Things to Do in New York on a Budget

Often referred to as "The City That Never Sleeps" because of its abundance of activities at all hours of the day, New York City has been a destination for tourists for decades. Thankfully, experiencing all that New York has to offer doesn't require a ton of money. You can enjoy museums, art galleries, Broadway shows and famous landmarks for little to no cost.

Historical Attractions

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty represent two of New York's most famous attractions, and both fit into almost any budget. You can see both sites from a distance by heading to Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, and gazing across the bay. Visiting Ellis Island Museum and the Statue of Liberty takes only the cost of a ferry ride from Battery Park, $12 as of 2010. You'll incur additional modest charges if you want to take an audio tour of either site or walk up into the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

Discounted Shows

New York is one of the theater capitals of the world, and you don't have to miss out even if you're on a budget. You can find deeply discounted Broadway tickets on the day of the show by heading to a TKTS box office. As for music, the Seaport Music Festival offers free indie rock concerts throughout the summer. Shows on the 2010 schedule included Best Coast, Bear in Heaven and Avi Buffalo. When summer ends, you can visit the Juilliard School, which offers student dance, drama and music performances, many of which are free to the public.


Places like Chinatown, Greenwich Village and Times Square provide visitors with a chance to see some of New York's distinct neighborhoods. Stroll through these areas and window shop or soak in the culture for just the cost of a cab or subway ride. One of the most popular urban parks in the nation, Central Park hosts 35 million visitors annually. Free activities include walking, biking and bird-watching, while a ride on the park's carousel costs a nominal fee.


While tickets for the famous Museum of Modern Art normally cost $20, children under age 16 always receive free admission, and all patrons can visit for free on Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. Likewise, the Guggenheim Museum offers a "pay what you wish" period from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. on Saturdays. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem opened a visitors center in 2008 featuring a photo exhibit and plenty of reading and listening material. The museum also frequently hosts free listening events. You can purchase tickets for the American Folk Art Museum for just $12, or wait until Fridays after 5:30 p.m., when the museum offers free admission.