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Brooklyn Botanic Garden sound works
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Stewart/BBG

Cheap things to do in NYC

Enjoy the city without blowing out your budget with these cheap things to do in NYC

By Kevin Aeh, Will Gleason, Tim Lowery and Shaye Weaver

Fact: NYC living comes with a hefty price tag. But thankfully there are plenty of cheap things to do in NYC that’ll make you feel like a baller. It’s totally possible to visit some of the top New York attractions, devour cheap eats and in general have a kickass time without going into credit card debt. And it doesn’t stop there: We’ve even got cheap date ideas!

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in NYC

Best cheap things to do in NYC

yoga at Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Photograph: Courtesy Cathedral of St. John the Divine

1. Do yoga with The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Sports and fitness Online,

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is doing virtual yoga classes and mindfulness meditation that it'll stream from inside the building's monumental architecture. Mia Michelson-Bartlett will lead the classes that aim to align, ground, and recalibrate using movement and breath to quiet the mind and connect with something beyond ourselves. All skills welcome. No equipment is necessary.

Chelsea Market exhibit
Photograph: Chelsea Market

2. Check out a seven-foot-tall portrait of RBG at Chelsea Market

News Art

Now through the end of March, New Yorkers can get their art fix at Chelsea Market, where a new exhibit honors some of "the most pivotal individuals in our nation’s history and pop culture." The works are on display throughout the market's main concourse and, best part of all, the exhibition is completely free to all visitors. Brooklyn artist Voodo' Fe has curated the show, which includes "his very familiar and notable pop culture character renditions, all brought to life through the various textures of mixed media that he employs to tell his story," according to the show's official press release. In an effort to celebrate both Black History Month and Women's History Month, the artist presents mixed media renditions of the likes of the late Kobe Bryant, the Notorious B.I.G. and Frida Kahlo. Specifically, expect to stumble on a Harriet Tubman piece mostly made of bottle caps and paint, alongside a pretty giant painting of the one-and-only late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Speaking of size: most of the pieces stand 7 feet tall, so you really can't miss them upon entering the market.


Light Up Chinatown
Photograph: @nyclovesnyc

3. Stand under hundreds of lanterns in Chinatown

News City Life

Right now, hundreds of paper lanterns are glowing above Mott Street—between Canal and Bayard streets—casting a warm and inviting glow. Installed by the Light Up Chinatown Project, the new fixtures are intended to light up the street in these dark times, and also inspire New Yorkers and tourists to stop by and visit hurting restaurants and shops. The effect is magical—the lanterns mimic a celebratory atmosphere despite the difficult times and have already gained a lot of attention and Instagram posts. Each of the lanterns, which are coated in nylon and weatherized, are also individually designed and personalized with names and Chinese calligraphy  


Bryant Park Winter Village ice rink
Photograph: Time Out/Shaye Weaver

4. Ice skating at Bryant Park's Winter Village

News City Life

Visiting the park will be different this time since there are numerous health and safety protocols in place now, but it's still a great place to get your ice skating time in for free.

 In the past, skaters and spectators used to be able to keep warm inside tents. Now, they'll have to brave the cold in separate areas for those waiting to get on the ice and those coming off the ice. Additionally, reservations and skate rentals must be made in advance online (rental prices change depending the day and time), and fewer skaters will be on the ice at one time, which is good for skaters looking for a less hectic time on the ice.


African Burial Ground National Monument
Photograph: Dmadeo, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

5. Take a new Black history walking tour

News City Life

Looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month while exploring this great city of ours? A new self-guided walking tour showcasing 11 sites across Manhattan and Brooklyn might be just the thing for you. The endeavor is presented by the Shed, the art center in Hudson Yards, and focuses on New York's history of racial violence, specifically diving into the story of the 1863 riots. The audio tour—which can be taken by folks currently in New York or listened-to from anywhere online—is called "Fighting Dark" and it is accompanied by a short film narrated by artist Kamau Ware, founder of local art studio The Back Gotham Experience. Among the highlighted stops are the African Burial Ground National Monument, in downtown Manhattan, and Weeksiville, a historic neighborhood in Crown Heights that was established by free African Americans back in 1838. You can expect the visual portion of the project to debut in the upcoming weeks. The walking tour, on the other hand, is already available for free streaming right here.


6. Walk Green-Wood Cemetery

Things to do Walks and tours Greenwood

A century ago, this site vied with Niagara Falls as New York State’s greatest tourist attraction. Filled with Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles, Green-Wood is the resting place of some half-million New Yorkers, among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and Boss Tweed. But there’s more to do here than grave-spot: Check out the massive Gothic arch at the main entrance or climb to the top of Battle Hill, one of the highest points in Kings County and a pivotal spot during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

Price: Free

Photograph: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museums Art and design Central Park

It would take multiple visits to fully appreciate this sprawling–as in 13-acres of Central Park sprawling–collection of over 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world. As one of the biggest museums in the world, the gorgeous late 19th century neo-classical institution displays some of the finest examples of art spanning from mummified royalty of ancient times to avant garde fashion couture from last year’s runway. Visitors young and old are mesmerized by the Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian temple from 10 B.C. that was transposed from its Nile-side location to the bright, sun-drenched Sackler Wing overlooking a reflective pool. Other highlights include the impressive array of European and Asian armor, Grecian sculptures, medieval art and contemporary photography. After hours of exploring relax by a fountain in the indoor sculpture garden or ponder what it all means in the Astor Chinese Garden Court, nestled off the Asian Art galleries.

Advanced online tickets will allow museum-goers to skip the lines, but, word of warning you’ll have to pay the full suggested donation ($25, seniors $17, students $12). Budget-conscious art fans should come early on weekdays, pay what they wish and come often–the special exhibits change every few months and vary from big-name retrospective blockbusters to displays of little-known gems.

Price: Pay-what-you-wish for New York residents


Photograph: Courtesy Rubin Museum of Art

8. Mindfulness Meditation at the Rubin Museum

Things to do Classes and workshops Online,

Calm your mind and connect yourself to the world around you through a regular meditation session with The Rubin Museum. Mindfulness Meditation is a 45-minute weekly program inspired by different works of art across the museum's collection that includes an opening talk, a 20-minute sitting session and a closing discussion. It's a healthy practice that can help you feel more grounded and connected that doesn't require a lot of time or energy. Starting this month, the program will be pay-what-you-wish.

Light year projection dumbo
Photograph: Courtesy Tomas Eller

9. Light Year in DUMBO

News Art

The Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo will light up with massive light projections for all to see through March. On the first Thursday of each month, LIGHT YEAR installations will be on view for the public, who can watch from nearby bars and restaurants with hot drinks in hand. The projections, which will be 65 by 40 feet, can be viewed from the Pearl Street Triangle from dusk to 10pm. The last projection is on March 4 — "Digital Fairy Tales: Water Stories."

Van Cortlandt House Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Van Cortlandt House Museum

10. Explore the Van Cortlandt House Museum

Attractions Historic buildings and sites The Bronx

These days, New Yorkers feel real estate envy for the penthouse apartments foreign millionaires buy their newborn children. But if you want to see what would’ve popped on Pinterest in days of yore, head to the Bronx and take a tour of the Van Cortlandt House Museum. The gray fieldstone mansion, built before the Revolutionary War, served as the influential Van Cortlandt family’s homestead until the late 19th century. None other than George Washington himself spent the night here.

Price: $5

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