the rest of the day on the other end.

Brooklyn Bridge is everybody’s favourite but it’s too crowded. I prefer Williamsburg Bridge and Queensboro Bridge. They’re grungier but the views are decent and you don’t have to shuffle through tourists.


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2. Explore the Museums

My favourites are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art: the Met is pay as you wish and MoMA is free on Fridays between 4-8pm.

Sadly, you cannot explore all of the Met in one day so I recommend doing 1 or 2 of their museum tours; the staff are all volunteers and they’re very passionate, insightful, and up for discussion about the art.

Head straight to floors 5 and 4 of MoMA for the good stuff from 1890- and don’t forget to pick up a free portable tour guide.


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1. Take in the Skyline

The Staten Island ferry is free and allows you to marvel the skyline - just make sure you stand at the south end of the ferry. Squint hard enough and you can spot Lady Liberty in the distance.

You definitely need to go across the High Line; old train tracks turned into a park/walkway above Greenwich Village. You get a view of Brooklyn on one side and Manhattan on the other. There are benches and chairs along it so it’s a great place to rest and people-watch on a bright afternoon.

Bonus: My first experience of the skyline was going up the observation deck at Rockefeller Centre for $34. Not the most wallet-friendly but, unlike the Empire State Building, the sweeping views of the city are completely unobstructed.


Thanks for the all kind words on my first post, I’ve got loads more Pocket Guides to write up so stay tuned. The Time Optimist was shortly on Instagram but will be on hiatus while I settle into blogging - one step at a time!

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