An occasional vacation is recommended if you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Work, kids, and other responsibilities can become overwhelming if we don’t take time for a breather. While there plenty of places to decompress, my favorite is New York City! Yes, it’s probably busier than where you’re coming from but it is truly a magical place no matter what your mood is for travel. It offers everything…….And more! However, it can be a little pricey so planning your attractions and sites before you go will help you stay on budget because a whimsical trip to NYC can literally break the bank.
First and foremost, consider what time of year you plan to visit. I’ve been to NYC during every season of the year and they all have their pros. Winter is very cold but beautiful if you’re around for the Christmas décor and the holiday vibe. Spring may or may not be cold, but tends to offer some great flight and lodging deals, especially the first week in March (you can find a package of flight and a 4-star hotel for three nights from around $350/person – TOTAL!) Summer is fun if you want to traipse the place with other tourists from all over the world (if you love to study people and the busyness of the city like I do, it’s a real treat)! And fall is absolutely spectacular with burnt shades of autumn leaves drizzling Central Park. Whatever time of year you choose, NYC will not disappoint. Now, let’s get to the attractions!
There are too many attractions to list them all so I’ll recommend 10 of the free or very inexpensive attractions since we’re traveling on a budget.
- Central Park – You cannot pass up on Central Park depending on the weather. It’s absolutely beautiful and has many activities of its own. Begin by renting a bike (about $12/person) and ride through beautiful scenery of winding roads surrounded by lakes, gardens, park benches, playgrounds, ice rinks and lush foliage. If you’re interested in a less strenuous activity, then rent a boat and paddle your way around the lake. Or just walk through the park where tall buildings surround your stroll. Tip – wear comfortable shoes.
- Times Square – bright lights, big city. More than 39 million people visit TS each year so it’s safe to say that no matter when you visit, it’ll be busy. This is definitely the heart of the tourist hub with the lights, marquis and billboards offering plenty of attraction. It’s like no other scenery so take a walk a on the wild side and visit Times Square! Yes, I sang that, inspired from the 1980’s movie, Times Square.
- The Brooklyn Bridge – Whether you plan to visit Brooklyn (or not) you’ll enjoy the architecture of the bridge plus you’ll get great views and shots of the entire city skyline from the bridge. It’s an impressive, unforgettable walk considering the blowing city traffic beneath you, vibrating the bridge on the one of the main thoroughfares into and out of the city.
- Chinatown – If you’re looking for great Asian food and a cheap deal on mock designer handbags, then Chinatown is your go-to attraction. Blocks and blocks of gift shops, restaurants, shopping and the infamous designer bags are what you’ll see during this visit.
- The Staten Island Ferry – The commuter ferry runs from Battery Park to Staten Island 24 hours a day and it offers commuters a chance to see the amazing views of Lower Manhattan, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York Harbor for free. The ride takes about 30 minutes each way so you have plenty of time to take lots of skyline pics.
- Grand Central Terminal – growing up, we had one bathroom for a family of five and my dad used to say, “It’s like Grand Central Station in here.” I didn’t appreciate his analogy until many years later when I actually visited GCS. It’s busy! People coming, people going, people watching, people lost. You name it, they’re all there! (Another great site for people-watching). The architecture is breath-taking and the station is not just a travel hub. It is home to some great restaurants, bars and shopping.
- New York Public Library – is very impressive and if you’re a bookworm like me, you’ll wander in awe at the vast collection of books. The library was constructed in 1911 and at the time, was the largest marble construction in the U.S. It offers free daily tours.
- The Rockefeller Center – The most famous attraction at the Center is the Rock Center Ice Rink. While skating isn’t free, observation is and that’s good enough for me. Another great attraction is the Top of the Rock where you’re taken to the top of the building to see city views from about 850 feet up (in the sky). It’s not free but worth the $30 per person. What is free is the beautiful Christmas tree that centers the rink and the ornate décor around the Center Plaza.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral – It is largest Gothic-style decorated Catholic cathedral in the U.S. seating more than 2200 people. Construction took more than 20 years and has been the site of many famous occasions including celebrity weddings and funerals. Free public tours are offered daily.
- The Metropolitan Museum – Known as “The Met,” it is the largest museum in the U.S. It’s not totally free, but their admission is based on donations so if you want to give $1, no one will judge (as long as you wrap it up and inconspicuously toss it in the offering). Just kidding. It’s certainly worth more than that considering permanent collections contain more than 2 million works and you can spend an entire day at the museum without seeing all the exhibits. And the museum is massive, beautiful, ornate and breathtaking. The architecture alone is worth the visit.
These ten sites are just a few of the most popular attractions that NYC has to offer. They are a good start and will definitely keep you busy for several days. Here’s to NYC!