Do This Not That: Offbeat Cheap Ideas For Visiting NYC

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If you’re planning a trip to NYC on a budget, there’s a slew of things to do and a slew of lists telling you all about them. Visitors have different goals when traveling. Some want to cross big ticket items off their bucket list. Others want to pretend they’re locals. No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that there is not enough time for everything. Even as someone who lives here, there is not enough time. Each thing will tire you out. Everything takes you longer than you expect. Travel-time, visit time, walk-time. Personally, I couldn’t imagine doing more than one attraction a day but I understand time constraints.

Instead Of

If this is your second time visiting, try these alternatives to the sights you probably saw the first time around. If this is your first time visiting, here are some places you might not have on your list.

  • Christmas Tree at Washington Square Park and Bryant Park instead of Rockefeller Center
  • Winter Garden at World Financial Center instead of WTC
  • Cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine instead of Magnolia
  • Bulk Candy at Economy Candy instead of Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Walk across Williamsburg or Manhattan Bridge instead of Brooklyn Bridge
  • Prospect Park (and Grand Army Plaza) instead of Central Park
  • Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights Brooklyn instead of Store Window Displays in Manhattan
  • Roosevelt Island Tram instead of the ferry to Governor’s Island
  • Cloisters Museum instead of the MET
  • Ice Skating at Bryant Park or Central Park instead of Rockefeller Center
  • Koreatown in Manhattan instead of Chinatown in Manhattan
  • St. John the Divine instead of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Private-room Karaoke instead of going to a club
  • Egg Cream instead of Soda

Food

  • Russian: Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
  • Chinese: Sunset Park, Brooklyn or Flushing, Queens
  • Italian: Arthur Avenue, Bronx
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: East Village, Manhattan
  • Cheapish food/drinks near Times Square: Hell’s Kitchen

Local Goods

  • Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg
  • Food trucks
  • Cannoli at Bruno’s
  • Lobstertail at Veniero’s

Quick Sights

  • Pomander Walk, Upper West Side
  • Houses on top of buildings: 1) 1st Ave & 1st st 2) 13th st & 3rd Ave
  • Grand Central Whispering Wall

Pretty Sights

  • Explore scenery & history at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn
  • Staten Island Ferry or Ikea Shuttle Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty
  • NY Public Library
  • Battery Park
  • South Street Sea Port
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park

Bookstores

I highly recommend the independent bookstores in New York because most are really well curated and have a different stock from big book chains. Also, many will sell local authors and small press publishings that are unique to the area. Some even specialize in only a certain genre of books.

Manhattan

  • Kinokuniya Bookstore (Japanese/Manga/Anime)
  • The Strand (General/Used/Rare)
  • Idlewild Books (Travel, Foreign language classes)
  • Kitchen Arts & Letters Inc Bookstore (Cookbooks/Food)
  • St. Mark’s Bookshop (General)
  • McNally Jackson & Cafe (General)
  • Housingworks & Cafe (General/Used/Rare/Cheap)
  • Bookculture (General/Text Books)
  • Corner Bookstore (General)
  • Partners & Crime (Mystery)
  • Books of Wonder (Children’s)
  • Drama Bookshop (Theatre)

Brooklyn

  • Word (General)
  • Greenlight Bookstore (General)
  • Bookcourt (General)
  • Unnameable Books (General/Used)
  • Community Bookstore (General)
  • Bergen Street Comics (Graphic Novels/Comics)
  • Don’t Bother

    While you shouldn’t skip pizza, bagels, and cannoli’s on your trip to nyc, do not go out of your way for either BBQ or Mexican food. It’s okay but you can find better in other cities.


    4 Comments

    1. eemusings says:

      Awesome, starring this post for later! Will be in NYC in September so I may hit you up later on about sights and stuff:)

    2. I’m super late on replying to this but I’m bookmarking this post! Awesome insight.

    3. ok I’ve come back. Do you know of any non-sketchy places to stay that are not more than $200? Or am I being ridiculous thinking that I can find a place for under $200 a night? I’d be willing to travel more if it meant cheaper hotel.

      How much is the subway nowadays?

      Plus thank you SO much for the maps!! That is going to come in handy big time!

      • leslie beslie says:

        Check out my guide to the subway for prices & lots of other train information!

        I know lots of people use Airbnb or hostels here. I’m really not sure about actual hotel prices but <$200 for anything close to anything will be difficult.

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