How to Visit New York City Cheap (Have Fun in New York on a Budget)

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NYC can be affordable if you know where to look for discounts.
NYC can be affordable if you know where to look for discounts. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

New York City regularly makes its way to lists of top 10 most expensive cities in the world. It's no surprise, then, that visiting the "city that never sleeps" can be hard on your wallet. With a bit of planning, however, it's possible to visit New York without breaking the bank. Maps, brochures, special vouchers and discounts are often available at the many tourist center offices around the city, as well as in hotel lobbies, so grab some and get started.

Fly or travel into the city in the off season. You'll find many deals in hotels and restaurants after the holidays and during the summer. New Yorkers often leave the city during the summer, so restaurants and hotels offer specials to attract more business. Hotels are especially expensive during the holiday season and on the days surrounding special holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, so avoid those days if possible.

Stay in a hostel if your budget is limited. The cheapest hotel rooms in New York will still set you back at least a couple hundred dollars, so a hostel might be your only option if money is tight. To get the best deals, book early and try to arrive during weekdays.

Visit some of the many free attractions the city has to offer. Central Park is a must-see, and so are places like the Rockefeller Center Square, the 42nd Street New York Public Library and Ground Zero.

Visit your favorite museum or paid attraction on the right day. Many places offer a free day once or twice a month. The MoMA or Museum of Modern Art (moma.org) is free on Friday afternoons, while the New York Botanical Garden (nybg.org) is free all day Wednesdays. The Museum of Jewish Heritage (mjhnyc.org) is free on Wednesday afternoons. You can also join free walking tours of the city through companies such as the New York City Big Adventure (brookeandphilsbigadventure.blogspot.com) or Big Apple Greeters (bigapplegreeter.org).

Take advantage of Restaurant Week, which occurs twice a year, in winter and summer. For about three weeks during July and August and three weeks in January/February, a number of high-end, expensive restaurants offer special promotions for fixed dinner and lunch menus. The prices are significantly lower than you would normally pay to eat at the restaurant and include a three-course meal. Dates for Restaurant Week change from year to year, so make sure you check in advance.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most hotels in New York are located in the Theater District, around 42nd Street. There are no cheaper hotel areas in the city, so you’ll have to check hotels individually, rather than by neighborhood, to find a good deal.

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