Contrary to popular belief, traveling to New York City doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. The savvy traveler can hop on the subway, snap a selfie from one of the highest points in the city (fancy cocktail in hand), and see a Broadway show for a fraction of the cost. Here are the best NYC vacation hacks to make your Big Apple adventure easier, cheaper, and more fun.
Score Deals on Broadway
Staggering ticket prices for Broadway shows can make even the most devout theater fan rethink their entertainment options. However, discount Broadway tickets abound if you know where to look. Start with the TKTS Booth in Times Square. Run by the Theatre Development Fund, this booth offers tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway shows for up to 50% off the printed price. Your best shot is to get there right at 5 p.m., just after box offices have released their available tickets for the night. For the tech savvy, download TodayTix, an app that promises discounted tickets (up to half off) on popular performances. Once you make your purchase, a courier will hand deliver the tickets to you outside the theater, allowing you to skip the line at will call.
Reach New Heights
From One World Observatory to the Empire State Building, observation decks reign supreme on many travelers’ NYC bucket lists. The breathtaking vistas come at a price, though, and it starts at $32 for a standard adult ticket. You know what else you can get for $32? A cocktail and tip for the server at SixtyFive, a stunning lounge that looks out over the city from the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Not only will you get nearly the same view offered at Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center’s observation deck), but you can do it with a drink in hand. We'll cheers to that.
Navigate Central Park
With 843 acres of fields, forests, winding paths, and nature, Central Park can challenge your navigational skills. Here’s a little secret that will help you avoid getting lost in the park: The first two or three digits of the number on each lamppost correspond with what cross street you’d be on if streets ran through the park. The last two digits specify which side of the park you’re on — even is east, odd is west. Now you should have no trouble getting from the pond to Strawberry Fields and up to the Great Lawn -- in half the amount of time it would take an unassuming tourist.
Get Around Town
Getting around New York is a breeze, once you learn the tricks. Start by embracing the Subway. Not only is it the cheapest form of transportation, it’s also often the fastest. The Citymapper app will help you plan any journey by subway, bus, ferry, or Citi Bike with easy-to-follow routes and real-time information. When you want to take a car, try one of the black car apps before hailing a Yellow Cab -- it's often much cheaper. Gett, for example, offers $10 rides anywhere in Manhattan below 110th St., while Via covers the same territory with $5 shared rides. If you decide to take a cab, here are some tips: You can swipe your credit card at any time during the ride to finish the transaction more quickly at the end; drivers cannot refuse you service based on your destination, as long as it's within the five boroughs, Westchester or Nassau Counties, or any New York airport; and don’t ever try getting a cab between 4-5 p.m. -- you won’t find one, it's shift change.
Don’t Spend a Dime
Like in life, the best things in New York are free. You never have to pay to tour Brooklyn Brewery on the weekend, walk or stargaze with astronomers on The High Line, grab great views of the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry, contemplate art in Chelsea galleries, see gorgeous Beaux-Arts architecture at the New York Public Library, or finesse your fashion at The Museum at FIT. One of the best-kept NYC money hacks is museums' free hours (including Museum of Modern Art from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays, Brooklyn Museum from 5-11 p.m. the first Saturday of every month, and the Museum of the Moving Image from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays). Other low-cost fun can be found at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (improv comedy shows range from free to $10), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (admission is by donation), the Roosevelt Island Tram ($2.75 for a cool ride over the East River), and Carnegie Hall (rush tickets for world-class music performances go for just $10). Even if your budget is tight, you can have a blast in New York.