One city, three ways: New York

By Lauren Mack

New York, one of the world’s most well-known cities, is an epicenter of arts and culture, offering travellers limitless opportunities to eat, drink, explore, and shop. Set against a landscape of concrete, glass, and grit, New York City is a playground for the rich and famous, hip nomads, and budget travellers alike.

With 12.7 million international visitors in 2016, New York City remains a big draw for holiday-makers. From hipsters who brunch to ladies who lunch, there’s a New York City for everyone. Whatever your budget, there’s a way for you to experience the city that never sleeps.

Here are our recommendations for your trip, whether you’re looking for a budget, mid-range, or luxe holiday in New York City.

Way #1 – Budget holiday
Way #2 – Mid-range holiday
Way #3 – Holiday splurge

Way #1 – Budget holiday

Booking a NYC holiday doesn’t have to break the bank. There are multitudes of ways to enjoy Manhattan and nearby boroughs at bargain prices.

Where to stay

New York may have some of the priciest accommodations in the U.S., but there are plenty of bargain places to stay. Apartment rental options are plentiful and inexpensive, even in Brooklyn’s trendiest neighbourhoods like Williamsburg, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO. You can search for apartment rentals on KAYAK and easily sort by neighbourhood.

If you must stay in Manhattan, consider booking at a hostel, many of which are centrally located and cost a fraction of what it would cost to stay at a budget hotel. Plus, you might make some new mates. HI NYC Hostel, one of the largest hostels in the U.S., is only two blocks from Central Park and a short walk to the subway.

If you prefer staying at a hotel, you can save a bit of money by using our Freebies filter to choose hotels that offer up perks like free breakfast, parking, or airport shuttle.

How to get around

Walking: Walking is the cheapest and one of the easiest ways to see this pedestrian-friendly city. Neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, and Koreatown are best explored on foot.

Subway: New York City and its 5 boroughs — Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island — span 484 kilometers, making the MTA subway arguably the most efficient way to avoid rush hour traffic and the most inexpensive way to move from place to place. Each ride costs $2.75 USD (unless you buy a single ride ticket, which is $3 USD).

Tip: If you’re not getting a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $32 USD, add at least $5.50 USD to your MetroCard. Riders who top off their cards with $5.50 USD or more get a 5 percent bonus added to the card. Don’t toss your MetroCard; it’s refillable and new cards cost $1 USD.

Where to eat

You don’t have to travel far to find fabulous and affordable food. From Instagram-worthy treats like Dominique Ansel Bakery’s “Cronut” (a doughnut-croissant hybrid) and ’s edible cookie dough, to grab-and-go food from food trucks and farmers markets, there’s something for everyone. Start here:

Pizza at Patsy’s Pizzeria: Established in 1933, Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri’s East Harlem Patsy’s Pizzeria is a long-standing institution. The pizzeria is famous for its coal-oven pizzas and celebrity clientele (singer Frank Sinatra and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio often frequented this pizzeria).

Hamburgers at Shake Shack: Restaurateur Danny Meyer gives hamburgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, and custard shakes an upgrade from the average fast-casual chain. No trip to Shake Shack is complete without trying the signature ShackBurger; a cheeseburger topped with tomato, lettuce, and ShakeSauce.

Window shop and eat at Chelsea Market: This indoor market in the trendy Meatpacking District has more than 35 shops and food vendors. From bite-size doughnuts from Doughnuttery to American classics like grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly at Creamline, Chelsea Market is worth a stroll.

Dine at a deli: Since 1888, Katz Delicatessen has served hungry New Yorkers at all hours of the day and night. Signature dishes include franks and beans and sandwiches like pastrami on rye, and the portions are enormous — enough for two (or more) to share.

Enjoy a moveable feast: Food trucks are ubiquitous in Manhattan and Brooklyn. From Belgian-style waffles drenched in Nutella from Wafels & Dinges to Korea treats on-the-go from Korilla, these roving restaurants are a must-try. For the ultimate selection, check out the food vendors at Smorgasburg, the largest weekly open-air food market in the U.S. Located a few subway stops from Manhattan, this Brooklyn market has more than 100 vendors selling savoury and sweet treats each weekend.

Do dim sum: Whether you choose steamer baskets of dumplings and buns from the steel carts at Jing Fong’s Chinatown and Upper West Side outposts, or opt for Michelin-starred dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, you can’t beat the price, variety, deliciousness, and ambiance of a traditional dim sum feast.

Dine on dim sum in New York's Chinatown.
Dine on dim sum in New York’s Chinatown.

What to do while you’re there

Bars/nightlife: Grabbing a pint during happy hour, day drinking at bottomless brunches, and sipping late-night craft cocktails in chic surroundings are popular pastimes. Some of our favourite bars include The Wayland, a cozy East Village bar that serves inexpensive yet exceptional $7 cocktails like the sazerac (rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, and absinthe) and cucumber Collins (vodka, cucumber, lemon juice, club soda, and simple syrup) along with $4 and $5 beers and $6 wines during happy hour.

No trip to NYC is complete without a pint or two at Irish pub McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village. The dusty, well-worn bar has been serving beer in its cramped quarters until the early morning hours since 1854.

Shopping: You don’t have to break the bank to look like you’ve just strutted the runway at Fashion Week. Fashionistas flock to department store Century 21, which sells deeply discounted designer clothing, accessories, and shoes from designers like Vince Camuto, Jason Wu, Vera Wang and more.

Inexpensive housewares, trinkets, and souvenirs are brimming from Chinatown’s colourful storefronts along Canal Street. It’s also the place to buy designer-knockoff handbags, jewelry, watches, and sunglasses.

A fun place to stroll pre- or post-theatre is the Theatre District Shopping Court, a flea market at the corner of West 46th Street and Eighth Avenue on the border of Times Square. The vendors here sell inexpensive costume jewelry, clothing, toys, postcards, and souvenirs.

Bargains and treasures also abound in Brooklyn at the weekend Brooklyn Flea. Vintage clothing, collectibles, and crafts make for unique reminders of your New York City trip.

Museums: Museum-hopping can get pricey, but many Manhattan museums offer free admission on particular dates and times. Marvel at modern art, including Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Nights” and Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” at the Museum of Modern Art for free during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights every Friday from 4-8 p.m. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opens its galleries of 20th century modern and contemporary art on Pay What You Wish Saturdays from 5:45-7:45 p.m.

New York City’s famed museums aren’t the only places to find fabulous art. The street art scene is thriving in SoHo and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and in Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Coney Island in Brooklyn. Free Tours by Foot offers free tours of the Big Apple’s urban art scene and other locales.

Catch a show: Some of the best up-and-coming and seasoned comedians perform in New York. For under $10 USD, you can catch a show nightly at Upright Citizens Brigade in Hell’s Kitchen or the East Village. Celebrity comedians are even known to stop by for impromptu appearances.

Starstruck visitors can take in a show or two, but they can also be part of the show by joining the live studio audience of an American television programme. It’s a free way to stargaze and potentially get on television. Dozens of programmes film in Manhattan, from morning and daytime talk shows to late night comedy shows.

Morning talk shows “Good Morning America” and “Today” don’t require tickets – just turn up early to get a good spot. Others like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” require advanced booking.

Some of New York City’s most iconic sights are also cheap or free. Take a free walk on The High Line, a 2.4 kilometer elevated park built on a former railway trestle.

Central Park: Bucolic Central Park has offered a lush oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city since 1858. Attractions inside include the colourful carousel, Central Park Zoo, the Pond where Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s classic “Catcher in the Rye” went in search of the ducks, a living memorial to The Beatles’ John Lennon called Strawberry Fields, and Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle that’s the highest point in the park.

No trip to New York is complete without a stop in Central Park.
No trip to New York is complete without a stop in Central Park.

Times Square: No first-time visit to New York City is complete without a stop in Times Square, which is open 24/7. Don’t miss “Midnight Moment,” a digital art display that appears nightly from 11:57 p.m. until the stroke of midnight.

Statue of Liberty: If you want to see the Statue of Liberty but avoid the high entrance costs, take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The 25-minute ride affords postcard picture views of Lady Liberty.

Brooklyn: With dining, shopping, and attractions that rival Manhattan, a visit to Brooklyn is a must. Most folks opt to be Brooklyn-bound via a walk or cycle across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Once over the Brooklyn Bridge, walk the nearby Brooklyn Promenade, a short pedestrian walkway that affords panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline with the Statue of Liberty in the distance

Soak tired feet and relax after pounding the pavement at cityWell, a boutique bathhouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Visitors can soak in the Jacuzzi and relax in an aromatherapy steam room and dry sauna for two hours for $20 USD during community hours, which are offered 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For added discounts, be sure to pack an International Youth Travel Card if you’re under 30 or an International Teacher Identity Card if you’re a teacher. You can also consult apps and websites like Groupon and LivingSocial which list hundreds of deals on offer, from discounted attraction tickets to happy hours.

Way #2 – Mid-range holiday

It can be easy to spend money in New York City, but if you’re minding your wallet, it’s possible to strike a balance between a bargain bon voyage and an ultra-luxe holiday.

Where to stay

A collection of boutique hotels have been popping up in neighbourhoods across Brooklyn in recent years. The Nu Hotel in downtown Brooklyn, a quick taxi or subway ride from Manhattan, is a cute boutique hotel offering traditional rooms as well as seldom-seen family rooms, which feature a queen bed and twin bunk beds, and the Urban Suite, which includes a king bed and a hammock (because, Brooklyn).

Using our hotel search, you can sort by ambience and neighbourhood to find your ideal Brooklyn boutique hotel in whichever neighbourhood you fancy.

How to get around

Subway: The subway is an inevitable transport option when travelling around New York City. Avoid riding during morning and evening rush hours and consult the MTA Weekender for service changes, which often occur on late nights and weekends. The MTA’s TripPlanner is a quick and easy way to plan your journey.

Ridesharing: Ridesharing apps like Uber and Via are often cheaper than a taxi. Via riders wait an average of five minutes for a ride, which starts at $5 USD plus tax, according to Via. Fares are based on when you ride, how far you ride, and the number of additional folks in your party.

Where to eat

Lunch at Serendipity 3, a whimsical ice cream parlour on the Upper East Side that also serves “serious food” like hamburgers, pastas, and omelettes alongside gigantic gooey sundaes. Their signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate is a must. Around the corner is famed Dylan’s Candy Bar, a candy emporium that sells 7,000 different types of confections. In Little Italy, stop for a coffee and a cannoli at Ferrara, which has been a local favourite since 1892.

From long-standing local spots to the latest food trends, there’s no reason to go hungry in the Big Apple.
From long-standing local spots to the latest food trends, there’s no reason to go hungry in the Big Apple.

Currently trending in Manhattan and Brooklyn are food halls like Canal Street Market, an indoor street market with boutique retail vendors and a collection of carefully curated food vendors. Over in Brooklyn, just across the Manhattan Bridge, is Gotham Market at The Ashland, a small food court featuring a tapas bar, a cocktail bar, and a seasonally-changing pop-up restaurant. Just a few blocks away is the much larger Dekalb Market Hall, a basement-level food hall that features 40 food vendors, including an outpost of Katz Delicatessen.

What to do while you’re there

Bars/Nightlife: It would take years to visit every bar in New York City. From dive bars to fancy cocktail bars to neighbourhood haunts, there’s a bar for every type of person. Some bars are hiding in plain sight like PDT (Please Don’t Tell), which is hidden behind a phone booth in Crif Dogs, a hotdog restaurant in the East Village. The cozy bar offers a short list of quality cocktails.

Not only is Eataly an excellent place to indulge in pizza, pasta, and gelato, it’s also a prime spot for pints of beer. Head to the rooftop Birreria for house-brewed beer and views of the trendy Flatiron neighbourhood.

Taking in a late-night jazz show is a popular past-time in New York City. Some of the world’s most famous jazz clubs are here, including Birdland, The Iridium, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Most shows cost just slightly more than a round of beers.

Shopping: The 26 blocks south of Houston Street, more popularly known as SoHo, are populated with boutique shops tucked inside historic cast-iron buildings. While some shops feature price tags not for the faint of heart, there are bargains to be found. Try perusing the racks at department store Bloomingdale’s, famed for designer goods and their iconic little brown bags.

Sample sales are an amazing way to snag deals on designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. If you have ever dreamed of dressing like a runway model or your favourite celebrity, sample sales are one way to get the look for less.

There's a good reason New York is known for its shopping.
There’s a good reason New York is known for its shopping.

Museums: Many travellers don’t think twice about the price of admission to museums, but there are many museums with low entry fees. Many of these museums are located on “Museum Mile,” an area along Fifth Avenue between East 82nd and East 105th streets on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that has been nicknamed for the numerous museums that call the neighbourhood home.

The Neue Galerie, which features a collection of early 20th century German and Austrian art, is $20 USD for adults, but admission is free on the first Friday of the month from 6-9 p.m.

Housed in the Carnegie Mansion, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian design museum is $18 USD for adults ($16 USD if purchased online).

Learn about the history of New York at the Museum of the City of New York (admission is $18 USD for adults).

Catch a show: Catching a Broadway show is on the priority list for most travellers, but the price of tickets may put off potential theatre goers. Fortunately, there are several ways to save big. The TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square sells same-day discounted tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

Additional TKTS Discount Booths are located at Lincoln Center, which sells same-day matinee and evening performance tickets and next-day matinee performance tickets, and South Street Seaport, which sells same-day evening performance tickets and next-day matinee performance tickets.

Short on time and don’t want to wait in line in Times Square? Opt to see a play and go to the Play Express line, which is much shorter. If you’re in Brooklyn, you can stop by the TKTS Discount Booth in Downtown Brooklyn, which hardly ever has a line and also sells same-day evening performance tickets and next-day matinee performance tickets.

Save on sightseeing by booking a package deal.
Save on sightseeing by booking a package deal.

Attractions: The admission prices for New York City’s most popular attractions like the Statue of Liberty and The Metropolitan Museum of Art can quickly add up. If you plan to do extensive sightseeing, consider purchasing the New York CityPASS ($126 USD for adults), which offers a pre-packaged itinerary of top attractions for a one-time discounted cost.

After non-stop sightseeing, take time to relax with a foot, back, or body massage in Chinatown. Hour-long foot massages average $25-$35 USD and hour-long back and body massages average $40-$50 USD.

Way #3 – Holiday splurge

New York City is one place where money can be no object. If you wish to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous, it can be done here – for a price.

Where to stay

While it isn’t rare to spend more than $400 USD for a hotel room in New York City, there are many posh properties that require little more than a splurge. Popular properties include the luxury boutique SoHo Grand and the hip and stylish The NoMad Hotel in Flatiron. Over in Williamsburg, the Wythe Hotel, a charming circa 1901 factory-turned-boutique hotel, and McCarren Hotel & Pool, an artsy retreat, are big draws for staying in brownstone-rich Brooklyn. Get the amenities that matter to you by sorting your KAYAK hotel search to meet all of your holiday goals. Pool? Check. Rooftop views? Check.

Brooklyn boasts a variety of unique accommodation options, from wallet-friendly to upscale luxury.
Brooklyn boasts a variety of unique accommodation options, from wallet-friendly to upscale luxury.

How to get around

Taxi: The city’s 13,000 iconic yellow taxicabs are easy to hail from any street corner. Taxis are metered and the initial charge is $2.50 USD plus $0.50 per 1/5 mile, or $0.50 per 60 seconds in slow traffic or when the vehicle is stopped, according to the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission.

There are no additional charges for extra passengers or bags; however, additional fees include a $0.50 MTA State Surcharge for all trips that end in New York City, a $0.30 Improvement Surcharge, a daily $0.50 surcharge for rides from 8-6 a.m. and a $1 surcharge for rides from 4-8 p.m. on weekdays, excluding holidays, plus any bridge or tunnel tolls. It’s also customary to include an additional tip, which is usually 15-20% of the fare (but can be more or less, depending on the service).

Get around like a local by hailing a yellow taxi.
Get around like a local by hailing a yellow taxi.

Where to eat

Enjoy shared plates like French onion soup dumplings, potato and goat cheese pierogies, and lobster roll sliders at hot spot The Stanton Social in the Lower East Side.

Have a round of cocktails and nosh on small plates at Maison Premiere, one of Brooklyn’s hottest restaurants. The New Orleans-style restaurant is equally renowned for its culinary and cocktail programmes.

New York City boasts the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to cost three figures or more for an enjoyable meal. Brooklyn’s Meadowsweet in Williamsburg serves a five-course New American menu Sunday-Thursday for $85 USD. Twice a year, in January and July, the city’s tourism bureau hosts NYC Restaurant Week. During the multi-week event, diners can tuck into three-course lunches for $26 USD and three-course dinners for $42 USD at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants.

What to do while you’re there

Bars/Nightlife: The city is bursting with unique cocktail bars and exemplary pubs. When money isn’t a concern, have drinks at East Village’s Pouring Ribbons, which features more than a dozen house cocktails like Throwing Shade (cocoa-infused Peloton de la Muerte mezcal, Angel’s Envy bourbon, Jägermeister, Lejay Cassis, ginger, and mini). Pair cocktails with light bites curated by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

Hidden behind a nondescript storefront in Chinatown, Apothéke creates fanciful and unique cocktails like Kiwi’s Playhouse (cachaça, soju, muddled kiwi with fennel and fresh marjoram, lime, and agave).

For craft cocktails, head to Attaboy on the Lower East Side. The speakeasy doesn’t have a menu; bartenders cater to patron’s thoughts, ideas, and whims.

Sip Irish whiskey at The Dead Rabbit, which serves more than 150 whiskeys and dozens of cocktails. Be sure to order the Irish coffee made with coffee, cream, and whiskey.

One of Brooklyn’s best cocktail bars is Clover Club, which as robust, seasonally-changing cocktail list including the namesake Clover Club cocktail, a combo of gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white.

Shopping: Window shopping along famed Fifth Avenue is a must. Iconic stores like Tiffany & Co., department store Bergdorf Goodman, and flagship stores of fashion houses like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are all here.

Museums: If you haven’t bought a CityPASS, the price of admission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA may seem steep, but it’s well worth it. The Met’s vast collection covers pre-history to the present in a collection of 2 million works. General admission is $25 USD for adults, but is valid for three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breur, and The Met Cloisters. The globetrotting collection of modern art at MoMA is equally impressive. General admission is $25 USD for adults and includes entry to special exhibits, films, and MoMA’s second location in Queens, MoMA PS1.

Catch a show: Whether catching a concert at Madison Square Garden or Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, seeing The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, or watching a Broadway or off-Broadway, tickets, including VIP experiences, can be booked through ticket agents like Ticketmaster.

NYC Broadway Week offers 2-for-1 tickets to most Broadway shows twice a year, a substantial savings for all ticket categories.

Attractions: Indulge in ice skating at Rockefeller Center from fall to spring, and soar to the Top of the Rock for panoramic views of the city (tickets start at $39.20 USD). Head north to The Bronx Zoo, which has been a local favourite for generations. Tickets can be purchased online for $28.95 USD for adults.

Get a bird’s eye view from floors 100 to 102 of One World Observatory, the tallest building in the western hemisphere. A trip up some of the fastest elevators in the world and panoramic views is $34 USD. Those who want to skip the general admissions line can buy priority admission for $58 USD.

Open until 2 a.m. daily, the Empire State Building affords memorable views of the city and up to 80 miles beyond from the 86th and 102nd floors. Entry starts at $37 USD.

Need to unwind after all the sightseeing? Check into AIRE Ancient Baths, which feature a series of hydrotherapy pools and soothing saunas.

Ready to plan your own New York City adventure? Search flights and accommodation at KAYAK.co.uk.

Note: These rates are based on the most recent data pulled from KAYAK.co.uk, the cheapest prices are always displayed first, regardless of specific dates mentioned. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy, are per night and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available

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