PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

New York City

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  • World leader in food, fashion, and culture trends
  • The most extensive and efficient subway system in the U.S.
  • Five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, & Staten Island
  • If the New York metro area was a state, it’d be the 4th most populous

Metro Population: 20.2 million (#1 in the U.S.)

When To Visit: April-October

Climate: Very seasonal – with a hot summer, cold snowy winter, and cool spring and fall

The Big Apple is a huge and incredibly diverse city, with countless neighborhoods to explore, food to try, and fun to be had. Virtually everything is accessible via subway, making it a cheap and easy city to explore. Be sure to get out of Manhattan and explore one or two of the outer boroughs, which are far less touristy and each have something different to offer.

Photo: Main Street Park, Brooklyn

Where To Go in New York

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Manhattan from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Lower Manhattan

Considered New York’s Downtown, Lower Manhattan hosts Wall Street and many of the city’s most famous landmarks.

  • Staten Island Ferry: Looking for a great view of the Statue of Liberty? This free 24/7 commuter ferry to New York’s least visited borough takes you right by the statue. Once at Staten Island, soak in the views on the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade or simply hop right back on a free return ferry. Free. Whitehall Terminal, 4 Whitehall Street. (212) NEW-YORK
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The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
  • Battery Park: This stunning park on the lower tip of Manhattan has incredible views of the city and the water. Free.
  • National Museum of the American Indian: This large free museum has rotating exhibits showcasing the cultures of Native tribes and peoples across the nation. Free. 1 Bowling Green. (212) 514-3700
  • 9/11 Memorial: Honor the victims and heroes of the horrific 9/11 tragedy at this incredible memorial located at Ground Zero. Fountains mark the locations of the former Twin Towers and a museum offers context and powerful stories. Free (donation suggested). 180 Greenwich Street. (212) 312-8800
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9/11 Memorial
  • Downtown Boathouse: FREE KAYAKING right in New York City! Volunteers dedicated to public access to the Hudson River organize this program open weekends and holidays October-May as well as some weeknights during summer. Free. Pier 26, 353 West Street. 
  • North Cove Yacht Harbor: Located next to quiet Pumphouse Park, this popular hangout spot for locals is excellent for people watching and offers a tranquil escape from the bustle of the big city. Free.
  • Irish Hunger Memorial: This distinctive elevated memorial was built in the style of the Irish countryside to represent the connection between hunger and lack of land. Free. Vesey Street and North End Avenue. (212) 267-9700
  • Chinatown: New York’s Chinatown has great eats, bustling parks, and tons of affordable souvenir shops. Free.
  • Washington Square Park: This large and popular park is located next to the NYU campus and features a large arched monument that is reminscient of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Free.
  • Greenwich Village: One of the city’s gay hubs, this small, beautiful area has gorgeous homes and a plethora of gay and straight bars. Free.
  • East Village: Probably the most popular hangout area for New Yorkers, the East Village has some of New York’s most disctinctive eats and nightlife. Free.

Midtown

The largest central business district in the world, Midtown has tons of skyscrapers, including icons like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

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Grand Central Terminal
  • Times Square: It’s touristy AF and littered with chain restaurants, but if you haven’t been, you can’t leave New York without seeing this iconic site of the New Year’s ball drop and some of the brightest and trendiest billboards in the country. Free.
  • The High Line: This long pedestrian park built atop a former rail line offers incredible views of the city’s skyscrapers and contains beautiful botany. It is the inspiration for similar parks that are popping up around the world. Free.
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The High Line
  • Grand Central Terminal: If you’ve ever said, “It’s like Grand Central Station here,” you were referring to this hub of New York City transport. Take a walk through this huge train station to see its beautiful interior architecture. Free.
  • Hell’s Kitchen: A trendy hangout area for locals, Hell’s Kitchen has some of the city’s most innovative food and unique bars. Free.
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral: One of the hugest churches in the country, this neo-Gothic building is a living and breathing Catholic church, but is open to the public most of the time. Free.

Upper West Side & Upper East Side

The names of these upscale neighborhoods refer to their positions on each side of Central Park. They have a much more residential and neighborhood feel than the lower portions of the city, but still have plenty of beauty to see and eats to consume.

  • Central Park: This gigantic park has 58 miles of walking paths. Its position as a large open green space affords it some of the best views of the city. Don’t miss the Bethesda Terrace, Belvedere Castle, and Kennedy Reservoir. Free.
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Central Park

Harlem

The site of the incredible 1930s Harlem Renaissance Movement of black artistic expression remains a monumental cultural center for the country’s black community as well as its growing Latino(a) population.

  • Hispanic Society of America: A small but gorgeously adorned museum with striking interior architecture and gorgeous historic Latin American art. Free.
  • Riverside Park: This four-mile long park has a beautful walking path along the Hudson River and great views of New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge. Free.

Brooklyn

The city’s most populous borough, Brooklyn is known as being a safe haven for hipsters, but it also has a huge Latino(a) and Caribbean American population and countless neighborhoods with unique character.

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Brownstones in Fort Greene, Brooklyn
  • Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan Bridge: These iconic bridges run parallel across the East River and can both be walked or biked either to or from Manhattan, providing sweeping panoramic views. The Brooklyn Bridge is more architecturally striking, but the Manhattan Bridge allows you great views of its sister bridge and has far less foot traffic. Free.
  • Prospect Park: Brooklyn’s version of Central Park hosts popular grassy lawns, a lake, and forested trails that serve as a tranquil escape from the city. Free.
  • Grand Army Plaza: Just north of Prospect Park, this large circular intersection will make you feel like you’re in Europe with its huge monuments and architecturally stunning buildings like the Brooklyn Public Library and the Brooklyn Museum. Free.
  • Greenwood Cemetery: You won’t find this huge cemetery on any tourist sites, but it is a National Historic Landmark and features fascinating old-school tombstones and lots of green space in a both pretty and creepy setting. Free.
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Greenwood Cemetery
  • Governors Island: This quiet island in the New York Harbor open to the public May-September is a wonderful place to take a walk and hosts frequent festivals. The $2 round trip ferry can be accessed in both Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Free.

Queens

New York’s largest borough in area, Queens ranges from very urban to very suburban and is one of the least visited areas by tourists, allowing you the chance to experience New York as locals do.

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Astoria, Queens
  • Flushing: This large neighborhood’s downtown area has some of the most authentic and amazing Asian cuisine in the country. Free.
  • Unisphere: This iconic large globe structure in Flushing Meadows Park was built for the 1964 World’s Fair to showcase the event’s theme of “Peace Through Understanding.” Free.
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Unisphere
  • Socrates Sculpture Park: This park built on the site of a former landfill features rotating exhibits of sculptures and is located in Queens’ popular Astoria neighborhood, with some of the borough’s most interesting eats and shops. Free.
  • Far Rockaway: A remarkable subway ride over water and marshland takes you to this quiet beach town that is technically part of New York City, but feels light years away. A long boardwalk allows you to enjoy ocean views and beaches. Free.

 

New York Cheap Eats

New York City restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Manhattan

Superiority Burger: This tiny White Castle-inspired burger spot is 100% vegetarian and 100% delicious. There’s limited seating inside, but plenty of stoops to hang out on outside. 430 East 9th Street, East Village. (212) 256-1192

Xi’an Famous Foods: Spicy noodle dishes are the main draw at this authentic and extremely tasty fast casual eatery that celebrates cuisine from the Xi’an region of China. Locations throughout the city. 24 West 45th Street, Midtown.

Good Enough To Eat: An excellent brunch spot with a stylish, homey environment known for their creative twists on pancakes and tofu scrambles. 520 Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side. (212) 496-0163

Milon: Adorned with hundreds of Christmas lights, this colorful Bengali Indian eatery has all of your favorite dishes and many more specialties, including a weekly special. 93 1st Avenue, East Village. (212) 228-4896

Halal Guys: There’s usually a line down the block for this Middle Eastern food cart which specializes in large portions of flavorful chicken or gyro over rice. West 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, Midtown. (347) 527-1505

Percy’s Pizza: 99 cent slices of pizza are one of the premier benefits of New York life and this spot conveniently located just above the West 4th Street subway station does it well. Stick to cheese to stay under a dollar and add red peppers and oregano for flavor. 190 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village. (212) 388-1355

Brooklyn

Golden Fried Dumpling: This hole-in-the-wall spot has a nice variety of fried and steamed dumplings and other authentic Chinese eats at wonderfully low prices – $2 for 5 dumplings! 192 Duffield Street, Downtown Brooklyn. (718) 522-2836

Black Iris: A casual Mediterranean restaurant that is BYOB and has delicious salads, pitas, and plates at very reasonable prices. 228 Dekalb Avenue, Clinton Hill. (718) 852-9800

Exquisite Delight: Brooklyn has a huge Caribbean American population and some of the best Caribbean food in the country – this low-key neighborhood spot has some of the best jerk chicken you can find anywhere and a hearty veggie plate. 2847 Church Avenue, Flatbush. (718) 693-4643

New York Nightlife

New York City bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city  B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time  C) Beautiful decor or view

169 Bar: This funky and colorful bar has been around for over 100 years and plays excellent soul, jazz, and disco tunes. Don’t miss their iconic leopard print pool table. 169 East Broadway, Chinatown. (646) 833-7199

Decibel: Dedicated to the Japanese liquor sake, this underground bar has great Japanese small bites as well. 240 East 9th Street, East Village. (212) 979-2733

The Stonewall Inn: This lively two-level bar is the country’s first LGBT National Historic Monument as it was the site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots which spurred the expansion of the gay rights movement. It’s worth a visit for both the history and the fun vibe. 53 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village. (212) 488-2705

Fat Cat: If you love playing games, you’ll have a great time at this bar that has everything from table tennis to Scrabble. Try one of their soju mixed drinks. 75 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village. (212) 675-6056

Apotheke: If you can find this hidden speakeasy, you’ll enjoy its classic pharmacy style setting, 100% organic drink adornments, and fancy cocktails. 9 Doyers Street #1, Chinatown. (212) 406-0400

Verlaine: The amazing 5-10pm happy hour with $6 lychee martinis is the main draw to this swanky, beautifully adorned lounge. 110 Rivington Street, East Village. (212) 614-2494

Nowhere Bar: This friendly neighborhood gay bar has a subterranean feel, pool tables, and cheap drinks. 322 East 14th Street, East Village. (212) 477-4744

Bedlam: A beautifully adorned gay-friendly old-school bar with a small dancefloor, great acoustics, and excellent signature cocktails. 40 Avenue C, East Village. (212) 228-1049

Father Knows Best: Far removed from any tourist guides, this low-key neighborhood bar has incredible cuisine, like a spicy cauliflower sandwich. 611A Wilson Avenue, Brooklyn Bushwich. (718) 975-6840

Club Langston: This gay club with a large dancefloor is popular among Brooklyn’s Caribbean American queer community and has jams ranging from hip hop to calypso that you probably wouldn’t hear at your average gay bar. 1073 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Crown Heights. (718) 622-5183

Nearby Side Trips from New York City

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The U.S. Capitol in Washington DC

Boston: Founded way back in 1630, Boston is teeming with historic landmarks and has some of the most distinctive cuisine (and people) in the country. The drive from New York is three and half hours. Read more.

Washington DC: The nation’s capital 3.5 hours south has countless epic tourist attractions, as well as a variety of hip neighborhoods to traverse. Read more.

Philadelphia: The nation’s 5th largest city is only an hour and half south of New York and has a wonderful mix of historical landmarks, trendy areas, and of course – amazing cheesesteaks.

Jersey Shore: Popularized by the reality show of the same name, New Jersey’s coastline is centered around the town of Seaside Heights, only 1.5 hours south of New York City. You’ll find serene beaches and boardwalks, amusement parks, and food ranging from organic to indulgent.

Fire Island: A historical hotspot for gay culture an hour east of the city, Fire Island is a shocking mix of tranquil beaches and wild partying. The settlements of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove are the main hubs of activity.

 

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