Manhattan is not known for being a very economical place to visit, but once there, you can do a great deal without spending a lot of money. Check out the list I have created for examples of activities to do under $20!
Top things to do in Manhattan for under $20:
Magnolia Bakery $3
If you have a sweet tooth like me and are a fan of cupcakes, you must try their Red Velvet cupcakes. In my opinion, they are the best I have ever had. The secret is in the icing! They have 3 locations in Manhattan (see website for location listings: http://magnoliabakery.com/find_us_new_york.php). If you are a Sex and the City fan, a scene from one of the episodes was filmed outside of the Bleeker street location.
The Brooklyn Bridge – FREE
This is the only pedestrian bridge in NYC. This bridge offers a great walk with a view of the Manhattan skyline. To get a great photo of the skyline at night, walk over the bridge into Brooklyn to take a photo off one of the piers
Outdoor markets – FREE
There are a lot of types of outdoor markets in different neighbourhoods over the course of a year. Everything from food, art, photography and handmade goods. These can be easily found by doing a quick google search.
Grabbing a drink at one of NYC’s historic bars – under $10/15
There are a lot of historic bars that date back to the 1800’s & 1900’s. A few that I have tried are: Pete’s Tavern (it is said that write O. Henry wrote “The Gift of the Magi” here) and the Old Town Bar & Grill (featuring a long marble and Mahogany bar, many of its furnishings are original).
Lombardi’s pizza – $20
This pizza was delicious! Try their Original Pizza (14” for 16.50). Soft thin chewy crust,
flavourful tomato sauce and basil, topped with melt-in-your mouth Mozzarella. It can get busy as it is a stop on several food tours. Watch for the Mona Lisa holding a pizza pie on the outside brick wall.
Central Park – FREE
This is one of my absolute favourite parks. It is an excellent refuge from the noisy city streets. There are plenty of walking paths, benches, ponds and bridges – making for great photo ops or a relaxing retreat from the city streets. The park also offers activities like Shakespeare in the Park, a Zoo, horse drawn carriage rides (at a cost) and a skating rink during the winter. See website for more information: http://www.centralpark.com
Live Talk Show tickets – FREE
If you are a fan of morning or late night talk shows, you can see a live taping of your favourite show for free! Shows such as David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Anderson Cooper, Live with Regis & Kelly and the Today Show are all filmed in NYC. I have personally been to a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Both were a lot of fun, I highly recommend them! The Late Show is filmed in the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre (the site of the first Beatles performance in the US).
Bryant part – FREE
This is another great park in NYC situated next to the New York Public Library. It is a
small park with an open green lawn and a lovely seating area complete with plenty of tables and chairs. A great spot to grab lunch or read a book under the canopy of trees. There is also a free outdoor library stocked with carts carrying books, magazines and newspapers. Conveniently, the park also has WiFi.
NYC library – FREE
This library is beautiful & definitely worth a quick visit inside. The hallways and rooms are quite ornate, decorated with paintings, chandeliers and supported by large marble columns and walls. Be sure to take a peek in the beautiful Rose Main Reading Room!
Museums – provide a donation in lieu of an entrance fee
Manhattan is home to a variety of museums such as The Met, MoMA, Museum of Natural History, etc (search google for a complete list). I have only visited the Met which asked for a suggested donation of $20 upon entry. The Met also has an upper level patio with a great landscape view of Central Park. No matter which museum you choose to see, make sure to allocate at least half a day to exploring it. There is so much to see in these museums and it can take a considerable amount of time to do so.
Exploring neighbourhoods on foot – FREE
There are numerous neighbourhoods in Manhattan just waiting to be discovered! The best way to explore is by experiences them by foot. Each offers a unique personality, look and atmosphere. Some examples include Little Italy, Greenwich Village, Financial District and SoHo. The best thing would be to do a google search to see what each has to offer.
Grand Central Terminal – FREE
When entering Grand Central Terminal, one cannot help but pause in awe at the vastness of the Main Concourse. It is often full of bustling crowds, grand chandeliers and sunlight filtering through large uncovered windows. In its centre you will find the iconic four faced clock which sits on top of the marble & brass information booth. The terminal is
chock-full of shops and dining options. See its website for its history and more information: http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/index.cfm.
If you have some extra money to splurge, as examples, you could also add the following:
– Sunset Sailboat cruise along the Hudson River
– Catching a show on Broadway (last minute tickets can be purchased at a lower price for select shows. Check out the TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square. Note: Now that the booth has been moved to a central location, longer line ups are a common occurrence)
– Sightseeing city bus tours
Of course there is much more available which is not included in this list. If you have a recommendation, please share! I am always happy to learn of new things to check out during my next visit.
* For more photos of Manhattan, check out my Flickr page on the right panel!