Exploring New York City Like a Local
Eclectic, eccentric, and oh so enchanting, it only takes one bite of the Big Apple to leave you wanting more. More of the contagious and upbeat energy. More of the breathtaking skyline. More of the world-famous, thin-sliced pizza. More of the . . . well, you get the idea.
It goes without saying, New York City is an incredibly magical place to visit. However, if you’re not careful, a trip to this buzzing city can add up quickly, leaving you with an empty wallet and one-too-many “I Love New York” trinkets.
As someone who once called this place home, I can certainly attest to how expensive this city can be. But I can also vouch for how great of an area this pocket of the north is for any budget. Over the course of several years, I scoured the city to find the best things to see, explore, and discover, all on an ultracheap budget. And trust me, the options are endless!
So if you’re heading to this concrete jungle anytime soon, be sure to check out these 30 unique, budget-friendly things to do. Not only will this guide save your bank account from depletion, but it also will provide you with a taste of living like a local — hence why you won’t find Times Square on the list. Get ready for an unforgettable New York adventure!
1. Enjoy a classic film on the lawn of Bryant Park
There are lots of free outdoor movie screenings that take place in the city each Summer. However, one of the most beloved locations is Bryant Park.So grab a blanket and stretch out on the spacious green lawn with some good food and great friends to enjoy a classic film under the city skyline. The lawn opens at 5 p.m., and the screening starts at sunset.
2. Take an early morning stroll along the Brooklyn Bridge
Can you imagine anything more peaceful than taking a leisurely stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge? With the city still sound asleep and the sun just beginning to rise above the soaring skyline, this iconic walk will be sure to kick-start positive vibes for the new day ahead.
3. Join the fun in Brooklyn Bridge Park
With spectacular skyline views and a plethora of outdoor activities — the majority of them being free! — the waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” is becoming quite a hot spot for both travelers and locals.
And with Brooklyn Bridge Park located in the heart of this area, there is just so much to do, see, and explore. From biking and boating to a pop-up pool and even an iconic carousel, discover all that this 85-acre stretch along the East River has to offer by joining in on the fun.
4. Search for hidden treasures throughout the Brooklyn Flea
If you’re a lover of old, retro, and vintage, then the Brooklyn Flea will be your own sliver of paradise. This is the city’s largest flea market and is home to hundreds of top, unique vendors and local artisans selling everything from crafts and furniture to clothing and collectibles.
And with the Flea open year-round every Saturday and Sunday, you’ll have plenty of time to cross things off your wish list.
5. Give in to your carb crush with New York City bagels
There is no doubt New York City has the best bagels. Think: round, hand-shaped, kettle-broiled, and just enough chewiness on the inside. So when you’re in the city, it would be a shame not to chow down on at least one or two, don’t you think? That’s at least what I tell myself to avoid any layer of guilt.
6. Become inspired at ABC Carpet & Home
If you’re looking to tap into a portal of creativity and uncover design inspiration, look no further. ABC Carpet & Home is the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter.
Persian rugs, modern furniture, and plush bedding are just a few of the many unique finds you’ll discover in this multistory flagship store located in Midtown of Manhattan.
7. Discover the overflowing magic of Union Square
Anchored by its central plaza, Union Square is one of New York City’s most enchanting public spaces. From skilled chess players to street performers — and even fortune tellers — so much magic takes place in this pocket of the city. All you need is an open mind to discover it!
8. Treat your sweet tooth to HUGE homemade doughnuts
Rolled, stamped, fried, and then dunked into delicious glazes, there is a reason Dough doughnuts rise above the rest. And with exciting flavors such as toasted coconut, mocha-almond crunch, and hibiscus, there is no denying the artists behind these doughnut masterpieces have quite the fun in the kitchen.
9. Play your day away at Chelsea Piers
Chelsea Piers is one of Manhattan’s most popular destinations to play, and with over 25 different sports, there are entertainment options for everyone! So whether you’re looking to golf, kayak, bowl, or even take a trapeze class, you can do it all here on these series of piers spread out along the Hudson River.
10. Walk above the city streets on the elevated High Line
What used to be an old rail line, the High Line has since been converted into a popular 1.45-mile-long linear park 30 feet above street level. Located on the west side of the city, this unique park offers plenty of places for people to sit, relax, and enjoy awe-inspiring views of the skyline.