Are you looking for cheap things to do in NYC? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
NYC is one of the best (but expensive) cities in the world, so it’s no wonder you’re looking for a guide on the cheap things to do in NYC! Every dollar counts!
There are so many amazing things to do in NYC, you definitely won’t be stuck for ideas! But prices can quickly add up, so it’s normal to want to search out the best cheap things to do in NYC.
I’ve spent many years in NYC collecting up my favorite cheap things to do in NYC, and you’ll find all my ideas and suggestions right here!
I always find, that fitting a few of the best cheap things to do in NYC into your itinerary helps you save a bit of money, and also save money for other things such as rooftop cocktails, dining out, and souvenirs!
Hopefully this huge list of cheap things to do in NYC will be useful and informative, and make your trip to NYC the trip of a lifetime!
Please note: The only cost we’re assuming you can invest in, is a Subway ticket – so you’re able to get around the city. The Subway is the cheapest way to get around (aside from walking), and it makes reaching a lot of these cheap things to do in NYC easier.
So, let’s get into it!
The best cheap things to do in NYC….
First off, let me tell you how this list of cheap things to do in NYC works.
I’ve divided this list of cheap things to do in NYC into different sections, with the activities gradually getting more expensive the further down you scroll.
But when I say ‘expensive’ I don’t mean budget-busting. Nothing on this list will cost you more than $25!
Let’s start with the FREE things to do in NYC!
OK, a good place to start with our list of cheap things to do in NYC, is with the things that are absolutely free. As in, these suggestions won’t cost you anything to enjoy! So you can rock up and enjoy them absolutely free!
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (free)
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in NYC, and it’s totally free. Take you camera (or iPhone) and get ready to snap lots of gorgeous photos of the endless views!
This is a classic pick for cheap things to do in NYC, and must-do when visiting NYC.
Walk around Times Square (free)
Walking around Times Square will cost absolutely nothing (yay!) and it’s such an immersive and iconic location.
If you’re visiting in the summertime, we recommend taking a seat on the red steps (in the heart of Times Sqaure) and people watching for a while!
Walk through Central Park (free)
Walking through Central park is a must-do when you visit NYC, and it’s a classic option for cheap things to do in NYC. We love Central Park (no matter the season), and it’s a perfect way to spend the whole day.
Visit Macy’s (free – unless you buy something you like!)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s visiting Macy’s. This gigantic department store in NYC is a wonderful location for window shopping and people watching!
You don’t need to buy anything to explore this huge store, and we really recommend visiting!
See the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry (free)
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the best cheap things to do in NYC, and it’s free! You might want to buy a coffee whilst on board, but ticket won’t cost anything as it’s a free mode of public transport!
You’ll get some great views from the boat too, and see Lady Liberty herself!
Visit DUMBO in Brooklyn and enjoy the skyline views (free)
Getting the Subway across to Brooklyn is a great option for free things to do in NYC. The best area to enjoy (if you don’t have much time) is the DUMBO area.
There are some incredible views from DUMBO over the whole of Manhattan, and it doesn’t cost a cent to enjoy them!
Visit Little Island (free)
Little Island is super cute public park on the west side of the city. It’s a man-made island build onto the river, and it has amazing views over Downtown and Midtown. It’s a great choice for free things to do in NYC.
Find your favorite Central Park bench
If you’re visiting Central Park, then you simply have to admire and search out all of the amazing Central park benches.
These benches are dedications to loved ones, love letters, proposals, you name it. There are so many beautiful ones, and so many stories told.
Explore Grand Central Terminal (free)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s exploring Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station. This station is a pretty incredible landmark in NYC, and it’s absolutely worth taking time to explore and admire this amazing building.
You can also click here to book a Grand Central Station tour, if you want to explore in more depth!
Walk the Highline (free)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s the Highline Park, an amazing public park stretching Midtown on some old (once abandoned) railroad tracks.
There are some amazing views to be found up here and some great artwork. And it’s free!
Sit in Bryant Park and people watch (free)
Next on our list of the best free things to do in NYC, it’s sitting in the gorgeous Sit in Bryant Park and people watching.
Bryant Park is such a gorgeous public park and it’s right in the heart of Midtown (only a short walk from Times Sqaure too). We really recommend visiting!
Visit the Rockefeller tree (free – but only if you’re there from Nov – Jan)
Our next suggestion for free things to do in NYC, is visiting the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
Of course, this one is very seasonal and will only be there from later November, to early January, but it’s well worth visiting if the timing is right!
Take a look in Soho’s many galleries (free)
Not many tourists realise that Soho is home to many free art galleries. The collections are obviously limited (as space is too!) but you can usually enter and enjoy the art for free.
It’s a really great option for cheap and free things to do in NYC.
Explore Greenwich Village (free)
Greenwich Village is an area of NYC that we think you’ll love, and it’s next on our list of free things to do in NYC! YOu’ll find lots of cute bakeries, independent stores (window shopping is btw!), and cute little cobbled streets too.
Check out the FRIENDS apartment building (free)
Next on our list of free things to do in NYC, it’s checking out the FRIENDS apartment building! This is located in Greenwich Village, and it’s completely free to just stroll by and take a look.
As regular watchers of the show, we loved visiting the apartment building and seeing it in person.
Walk around Hudson Yards (free)
Hudson Yards is a relatively new neighborhood, having been recently regenerated with The Vessel and a great shopping mall. It’s a lovely area to stroll around and we think you’ll enjoy it! It’s a great choice for free things to do in NYC.
Explore Little Italy (free)
Next up on our list of free things to do in NYC, it’s exploring Little Italy. This area of NYC feels very ‘old New York’ and is obviously a must-visit if you love Italian food.
There’s something so charming about Little Italy, but just beware – it does get very busy in peak season!
Read more about NYC food: Top 12 best places to eat in Little Italy, NYC
Walk around Williamsburg (free)
Next on our list of free and cheap things to do in NYC, it’s Williamsburg. Located across the rover, this is a quirky area of Brooklyn that oozes cool vibes and has loads of great stores and cafes to enjoy.
Visit the New York Public Library (free)
ANother awesome choice for cheap and free things to do in NYC, is visiting the New York Public Library! This place is an iconic spot in the city, so don’t miss it!
Enjoy the views at South Street Seaport (free)
Our next idea for cheap and free things to do in NYC, is visiting South Street Seaport and enjoying the amazing views from the outdoor decking.
It’s totally free to sit and enjoy their outdoor space, and the views of the Brooklyn Bridge are hard to rival!
The Museum of Modern Art (free)
This amazing museum displays modern art from around the world, and it’s such an amazing world-class gallery.
Whilst it’s not usually free, it does offer free admission during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, which take place every Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Alice in Wonderland Statue (free)
Next on our list of free and cheap things to do in NYC, it’s the Alice in Wonderland Statue, located inside Central Park. This gorgeous statue is rather iconic and a perfect photo opportunity too!
Get tickets to a TV show screening (free)
Next on our list of cheap and free things to do in NYC, it’s getting tickets to see a TV show screening in the city.
As you probably know, many of the country’s morning shows are filming in NYC, and you can sign up for free audience tickets easily online. Whilst they aren’t guaranteed, they are free if you get lucky!
Visit the Disney Store in Times Sqaure (free)
Next on our list of free and cheap things to do in NYC, it’s visiting the Disney Store in Times Square. This place is just so nostalgic and fun. Yes, it’s a bit of a tourist trap – but it’s also a lot of fun!
See the famous Wall Street Bull (free)
This famous bull sculpture has been featured in so many TV shows and movies we can’t count them! And it’s next on our list of free and cheap things to do in NYC!
Perfect for a fun selfie in you’re in the downtown area!
See the famous NYC brownstones (free)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s seeing the famous brownstones. If you head up to the Upper West Side neighborhood of NYC, you’ll be able to see some of the iconic and famous brownstone buildings of NYC.
These are such an important part of New York’s history, and they’re really something. This is a must for any architecture lovers!
Read more NYC recommendations: 18 best happy hours on the upper west side!
Walk across Bow Bridge (free)
Next on our list of free or cheap things to do in NYC, it’s walking across the iconic Bow bridge. This Bridge is a love story to itself, and it’s one of the most romantic places in the city. Totally free to visit, and we recommend heading there early to avoid the crowds!
Now, let’s move onto our list of cheap things to do in NYC for under $15!
Have a bagel for breakfast (approx $2 – $6)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s enjoying a New York City bagel! A bagel is the classic NYC food, and you simply HAVE to have one during your trip.
A simple cream cheese bagel won’t set you back much, usually around $2-$5, and you’ll find bagel places on almost every block in the city!
Visit the Donut Pub ($2.75 and up)
Our next idea for cheap things to do in NYC, is visiting the Donut Pub. This place is a bit of a local legend, and it’s a great place to stop by if you’re feeling a bit peckish one afternoon!
They’ve been open since 1964 – so they’ve certainly perfected their donut recipe! Their basic donut starts at $2.75, and goes up from there.
Ride the Subway ($2.75 and up)
Riding the subway is another classic pick for cheap things to do in NYC. You don’t necessarily need to have a ‘destination’ either.
Part of the fun is just experiencing this iconic mode of public transport, which you’ve probably seen in many TV shows and movies!
Try a slice of NYC pizza ($2 – $10)
Sampling a slice of classic NYC pizza is our next suggestion for cheap things to do in NYC. A slice of pizza in NYC will set you anything from $1, to $10 (it depends on the place).
If you’re going for a classic NYC slice, it should only be costing you around $2 – $10, so keep that in mind! Some places are on the higher end of that scale, like my favorite Prince Street Pizza, but it’s worth it!
Read more NYC food inspiration: What is the best pizza in NYC?
Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram ($2.75 each way)
This is such an underrated choice for cheap things to do in NYC. You can pay using your Metro card (the yellow card you use for the subway too).
It’s only a few dollars to get there and back, and it offers up some fantastic and unique views of the city.
Eat a cupcake from Magnolia bakery ($4 – $7)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s enjoying a cake from Magnolia Bakery! This bakery is a favorite in the city, and their cakes are SO GOOD.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is one of the best cheap things to do in NYC.
Read more NYC food recommendations: What is the best bakery in NYC?
The Guggenheim ($0 – $10)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s the amazing Guggenheim Museum. This incredible museum houses some wonderful modern and contemporary art and they also offer free admission on their ‘Pay What You Wish Saturdays’ from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. On these days you can donate whatever you wish for a ticket.
Go thrift shopping (free or $5)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s thrift shopping! Now, of course, you can look around NYC’s many thrift stores for free, but we wanted to give you a fun idea instead.
Set yourselves a $5 budget… and see who can find the most interesting find! You’ll be surprised what you discover!
Try a cookie from Chip City ($4 – $8)
This is one of our favorite cookies in NYC, so we knew we had to add it to our list of cheap things to do in NYC! Chip City Cookies are oozy, sweet and delicious, and the perfect afternoon treat.
Go shopping in Little Tokyo (free or $5)
Little Tokyo is a little neighborhood in the Lower East Side, and it’s great fun exploring the many restaurants and stores there.
In a similar ilk to the idea above, head there with $5 to spend, and see what you can find! You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Read more NYC food recommendations: 15 best Japanese restaurants in NYC
Eat authentic cannolis in Little Italy ($3-$7 each)
Next on our list of of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s finding and eating the most authentic cannolis in Little Italy. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is going to be perfect for you!
Cannolis aren’t overly expensive in Little Italy, usually priced between $3-$7 each.
Enjoy a macaron from Ladurée New York ($4 – $8)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s indulging in one of the world’s best macarons in Ladurée New York. This french cafe is simply beautiful, and their macarons taste amazing too!
Have a pint in an Irish pub ($7-$15)
Our next suggestion for cheap things to do in NYC, is drinking! More specifically… Enjoying a pint in an Irish pub.
Irish pubs are kind of a big deal here, and you’ll find an Irish pub in most neighborhoods. It’s a great choice for cheap things to do in NYC, and you’ll meet a few friendly faces too.
Try a chocolate from ‘Stick With Me’ ($4-$10)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s visiting the amazing chocolate shop ‘Stick With Me’. These amazing little chocolate are sent from heaven, and cost about $4 each.
This is just one of those little indulgences you can have for yourself, and it’s a real experience picking and speaking to the staff.
Harry Potter & The Fantastic Beasts Guided Tour ($10 per person)
The Harry Potter & The Fantastic Beasts Guided Tour of NYC is next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC.
This is a great option for cheap things to do in NYC, especially for Harry Potter lovers! Explore film locations and hear movie trivia on this fantastic tour.
You can book your tickets by clicking here!
Have lunch at Vanessa’s Dumplings (approx $5-$8 per portion)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s having a quick lunch at Vanessa’s Dumplings. This is a proper local favorite, and it’s so affordable and delicious.
There’s nowhere I’d rather eat dumplings than here!
Read more NYC food recommendations: 20 of the best cheap lunches in NYC
Explore the Tin Building at South Street Seaport ($0 – $10)
Our next suggestion for cheap things to do in NYC, is exploring the Tin Building in NYC. This great market hall is one of the most amazing food halls in the city and we love it.
It costs nothing to enter and look around, but we recommend treating yourself whilst you’re there to a sandwich, donut, or cupcake! Which will likely cost around $5-$10.
Visit ‘The Pickle Guys’ (depends how many pickles you buy!)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s visiting the amazing store… The Pickle Guys. This is one of my favorite shops in the whole of Manhattan, just for it’s pure quirkiness and weirdness.
What do they sell? Well, PICKLES! And lots of them. It’s not expensive, so to support local business, we recommend spending around $5!
Take a trip to Funny Face Bakery ($12 per cookie)
Our next suggestion for cheap things to do in NYC, is visiting Funny Face Bakery. This place is one of the city’s most unique bakeries, and we think you’ll love it.
Each of their amazing cookies are iced to perfection, usually depicting a meme, celebrity or character. The decorated cookies come in at about $12 each.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory ($5 – $10)
Visiting the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC. Wait for a sunny day, get yourself a scoop of ice-cream, and enjoy the amazing views over Brooklyn Bridge.
The cost depends on the flavor and scoops, but expect to pay between $5 and $10. Perfection!
Now let’s look at cheap things to do in NYC for under $25
Rent an electric bike ($15 and up)
Next up on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s renting an electric bike and taking yourself on a self-tour of the city.
We recommend taking your bike to Central Park because it’s one of the nicest areas to explore on two wheels! Click here for our recommended bike rental!
The Rubin Museum of Art ($20)
The Rubin Museum of Art is next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC. This is a great choice for culture lovers and art lovers (of course!).
Tickets cost about $20 for entry, and it’s well worth the cost s there are some beautiful pieces to admire here.
Click here to book your tickets in advance!
Rent a row boat in Central Park ($20 per hour)
Renting a row boat in Central Park is hands down one of the best cheap things to do in NYC for under $25.
Renting a boat for one hour coasts $20, which feels like a great deal for such a fun and unique experience!
Eat at Time Out Market in Brooklyn ($10-$25)
Next up on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s the Time Out Market in Brooklyn. We wanted to include this on our list because of their bad ass rooftop terrace (see the photo below!).
So buy yourself a drink or some food from one of the food stands inside, and enjoy those views!
Sip cocktails on a NYC rooftop bar (Approx $15 per cocktail)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s drinking at one of NYC’s many rooftop bars. To save even more money, you might want to find rooftop bars with great happy hours to take advantage of!).
Read more about dining in NYC: Top 20 outdoor rooftop bars in NYC
Brooklyn art tour ($20 per person)
Next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC, it’s a Brooklyn art tour, in the Bushwick neighborhood. This is such a lovely way to meet other travelers, and also see the creative and thriving Brooklyn art scene too!
You can book tickets by clicking here!
Visit Katz Deli ($25)
Katz Deli is next on our list of cheap things to do in NYC. This is one for the foodies, of course! This is one of the oldest diners in NYC, and they’re so well known in the city!
Now here’s the tip… Whilst their famous reuben and brisket sandwiches will come in higher than $25, you can get a hotdog, a lox bagel and fries for under $25! So you get the Katz experience for much less cost.
Read more NYC food recommendations: 50 amazing places to grab breakfast in NYC
Take a cab ride ($10-$25)
Look, we know this one might seem obvious, but if you want something cute, fun and under $25 – take a ride in a yellow NYC taxi cab!
The best bit is, you can pretty much determine how much this costs you (just keep an eye on the metre).
If we choose, we recommend getting a cab through Times Square and down past the Empire State (pretty cool to zoom past all the crowds and giant screens).
Grab lunch at Luke’s Lobster Brooklyn Bridge Park ($17 and up)
If you want a cheap lunch with a view, then you can’t find better than Luke’s Lobster in Brooklyn Bridge Park! I mean, just look at those bridge views! Wow!
Their lobster, shrimp, and crab rolls are all sustainably sourced, and served in a split-top New England-style bun. Delicious!
Try the honey-fried chicken french toast at Maison Pickle ($23)
If you want to try something truly mind-blowing, then we can’t recommend the honey-fried chicken french toast at Maison Pickle.
The portion is huge, so it’s enough to feed 2 people (if you were wondering). And it’s my favorite dish in the entire city.
Buy a piece of art in Central Park ($10-$25)
There are lots of artists selling their work in Central Park, and whilst it may seem little touristy, we actually kind of like the idea of browsing through the different works and picking a perfect souvenir to take home!
I hope this list of cheap things to do in NYC has given you loads of fun ideas to try!
Many people ask, is NYC an expensive city to visit? We thought we’d try an answer that question below…
Is NYC expensive to visit?
Yes and no. Hotels will likely be your biggest expenditure during your trip to NYC, as hotels in NYC tend to be much pricier than other cities.
However, I’ve always found that NYC is pretty reasonable for food.
Of course, you can find super expensive restaurants and chain franchises in the touristy parts of town, but the great thing about NYC, is that it offer so much more than that. So it’s easy to find balance, and your options aren’t limited.
Is NYC expensive to eat out?
If you stick to touristy areas, then yes, eating out will. be expensive in NYC.
However, if you venture a little further out, you’ll find some fantastic affordable dining options.
For example, Vanessa’s dumplings in the Lower East Side (included on our list above) do some of the best dumplings I’ve ever tasted for less than $8 a portion. That’s a bargain!
I also love getting Pho (usually less than $15 for a huge bowl), or grabbing a bagel for breakfast (always less than $5). There are plenty of affordable food options in the city, you just need to look!
You’ll also find plenty of food courts and food markets in NYC too, where prices will be a little cheaper than restaurants.
And of course, there is fast food here – which ensures you can always get something cheap and easy for less than $10.
How much does an average meal cost in NYC?
Unfortuantely, because dining prices vary so greatly in NYC, an average number wouldn’t really mean anything.
What is worth knowing instead, is the tax and tip you’ll need to pay on every meal. So always keep this in mind when ordering food at restaurants.
If budget is a big thing for you, look outside of the tourist hotspots – because the average prices will drop hugely once you’re out of those tourist neighborhoods (like Times Square). Sometimes you only need to walk a few blocks in the opposite direction, and prices will drop by 30-50%.
Remember you can also buy food from grocery stores too, to save money!
Read more about NYC shopping: Top 14 grocery stores in NYC