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New York is a notoriously expensive city and it’s not uncommon for those of us traveling from other parts of the country to repeatedly undergo sticker shock every time we leave the hotel for a little sightseeing or a meal out. But below you’ll find 20 great ways to explore New York City for under $20.

 

RELATED: These are New York’s best hotel bargains right now

 

1. Bike the island with Citi Bike

A day pass is only $12 and gives you access to bikes for 24 hours. With around 10,000 bikes and docks located all around the city, it’s an easy and affordable to get around and sight see while you’re at it.  

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The Brooklyn Bridge | Photo by Compass + Twine 

2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge & grab a slice at Grimaldi’s

No trip to NYC is complete without taking on the Brooklyn Bridge. Stroll across the iconic landmark connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn and soak up the amazing skyline views along the way. You’ll be hungry when you reach Brooklyn, so grab a delicious New York slice at the famous Grimaldi’s. Completed in 1883, the bridge originally had a toll of a penny to cross by foot, 5 cents to cross as horse and rider, and 10 cents to cross with a carriage. Now, it’s free!

3. Hunt for a bargain at the city’s largest flea market

The Brooklyn Flea is chock full of amazing finds…you just have to be willing to look. Every Sunday during the warmer months, you’ll find the flea set up outside in Williamsburg. They’ve also just opened an indoor space in Lower Manhattan. Peruse booths selling everything from home decor and custom jewelry to vintage goods and Imported rugs. You’re sure to find something special if you look hard enough. 

ALSO: Here’s another steal of a deal—sign up for CheapCash to save on your next hotel! Here’s how.

4. Sail the Hudson River

There are plenty of sails around the island but most of them are pretty pricey. Avoid the money pits and head for North River Lobster Co. instead. For $10 you’ll enjoy about an hour sail plus you can order lunch and drinks while you cruise! The lobster roll is fantastic!

 5. Play mini golf at Pier 25

Pier 25 Downtown is the perfect place to spend a nice evening outside by the water. Jutting out over the Hudson River in TriBeCa, the pier is one of many revitalized sections of waterfront along the Hudson River Park. The 18-hole course will cost you just 5 bucks and has all the obligatory waterfalls, caves and sand traps that a proper putt-putt course should posses. It’s open until 10pm in the summer and is set on the Pier with a killer backdrop of Downtown Manhattan and the Freedom Tower.

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The Highline | Photo by Compass + Twine 

6. Stroll the High Line 

The Highline is one of the city’s best new attractions of recent years. It’s an old elevated train track that’s been renovated into a beautiful city park that weaves through Manhattan’s West side from 34th Street down to 14th Street. Raised above the traffic and chaos below, the Highline walk is a great way to spend an afternoon and soak in the city’s impressive architecture. Our favorite part of the walk is the southern half of the Highline around the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhood. Here you can find some of the great food and drink vendors, including L’Arte del Gelato, The Taco Truck and Terroir at the Porch, which serves beer and wine.

RELATED: New York’s best affordable but romantic restaurants

7. Visit a Mmuseumm

Don’t worry, you don’t need spell check. This tiny museum in TriBeCa really is called the Mmuseumm. Set inside an elevator shaft, it’s described as a modern natural history museum, dedicated to their highly curated style of “Object Journalism.” The entry fee here is whatever you deem appropriate, though they do hope you’ll pony up at least $5.

8. Sample the best food in NYC at Smorgasburg

Who doesn’t love an opportunity to sample lots of different foods outside with a cold beer in hand. Smorgasburg is an open-air food market with over 100 food vendors slinging tasty munchies around, like fresh Maine lobster rolls, Korean BBQ, carnitas tacos, pork belly sandwiches, and too much dessert to handle. Open on weekends April through November, Smorgasburg has 5 locations: Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island, and the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. 

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Picnic in Central Park | Photo by Compass + Twine 

9. Have a picnic in Central Park

In the concrete jungle of Manhattan, you need to find a nature escape every now and then. Central Park is one of the most beautiful and dynamic green spaces in the world. Grab some food from a corner bodega (or a delicious cookie from Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side) and mosey in the park for a peaceful picnic. Our favorite spot is Cherry Hill, where you can watch row boats glide along the pond below. 

10. Student visits to the Guggenheim 

For all the youngin’s out there, New York City has some amazing opportunities for students to access experiences around the city at affordable prices. The Guggenheim student ticket is one of the best deals in town. For $18, students can gain entry to world-renowned art museum on the Upper East Side. 

11. Pamper yourself 

With a salon on just about every block of the city, prices are pretty competitive for a manicure. On average, you’ll pay only $13 for a mani, including filing and shaping your nails, a fresh coat of polish, and a killer hand massage at the end. 

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Chicken Sandwich at Fuku | Photo by Compass + Twine 

12. Taste David Chang’s empire

For New Yorkers, the name David Chang is synonymous with amazingly delicious yet incredibly affordable food. Though he does have a few upscale eateries, Chang prides himself on being accessible. You’ll eat the best bowl of ramen you’ve ever had at Momofuku for $17 and the juiciest, crispiest (yes, AT THE SAME TIME) chicken sandwich at Fuku for just $8. And with a variety of killer side dishes on both menus for under $20, you can easily sample some of the best dishes within the Chang empire. 

13. Shop along 5th Avenue….window shop that is!

Fifth Avenue is not the first place you think of when you’re looking to save money. But the famed luxury shopping stretch in the middle of Manhattan can certainly be entertaining enough without having to purchase a Tiffany diamond. The bustling atmosphere and elaborate, over-the-top window displays make for a fun and exciting stroll.

14. Free summer concerts

As one of the world’s great cultural hubs, New York City embraces its love for the arts through numerous free public concerts in the summertime. Celebrate Brooklyn! is a beloved concert series held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or catch the New York Philharmonic play on the Great Lawn in Central park for free.

15. See a burlesque show 

Every Wednesday, a hidden speakeasy in Chinatown has a late night burlesque show. If you can find Apotheke and their Prohibition Wednesday password (hint, check Twitter!) slip inside, sip a cocktail and enjoy the show.

 

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The Staten Island Ferry | Photo by Compass + Twine 

16. Sightsee on the Staten Island Ferry 

The Staten Island ferry has been shuttling passengers between the boroughs of Staten Island and Manhattan long before any of NYC’s bridges were even built. Instead of paying up for an official cruise boat around the harbor, hop aboard the Staten Island ferry and you’ll have an amazing—and free—vantage point of the city skyline and Lady Liberty.

17. Laugh at a comedy show

A $5 ticket for a show at Comedy Cellar may just land you front row to some of comedy’s biggest names. While the stage is usually occupied by new comics trying to make it, every now and then big names like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock pop in for a late night surprise appearance. 

18. Drinks and game night

This tiny bar beneath an Italian restaurant in TriBeCa may not look like much from the outside, but step through the doors at Nancy Whiskey and you’ll find a friendly, fun bar scene. Grab a pint and and try your luck at a game of shuffle board!

19. Pick up some street art

The sidewalks of Manhattan are peppered with vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry and hats to just-painted city skylines and custom sketches. It’s always fun to pick up a piece as a souvenir and you never know—you might just get an original, maybe even a Banksy. A few summers back, the elusive UK street artist was set up near Central Park selling original works and no one knew until he was gone and everything was sold! 

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Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery | Photo by Compass + Twine 

20. Enjoy an Instagrammable Sweet Treat in SoHo

Sweets in SoHo aren’t hard to find…or snap a photo of for the Insta! Stop in for tea and Parisian macaroons at the famed Laudrée or stand in line for a famous cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Pro tip: Get there early. They sell out faster than a New York minute! 

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, Food & drink, New York City, Types of Travel

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