By Eoin O’Carroll
New York City occupies only about 300 square miles of the Northeastern U.S., but it makes its presence felt in every corner of the globe. If you’re a first-time visitor, no matter where you come from, the Big Apple may already seem familiar.
It will also seem bloody expensive. This is, after all, the land of the $7 beer, the $10 movie ticket, and?this is truly outrageous?the $41 burger.
But in a city this big, you’re bound to find some bargains. Amidst the swank hotels, chic restaurants, trendy bars, and chi chi boutiques, you’ll find no shortage of great deals including all-you-can-eat buffets, two-for-one happy hours, cut-rate theater tickets, pay-what-you-wish museums, and, yes, a delicious burger for $5.
If it’s your first time to the city, consider signing up for a Big Apple Greeter, a volunteer tour guide chock-full of personalized insider tips who will take you and up to five of your friends around the city for two to four hours. The service is a great way to learn about a neighborhood you wouldn’t otherwise visit. What’s more, you’ll get a free all-day subway pass. Best of all, the service is completely free. Demand is high, so be sure to sign up well in advance.
Things to do: Eóin’s picks
The steady influx of huddled masses yearning for freedom has turned New York into one of the world’s greatest eating cities. Whether you’re noshing on tikka in Queens, prosciutto on the Upper East Side, or some Thai curry Downtown, the city’s international flavors will stretch your cultural horizons, but not necessarily your budget. As for drinks, while you’ll have no problem finding $15 martinis, you’ll also find no shortage of places with cheap booze and a hopping atmosphere.
If you’re looking for aesthetic fulfillment, you’ve come to the right place. New York has more world-class museums and theater companies than any other American city. What’s more, many of the museums have a “pay-what-you-wish” policy, with a suggested donation amount. However, if you’re a broke college student, you do have the option to not pay.
Here are some of my top picks for restaurants, bars, and culture:
Most listings are located in Manhattan; other locations are noted in parentheses.
|Burger Joint||At $5 each, this place offers one of the best burger deals in town.||$||118 W. 57th St.|
|Caffe Buon Gusto||The aioli calamari salad at this Upper East Side Italian joint will make you weak in the knees. Lunch specials start at $7.||$$||236 East 77th St.|
|Jade King||For $5 at lunch, you get a big menu, good food, and fast service. Try the tasty scallion pancakes.||$||19203 Union Turnpike (Queens)|
|Punjabi Kebab House||Located in a catering hall, this gleaming red and white joint serves up some of the best Punjabi-style Indian cuisine in town. Pay $5 for the lunch buffet.||$||91-52 Lefferts Blvd. (Queens)|
|Republic||This little pan-Asian noodle shop has some excellent Thai dishes, with all entrees under $10.||$$||37 Union Square West|
|Astor Wines and Spirits||You can’t go wrong with free wine, and that’s just what this wine shop offers every day from 5 to 8 p.m.||Free wine tasting||12 Astor Place|
|Botanica Bar||Relax on one of the many couches in this hipster dive bar. On Fridays, PBR is $2 a can.||$||47 E Houston St.|
|Blue and Gold||Shoot some pool, listen to the jukebox, and drink some astonishingly cheap booze at this East Village dive. Mixed drinks are about $3 and pitchers are $6.||$||79 East 7th St.|
|Brooklyn Brewery||On Saturdays, this excellent brewery offers free tours on the hour between 1 and 4 p.m. The tour is fascinating, and the free samples at the end are even better.||Free||79 North 11th Street (Brooklyn)|
|Cherry Tavern||Shoot some pool and lounge under the poker-playing dog paintings in this thoroughly unpretentious East Village hangout.||$||441 East 6th St.|
|Down the Hatch||This West Village dive has some excellent drink specials.||$||179 West 4th St.|
|9C||Serving up cheap beer and some good rockabilly, this Alphabet City joint has a happy hour every day of the week.||$||700 East 9th St.|
|American Museum of Natural History||Regular exhibits at this excellent museum are pay-as-you-wish, but IMAX shows at the Rose Center are $22 for adults and $17 for students.||Pay what you wish||Central Park West at 79th St.|
|Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum||This modern art museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a work of art in itself. The museum is free on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m.||Free Friday evenings||1071 Fifth Ave.|
|The Metropolitan Museum of Art||Over two million pieces of art reside in this world-class museum. You can spend a week here and still not see everything it has to offer.||Pay what you wish||1000 Fifth Ave.|
|TKTS Discount Ticket Centers||Head to one of TKTS’ ticket booths for 25 to 50 percent off most theater and dance performances in town, including the big Broadway musicals. Keep in mind that the discounts are only for shows that day and lines can be very long.||n/a||Times Square and South Street Seaport|
|Whitney Museum of American Art||This is one of New York’s few museums that focuses exclusively on American modern art. The galleries are open for free on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.||Free Friday evenings||945 Madison Ave.|
$$ Not bad
$$$ A splurge
$$$$ Stupid expensive
For other restaurant, bar, and entertainment listings, buy a copy of the weekly magazine Time Out New York.
Where to stay
New York has a variety of cheap hostel lodgings, including a Hostelling International location, which offers dorm beds starting at $18 per night. This Victorian building on the Upper West Side is right near Columbia University, as well as the Museum of Natural History and the Seinfeld coffee shop. Best of all, there’s no curfew.
Another good choice is the Wanderers Inn. This Upper East Side place offers a free continental breakfast every morning and free pizza every Wednesday night. Dorm beds start at $25 per night. You’ll need to bring a passport to check in, and a padlock to secure your gear in the lockers provided.
For an extensive list of hostels, check out HostelWorld’s New York page.
The New York metropolitan area has three?count ’em three?major airports: LaGuardia in Queens; JFK, also in Queens; and Newark in New Jersey. With millions of business travelers and tourists passing through these airports every year, you’ll find no shortage of flights to New York, making your chances of finding a discounted airfare pretty good.
The airports are serviced by most U.S. airlines, including many low-cost carriers (with the notable exception of Southwest). And, while most budget airlines choose to make smaller airports their main hubs, JetBlue has made New York’s JFK its East Coast hub, increasing the availability of affordable flights and challenging other lines to keep their prices in check. You can find flights from the West Coast to New York on JetBlue for about $200.
If you live near another big Northeastern city like Boston or Washington, D.C., forget about flying and hop on one of the Chinatown bus services, which can cost as little as $10 each way.
Thinking of using a car in New York? Fugheddaboudit: Driving and parking in this city is a nightmare. And, taxis can get pretty expensive. Your best bet is to use the subway, which goes almost anywhere. Each ride is $2. If you plan on using the subway often, you can purchase a multi-ride MetroCard from the machines in every subway station. With one of these, you can get 12 rides for the price of 10. The best aspect of New York’s public transportation system is, however, the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and offers a great view of the Statue of Liberty.
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