6 Budget Friendly things to do in New York City

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the vessel hudson yards

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The Frick collection

The steel magnate Henry Clay Frick commissioned a mansion from a prestigious architecture firm that today houses what we know as ‘the Frick collection. Frick filled his mansion with 18th C French furniture and porcelain, oriental rugs, paintings and sculpture. Other items have since been added to the collection after his death. The building has also been enlarged to house the expanding collection. It is a beautiful museum to visit almost just to appreciate the building alone.

One of the great appeals of this museum is its intimate setting. As the museum was once a home, it makes the art perhaps a little more approachable to the viewer than a gargantuan museum building. The paintings are not arranged by period but rather remain in the order that Frick left them in.

Some highlights of the museum are 3 Vermeer paintings, a Velazquez, Rembrandt, and a work by Ingres (among many other wonderful pieces). Full price tickets are on the pricier end at $22. However, the first Friday of every month is free from 6pm – 9pm (except September and January). As well, every Wednesday you can pay what you wish for a ticket, so you can attend for as little as a penny!

Bryant Park

This is one of the most visited parks in the city if not the world. It lies behind the New York Public Library and used to be the spot where the Crystal Palace Fair was in 1853. It is full of blossoms and lush trees and is a great spot for tourists to grab a drink or bite to eat while children can enjoy the twirling carousel.

The park offers a whole host of activities. In the summer you can enjoy free large yoga classes, language lessons, movie screenings, concerts, plays and much more. In the winters you can go ice skating (also free) and visit the holiday market. I encourage you to visit their calendar online and check out what activities and events are going on during your visit. You can probably catch a free Shakespeare play, concert by New York City Opera or prestigious show. Bryant Park is a budget friendly way to experience a piece of NYC.

They also have a painter in residence program that takes place the end of August and beginning of September. Two painters are chosen every year with a $2,400 stipend given to each artist (as well as up to $500 towards materials). Applications open around July.

The Met

Budget friendly things to do in New York city

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is a sprawling building covering 4 blocks. The mission of the museum was to collect works that represent the “broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality”. When you visit, you will see that the museum is just that. The enormous collection is drawn from six continents and covers eight millennia of world history.

It is overwhelming to make it through the whole museum in one visit. I recommend picking a couple areas to visit and getting to delve more deeply into those works. You can gain more from your visit when you spend quality time with the work than spreading yourself too thin across many pieces.

The ticket you purchase is valid for three days. You can always head back again to check out other sections you missed. Definitely do not miss the experience of heading to the Met and seeing the rich collection that you will find there.

The Met Cloisters

budget friendly things to do in New York City

The ticket you purchase at the Met is also valid for entry to the Met Cloisters. This is a must visit especially for those who love architecture. Visiting the met cloisters gives you a feeling of stepping back into the medieval era. The museum consists of the remains of five French cloisters as well as other religious sites. These remains were all shipped from Europe in the early 20th century by an American art collection and later bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1925. The museum is incredibly well put together in how all these different architectural pieces are arranged.

However, it is not just an architectural experience, the museum is also home to around 3000 pieces from the ninth to 16th centuries. In addition, there are gardens in the outside courtyard exhibiting the variety of plants grown for various different purposes in the medieval era. These are also arranged to emulate an original medieval layout. It is a great area to relax, read and or enjoy a sunny day. In addition, you can also enjoy a spectacular view of the Hudson river.

Due to its more intimate size you will be able to manage visiting the entire museum in one visit. Just be sure not to miss the Unicorn tapestries! Also, you can catch free tours of the collection highlights every afternoon except Saturday. In addition, from May through October (daily) there are lunch time tours of the gardens conducted by experts in horticulture and tree husbandry.

The Vessel

Vessel Hudson Yards

The centerpiece of the Hudson Yards area of New York City is a spiral staircase known as the vessel. It is an interactive artwork designed by Thomas Heatherwick meant to be climbed by visitors. It offers remarkable views of the city from countless different angles, not to mention an extraordinary experience of climbing the different levels.

I had the pleasure of getting to climb the vessel close to dusk when the lights of the structure were all on creating an even more dramatic experience than it already is! Have your phone ready to take photos because you will be tempted to take many. There are 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs with 80 landings and nearly 2,500 individual steps. You will be getting some good exercise!

Climbing the vessel is completely free however you do need to reserve tickets. For free same day tickets you need to visit the vessel onsite beginning at 9:30am (vessel is open from 10am – 9pm Mon-Sun). You can arrive onsite at anytime and book your tickets from opening to close. If it is not busy you can enter the vessel within minutes of booking your time slot. Tickets booths are scattered around the public square and gardens. You can book your ticket for the whichever time slot suits

New York City Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Directly behind Bryant park you will find the New York Public Library. It is an amazing example of Beaux-Arts style architecture and first opened to the public in 1911. The library boasts numerous attractions that will interest visitors – the Gutenberg Bible, Astor hall, the Rose Reading room, and the McGraw Rotunda. In addition, you can find the original Winnie the Pooh in the children’s section of the library – a delight for all who grew up to love this character.

The New York Library

The Library offers free one hour tours Mon – Sat starting at 11am and 2pm. They run on a first come basis and are limited to 25 people. Visit the library’s website to get information on the library’s opening hours so you can visit on your own time.


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