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New York City On a Budget

When I was 20 me and a friend planned a trip to New York City. I had never really been to a real big city and I was so excited. After a whirlwind trip I returned home completely smitten with big city life.

Fast forward eight years. Since that trip I have traveled to many other cities and I love the thrill that the hustle and bustle of the city brings. Eight years later I am also married to a man who, given the choice of anywhere, would live off the grid in a tent! When the chance came for us to go to New York City this spring I was determined to show him how fun the crazy city life could be.

How to see New York City on a Budget

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We made a list of all the classic tourist spots he wanted to see. After that I broke it down by general locations, these included: Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Midtown, Downtown, and Meat Packing District, five locations, five days, we basically decided what day we wanted to be in what area and scheduled our trip! This allowed us to cut back on travel time between places and to maximize our time in the city. We walked or rode the subway everywhere we went (grab a week long Metro Pass to save you a ton of money on subway fares). The cost of all these attractions added up quickly, too quickly, determined to see it all on our budget, I found a way to see all these sites for just over $100 per person. Planning a trip to NYC soon? Let me show you our favorite spots.

I received CityPASS Ticket Booklets in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own and all photos were taken by my husband. Affiliate links are used below.

Central Park-

Central Park is a magical place. It sounds silly, but it is amazing to me that you can walk just a a few steps into the park and the city melts away behind you! You can no longer hear the cars and traffic. It is a beautiful oasis in the middle of a major metropolis. I knew my husband would LOVE this park. I wish we had made more time to sit and relax here. We happened to be in the city over Memorial Day weekend and were in the park that Sunday, there were SO many people there that day. When you go, make sure to hit all the iconic locations you see in your favorite movies like Strawberry Fields, the Alice and Wonderland & Hans Christian Anderson Statues, The Boathouse, hit the Zoo, visit Belvedere Castle and grab an amazing view of the Great Lawn,  and do some serious people watching. Don’t forget to grab a hot dog from a street vendor to really experience the charm of the park! Cost: Free.

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Empire State Building-

This iconic Ny hotspot is worth the money to travel to the top. You first stop on the 80th floor where you can learn about its construction, (did you know it was built in just under 15 months?!) and other fun facts about the building. Then you head up to the observation deck on the 86th floor. The views are amazing and it really is a fun way to orient yourself to the layout of the city! Because our tickets were booked through CityPASS we saved a ton of money, skipped the lines, were able to have an audio tour, and we got to go back at night time! It was spectacular! Tickets are usually $29, so for us to go to the top twice would have been $60 per person.


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Brooklyn Bridge-

Make the walking across the Brookyln Bridge a to do on your list! It is a beautiful walk that provides spectacular views of the city! When you get to the Brooklyn side make sure to take a walk around the Brooklyn Bridge Park and grab some of, in my opinion, the best pizza in New York at Grimaldi’s. Cost: Free

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Mom's take new york-8

Metropolitan Museum Of Art-

You could literally spend DAYS in this museum and not see everything. We spent an afternoon visiting our favorite era’s of art and really gained such an amazing perspective on all the classic artist you see and hear about. Art work is so much more moving and spectacular in person. Take advantage of the bag and coat check and keep in mind that the admission price is just a “suggested” donation. Pay what you can, and take advantage of the opportunity to take in this stunning collection of art and history. This museum was also included in our CityPASS. Suggested donation: $25 per person.

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Stature Of Liberty & Ellis Island-

Take a quick boat ride out to Liberty Island, home of Lady Liberty herself. This trip was also included in our CityPASS and I highly recommend getting the audio tour here as well. Hearing the stories of immigrants coming to America and being welcomed by this beautiful symbol of freedom was really moving. I was reminded that day just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country and enjoy the freedoms we do. While you are out there make sure you go to Ellis Island too. I know so many who have told me they skipped this historical sight, and it is one of my favorite places in New York. It might sound corny, but I really feel like you can physically feel the prescience of all the people who passed through there on their journey to America so many years ago, it is a very unique place. Cost: $25 per person.

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9/11 Memorial-

The first time I came to NYC, ground zero was still behind fences as they cleaned up debris and began construction on this memorial. Words cannot describe how incredible this place is. I know that September 11th is a date that all of us vividly remember, and this spot in the city is thickly shrouded in emotion and love. The new museum just opened and we couldn’t get tickets, but I have it on the top of my list for our next visit. Cost: Museum tickets: $25 Memorial: Free.

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Top Of The Rock-

I will be honest that this spot was not of our list of things to see and we only went because it was included in our CityPASS package, but it ended up being a favorite from our trip. Similar to the Empire State Building you can visit 3 observation decks at the Top of The Rock for amazing views of the city as well as a fantastic view of the Empire State Building itself. You know that iconic New York picture of the workers eating lunch on a construction beam? That happened here! Plus, you rocket to the 70th floor in less than a minute, making the elevator an experience on its own! These tickets are scheduled for a certain time, so keep that in mind when planning your day! Cost: $29 per person.

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High Line Park-

Also, one of our trip highlights, The High Line Park is a public park built on the historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is a beautiful park to walk along with great views. Grab a handmade popsicle or ice cream sandwich from one of the vendors and have a seat one of the benches or chairs and relax! You are on a vacation after all! Cost: Free.

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New York CityPASS

Save up to 40% on New York’s 6 best attractions with CityPASS – Shop Now!New York City On a Budget image 4237583 12239244 1457023941000

If you are headed to New York and are planning on seeing multiple attractions, check out the NYC CityPASS. At $109 it is really a great deal. We didn’t have enough time to do everything it offered and we still saved money! It was great to skip the lines and know that our tickets were all taken care of in advance. One change I would make for our next trip would be to visit the museums first. We had several more museums on our list but by the end of our trip we were so overstimulated from walking (we averaged 13 miles of walking a day) and reading new information that we opted out of them. CityPASS offers passes for 11 different cities, so make sure to check them out to see if they include one of your next destinations!

Have you been to New York City before? What is your favorite “Must See” place?

Kristin Wheeler (@MamaLuvsBooks)

Tuesday 17th of June 2014

Fabulous! Thanks for this post!!! We really want to visit NYC again soon, but we are always worried about the expense. This is great!


Tuesday 17th of June 2014

Everything on your list is on my bucket list of things to see when we do visit NY!

Angela S

Tuesday 17th of June 2014

I have only been to NYC by myself but have been talking about taking my teen nieces for a few days. I think we will get the passes for sure. Thanks for the great tips!

Mindy Grant

Tuesday 17th of June 2014

I visited NYC many years ago when I was in high school. Of the my favorite things that we did, was we went to a live taping of the Today Show. I got Katie Couric's autograph!

Mama to 5 BLessings

Tuesday 17th of June 2014

NYC is my favorite place, I have not been there in years, I cannot wait to take my kids. Thank you for this tips because as a family of 7 travel gets pricey!

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