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Grand Bazaar
Photograph: Courtesy Grand Bazaar NYC

Cheap things to do in NYC

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

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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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

  • Things to do
  • 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  

 

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

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Central Park
  • price 3 of 4

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

 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Upper West Side

After a 15-month-long shutdown, this Upper West Side year-round bazaar is officially coming back on June 6. Although usually operating both indoors and outdoors, the market will, for now, only take over an open-air space on Sundays between 10am and 5:30pm. Grand Bazaar is one of NYC’s oldest and largest marketplaces, where you can buy vintage, antiques and more goodies from more than 100 local merchants, with photographers, jewelers and furniture designers selling their best. In addition, the weekly mainstay hosts a series of special events around the holidays, which we hope to be able to enjoy this year as well. 

 

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  • Comedy
  • Stand-up
  • Williamsburg

Catch a free comedy show at Gerti's covered back patio. Comedians Natasha Vaynblat (Comedy Central), CJ Hunt (The Daily Show), and James Hamilton (the Moth) host this weekly standup show full of NYC's best comedians, including Kenice Mobley (Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), Dylan Adler (Hulu), Ashley Brooke Roberts (NPR's Ask Me Another) and Sam Evans (Just for Laughs). Gertie will be releasing a brand new menu of bar snacks and drinks for the event.

  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops

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.

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  • 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

  • Comedy
  • Stand-up
  • Astoria

Head over to Q.E.D. Astoria for stand-up each Friday night with the Transplants Comedy Show. As the name suggests, the comedians on stage are not originally from New York City, so they'll be telling jokes and stories about NYC and their hometowns. Hear from comics like Leclerc Andre (from D.C.), Mike Feeney (Long Island), Reggie Conquest (West Philly), Lindsay Theisen (South Carolina), Katie Boyle (Ireland), Pedro Gonzalez (Colombia) and Usama Siddiquee (Canada).

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