|A New York Weekend on $100|
New York is a Rorschach city. To a foodie, it’s a multi-course meal; to a fashionista, it’s Soho and Bergdorfs; to a sports-lover, it’s the mythological Brooklyn Dodgers; and to the student of architecture, it’s a sore neck. In the hidden corners of Central Park, even the nature buff gets his or her own version of New York City, this capital of culture and commerce.
While the typical view of New York is one of extravagance and expense, with some careful planning and shopping it is both possible and fun to explore the city on a very limited budget. For less than $100, you can enjoy a weekend in the Big Apple without it taking a bite out of you.
Planning a trip to New York in the spring, summer or fall, means live music, public gardens and innumerable outdoor festivals and film screenings. In the winter, the city offers holiday parades, displays, ice-skating, carriage rides, or cross-country skiing in the Park. If you have the luxury of choosing when to go, consider carefully—though there’s no bad time to dive into New York.
While not always a friend to the budget-minded, a travel guide is a great resource in deciding when to visit and how to spend your time. Fortunately, there’s The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City, the guide book with an attitude. The Internet is another resource in planning your trip. Type “free” into the search bar at www.nycvisit.com, and you'll discover that there’s little reason to pay for amusement.
On the Move
Unlike LA—where life can be difficult when you’re car-less, or Chicago—where the weather is almost always intolerable, New York is a walker’s paradise. Walking is the best—and cheapest—way of exploiting the city’s compact layout, not to mention its street performers, architectural sites and impressive window shopping.
But if you’re not up for long walks, public transit can quickly and easily get you around town. Per-trip Metro Cards cost $2 and provide a two-hour transfer window on any bus or train going in any direction—including roundtrip. A one-day Metro Card Pass ($7 at subway station vending machines and neighborhood groceries), allows unlimited rides from the first swipe through 3:00 am the following day.
Whether traveling by foot, or by public transit, you’ll meet more interesting people and see more of the city than your cab-taking, tour bus-riding fellow travelers.
An amazing restaurant city, New York is home to a wide assortment of ethnic eateries. If you haven’t had South Indian dosas, the vegetarian stews of Ethiopia, or the Venezuelan national dish, Pabellón Criollo, this is the place.
Curry in a Hurry at 28th St. & Lexington Ave. has the best Saag Paneer (creamed spinach with homemade cheese cubes) to be found. Prices are very good, especially for the vegetarian combination—enough food for two days. There's a free chutney bar, good masala tea and a menu featuring both South and North Indian options.
Caracas Arepa Bar (www.caracasarepabar.com, 91 East 7th St.) is a tiny tin-can of a restaurant and a homage to all things Venezuela. The sweet plantains with crumbly, Parmesan-like cheese are amazing, the arepas delicious (especially the Pabellon Criollo, with black beans, fried plantains, cheese and shredded beef). The beer's overpriced, so save your money and head to Three of Cups Lounge (www.threeofcupsnyc.com/lounge) down the street at 83 First Ave., where the $3-for-all-beer happy hour runs from 8-10pm every night.
At Osaka, at 352 3rd Ave, tiny lanterns hang from the ceiling adding to the kitschy vibe of Christmas lights and Hello Kitty figurines. The sushi, half-priced from midday to 8pm, is decent and fresh. Considering that you can get three rolls and a beer (Sapporo and Asahi, $3) for less than $15, Osaka’s hard to beat on a budget.
Some of the best museum collections in the world are housed in New York. And though many of the most famous charge hefty sums for admission, most open their doors once a week on a free or donation basis. The Guggenheim, an architectural marvel overflowing with artistic wonders, is donation-only from 6:00-8:00pm on Fridays, for example. Budget conscious guidebooks typically list specially priced days, but you can also call the museums and ask
The Staten Island Ferry offers prime views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It’s about a 25 minute ride, with a schedule online at NYC.gov. Best of all, it’s free. On Staten Island, The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art and the Historic Richmond Town, both $5, may be worth a visit.
One could easily spend an entire day in Central Park, even in the winter. There’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art or “the Met” (www.metmuseum.org), where the admission price is “recommended.” It’s listed as $15 per adult, but visitors can pay what they wish. The Conservatory Garden is open to the public from morning to dusk and is the only proper garden in Central Park. The website www.centralparknyc.org lists free tours and “activities” (from Tai Chi to Climbing).
Where To Stay
Don’t devote too much time to finding a hotel room in Manhattan for less than $100. It’s not likely to happen. Instead, look into unconventional accommodations, such as hostels, the kindness of friends, or hotels outside of the city (and near to public transit).
If you’re willing to take on the uncertainty of the Internet, Priceline.com sometimes delivers unbelievable deals. Similarly, a recent search at Travelocity.com found a room for $50/night in New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan.
Hostels are another worthwhile option, particularly for those traveling alone. The Chelsea Hostel on West 20th St., for example, has dormitory bunks for $28 and private rooms for $70. Further uptown, near the Park, Central Park Hostel costs slightly more, while The Big Apple in midtown has seasonal prices ranging from $34-$46 for a single, or $91 to $126 for a private room