New York City is famous for its pricey lifestyle. This is the home, after all, to a $250 truffle burger at Beer & Buns Burger Bar, $4600 alligator Manolo Blahniks at Barney’s, and the $45,000 Ty Warner Penthouse at Four Seasons New York (hey – at least it comes with a personal butler). But it doesn’t have to be expensive – here are the best ways to do New York City on a budget.

Culture on a budget

Take advantage of the free day (or night) at many of the city’s museums. The Museum of Modern Art offers free Fridays (4-8 pm), when they also host live music in the sculpture garden (also free for early risers on a Saturday morning from around 9-10am).

High fashion isn’t free, but the exhibits at New York City’s leading fashion museum are. The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology features free creative exhibits, including artwork by faculty and graduating students. If fashion’s not your thing, you’ll find other museums host free events and lectures throughout the year, including El Museo del Barrio whose collection is dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art. If you plan to visit a variety of major sights during your stay, you’ll find a number of discount passes, such as CityPASS, offering combined admission discounting.

For music-based entertainment, New York heats up with free outdoor concerts and performances throughout the spring and summer. Head to the venerated Brooklyn Academy of Music, the oldest performing arts centre in the country, which hosts an excellent lineup of free spring and summer concerts, from soul to rock. For some old-fashioned entertainment, go to Central Park where, for many New Yorkers, summer is synonymous with free Shakespeare in the Park, presented by the Delacorte Theater in the park.

Central Park, New York City, NYC, New York, USA

Eating on a budget

When it comes to eating and drinking, “cheap New York” is not an oxymoron. Follow your nose (and follow Twitter: @NYFoodTruck has updated info) to New York City’s growing number of food trucks, like Korilla BBQ, where you can chow on Korean BBQ – including a juicy pork wrap with red kimchi – for under $8. Korilla trucks rotate around NYC, from Midtown to the Flatiron, so keep your eyes peeled.

New York is also a boon for cheap burgers. Head to a nearby Shake Shack outpost for burgers and a namesake shakes (the Black & White is a favorite) – they make a meal for $5 each.

Drinking on a Budget

There was a time when happy hour seemed to have gone the way of the three-martini lunch. But, it’s back and happier than ever, since many NYC bars continue to throw in complimentary snacks. After a long day’s sightseeing, ease into the night over beer at the dive bar Rudy’s, which also serves free hot dogs (until they run out).

Another option for budget suds: try made-in-Brooklyn brews on a free weekend tour (Saturday and Sunday afternoons) of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg.

Bryant Park, New York City, USA

Outdoor Activities

Whe the sun is shining and the weather is fair, there are plenty of free outdoor activities across the city parks. Bryant Park offers free juggling lessons throughout the year (most days of week, noon–1 pm) at the 42nd St Plaza. The classes are open to all skill levels, and equipment is provided. The Hudson River may be an urban waterway, but it’s ideal for kayaking, with fairly placid waters, steady breezes, and, of course, gorgeous views of the New York City skyline. The Downtown Boathouse offers classes at its three locations along the Hudson River at Pier 40, Pier 96, and 72nd Street.

 Explore more of the Big Apple with the Rough Guide to New York City. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

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