Don’t Break The Bank: How I Spent an Entire Day in New York City for Under $50

When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.”

Fran Lebowitz

SO many people have told me, “NYC is way too expensive. I can’t see anything without paying an arm and a leg.” These people have clearly not seen the best parts of New York City. While I prefer my cities smaller, less rushed, and not clad in black year round, I do love taking day trips to visit.

There are so many things to consider when taking a trip to NYC such as parking, transportation once you’re there, how to get where you’re going, which restaurant or bodega is the best, which show do I see, which sites to visit, and how the hell am I going to afford all of this? Good news. I saw over 10 different sites on one Saturday in tourist season and spent under $50 including parking. Here’s how.


Spot Hero is one of my favorite websites. (This is not sponsored). Simply type in here you’re going, and it finds parking within your budget and reserves your space. I was driving from 3 hours away so knowing I had a guaranteed spot once I got there without having to waste time searching was such a relief. We parked ONE BLOCK away from Central Park and paid….drum roll please….$20 for an entire day (12 hours).

Use Those Legs/ Self-Guided Walking Tour

I consider myself an in shape person, and I love walking. Regardless of your fitness level, this method of getting around the city saves money. Give your wallet a break and see the city the healthy way.

Also, walking gives you the opportunity to see things you would normally miss if you chose to whir by in a taxi or on the subway. Yes, it takes longer but would you really want to miss the quirky, random things that make NYC so unique? No, you wouldn’t.

NYC has been visited by billions of people. There are no shortage of self-guided walking tours available online for you to take your pick from. My friend and I decided to pick our favorites and saw as much as we possibly could. There are also buses you can take and paid walking tours, but we’re on a budget here, folks.

Eat Like the Locals

You don’t need a fancy schmancy lunch or dinner to eat incredible food in New York. Hot dogs stands are a staple there and usually cost around $3-5 for a massive sausage with toppings. Pizza is another. Oh, man is the pizza good. And cheap! You can easily feed a family with NYC’s signature large pizzas without breaking the bank.

Get Creative with Transportation

While in New York, I traveled by foot and subway. We spent a total of $8 a person to travel from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back. We got to see a ton of sites and gave our feet a break. But these are not your only options.

For short distances, taxis and Uber can be inexpensive. My favorite option, especially when going longer distances or through Central Park, is bike sharing. Rent a bike for $1-5 an hour to cruise around at your own pace!

Opt Outside

Most of New York City’s main attractions are outdoors. Skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Wall St, the Raging Bull, 9/11 Memorials, you name it…it’s most likely outside. Choose attractions that don’t cost anything. Free things to do are often the most fun and really are worth your time. NYC is iconic for its skyline so make sure to find a good viewpoint and see the sites the way they should be seen. Outside.

Discount Theatre Tickets

Broadway. Curtains up and the show must go on. The theatre and arts scene is just as iconic as the skyline these days. While ticket prices can be several hundred dollars, there are ways around this while still seeing incredible art in action.

Shakespeare in the Park is a massive summer attraction that is free and often features celebrities. It’s also a great way to spend a cozy night with family, friends, or significant others. Most are even dog-friendly!

The most common way to see free theatre is the lottery. This type of lottery is much easier to win so no worries there. Simply apply at the theatre or online several hours before the show and pay only if you win. They are cheap (~$30) because the show will want to fill as many seats as possible. Lots are even some of the best seats in the house!

New York City Vacation Sites to See

There’s so much to see in NYC that it can seem overwhelming. It’s possible to do everything but definitely not in one day and maybe not even in a week. The good news is that NYC will constantly morph and change into something much cooler each time you visit. Check out my favorite places to see on a budget, all of which are free to see!

  1. Brooklyn Bridge–Walk or bike across for some amazing views!
  2. 9/11 Memorial– This is an insanely moving and inspiring memorial. The architecture along is breathtaking.
  3. Wall St/Financial District– These aren’t too incredibly exciting but it is a neat place to visit on your first time.
  4. Theatre District–See where the magic happens and support local theatre and the arts!
  5. Central Park– The park is several miles long and is an absolute must-see. Performers can be found all throughout if nature isn’t enough entertainment.
  6. Rockefeller Center– Check out the famous statue!
  7. Empire State Building– Would any trip to NYC be complete without it?
  8. Time’s Sure– It’s crowded but if you want to see one of the most photographed areas of New York then visiting is a must.
  9. Statue of Liberty– While it costs money to go inside, the better pictures are from the outside.
  10. Ellis Island–If you love history, this site is perfect for you. It is where most immigrants entered the East Coast back in the day and is really interesting to see!
  11. Grand Central Terminal–If you travel by subway this is an easy thing to cross off your list! As a bonus, try to find the area where you can whisper into a corner and be heard across the room!
  12. Chinatown–The home is discounted everything and delicious Chinese food! Win-win situation!
  13. Saks 5th Ave–Window shop your heart out

My Budget Breakdown

Parking: $20 Subway & Ferry: $10 Food: $15 Attractions: $0 for 14 different attractions

Which NYC sites have you visited? How have you traveled there on a budget? I’d love to hear your best travel tips and tricks too! Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about my favorite paid sites to see in New York!


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