You know, when I was thinking about how it would be possible to enjoy NYC on just $10 dollars a day, I first had my doubts. Like, everyone knows that every time you even step out of your apartment door in NYC you end up spending at least $20 bucks! But the longer I thought about it, with just a little creativity and lowering expectations just a tad, it’s totally possible to have a great day in good ol’ NYC. With that in mind, here’s what my day looked like!
Now with just $10 dollars in the budget, I was going to have to get creative and get down to the basics. We’re not talking about gut busting meals here. We’re not talking about beer after beer at the bar. We’re talking basics. Simple breakfast, lunch and dinner on the food front. Lots of walking. Lots of exploring. Combine all that together and you have yourself a great day in NYC.
I love Manhattan below 14th street, so that’s where I thought I’d begin and end my day of cheap adventure. Below 14th street to me is where the real New York resides. It’s not like Midtown which just has these huge skyscrapers that people only go to for work and then becomes a ghost town at night. No, Downtown is where you can get that great local vibe. The laid back bars and restaurants that people actually want to go to and that have the best crowds. Downtown is where the trendiest kids hang and the funnest spots are.
Breakfast I kept simple with a coffee and banana. Now to be honest, I’m not a huge coffee drinker, so I could have used the $1 I spent on that toward a bigger breakfast. Everyone is different and everyone is going to spend their $10 budget differently.
Thompkins Square Park in the East Village/Alphabet City is always a fun spot to check out, especially on weekends. My recommendation is to head straight to the dog park for a free way to see a bunch of adorable dogs doing their thing and having a blast. The annual dog Halloween show has quickly become a huge event and I highly recommend that if you’re visiting NYC in the 3rd week of October, head over to Thompkins Square Park and bring your best Instagram game! People get their dogs all dressed up and it’s hilarious!
After the park, I thought it would be great to check out the East River. With great views of Brooklyn and Manhattan, it’s a place I’d highly recommend especially if you want to get off the beaten path. Lots of joggers, cyclists and people just going for a stroll along the waterfront. NYC has poured millions of dollars into renovating the East River walkway so check it out and see all the improvements they made. This is a great spot to also have a little picnic or just watch some of the local amateur teams play sports like soccer, baseball, tennis, etc. Getting to the East River is only a 15 minute walk. The easiest way is just to walk straight East on Houston Street until you get to the waterfront. From there you can decide if you want to go North or South. I chose to head South since I know I wanted to head towards Chinatown for an inexpensive lunch.
BTW, right under the Willamsburg Bridge on the East River is a great spot for photos. Be sure to check it out!
So with a little over $8 dollars in my pocket from breakfast, I thought Chinatown would be a great spot to head to. There you have a ton of inexpensive options to choose from. Depending on how you want to spend your budget, you can choose from a simple soup like I did, Wonton noodle soup for $3 bucks, or you could get steamed pork buns, rice plates, dumplings or lots of other options. The point being, Chinatown offers a lot to the budget traveler if you’re willing to explore and be creative. Also, Chinatown just makes for great walking and exploring.
After Chinatown I thought I’d head over to some of the cool little art callers on Hester Street, especially near the corner of Orchard Street. There you’ll find lots of little art galleries that have popped up over the past few years and have really turned Orchard Street into an NYC art destination. There’s no fee to get in and it’s a great way to spend a few hours looking at all of the different artworks. Highly recommend this as a great free way to spend some time in NYC.
Well, for my next destination, I thought I’d head over to Washington Square Park. This is always a tourist favorite as the park itself is very beautiful with an amazing fountain and the famous arch at its entrance. For the majority of the year you can always find lots of people here listening to the different musical performers or just sitting down and doing some people watching. Since it’s all free, that makes it even better!
For my last meal of the day, I thought I’d head over to Mamoun’s on Bleeker Street right near Washington Square Park. If you haven’t been to Mamoun’s, it’s an absolute must. Some of the best falafel sandwiches you’ll have in NYC and the service is fast and friendly. Sometimes there can be a bit of a line, but don’t worry, it goes pretty fast. And at only $3.50 for a falafel, the price was right for my purposes. It’s quite filling and offers lots of bang for your buck. Heck, why not throw in a bottle of water for $1 dollar to wash it down with!
Well, now it’s off to the Highline near the Meatpacking District. The Highline has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of NYC and it’s easy to understand why. Taking old railway tracks and turning them into a pedestrian walkway full of trees and landscaping was an amazing idea and has inspired other cities to come up with similar projects. Best of all, it’s free entertainment on a strict budget!
Last but not least, to end our day, is the Whitney Museum. The Whitney on Friday nights from 7-10pm offers Pay What You Want Fridays. So, to test the waters I paid just $0.25 cents and yep, I got in with no problem. Hey, I pay so much in NYC city taxes, I should own half of that building! Anyway, the Whitney on a Friday night is a great idea for having fun on the cheap and a great way to wrap up an incredible day around NYC on a budget of just $10 dollars.
So with a little creativity, a lot of walking, and an open mind, yes, you can indeed have a great time exploring Manhattan. As they say, the best things in life are free (almost). So get out there and see what you can do for just $10. I know you’ll have a blast!