NYC has so many great spots that are completely free. I am on a budget myself because I live here. On my list, most things I visited is free or you could get discounted tickets for.
Transportation: I recommend getting the 1 week unlimited Metro Pass, it’s $32 for a week unlimited rides. It will save a lot of money and time. You could get it at any ticket machine at any subway station.
Car service like Uber, Lyft, and Gett are also very popular here and inexpensive. You can easily grab Yello Taxis on the street as well, fees are also reasonable, especially things to see in Manhattan are not too spread out.
My plan is divided by area, to avoid long traveling time.
Day 1: Midtown Manhattan
- Time Square
- Bryant Park
- New York Public Library Main Branch
- Madison Square Garden
- Penn Station
- Empire State Building
- Grand Central Terminal
- Theater District
This place to me is the most NYC looking place, there are so much energy, so many colors and boards. I love to take get on the red stairs at W47th Street and Broadway, to get a better view and take pictures.
A short walk from Time square towards 5th Ave, this is one of the nicest parks in NYC. In warm weather, lots of people came here to sit on the lawn and do a picnic or coffee. Surrounded by all the stunning buildings in midtown, this is a really popular spot for people working in Midtown to chill.
New York Public Library Main Branch
It’s free of charge and amazing interiors. I use to come here a lot with my laptop to do design work on my projects since they have free wifi too and it’s very quiet.
Madison Square Garden
Cheap NBA ticket can be around $100, I use TicketMaster If you just want to see any show in MSG, there are concerts all year round here.
Since it’s historical, and still one of the busiest stations in the city, next to Madison Square Garden, you could check it out.
Taking trains to JFK or Newark airport, you often have to come here as well. But most subway line stops here.
Empire State Building
If you plan to get on top to see the view, it’s better to do from sunset to dark. It is very impressive to see, but for the view, I prefer Top of the Rock than Empire State Building, viewing terrace is more open and the view seems better.
Grand Central Terminal
I often came here to eat, shake shack and magnolia bakery was my favorite destinations. But I came here mostly for the views. See the stars on the selling and be close to Chrysler building.
I recently got a rush ticket for Broadway show Jersey boy for only $30 (Usually it’s $79-$150) and came here to this area. For the rush ticket, you could get in line before the theater open, (different shows have different hours for the rush ticket) usually is at 10am, so if you get here 30 mins before the show you almost always able find rush tickets.
It is so beautiful at night and you can walk to Time Square to see the night view from here. I strongly recommend seeing Time Square at night, it’s much more beautiful.
Day 2: Downtown
- World Trade Center
- 9/11 memorial
- Wall Street
- Battery Park
- Brooklyn Bridge
- South street seaport
- Staten Island Ferry
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Jane’s Carousel
The world trade center area is so pleasant, besides the classic 9/11 memorial, you can also find many street arts around.
WTC observatory offers an amazing view of the city. The Adult ticket from 13 to 64 years is $37, youth from 6 yrs to 12 yrs is $30.50, Senior from 65 yrs is $35 and Child from 0 to 5 yrs is Free.
I don’t think you need to do more than one observatory. You should choose between Empire State Building, WTC or Top of the Rock.
Each time I came, there are fresh flowers people brought. It’s nice to see. There is also a 9/11 museum you could visit. The ticket is $26.
I like walking around this area because it’s so nice, buildings are close to each other and lots of stone streets. It reminds me of how important this city is in history and nowadays.
The green lawns are really beautiful next to the water. Buildings near battery park are mostly residential, makes me dreaming about one day living here and jog every morning.
I remember a movie quote, “NYC is nice because there are many nice things you think you could have one day”.
Staten Island Ferry
It’s free ferry you could take to see the view of Manhattan on the Hudson River and also get close to the statue of Liberty. There are also ferry goes to where the Liberty Island, where the statue is located, for about $22.
If you take the free ferry, you could catch it at south ferry station.
If you decide to get on the island and see the statue, here is the link for booking your ticket Liberty Island Ferry
South street seaport
A cute place to walk around, get snacks, grab some food or just chill under the Brooklyn Bridge, this spot is as close as I get to the bridge before getting on it.
Really love having a coffee and hearing the waves and seagulls here.
Walking on Brooklyn Bridge is something I do every year, the view NEVER gets old I promise. I’d give at least an hour to do this, you want to stop appreciating the views and take some amazing photos too.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
After you get to the Brooklyn Part, the view is even better, Brooklyn Bridge Park is right next to Dumbo, and you can catch a ferry here to go around Manhattan when the weather is warm, usually, it cost between $3-$6.
But just to sit here watch sun goes down is one of the best things I’ve ever experienced.
Between DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park, this spot is very fairytale like. I got on the Carousel once, it was $3 and just to see the view of both Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge was so dreamy.
This is my favorite spot in the city, I came here almost every week because of the view reminds me why I love this city so much.
This spot is Washington Street, the most popular photo spot in DUMBO.
This is by far the best coffee shop in my opinion. Brooklyn Roasting Company at Jay street. The interior looks like an old factory and coffee are strong.
Address: 25 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Day 3: Brooklyn Coney Island
- Luna Park
- Coney Island Broadwalk
The attractions will be open in summer, it’s bit overpriced I think, all day unlimited rides for $42. I believe there are better places for rides if that’s what you’re interested, like Six Flags Amusement Park in New Jersey.
But just to walk around the park is free, and you can eat hot dogs, ice cream, chili cheese fries and so much more…
Coney Island Broadwalk
It’s so nice to be so close to the ocean, just one train ride away from the crazy Manhattan.
The boardwalk is quite long and you could get to Brighton Beach from Coney Island, it’s a nice spot for summer.
This is a fun Candy store near the entrance of Luna Park. I stop by every time. There’re always new things to see, and I really enjoy taking silly photos here.
Day 4: Chelsea
- Flatiron Building
- Madison Square Park
- Chelsea Market
- Whitney Museum
- Hudson River Park
I watched a video of NYC 100 years ago and this building was there just like it is today. So crazy to see this. A very NYC moment here with Empire State of Mind stuck in my head.
Madison Square Park
Close by the Flatiron Building, there’s Madison Square Park and Eataly, an Italian marketplace that features an array of cafes, counters, restaurants, and a cooking school. My favorite thing is to get a Gelato in Eataly and eat at MSP, with the view of the Empire State Building and Flatiron.
In summer there are often street food affairs.
It was an old railroad track now turned into a greenway park. Starting three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District – through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center.
You can spot art and unique architectures along the walk, they change from time to time. There’s a great spot with a glass wall you could look down on the Chelsea street, you will not miss it.
Such a great place to eat, shop, drink and just chill. I really love to come here get Asian noodles, or whole lobster, or freshly made sushi…
The place has a lot of character, and really beautiful. It is also a good place to find local crafts and NYC souvenirs.
Gansevoort Hotel Rooftop
If you want to get a drink, watch the sunset and see Hudson River, there are many places along the Highline you could find. I personally like this spot, along with Boom Boom Room and Le Bain at the Standard
Hudson River Park
You could see it from Highline, It is the park along Hudson River. Many New Yorkers jog here. I love sitting here watching the sunset, it runs from uptown all the way to Battery Park. I think the most beautiful part is from Chelsea to downtown.
Day 5: The Villages
- Washington Square Park
- Greenwich Village
- East Village
- Union Square
Washington Square Park
Saw this place first in the movie “Step Up”. I think every corner of NYC you can find in movies. But it was great coming here seeing NYU students, artists, musicians and all the people from everywhere having fun.
A short walk from Washinton Square Park, this area, well all the village area are full of cute cafes, restaurants, and bars.
Took me years to go from “those are the places I saw in Sex and the City” to “Hello I live here”.
This is my favorite dessert bar in NYC, Spot Dessert Bar it’s in Little Tokyo in East Village, where you could find Japanese restaurants, saki bars, groceries and Karaoke even.
It seems a very New York place for brunch, dinner and hanging out. There are also many designer shops and boutiques in West Village.
This is also a very important station, especially for going to Brooklyn. It is a beautiful spot, his picture is taken inside the Whole Foods Union Square.
Day 6: Lower Manhattan
- Little Italy
- Lower East Side
There are so many nice galleries in Soho, I love spending weekends here. My favorite Gallery is AFA, which is sadly closing by end of March. But there are so many nice galleries you could just walk in and enjoy for free.
Also, this is a great place to eat, drink and shop.
A short walk from Soho, the Chinatown looks even more Chinese than China. I really love getting food here, restaurants are always busy, smells like meat and fish, people are, well, being Chinese lol, they’re direct, hardworking and very practical. It’s a cultural experience coming here.
Also quite a cultural experience, it almost looks too Italian. I felt like walking in the movie set when I walk in the Italian restaurants here.
Lower East Side
I especially love the wall arts in Lower East Side. NYC is such a great place to see street art, and I found the ones here are quite different than the ones in Brooklyn.
It is also a good place for cheap and good food, lots of Speakeasy bars here.
Day 7: Uptown
- 5th Ave
- Central Park
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Columbus Circle
- Love Sculpture
- Rockerfella center
- Top of the Rock
All the big brand names you could think of, even though I can only afford to look at the windows, there are some really beautiful windows here.
And I had the BEST hot dog in New York, somehow the sense from movie Elf flashback “best coffee in New York, congratulations, you did it”.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
It is across the street from Rockefeller Center, this Cathedral is a landmark of New York. It was built back in the 1800s. It is the largest decorated Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in North America. With so many stained glasses, alter and artworks, and, so many details.
I feel like each time coming to Central Park, I was in a different part from the previous time. It doesn’t matter winter or summer, there are always many people here having fun, there will be bands playing on the weekends, you could see people selling art and waffles.
The ice skating rink is such a beautiful spot in winter. There are 2 rinks, Wollman Rink is this one, near 5th ave and 59th street entrance, the other one Lasker Rink is up in the north, between 106th street and 108th street Lenox Ave.
Columbus Circle is a very nice area for shopping and dining. It also close to an entrance. Near the fountain Bethesda Terrace.
I saw a lot of people come here to take pictures in front of the love Sculpture, it is a symbol of NYC. there’s also a HOPE sculpture nearby, both not far from Columbus circle.
Maybe it’s special for me because I loved the show “30 Rock” for years before I even move to NYC. It was taken place inside this building. The NBC headquarters are located here. The view is stunning and would be fun to go ice skating here too.
The Ice Skating Rink here is $25 to $33 depending on the day, for children under 11 and seniors are $15.
Top of the Rock
Tickets start at $36 for adults, $30 for children 6-12 years of age. and $34 for seniors.
You can get also get a flexible date ticket for more. For first timers, I really recommend you to go. It is a very stunning view and NYC has one of the best views in the world.
I hope my information helps and you will have a great visit to NYC without spending too much money. This city really offers a lot of greatness to everyone, and everyone will be welcomed.