From the first time I ever visited New York, back in January 2008, I have loved it with an abiding passion. Part of it is the energy of Manhattan – the density of people and buildings makes it feel like a true metropolis. Another part is just the idea of New York – everyone has goals and ideas and they are there getting them done. It’s a constant striving for greatness that is why they build skyscrapers there, why they put on huge musicals, why people sell off their possessions and take terrible jobs to go and live as near as they can to it.
It can be a very expensive city as well, so here are my best tips for getting the best of New York if you’re a bit strapped for cash
Rush/Standing Room Only/Lottery tickets are the way to go. I have written extensively on this in my other blog, Travels with Totoro. To put it briefly here though, New York is the international capital of theatre and if you don’t go to see at least SOMETHING, you are totally daft. Consult Broadway for Broke People for a top-notch summary of ways to get your hands on much, much cheaper tickets than the regular price. Beware: some are only for students, some are only for youth, some are cash-only. I saw one of my favourite musicals, Pippin (pictured left) in its first revival after being first played on Broadway 40 years ago for $37.50, and it was the best $37.50 I’ve spent in my life. Even if I had to get up at 5.15am to spend it.
Eat in parks
This is most feasible when done in summer. But basically, if you eat in a restaurant, there is a whole raft of unseen extras. Well, two: tax and tips. If you take away you are alleviated of at least tips. Get food from a self-serve deli or takeaway joint and enjoy the sunshine. We also packed lunches a few times for picnics in Central Park and Hudson River Park. I highly recommend doing a grocery shop at Trader Joe’s – it’s both budget and local/organic (who knows how they manage this!) but it’s totally amazing. It’d even be worth making sure you’re in walking distance of a Trader Joe’s when you’re planning your accommodation.
Unlike in London, museums in New York have paid entry. BUT, there are certain days of the week when you can pay suggested entry fees. The Natural History Museum has a suggested entry fee (BUT you have to line up and buy a ticket, and the sign gives stupidly expensive “suggestions”. I had a very bad experience with a very mean lady behind the counter, so my advice is BUY THEM ONLINE and collect from a machine, it will probably be more polite and you won’t have to go through the social embarrassment of paying a $5 entry fee when it suggests $20 on the sign. However, it’s a pretty dated museum for the most part so I don’t highly recommend going). MoMa has free Friday nights. There are queues, of course, but it’s worth it, especially if you like Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, or if you are sick of seeing reproductions of Warhol and want to see the original (art theory lovers: note that this is irony).