Is New York City outrageously expensive? Yes. Is it amazingly affordable? That, too. It just depends on which New York you choose. The pricey version features Michelin three-star restaurants (good luck getting a reservation), taxis “whisking” you around in 5 mph traffic and a suite at a plush hotel in personality-free midtown. Or so I’ve heard.
The affordable New York I know and love is all about free museum nights, neighborhood explorations and great pizza slices. You can fill your days with no- or low-cost activities, including some obvious ones — walking the beloved elevated rail turned urban park known as the High Line, taking in the glorious views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry and, of course, wandering through Central Park.
If you don’t mind a chill in the air, one of the least expensive times to visit is in January and February, when the city holds NYC Restaurant Week, which is actually four weeks (usually from mid-January to mid-February), and more than 400 top spots offer prix fixe meals for $29, $39 or $59 on weekdays — not exactly bargain prices, but if you’re a foodie it may be worth it to try, say, the Parisian-style Bar Boulud by renowned chef Daniel Boulud at a steep discount. It also runs in July and August.
More tips for planning an affordable trip:
Let’s start with your biggest challenge: where to stay. You can use a short-term-rental site such as Airbnb to easily find a place in Manhattan for under $100 a night, if you’re willing to stay under the same roof as the owners. If that’s not your style, you could pay more to rent an entire apartment, or consider a hotel room in Long Island City, Queens, a short subway ride from Manhattan. It won’t be a luxe experience, but if you avoid high season and reserve in advance, you can get a room at, say, the Red Lion Inn & Suites on Crescent Street for a little over $100 a night. It’s a block from the 7 train and just a few stops from Grand Central. If you’d prefer to stay in Manhattan, consider the “blind” offers on Hotwire. You choose the star level and neighborhood; the site chooses the hotel. I’ve found hotel rooms available in good areas of Manhattan for about $125 to $150 a night with tax.