USA: Big Apple, Small Budget
Explore New York City over a week — for just $30
Enjoying many of the Big Apple’s biggest attractions like the Empire State Building, a Broadway show or the Guggenheim Museum can mean spending a hefty chunk of a trip’s budget on tickets. However, purchasing a seven-day MetroCard costing $30 for unlimited rides on New York’s subway system opens up a world of experiences that don’t cost a cent. With its many characters, platform entertainers and a global melting pot of cultures, the subway is an attraction in itself and you will inevitably spend a fair bit of your vacation time checking out routes and ducking in and out of the various stations. Armed with a MetroCard and a copy of the iconic subway map, here’s ten of the best free NYC activities...
A WALK IN THE PARK
It doesn’t take a brilliant travel mind to tell you that most parks are free to visit, but then New York’s Central Park is no ordinary park. This 843-acre swathe of green is jam-packed with free events, points of interest, familiar scenes from the movies and some of the world’s best people watching. It would be easy to spend your entire vacation here, but some top picks to get you started include a visit to Strawberry Fields, a tranquil garden area created by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon, catching a free ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ production at the Delacorte Theater during July or August, picnicking in Sheep Meadow, strolling the Literary Walk or watching street performers at the ornate Bethesda terrace and fountain.
Metro Station: 57 Street-7th Avenue
RIGHT ON TRACK
Grand Central Terminal
Go back in time to a bygone era of train travel and romance by visiting New York’s most stunning beaux arts building: Grand Central Terminal. A few interesting facts about this must-see architectural gem: it opened its doors at midnight on February 2, 1913; the terminal has 44 platforms and 67 tracks; Andy Warhol held an underground party on the Waldorf platform in 1965; 750,000 visitors pass through daily and the vaulted ceiling of the main concourse is decorated with twinkling constellations. A free guided tour run by the Municipal Arts Society begins at 12.30pm every Wednesday from the information booth on the main concourse.
Metro Station: Grand Central-42nd Street
TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
The High Line
This once abandoned and unsightly stretch of elevated railroad track was transformed in 2009 into a snaking haven of green 30 feet in the air that connects the Meatpacking District with Chelsea’s market and art galleries. From wonderful views of the Hudson River to lush gardens, art installations and sculptures, this shining example of urban renewal is full of hidden moments and perspectives. Architecture fans will love looking down 18th Street, and up on 17th and 30th Streets there are steel cut-outs framing the scenes below. After experiencing this unmissable free attraction, explore Chelsea’s nearby art galleries situated mainly around 21st to 24th Streets and 10th to 11th Avenues.
Metro Station: 14th Street-8th Avenue
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
Where Broadway meets Seventh Avenue, better know as Times Square, is quintessential NYC — pulsating lights, larger-than-life billboards, yellow cabs, Elvis impersonators, showbiz glitz and bustling souvenir stores. According to a survey in Travel + Leisure magazine, Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction, hosting 39 million visitors annually and a third of a million people daily. For the full effect of the dazzling section of neon lights north of 42nd Street, visit when the sun goes down and get carried along in the frenzied and energised atmosphere.
Metro Station: Times Square - 42nd Street
A BRIDGE TOO FAR
Built entirely from granite and completed in 1873, the Brooklyn Bridge with its distinctive pointed arches is one of those iconic landmarks that makes New York, New York. Strolling the mile-long (1.8km) span of this graceful bridge that links Manhattan with Brooklyn is a rite of passage for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Well recommended is to first take the subway to High Street Station on the Brooklyn side and walk back across the bridge towards Manhattan. Early evening in nice light can be particularly atmospheric, when the shifting perspectives of Manhattan’s skyscrapers through the intricate struts of the bridge are a dream come true for creative photographers.
Metro Station: High Street
SYMBOLS OF HOPE
Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker and titled Reflecting Absence, the 9/11 Memorial features two stunning waterfalls and reflecting pools, each about an acre in size set within the footprints of the original twin towers of the World Trade Center. Bronze panels frame the pools with the names of those who tragically died in the terrorist attacks. When the entire site is complete, the surrounding plaza will include more than 400 swamp white oak trees to provide a place of reflection and contemplation for visitors from across the country and around the world. Reserve a free 9/11 Memorial pass by visiting: www.911Memorial.org
Metro Station: Rector Street or Cortlandt Street
WHO PAYS THE FERRYMAN?
Staten Island Ferry
Every Big Apple visitor wants to see the Statue of Liberty, but with cruise tours of New York Harbor costing almost as much as a seven-day MetroCard, for a free alternative join commuters on the Staten Island Ferry to enjoy spectacular vistas of the Manhattan skyline and glimpses of Ellis Island, Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty. After leaving the southern tip of Manhattan’s financial district, the ferry takes about 25 minutes to make the five-mile crossing to Staten Island, where most visitors simply hop back on for the return journey to experience more city skyscraper views that are even more dramatic.
Metro Station: South Ferry
EXPLORING THE BURBS
Simply exploring one New York’s diverse range of neighbourhoods on foot is a satisfying experience which doesn’t cost more than a bit of shoe leather. With its leafy lanes, cobbled corners, a bohemian atmosphere and those movie-familiar townhouses, Greenwich Village is the most walker-friendly of them all. Begin your walkabout at Washington Square Park, where street savvy chess-players hustle for a game and street performers put on a show by the fountain where Bob Dylan once sang his first folk songs. A few blocks to the north at 48 W 11th Street, is where Oscar Wilde lived for a brief spell in 1882 and across to the west at 90 Bedford Street is a TV landmark; the apartment block and fictitious home of the cast of Friends.
Metro Station: W4th Street - Washington Square
A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art, also know as MoMA showcases arguably the most comprehensive collection of modern masterpieces on the planet including classics such as Van Gogh’s , Andy Warhol’s <Campbell’s Soup Cans> and Jackson Pollock’s immense and mesmerising to mention just a few. Every Friday between 4- 8pm entry is absolutely free. Whether you have one hour or four hours to visit the galleries, it helps to have a plan. If it’s a short visit, concentrate on a specific collection or explore a special exhibition in depth. If you have more time, you can endeavour to explore the MoMA from top to bottom, pick up a free mobile device, see a film or stroll through the Sculpture Garden.
Metro Station: 53rd Street -Fifth Avenue
NYC BY THE SEA
Combine a great day out with getting maximum MetroCard value by taking the hour-long ride to Coney Island which achieved worldwide fame as a working class seaside resort at the turn of the 20th century. In recent years it has experienced something of a revival, attracting New Yorkers who come to sample Nathan’s legendary hot dogs (the hot dog was invented here in 1867) or experience the amusement park rides. Other activities, however, mean that your dollars stay firmly in your wallet: stroll the boardwalk, catch some rays on the beach, take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean or watch quirky events like the Mermaid Parade held on the last Saturday in June or the World Hot Dog Eating Championships on the 4th of July.
Metro Station: Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue