How big a bite can you take from the Big Apple for next to nothing?
With a little strategic planning, you might be surprised at the savings.
A cheapskates’ arrival from the airport
Travel to and from Kennedy Airport (JFK) on the AirTrain and the subway. The combined trip from JFK to Penn Station, in midtown Manhattan, takes around an hour and costs a very reasonable $US7.50 ($9.80).
Forget yellow cabs
New York is a great walking city, and the subway is usually fast, a bargain and runs 24/7. Get a MetroCard and a local fare is $US2.75 ($3.60). Buses are also reasonably priced – you see more but they can get stuck in traffic. And of course there’s always Uber and Via, a shared ride service.
A ferry good idea
Instead of a tourist cruise, join the locals on the new NYC Ferry service with boats linking Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and more. One-way tickets for $US2.75 ($3.60) can be bought onboard or via the free app.
Or jump aboard the free Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island for a 20-minute ride, plus close-up views of the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline panorama. Remember to avoid peak hour.
Art and about
New York’s galleries and museums are famous for a reason – they’re amazing. Entry fees are often only “recommended”, even at the fabulous Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Here’s a sample of free or pay-what-you-wish entry (you have to front up to the ticket counter to get these):
Museum of Modern Art (MoMa): Entry is free from Fridays 4-8pm to one of the world’s great contemporary collections of art, design and architecture.
The Guggenheim: Pay what you wish on Saturdays from 5.45-7.45pm to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic curved gallery, sweeping staircase and changing exhibitions.
New Museum: Pay what you wish on Thursdays from 7-9pm for entry to this shimmering, Japanese-designed building in the Bowery, with its edgy and experimental art.
The Frick Collection: Free entry on the first Friday of the month (except September and January), or pay what you wish on Wednesdays from 2-6pm, to view extraordinary European and Old Master works in industrialist Henry Frick’s lavish former residence on Fifth Avenue.
The Whitney Museum of American Art: Pay what you wish on Fridays from 7-10pm and check out the controversial new Renzo Piano building.
Park yourself here
Manhattan’s iconic Central Park is free and huge – around 341 hectares – with heaps of free (and paid) tours.
The free Central Park App lists seasonal activities, has an interactive map and audio guide narrated by celebs.
Taking a carriage ride will set you back around $US150 ($195) for 55 minutes. Instead, hire a bike if the weather’s fine.
Hit the sidewalk
Local guides at Free Tours By Foot lead pay-what-you-wish walking tours with no payment upfront.
Stroll across Brooklyn Bridge (start from the Brooklyn side to get the view) or gawk at Grand Central Station – both are free.
Christmas windows and winter village markets
Rug up, grab a hot chocolate and gaze to your heart’s content at New York’s spectacular “holiday” windows (don’t miss Macy’s). Village street markets are also fun.
Broadway and off-Broadway bargains
Buy same-day discount tickets (offering 20 to 50 per cent off) for plays and musicals at the Theatre Funds’ TKTS Booths in Times Square, Brooklyn, South Street Seaport and the Lincoln Centre.
TKTS also offers Off-Off Broadway $US9 ($11.70) deals for innovative theatre and unexpected venues. Check listings online or download the free TKTS App. Next day are matinees available, too.
Download the TodayTix app to buy discounted tickets ahead of time, collected from a concierge outside the theatre.
Get your skates on
There is free entry to Bryant Park’s Midtown winter ice-skating rink (open daily November-March, 8am-10pm). Hire your skates (around $US20 – $26) and hit that ice.
The Bronx Zoo offers free general admission on Wednesdays. There are Madagascan lemurs, sea lions, grizzly bears and more at New York’s best zoo, which is open daily and donations are appreciated.
The New York Public Library has free entry every day and also hosts regular exhibitions, tours, author talks and more in a superb Beaux Arts building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
High time on the High Line
A free aerial walkway/park on Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line offers fantastic Hudson River views, public art, music events and more.
The converted, elevated high line rail track (“the El”) is a non-profit community project.
Beer on tap
Join a free tour of craft brewer Brooklyn Brewery on Saturday afternoons, on the hour from 1-5pm, followed by bargain-priced ale.
Food in New York often seems reasonably priced compared to Australia, and serves (even sandwiches) are often so generous you can share one between two.