6 Budget-Smart Tips to Get the Best of New York City

How would it be to visit New York City without seeing a Broadway show? The view from the Empire State Building? An Opera or Ballet? Would you still go? Would it be worth it?

New York conjures up images of high fashion, live entertainment, famous landmarks and incredible museums. But what about the ‘other’ New York, the one more than eight million people call home?

Thanks to a very generous friend who opened her door to me (fortunately she loved my cooking), my recent visit to New York grew from three weeks to six. Strolling in Central Park shortly before my departure, I was stopped by a French couple waving and pointing in vain, as they tried to make sense of their map.

“Excusez-moi madame, 5th Avenue? Le Guggenheim? You know?”

“Yes, I know,” I smiled, happy to have been considered a local. “Come with me, I’ll show you the way.”

After calling this place ‘home’ for a while, I came up with 6 Tips for getting the most out of your time, and the least from your pocket, while visiting New York City.

1. Walk Everywhere

NYC is a walker’s mecca with parks lining Manhattan’s perimeter: Riverside Park (Upper West Side), Carl Schurz Park (Upper East Side), Battery Park (Lower Manhattan), and the big one, Central Park (see #2)

The Highline is a true gem. ‘An historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side’,
completed in 2011.


Little Italy and Greenwich Village are well worth a visit. A stroll over Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn Heights affords wonderful views of Lower Manhattan.


Take in a neighbourhood walk to see apartment pooches being walked en masse, toddlers with nannies, and street vendors selling fruit and veg for a song.  Walking, you overhear countless languages, and on Sunday afternoons, cheers emanating from bars broadcasting the NFL game.


2. Explore Central Park

Central Park stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street in the heart of Manhattan. With 58 miles of trails it keeps its many runners, walkers, and tourists happily occupied. This vast space of playgrounds, picnic sites, outdoor theatres, fields, baseball diamonds, lakes, a reservoir, a carousel, a castle, and a skating rink, has to be the best park a city could offer its people.

Spend time wandering in Central Park and you’ll be constantly amazed by the variety of entertainment; musicians playing everything
from sax to harp, dancers performing ballet to hip-hop, wedding couples being photographed. There’s even a giant bubble blower and a guy telling jokes for a $1. You start to get an idea of its obvious appeal.

3. Take Advantage of Special Offers

Unless money is no object, do some homework before arriving in New York about where to find deals and offers. Broadway theatres offer stand-by tickets at http://www.tdf.org Here are a couple of others:

* Save yourself the $25 admission to MoMa by visiting on Fridays between 4-8 pm for FREE.

* The Metropolitan Opera House offers $20 tickets ($25 at weekends) two hours prior to show time. (Depending on the opera, regular priced Orchestra tickets run at $150 and up.)

4. Discover Movie Locations

New York may have been featured in more films than any other city in the world! Wandering around you suddenly find yourself in movie locations. It’s kind of fun! Central Park probably tops the list (think Kramer vs Kramer, Marathon Man, The Out-Of-Towners). Scenes from You’ve Got Mail were filmed on the Upper West Side; Sex in the City, on the steps of the New York City Library; Serendipity, at the Rockefeller Centre; Moonstruck, at Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts. The famous deli, Zabars, at Broadway & 80th is mentioned in numerous TV shows (Will and Grace, The Daily Show, 30 Rock). The list goes on.

Grab a bowl of homemade soup and check out the pictures
of Jerry and friends lining the walls at Tom’s Restaurant at 2880 Broadway, the diner in Seinfeld.

5. Window Shop

This is New York City, not the place for a bargain, unless you head over to Chinatown. But it costs nothing to browse, or try on designer wear in Bloomingdales (59th & Lexington) or for the brazen, in one of the many Madison Avenue boutiques. It only costs money when you BUY.* 

SoHo’s high-end designer stores are housed along lovely narrow cobbled lanes, and the Meatpacking District enjoys a wonderful outdoor market, a beer garden and is home to designer stores the likes of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

* It’s worth making an exception if you’re looking for shoes. Harry’s Shoes at Broadway & 83rd carries footwear from around the world. The selection is huge, the price range too.

6. Be Entertained off Broadway

New York City is blessed with a constant stream of speakers and presentations. Here are some great options:

  • 92nd Street Y (www.92y.org) for poetry readings and author visits. We lucked out with a night of Mary Oliver. Nick Hornby was scheduled to read a couple of nights later.


If you’re considering a trip to NYC in the near or distant future, I hope you find these tips useful. They certainly allowed me to see the best of this wonderful city…with money left for a plane ticket home.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the Comments for all to see.





Oh, Sandy

We all have memories of life-changing moments in history. Remember when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon? When the planes hit the Twin Towers? In December, 1980 a bunch of us came to New York City. It was two days after the shooting death of John Lennon. I remember it well. Now, after Sandy’s onslaught, I’m reminded not only of how well this city handles adversity, but how we confront the many surprises in life.

Here’s how I saw it from the 11th floor:

Saturday, October 27

New York awaits her arrival. They’ve seen her coming for the past week. New Yorkers ask me, “You ready for the storm?”

Sunday, October 28

2pm:  I head out for water, wine and food for dinner. The neighborhood deli is cleared out. I nab the last piece of beef for a stew I hope will feed us for a few days. The line-up winds around the store. A 15-minute wait. Hardware stores run out of flashlights, home stores of candles. The watchful eyes of meteorologists ply the weathermen with warnings, calling all those in Sandy’s projected path to prepare for the worst. Street merchants pack up, sell their fruit and veg for a song.

5pm:  We remove most things from the deck, and leave the rest to ride it out. 80 mph hour winds are predicted at ground level, 100 mph up here. What does that sound like, I wonder?

7pm: The New York transit system closes down, as do schools and the NYSE; the first time since 9-11. Stay home, stay safe, urges Mayor Bloomberg.



8pm: Skies are ominously quiet, the air deceivingly warm and still. Hard to believe there’s a hurricane a’comin’. My tummy knots up.

Monday, October 29

3am: Glass breaks, sirens scream, sheet metal goes flying somewhere too close. I consider moving my bed away from the window.

10am:  A mother screams at her child to come inside. Streets still full of people gathering supplies, just in case.

3pm: The storm is expected to reach land in a few hours. 9pm they say. Items on the building’s roof deck have been secured. The wind intensifies in furious bursts. It’s a wind I’ve never known, or felt before.

6pm: She’s coming closer. I hear her. I feel her. Another crash of metal below. I move my bed into the hall, well away from windows and possible flying objects. The Live news stream reveals the devastation. Sirens and more sirens. The wind makes conversation difficult. Over and over we stop and listen. We drink wine and wait for the stew to cook. Strangely, we still have power and we sleep.

Tuesday, October 30

The rain subsides and we head out for a walk. Downed trees block roads, tree limbs hang precariously over sidewalks, dislocated traffic signs out of commission. Yellow tape is everywhere warning ‘Stay Out’, but this is New York and nobody listens. A man shouts at his kid for shouting. I wished he hadn’t.

This is the Upper East Side and damage is minimal. Lower Manhattan has taken a beating. They have no power; the tunnels and subways are flooded. So too is the World Trade Centre construction site. The NYSE is closed for a second day. NYU is closed. Schools are closed. The subway is closed. The few stores open for business enjoy long line–ups and plenty of chatter. ‘Hunter’ wellies are everywhere (all the fashion in New York).



Wednesday, October 31

The Halloween costume parade in Greenwich Village is called off for the first time in its 39-year history. Trick-or-treating has been cancelled south of 39th Street. No candy this year kids.


So many here have lost so much. As Sandy’s full impact becomes clear over the hours, days and weeks ahead, today’s words from Seth Godin remind us this is the only time we have:

In the face of billions of dollars of destruction, of the loss of life, of families disrupted, it’s easy to wonder what we were so hung up on just a few days ago. There’s never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we’ve got the chance… Maybe even today.

How about you?

What are you putting off until the time is right?