5 years, 11 months ago
New York City can be visited without blowing the budget, as long as you do your homework on where to stay, where to eat and where to visit before you arrive.
How to do the New York sights on a budget
Statue of Liberty
The emblem of New York is the Statue of Liberty. The official tour, which takes you up to her crown, is expensive, but, to be honest, this icon is better looked at rather than from. You can get to see her pretty close up for absolutely nothing if you take the Staten Island ferry from lower Manhattan, it’s free to foot passengers.
The New York skyline
You pay to get to the top in New York, to the top of a skyscraper that is. But instead of paying 20 something dollars a head just for a great view, get a meal thrown in too. Saturdays and Sundays brunch is served on the rooftop at 230 Fifth, a bar and restaurant on Fifth Avenue. Adults are $29 a head and children are $15 and for that you also get a great view of the Empire State Building.
Some museums in New York have no entry charge. Others are free only on certain days or certain times of certain days. The American Folk Art Museum is always free, for example, but the Children’s Museum of Manhattan waives its entrance fee on the first Friday of every month from 5pm until 8pm. For a full list click here.
Despite being a small island, Manhattan has a lot of green spaces. They cost nothing to visit and are great if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to live and relax in this city. Riverside Park running along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side, Central Park bang in the middle of Manhattan and Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem have great children’s playgrounds and sprinklers where they can cool off if it’s hot. Whilst children’s activities are regularly run at the developing High Line, an elevated freight rail line that has been transformed into a beautifully different public park.
Where to eat
First of all, unless each and every one of your party has the appetite of a gannet, you don’t need to order a meal for each of you. Waiters often expect diners to share and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking for an extra plate or for your leftovers to be ‘boxed up to go.’ The tap water is drinkable and a popular request too.
If you stick to the main thoroughfares close to the subways in Manhattan’s most popular shopping and tourist areas – Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Soho, Greenwich Village – you’ll find a lot of expensive and not necessarily good restaurants. Walk a little further away and stop a few locals and you will soon uncover some cheaper eateries serving great quality, tasty food.
– Harlem Shake, obviously in Harlem, is a typical All American diner serving great value hot dogs and milkshakes.
– Kouzan, a smart Japanese restaurant on the Upper West Side, is where you will find deliciously fresh sushi at a reasonable price point.
At first glance, Café Fiorello on Broadway appears to be an expensive tourist trap, but the fact that the queue is eighty per cent regular New York theatre goers is testament to the good Italian food served here and the lively crowded atmosphere. And, when you see that a pizza can easily feed a young family, the prices are not so intimidating either. The bucket of chocolate mousse is really good!
Family accommodation in New York City
Hotel rooms in New York City are very expensive and tend to be on the small side, so if you’re travelling with children you’re likely to need two rooms. This is why people travelling in the US with young children are put off staying in the city.
There are cheaper accommodation options out there, however.
The holiday rental market is booming, but – and it’s a big but – many short-term apartment lets in New York State are illegal for stays of less than 30 days. Despite the law, many hosts do continue to list their properties – so it is up to you as the consumer to be educated. In most cases, even if you rent an ‘illegal’ dwelling, you won’t have any issues. But if things do go wrong you need to understand the risks involved – especially if you have to make claims on insurance or have a problem with the quality of the property. To minimize risk, it’s best to book with a company such as HouseTrip who offer protection if you are worried. For example, if you report your worries about the legal status of the rental within 24 hours of check-in and can provide evidence of your claim (such as a photo of the apartment in a multi-block), HouseTrip will provide a full refund and/or rehouse you (if possible).
And now for the good news: it is legal to rent out a whole house or a rental in a semi-detached property on a short-term let. And there are some lovely properties available. If you travel with more than one family or with your extended family you can find some real bargains.
This beautifully restored Brownstone a few blocks north of Central Park was a real find. It is actually in Harlem, but don’t let this put you off. The area deservedly earned itself a bad reputation in the past, but now it is very much a thriving up and coming place to be, with a vibe similar to London’s Shoreditch. I’ve just come back from four nights here with my young children and I felt very safe walking around day and night.
The owner lives in the basement apartment and she is quick to recommend places to visit close by. There is a friendly little neighbourhood children’s park – Marcus Garvey Park – at the bottom of the street, at the top of the street you join the main thoroughfare where new eateries such as the Red Rooster join the famous soulfood eateries such as Sylvia’s. It’s also just a few steps from the subway.
If you want to stay somewhere with a real community feel then you can’t go wrong with many of the neighbourhoods in Brooklyn. Like Harlem, Brooklyn has become gentrified of late and places like Williamsburg are almost like little towns in themselves, with boutique coffee shops and vintage clothing stores. Bedford-Stuyvesant is the most up-and-coming corner of Brooklyn and this apartment is centrally located within reach of the places like the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park.
The owners own the entire building and also live in one of the flats on the premises, so they’re always on hand for anything you might need. It’s close to all the subway routes and has a lovely view of Manhattan, which is only 15 minutes away.
As the city that never sleeps, New York is traditionally noisy, and while it adds to the buzzy atmosphere, it’s not always great if you’re travelling with young children. If you’re after staying somewhere a little quieter and ‘out of it all’ then this whole house on Jamaica Bay in Queens is just the perfect place. Also bookable via HouseTrip, it sits peacefully on the waterfront with a fabulous view of Manhattan. You can get into Manhattan in under 45 minutes by train and it also gives you the option to spend a day relaxing at the beach at Rockaway, Long Island.
Featured image by joiseyshowaa