New York City is one of the most fascinating places in the world – spend a year exploring and there would still be things left to discover. If you’re planning to visit, here are five things you can do for (relatively) cheap: 1.Visit a Museum:The city is packed with gorgeous museums and they’re all worth [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

New York, New York!

Join Smriti Daniel on an exciting discovery of some of the city’s less expensive attractions

New York City is one of the most fascinating places in the world – spend a year exploring and there would still be things left to discover. If you’re planning to visit, here are five things you can do for (relatively) cheap:

1.Visit a Museum:The city is packed with gorgeous museums and they’re all worth a visit. Not just the usual suspects like The Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History and the Ellis Island Museum, but also The Tenement Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. Of course, they’re expensive – $20 – $25 a pop.

The city that never sleeps

The trick with most museums is knowing that the admission fee is a suggested donation – if you can’t afford it, you can pay less. Each museum will also have a day when they’re feeling inclined to throw open their doors to you – for instance, if you visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on a Friday between 4 p.m.-8 p.m., you get free admission and can even see the special exhibits. You can also keep an eye out for ‘free days’, the Natural History Museum for instance has one coming up on July 14 and another on October 13 in 2014.

One of my favourite pairings may be the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters. The fee here includes admission to the Main Building and same-week admission to The Cloisters museum and gardens. Though it is in one of the outer boroughs, and so a bit of a trek, the latter is well worth a visit. The Cloisters is actually five different buildings from three different places in Europe dismantled and brought here stone, by stone and set among the beautiful gardens at Fort Tryon Park. (The walk up also offers a long, panoramic view of the Hudson River and the Brooklyn Bridge. Geology buffs will want to keep an eye out for the igneous intrusions and glacial striations from the last Ice Age still visible on the grounds.)

The building houses an exquisite collection of enormous unicorn tapestries as well as a collection of reliquaries – simultaneously macabre and sacred, these are among the most beautiful objects to come out of the Middle Ages. The object – say a hand or a foot – mimic the shape of their contents, usually the bones of a saint or holy person. Clergy would use the reliquaries to bless people or heal the sick. Highlights tours, covered by your admission ticket, begin at 3 p.m. every day.

Central Park

2. Take a free foot tour: A 4.9 rating on Trip Advisor is all the encouragement you should need to try these tours. Free Foot Tours ( operates on a very simple premise – they provide licensed, local, freelance tour guides to lead tours with no upfront costs or booking fees. At the end of the tour, you pay what you thought it was worth. Though some tours are more successful than others, tour guides work hard to make the experience fun. Each tour lasts between 2 – 3 hours and covers some of the city’s most famous neighbourhoods – Brooklyn, Greenwich, Harlem and Soho are all wonderful to walk around, while the Manhattan by Night tour takes you past some of the city’s most famous landmarks after dark. For foodies, the food tours are a must. Hopping from one iconic little


eatery to the next, you’ll spend $10 or less, but experience some of NYC’s best meals. Guides are generous with their advice and will tell you what to do and where to go next, if you care to ask.

3. Catch a Broadway Show: Cheap is relative in this case. Depending on how popular a show is, ticket prices can vary dramatically. One of the city’s hottest new shows is ‘The Book of Mormon’ – an irreverent song and dance extravaganza involving clueless young Mormon missionaries in Africa – is also one of the hardest to get affordable tickets for. People book months in advance and still pay between $159 – $477. Other shows, like Chicago, which are still incredible but have been around for longer are easier to get into.
If you’re on a budget, knowing the system really helps. There are a few places to try your luck – a dedicated booth underneath those famed steps at Times Square sells discounted tickets just before the show. For some shows though, you need to go directly to the theatre. ‘General rush’ tickets go up for sale in the morning and can sell for as little $30 – $40. Other shows (like ‘Kinky Boots,’‘Wicked’ and ‘The Book

The Coisters

of Mormon’) don’t offer General Rush at all. With them you need to go 2 ½ hours before the show (3 ½ if you’re serious) and queue up to buy the 20 or so standing room tickets that go every day. There’s nothing wrong with the view and if you’re willing to forgo a seat for the duration of the show, you need only shell out $30. There’s also the lottery option – put your name in a hat and try your luck!

4. Eat Well: Eat well and eat often in New York. There’s a dazzling variety, from Greek to Korean and everything in between but unfortunately they’re not always kind to your wallet. If you’re willing to go looking though, you won’t be disappointed. New York is famous for its thin crust pizza. Something in the water – drawn from pristine upstate reservoirs –makes the dough special.Large $1 pizza slices, thick with cheese, crisp and greasy by turns will see you through your lunchtime (2 Bros Pizza is a favourite).

If you’re willing to wander into Chinatown, you’ll find the appropriately named ‘Fried Dumpling’ selling 5 beautifully plump pork dumplings for $1. In fact Chinatown, is a place to linger. Go toXi’an Famous Foods for spicy schezuan style lamb noodles (approx. $7.50) – all soupy deliciousness, the meat is tender and falls apart in your mouth, even as the dish delivers on some of the heat you’ve been craving.

Just next door is the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory which serves up irresistibly creamy scoops in surprising flavours including ginger, black sesame, almond cookie and egg tart. Speaking of which, the Lung Moon Bakery offers up some of the most beautiful egg tarts you’ll ever have the privilege to eat – catch a batch still hot from the oven, with the flaky golden pastry encasing perfectly yellow custard and you’re in 80 cent heaven.

5. Visit a park: Take a book and a snack with you when you go park hopping. Central Park deserves all the attention it gets and is great fun to explore on a bike. (You can rent one for $15 but check online first because discounts can halve the amount.) The landscaped gardens are filled with flowering trees and on a sunny day the park is usually crowded with people. If you’re looking for a quiet space, the conservatory garden is the place to go. Prospect Park is also worth a visit and so is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

The latter sprawls over 52-acres and houses the Steinhardt Conservatory in which you’ll find plants from three different temperate zones. There are gardens dedicated to growing fragrant things and others that pay homage to plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. For a complete contrast, visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park. A nearly 85-acre expanse, the park offers an incredible view of the skyline and houses such attractions such as Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round.

Fort Greene Park, often hailed as both Brooklyn’s first park and its loveliest, is full of life and activity and ideal for people watching. It’s a lovely spot to sit down with some soapy water and blow bubbles on a sunny afternoon. Last, but not least, is the High Line. Opened only in 2009, the park utilizes elevated infrastructure built in the 1930s. The gardens and sculptures are lovely, but so are the recliners, allowing you to lay back and enjoy a wonderful view of the Hudson River.

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