First let’s talk airfare to New York. There are three airports in close proximity to the city: JFK, Newark and Laguardia. Being flexible about which airport you fly into will give you a better chance at a decent fare. Typically your cheapest option will be midweek and red eye flights. (We flew the red eye when we last went. When the plane landed, I honestly wanted to die, but after a quick two hour siesta, I was good to go all day!) It is always cheaper to buy your tickets in advance if possible.The easiest mode of transportation from the airport to the city is a cab (from JFK to Manhattan is $60) but you can get to the city using public transportation. You take a little airport shuttle train over to the subway stations and into the city from there. It only cost us like $15 for both of us to get from the airport to the city this way. Yes, it takes longer, but that’s one more nice dinner we gained from our sacrifices (oh how I love the NYC food scene).
Once in the city, you will want to put some money on a metro card to use the subways. Start with a smaller number, you can always add more money if you need to, but if you put too much on you just waste it when you leave. New York is a walking city, so walk as much as you can! I love seeing the city views from my own two feet, and whenever it is possible and convenient, we walk. Save your metro card for long distances and never waste a fare on something that’s within walking distance. Another fabulous perk of walking is that you feel less guilty about the next amazing meal you indulge in, haha.
Of course you want to go to a show. I love Broadway. I am giddy like a school girl every time I get to go to a show, without fail. Musicals are my favorite. I love the voices, the dancing, the stories… ah-mazing! Good news for you, I am going to tell you how to see shows on broadway without breaking the bank. In recent years Broadway has done a lot to make tickets more affordable for students and others who can’t spend upwards of $100 on a ticket.
A few of these options are rush, standing room only, and lottery tickets. For rush or standing room only tickets you typically have to be at the box office when it opens and wait in line. Standing room only are usually only available if the performance is sold out (so you have a better chance at SRO with really popular shows).
Lottery tickets are my absolute favorite way to get into Broadway shows. How it typically works is you show up a couple hours (each show will have a different time) before the show opens, and put your name in a drawing for super cheap tickets. A half hour later, they draw out tickets and if your name is drawn you can pick to buy 1 or 2 tickets right there, in cash, for the show. Lottery tickets usually range between $20-30 depending on the show. We have successfully seen Newsies, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, and several others from winning lotteries, all for less than $30 a ticket! If you are staying in the city for 3 days, and you REALLLY want to see Matilda (I am dying to, btw) then try the lottery the first two days, and if you don’t get in, then consider buying full price tickets.
Another great option are the TKTS stands. To get tickets there, you show up the day of and they will have a list of what shows are available and what their discounted rates are. For a complete and up to date list of lottery, rush and STO policies for each show and instructions for each, click here.*Note that you you usually need cash and a photo id for all of these discounted options.
Free stuff rocks. One of my very, very absolute favorite places in Manhattan is Central Park, and guess what? It’s free! The city is super fast paced and I love visiting central park a few times each trip to catch my breath. Some of my favorite things to do at central park are watching performers, having picnics, laying on the grass and reading a good book, getting ice cream and people watching, playing checkers (bring your own pieces), and going for long walks to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
You can also go check out Time Square, grand central station, the financial district, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Brooklyn Bridge, 5th avenue, 34th street (just to name a few) at no cost! Of course you may want to buy some souvenirs while you are there (I can’t resist the cheap purses in Chinatown) but you don’t have to pay anything to explore. Even though I know I’m probably not going to buy anything on 5th avenue, it can be fun to window shop at some truly incredible places. Also, at least once it can be fun to see the M&M factory, the Nike store, FAO Schwarz etc.
Another cool option are the free walking tours. There are options where guides will take you around on a tour of a specific place (ex: Midtown Manhattan tour) and at the end you pay the guide what you felt like the tour was worth to you. This ensures that your guides are always at the top of their game and that you won’t get into something you can’t afford! Newer tour versions are available now where you can download where to go, what to eat, what path to take etc. (no actual guide) and then after you get online and donate what you feel like the tour was worth. They have tours for all different areas and this helps plan out your stay and maximize your metro cards.