Before you scoff at bus tours, consider that they offer a great overview of the city for a first-timer. Companies like Big Bus provide a Classic Ticket tour that allows you to hop on and off all day long, and their buses can handle up to two wheelchairs each. New York City Sightseeing Bus and Boat Tours uses open-topped double-decker buses and offers a variety of bundled packages for a full day of sightseeing.
Also check out Viator or Airbnb Experiences, which offer highly rated tours focused on everything from the city’s crime and mafia history to its best doughnut shops.
If you need extra assistance, Turnstile Tours serves those with special mobility, hearing or sight needs, and On Location Tours accommodates wheelchair users. New York is thrilling to see from the water, and Circle-Line Sightseeing Cruises are wheelchair accessible.
Ways to save: You can take a free tour with a Big Apple Greeter, volunteer guides who show off the city to no more than six guests at a time. Tours are informal and can be customized for travelers with physical disabilities. Request a greeter three to four weeks before your trip.
This is a walking city, and walking’s free! It’s nothing for a New Yorker to walk 25 or 30 blocks at a pop, the equivalent of a mile and a half. Walk with care, however: Wait for walk signals and use crosswalks, even though quick-footed jaywalking New Yorkers often don’t.
Wander through colorful neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, Soho or Chinatown. And follow in the footsteps of New Yorkers, who run, stroll and breathe in the 843-acre green oasis known as Central Park — a mélange of woods, fields and gardens boasting free concerts, a zoo and striking views of the Midtown Manhattan skyline. Amble along the renowned High Line, which runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street in the Hudson Yards neighborhood. Once an abandoned elevated railway structure, it’s a groundbreaking 1.45-mile-long park with sustainable plantings, benches (grab a seat while you can) and a bird’s-eye view of New York architecture. Free docent-led tours are available.
Manhattan rightly takes pride in its world-class museums. While admissions now top $25, most museums offer discounted tickets for those 65 and older. For example, the Museum of Modern Art senior admission is discounted about 30 percent.
Ways to save: Many museums have free or pay-what-you-wish entry times on certain days. For example, on Thursdays, the Frick Collection (temporarily housed in the former Whitney Museum building) is pay what you wish from 2 to 6 p.m. and the Museum of Jewish Heritage is free from 4 to 8 p.m. On Thursdays, tickets are half-price at the Museum of Arts and Design, and you can pay what you wish at the New Museum (7 to 9 p.m.) and the International Center of Photography (6 to 9 p.m.). On the first Friday of the month, the Museum of Modern Art is free from 4 to 8 p.m., but every Friday is pay what you wish at the New-York Historical Society from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the Whitney Museum of American Art from 7 to 10 p.m. The Jewish Museum is free all day Saturday, and admission to the Guggenheim is free on Saturdays after 4 p.m.
If New York is the art mecca of the world, Chelsea is its thumping heartbeat. Gallery hopping among its 125 cutting-edge galleries costs nothing (unless you snap up a great buy, that is).
Jazz is best served up at the Village Vanguard, as it has been since 1935, or Jazz at Lincoln Center, which performs in the Time Warner Center. Consider the acoustically perfect Carnegie Hall for classical music performances and pop concerts, or Lincoln Center for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet. (When available, discounted tickets for Lincoln Center performances can be bought in the David Rubenstein Atrium.)
For theater lovers, New York typically has more than 100 curtains going up each night — musicals, comedies and dramas, and some of the best shows, performers and theaters in the world. Broadway, with 41 theaters in the Times Square area, is the crown jewel.
Hot or not, tickets are more available from January through late March than during holidays and the touristy summer season. Midweek shows, particularly those on Tuesdays, are less crowded than those performed Friday through Sunday, and Saturday nights require booking the farthest ahead.
Ways to save: For same-day tickets for Broadway shows, you can find bargains of up to 50 percent off at the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square and Lincoln Center, where you’ll need to stand in line to purchase what’s available that day. To check availability first, browse real-time listings online. If you don’t want to line up, the online service TodayTix has discounted tickets for top shows.