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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guest Post: NYC On A Budget: Where to Stay, Eat, Sight-See and Shop! 7.27.11

Today's post comes from Christina Lucas from Living Chic, The Blog Entourage and Kaitlin and Kylie's Apple Bar Blog (among others). Christina took a 4-day budget trip to New York City and was awesome enough to share with us her trip details and great free things to do in the city, as well as affordable options for dining, shopping and sightseeing. Please make sure to check out her sites.

Getting There:

If you live a state or two away and don't want to drive your own car, find a Megabus or Boltbus in your area. Just keep in mind you might have to walk a few blocks when you arrive, so you'll want to use rolling luggage. If you're flying, of course check expedia.com and priceline.com.

Getting Around:

If you've never taken a subway before, or if you're used to a cleaner Metro like in St. Louis or D.C., you'll probably be intimidated by the NY Subway system, but cabs are expensive and not everything is within walking distance, so suck it up and get on the subway. Besides, it's not like in Gossip Girl where the second Serena or Blair wave their pretty little hands, a cab immediately appears out of nowhere. Sometimes you can get to a subway station quicker than you can hail a cab. When you purchase your subway card, get the value card for $20.00 if you'll be there for a few days. Trust me, you'll use it up!

photo by Christina Lucas
Where to Stay:

You definitely want to find a hotel discount. At Hostels.com you can find cheap lodging. If you're single and on a tight budget, a hostel is the way to go. On that website, you will also find discount prices for regular hotels and inns at about $50.00 a night. You can always check out discount travel sites like Priceline.com if you want to stay somewhere nicer but still get a discount. Keep in mind that if it's your first time to The Big Apple (and if it isn't your honeymoon) you'll only be in your room to sleep, so just find something cheap and something that is within walking distance of a subway station.

Where to Eat:

To save the most money on dining, eat like the natives. Grab something cheap but delicious from a street vendor. For something nice and healthy but reasonably priced, go to Pret A Manger. For a New York hot dog, go to Nathan's. If neither of those are within walking distance, just find a local deli. New York is swarming with delis. If you see a hole-in-the-wall sandwich and salad bar cafe, go there! This is where the locals eat, and they do so because it's delicious, fast and cheap. At Naturally Delicious, you can get a breakfast or lunch for $10-$15.00. I got this full-size quiche, a salad, Vitamin Water and coffee for about $12.00.

photo by Christina Lucas

What to Do:

There are plenty of travel discounts at CityPASS New York for tours of The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and all of the major museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

If you're really on a budget, these discount sites might not be for you as far as entertainment and dining goes. When I was searching for last minute Broadway tickets, even with a deep discount, my ticket would've been $80.00. Considering everything else I wanted to fit into my vacation, I wanted to spend between $20.00 to $35.00 on any one meal, event or tour. I stuck to my budget, and I couldn't believe how much we packed into four days. The best inexpensive entertainment in New York is sightseeing.

I started with Rockefeller Center. The outdoor plaza consists of beautiful statues, the famous Rockefeller skating rink, gardens and fountains.

photo by Christina Lucas

Inside Rockefeller Center you can do lots of things on a budget. Click here for a list of their shops and restaurants. Window shopping is an experience in Rockefeller Center. Don't miss this glammed-up couch in the Swarovski boutique. They'll even let you take a picture on it!

photo by Christina Lucas

You can't go to New York without visiting Times Square. Yes, it is just an intersection, but all of the lights and billboards are breathtaking, and it's free! Visit Times Square in the evening or nighttime to get the full effect of the bright lights.

photo by Christina Lucas

If you're an American, you can't go to NYC without visiting Ground Zero. You can visit the museum or take a walking tour, but you really don't need to spend anything to see the site. Across the street from Ground Zero is another free attraction, St. Paul's Chapel, otherwise known as The Little Chapel That Stood Still. Famous for remaining entirely intact despite it's vicinity to the Twin Towers, this chapel has become a museum and dedication to both the firefighters and policemen of NYC and to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And if you're a history buff, you'll be delighted to see the pew that was reserved for President George Washington.

photo by Christina Lucas

photo by Christina Lucas

MACY's on 34th street is an essential window shopping experience, especially if you're a fan of Miracle On 34th Street. It is their flagship store, and with eight levels, it is the world's largest department store.
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Grand Central Station is another great freebie. It's beautiful inside and out and has become an iconic New York destination.

Fifth Avenue is the best shopping destination in NYC, home to shops like FAO Schwarz, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and Tiffany's. If you're a fan of Audrey Hepburn's film Breakfast at Tiffany's, you'll want a picture in front of Tiffany & Co.

photo by Christina Lucas

Whether you want to shop at the Apple store or not, you'll love seeing it. The picture below is the top of the store. You get into a glass elevator and go underground to get to the actual store. If you want to do some real shopping, FAO Schwarz is actually a great place to get children's souvenirs. The store is known for rather large pricey items, but you can find very reasonably priced (and very unique) items there as well. If you want to do clothes shopping on a budget, head to 34th and 7th street in Midtown. You'll find a huge Old Navy, H & M, and Century 21.
photo by Christina Lucas

If you have children who are fans of the show Eloise, they'll get a kick out of seeing the real life Plaza Hotel.
photo by Christina Lucas

If you go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a great way to get back towards Midtown or Little Italy is walking through Central Park. It's another free attraction that is full of surprises. It is essentially just a huge park, but it contains beautiful walking trails, bridges, statues and even a castle.
photo by Christina Lucas

Little Italy and Chinatown are connected, so you can easily walk from one to the next. Chinatown, well...the whole place smells like fish. If you're accustomed to the Chinatown in D.C., you will be quite disappointed; however, there are interesting shops and outdoor spice markets, so if you have a thing for Asian products, it's worth a quick walk-through.

photo by Christina Lucas

Little Italy is a must-see. And you can eat on a budget there too. Again, pick the local hole-in-the-wall places. Those are the cheapest, most authentic, and by far the most delicious! I'd suggest Cafe Pallermo.

There are so many things to see and do in New York City. A travel guide for the Big Apple could go on and on. If you're planning a trip of your own to NYC, I'd suggest you start with http://www.nycgo.com/.

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