It’s no secret that New York is an expensive city. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun things to do in NYC that won’t break the bank. An exciting trip doesn’t have to be expensive, after all! For your next weekend in New York City, try some free attractions, cheap eats and great sights. Here is a full guide on how to spend a weekend in NYC with only 20 bucks.
Since the weekend really starts after you get out of work or school, we’ll start there. You can’t head out for the night on an empty stomach, and there are plenty of places to find delicious, cheap pizza in the city. After all, it’s a New York City staple. 2 Bros Pizza in the East Village is a great example, at only $1 a slice.
When you’re done with dinner, head to Local 138 for drinks. Local 138 is known to have one of the best happy hour deals in the city, and because of that it can get a little crowded. On the bright side, the crowd is always fun and they offer $4 draft beers, wines and well drinks from 4-9 p.m. So if you feel like splurging, feel free to get two.
Once you’re feeling good, take your friends dancing at Beauty Bar. There’s no cover charge, and the crowd is always fun. If there’s any place that knows how to spend a weekend in NYC, it’s them. They have a back area with a DJ who plays really fun oldies that you can’t help but dance to. When they don’t have a DJ, there’s often free comedy shows or karaoke.
It’s the first full day of the weekend, but don’t stress. You have $15 dollars left! I’d suggest getting a bagel for breakfast/brunch. You can stop at a food cart just about anywhere for a bagel that will range from $2-3 dollars. Or, you could go to Russ and Daughters in the East Village. Russ and Daughters has arguably the best bagels in the whole city, so be sure to stop there in the morning! You can get a bagel with cream cheese there for about $5 dollars.
With your bagel in hand (or your stomach) head to the Brooklyn Bridge. Because it’s early in the summer, the walk is beautiful. It isn’t much more than a mile long, and allows for some amazing skyline pictures. Here are more detailed instructions on where to go and the best times to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
After crossing the bridge, start exploring Dumbo. Head to Washington Street for the iconic Manhattan bridge photo. Sit by the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or walk around. There are often free events that happen at the park too. There might be yoga, sports clinics or volunteer opportunities. You can check them out here.
Because Dumbo is a pretty touristy area, the food prices can get high. I’d suggest heading back to Manhattan for a $3 dollar taco from Otto’s Tacos. If you aren’t feeling tacos, go to M&O Market in SoHo. Their famous BLT draws in a huge crowd, and it’s only $3.50 for a small. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, finding the best, cheapest food is the number one way how to spend a weekend in NYC without breaking the bank. If anything’s gonna test your wallet, it’ll be the culinary temptations.
You only have about $6 dollars left for your last day in NYC. But you’re still going to make the most of your trip! In the morning, go to Chinatown and head into a Chinese bakery. One of my favorites is Lung Moon Bakery, where you can get egg tarts for $1. Golden Mana Bakery on Bowery also has red bean buns (and LOTS of other flavors) for $1 each. Stock up on food here, I’d say about $4-5 worth. Then head to central park.
With your food stocked up, you can easily find a spot on Central Park to lounge for hours. Sheep Meadow is always great for people watching, or you could stroll through the Conservatory Garden. You might want to bring a blanket and just spread out to read a book. If it’s hot, you should have about a dollar left, so go find an ice cream or a popsicle.
If you get bored, walk 20 minutes downtown to the New York Public Library. You’re bound to run into a bunch of tourists, but the library is beautiful and full of places to take pictures, sit or charge your phone if you need it.
With all that added up, you’re looking at about $20.50. And there are lots of free activities and places to see in this guide that I didn’t include that could make your trip wonderful as well. You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to do things in NYC, so take advantage of what the city has to offer!
Do you have more advice on how to spend a weekend in NYC for as little money as possible? Help everyone stretch their budgets and leave it in the comment section below!
Isabelle is a journalism major and English and media studies minor at Northeastern University. She is a writer, editorial intern and social media enthusiast with a passion for the digital universe. At the moment, you can find Isabelle living and working in New York City for SWAAY Media, Society19 and Flocabulary, focusing on writing, editing and digital content creation.