I went to New York for the first time and I have to say as a foreigner, I was very impressed.
Having lived in Europe for close to 5 years, New York to me had the perfect mix (as most places on the East Coast do) of the “Old” with the “New”-I especially loved the old architecture with its undeniable European influence mixed with modern skyscrapers, old values and tradition mixed with modern day influences-yes I am hooked and the “new” New York (as I like to call it) lives up to all its expectations!
I have this very bad habit (its great at the time trust me) of really embracing “living in the moment” and not giving a crap about how much things are-live now, pay later die hard kind of attitude.
However this time I was slightly aware before I landed how “expensive” New York would be, and I decided to do some research so I would not become a “victim” of my bank account.
I have to give London credit for teaching me this valuable life lesson. I lived in London for two years and when I first moved there my “live in the moment attitude” almost put me right back on the plane to Australia after a month! I learnt to budget and make my money stretch especially since I was starting working a month after I arrived.
Here’s the thing-big mega cities ARE expensive, but like any city there are what I like to call “gems” hidden in every nook and cranny if you take the time to do the following:
-Do your research on the Internet (forums are great), buy a travel guide such as The Lonely Planet and ACTUALLY read it
-Look for online magazines, which specialize in the place you are going to, or if you are not staying with friends and family and don’t know anyone, speak to the staff at your hotel
-My favorite- go into the nearest local bar in your area, have a few drinks and start talking to locals.
Its amazing how many of my friends and family do not do this when they travel, and to me you are robbing yourself of one of the joys of traveling-going with the flow and living in the moment (literally). I also like to leave a few days free with no itinerary plans so you can explore and improvise!
Below I have summarized some of the highlights from my trip to New York for all you NY “virgins” out there, as well as any old-timers who love revisiting a familiar place and discovering new joys.
Five Fabulous restaurants on a budget:
1– Little Italy- BUONA NOTTE
120 Mulberry St #1, New York, NY 10013
This is a great place if you are looking for that “traditional Italian” experience (minus the mafia).
Quaint and friendly atmosphere, family owned and operated you really are looked after here.
Prices are affordable (especially for New York prices), highlights for me included: the antipasto calamari fritti, the gnocchi alla neapolitana (which is homemade), and for meat lovers the spaghetti meatballs (my boyfriend said it was the best he has ever had in a restaurant, and he is German and ultra picky!).
They also have great daily specials, and if it’s your birthday -your in luck (it was my boyfriends), they give you a free tiramisu (to die for) and the WHOLE STAFF sing Happy Birthday to you.
Don’t leave without trying their original Sangria (warning: its very strong but tastes like juice!)
2-Chelsea Markets -Meatpacking district-Giovanna Rana Pastificio and Cucina
75th Avenue, Chelsea Market NYC. 212 370 0975
Another Italian restaurant but this one is ultra modern /contemporary Italian.
The staff is mostly Italian and very friendly.
They have an AMAZING happy hour every day of the week from 4pm until 7pm at the bar (which lets face it is the best spot in the place anyway).
The drinks are top-notch quality and Italian so this place is definitely worth a visit. Did I mention the “Happy Hour” includes ALL their drinks on the menu?!
For true Italian spirit try the “Aperol Spritz”, or any of the wines on offer. Happy hour here also comes with free appetizers including bread, dips, tortellini and ravioli.
If you are still hungry after all the appetizers try getting some takeaway pasta (all homemade and dozens of varieties), or if you have had enough go for a stroll through the Chelsea Markets which will not disappoint.
56 Greenwich Avenue, West Village, New York, NY 10011
11:30–04:00am every night
This is the best Irish bar in all of NY (well definitely Greenwich), and located in my favorite area -Greenwich Village.
This place is a fantastic for a number of reasons: it has the LONGEST happy hour in the big apple:
-Monday to Friday 12 noon until 8pm-all beers, house wines and spirits $5, the weekend brunch special is $10 and includes brunch and two complimentary drinks (so in other words free pouring and massive portions Irish style).
– Sunday to Wednesday from 8pm until 4am ALL American drinks (beer, wine and spirits) are $4 (God bless America!).
Oh and the added bonus as told to me by PIIKEA our amazing bar chick is that this was the FIRST gay bar in New York!
There’s a pool table, large screen TV’s showing all sports games and DJs on the weekend (the place gets packed and pumping so get in early).
Its right on the heart of Greenwich Village, is a great place for star spotting and soaking up that New York vibe. You will feel like Carrie Bradshaw or a member of the “Friends” gang when you hang out here.
The $8 Shepherds pie is a winner, as is the house nachos and the quirky locals who are always at the bar from 12 noon during weekdays.
4– Xian Foods
67 Bayard St, Chinatown, NY 10013
I’m not a big fan of chain food stores when exploring new places but my friend who now lives in New York took me to this place in China town and it is amazing!
A family run business this place now boosts six locations in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn and two in Queens. The flavors are unique and original and frankly unlike anything I have ever eaten before.
The food is CHEAP and they serve it here fast and fresh (warning-they highly advise eating in their shop rather than take-away, as the food is prepared in a way that it needs to be eaten as soon as you get it, especially the noodles which when they cool down loose their taste).
This is almost a best kept secret among locals, no fancy décor but the food is fresh, the place is clean, staff are efficient and the food is 10 out of 10-what more could you want!
Definitely try the spinach dumplings, spicy hot oil seared hand ripped noodles and the tiger salad for banging flavors.
5–Hofbrau Bier House
Address: 712 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10017
A great place to go if you want to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps, chill out for an hour or two, rest your feet and have a nice cold Bavarian beverage.
The laid back atmosphere truly makes you feel like a world traveler, the place is full of tourists (especially Germans), has live music in the night and a great balcony overlooking the city in which you can people watch and soak up the atmosphere.
Try the freshly made pretzels, bratwursts (German sausage) or any German Hefeweizen (best German beer but be prepared to walk all those calories off on your way home).
My five free favorite things to do:
The Highline– http://www.thehighline.org/
Bring your walking shoes, camera, a bottle of water and be prepared for the crowds.
This 1.45 mile long linear park is built on an elevated section of a disused central railroad called The West Line.
This boasts great views of the city landscape and a nice mix of traditional and contemporary architecture along the way. There are some pop up bars and cafes and the best place to enter is near the Chelsea markets.
John Lennon Strawberry Fields Memorial- Central Park http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/strawberry-fields.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
West Side between 71st and 74th Streets.
As a die hard Beatles fan I could not resist going here. A quiet place of reflection in Central park, and if you are lucky there is usually a busker (street performer or musician) playing John Lennon and Beatles songs. Get there early as this place gets crowded.
11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
One of the best museums in the world with all the classics and contemporary’s as well as monthly exhibitions.
Admission is FREE Fridays from 4pm until 8pm (I only found this out AFTER I had paid $20 plus the day before!) and this includes their special exhibitions.
There are no advance tickets and I’m sure this place gets packed out so get in early!
Staten Island Ferry– http://www.siferry.com/
Much has been written about this so I will keep it brief. This to me is the best way to see and get pictures of The Statue of Liberty. Ferries run regularly and views of the city do not disappoint.
The bridge itself opened in 1883 and was at the time the longest suspension bridge. It is now a National Historical Landmark.
Walking the bridge offers great views of the city and all sorts of characters at any given time of the day -make sure to bring your camera!
I was surprised to learn how many New Yorkers avoid Brooklyn altogether or have never walked across the bridge. You can always catch a drink down by the waters edge, wander through the streets or catch the metro back if you are over walking.
Times Square– http://www.timessquarenyc.org/index.aspx
Yes the place those locals avoid like the plague and tourists flock to, but it is pretty amazing (especially at night), you do feel like you are standing in one of the crossroads of the world (which you essentially are!).
I happened to get lucky as I went the night before my birthday and right on 12 midnight I got a photo with two local police officers (included here!).
This is a good place to get a famous hot dog and take lots of cheesy pictures of all those lovely neon lights in all their glory.
Broadway deals– (Just down the road from Broadway) http://www.goodseattickets.com/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwkIurBRDwoZfi1bGCxocBEiQAmcs-esXOxCubPaPQH6QsA_DHoDFZqZ-8zW8ACM-Oo76bIuoaAmRV8P8HAQ
A New York trip will not be complete without a Broadway show in my opinion. For best prices go to goodseattickets.com which gives you up to 75% off tickets to Broadway shows (I saw a show for $45).
Make sure to always ask for an upgrade when you check in (Ok I’m not going to lie, having an accent helps!), and get there early as they will be more inclined to help-if its mid-week they will usually do it free of charge-remember my motto-Ask and you will receive!
And there you have it my budget guide to good eats and free things to do in the big apple.
The only downside to New York is after all the walking, drinking, eating, dancing, shopping, sightseeing, and lack of sleep I now feel that I need a holiday after my holiday!
Until next time,
Get out there and explore the world!
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