New York City is an amazing place. I've been smitten ever since my first visit and it's a love affair that continues.
It's a city that offers so much. It's also a city that can easily break your budget! NYC living doesn't always equal cheap living. However, there is plenty to do for free or relatively inexpensively in the city that might not make it into some of the guidebooks.
Here's a list of some of my favorite ways to spend time well (but cheaply) while in the Big Apple that you may enjoy as well if you ever visit.
1) Walk in Central Park
I still get lost in the park despite having been a regular to the city over the years. It's huge!
There's often entertainment in the park via performers and so on but the park is its own reward anyway. Highlights are many but some favorite spots include the Carousel, the Boathouse (see no 3), the tennis courts, a walk around the reservoir navigating the joggers or a sit by Turtle pond watching the wildlife.
The park is also big enough for it never to feel too crowded (at least on my visits) even though thousands are using it day in day out.
2) A Power Smoothie Breakfast at Juice Generation
The best juices/smoothies in NYC from our travels! Actually, I'll go one step further and say this is my favourite place to buy a smoothie anywhere in the world!
The staff are as good as the juices/smoothies they serve and the constant music and rubbing shoulders with the New Yorkers in line on their way to work all just adds to the experience and energy of the place.
While in the city this year, we started many a day with a power juice/smoothie from here (my favorite a Gym Junkie with spinach -- yum!!!) so much so that the lady that served us remembered our orders! Not bad considering we were only in town for 2 weeks!
I love Juice Generation and only wish they had a UK branch to make breakfast on the run here more fun (and healthy!)
3) Coffee at the Boathouse
The Boathouse is worthy of its own spot even if it is in Central Park. It's easy to while away the hours here on a sunny day with coffee in hand watching the sights and taking in the atmosphere.
It's a lovely spot.
4) Walking The Highline
This was a first for us on this year's trip but will not be a last.
The Highline stretches from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues.
It's a great way to get a taste of Manhattan life from the rooftops rather than at street level. It puts a new spin on the city. Along the way you'll encounter amazing views, sun loungers, an impressive and beautiful array of plants, shrubs and trees, art installations and of course places to stop for a bite to eat and coffee.
It's a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
5) Grand Central Station First Thing
This is a little ritual of mine over the previous few visits. Getting up at the crack of dawn before the crowds start stirring, finding a spot in the station's amazing concourse and then just watching it fill with passers through for an hour or so.
The station is of course a magical piece of architecture in its own right but seeing it empty first thing in the morning really brings the building into its own. Then watching as it starts to fill and feeling the throb of energy the crowds bring is magical. Thousands of people all going about their day to day lives in various directions all under one amazing roof.
Well worth the early start.
6) A Read and Some Entertainment in Bryant Park
There's always something going on a Bryant park. Much, much smaller than its close neighbour, Central Park, it no less has its own share of treats.
There's the Reading Room, which has a selection of magazines, papers and books that can be read in the park for free.
There's the carousel.
There's the chess and backgammon.
There's the table tennis tables.
There's the free entertainment.
There's the impressive New York public library close by.
There's plenty to do here and it's a fantastic spot when the sun is out.
7) A Bench at Rockefeller
Another place I like to visit for an early start (are you seeing a pattern?!) but the Rockefeller Centre is worth a visit anytime.
NBC have studios here so there are often news segments and performances being filmed outside throughout the day so you never know who you'll bump into!
The benches sitting in front of the main building offer their own rewards though with impressive architecture, waterfalls and the beautiful words of Rockefeller's I Believe all around you.
8) Exploring the Many Coffee Houses
If you are a coffee lover (I most certainly am) in NYC you truly are spoilt for choice. I even love the diner, everlasting coffee that often gets blasted.
There are many outstanding coffee houses to choose from once you start to explore with a roast and ambience for all tastes. Some of my favorites (for various reasons) include:
- Orens (Great daily roasts from various continents so you can travel around the world throughout your stay)
- Joes (love their flat white and friendly and attentive staff)
- Irving Farm (fabulous Grand Central spot in the Dining concourse)
- Bluebottle (Great coffee on the Highline)
- Gregorys (a new find this year with a rather cool, hip vibe and tasty coffee)
There's just something so very New York about having a coffee on the streets of Manhattan or in one of the many great coffee houses.
9) Dinner on the Move at Grand Central
As fantastic as the main terminal of the station is the lower level concourse is also not without its own treats. Namely, it's a fantastic spot to get something to eat or drink. There's a real mixed bag here in the food court with something for most tastes. And all of it pretty affordable.
Some of my favorites:
- A hearty salad at Hale & Hearty (if you think salad is boring you haven't been here!)
- A slice or two of pizza at Two Boots Pizza (great flavour combinations!)
- Frankies Dogs on the Go (A Hot Dog and toppings for everyone -- even if you're vegan!)
- For the sweet of tooth a cupcake or slice of something amazing from Magnolia's Bakery
10) Walking the Streets
This is our preferred mode of transport in the city. It's a great way to see the city, get a feel for the people and bump into all sorts of interesting sights, sounds and places to visit. With the grid system it's also very easy to find your way around although getting lost can also be part of the fun.
This little list is really just scratching the surface and this from an overseas visitor's perspective. No doubt the locals will have even more great places that will never make the guidebooks and are all the better for it.
Whatever your budget, NYC is a city to be enjoyed and wowed by over and over!
Carl is the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers live a simpler and more personally satisfying life. He also has a long standing love affair with the Big Apple! To read more and/or contact him go to his site.