Like the rent, subway fare and overall cost of living in New York City, the price of seeing top-notch shows, concerts and dance just keeps going up. Still, it’s possible to nab cheap Broadway tickets, reduced admission to art museums and even discount tickets to concerts in NYC if you know where to look. Read up on how to save money on cultural outings in NYC to experience the best the city has to offer without breaking the bank.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to cheap things to do in NYC
How to save money on cultural experiences in NYC
Play the Broadway lotteries or line up for rush tickets
Who among us hasn’t wasted a few hours of their life entering the online Hamilton lottery day in, day out? Luckily for you, some show lotteries are a bit easier to win, and you can score tickets for as little as $10. Check the Broadway Direct website and the TodayTix app to find out how to enter. If you’ve got time, you can also line up for same-day rush tickets at the theater box office. Just be prepared to camp out for popular shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Book of Mormon, and know that you may have to settle for standing room only tickets, if any are available at all.
Get an IDNYC card
Do you live in New York City? Congratulations: You’re eligible for a free ID card that gives you membership benefits at more than 40 museums and cultural institutions across the city. IDNYC cardholders can become members at the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden and The Public Theater, among others, and get discounts on Coursehorse classes, movie tickets and more.
If you’re young, join one of these programs
Millennials might not ever be able to afford to buy a home in New York City, but at least you can save a few bucks on theater, dance and opera. Major institutions like Lincoln Center, Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera all have programs offering people under 40 discounted tickets. The age limits and offers vary, but some allow you to score tickets as cheap as $30.
Admission to the Whitney Museum of Art for one day will cost you $25; it’s $18 at Cooper Hewitt and $22 at the Frick Collection. If you know when to go, however, you can get into 16 museums in New York City—including these three—without spending a dime. Bookmark this list of free and pay-what-you-wish museum days to get your fill of the arts on a budget.
Young people aren’t the only ones to get discounts at Carnegie Hall. The venerable concert hall offers partial view seats to the general public at half-price and rush tickets go for just $10. Who needs to see the whole stage, anyway?
There’s no better place to watch performances from the next generation of classical musicians, opera singers, modern dancers and actors than Juilliard. Alumni have gone on to win Tonys, Grammys, Academy Awards and even National Medals for the Arts. Student recitals and showcases are open to the public and are exceptionally cheap: Recitals are free, and ticketed events usually cost no more than $20.
If tickets to a concert, show or event are too rich for your blood at the box office or on Ticketmaster, shop around. You can sometimes find last-minute deals on secondary sellers like Ticket Network, SeatGeek, CheapTickets, Razorgator and TicketWeb. Groupon even occasionally offers discounted admission to museums. Your best option? If there’s a concert or event you’re dying to go to but can’t afford, check prices regularly to find the best deal.
Looking for more things to do?
Commuters, Midtown office workers and foodies alike know the Pennsy has their dining needs covered. The 8,000-square-foot space located above Penn Station hosts five restaurants, plus a La Colombe Coffee Truck and a bar. The Cinnamon Snail serves up vegan burgers, sandwiches and bowls like their Thai barbecue tempeh sandwich ($9.94), while The Little Beet offers a completely gluten-free menu. Think a miso chicken bowl with brown rice and veggie slaw ($11.94) and a salmon poke nori roll ($10.33). Chef Marc Forgione’s Lobster Press serves more indulgent fare, like a bacon, lobster and tomato sandwich ($25) and lobster mac and cheese ($13). Carnivores will want to check out the black angus steak sandwich ($15) or maple-glazed short rib platter ($15) at meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda. Mario Batali’s Mario by Mary has the Italian options covered, serving up such crowd-pleasers as an eggplant, ricotta and tomato panini ($11.02) and a truffle honey grilled cheese ($9.19).
Venue says: “Vegans, omnivores, pescetarians, gluten-free, and everything in between — we got you.”