New York Cheap Eats & Activities

NY restaurant

New York City Virgins! Or– people who haven’t been to New York, or that much, here is a guide with some tips and cheap restaurant recs for you. This is for my friend Pablo who is visiting the city next week with some of his amigos from Spain. They will be staying in Chelsea, so my recs are geared to that area and downtown.

Remember that you are entering the inflated economy of Planet New York; you will be shocked at how high the prices for everything are. You have just got to close your eyes and go with it; nothing is getting cheaper while you are here. And, there is New York City sales tax slapped on top of any purchases. But, some food items and services will seem cheap: ethnic food from carts or small diners, nail salons, and neighborhood blow dry salons.

New York City Equipment Guide

Do you think of the great outdoors when you picture the big apple? Probably not. But, I spend more time outside in New York than I ever have in suburbia. Getting around in New York requires going outside and walking. Tons of walking, so you need to be prepared for any and all weather and city conditions.  I live in my black Nike Frees, rain jacket with deep pockets and a hood. If I am out for a while I bring my tote: umbrella and room for any purchases.

Bad Weather Gear. The weather is only as bad as your outdoor accoutrements, so be prepared.

Must Haves:

  1. small umbrella
  2. rain jacket with a Hood
  3. athletic walking or running shoes
  4. light sweaters to layer on and off

Ladies- flats are just not enough for pounding the New York pavement; go with full-on sporty, or at least some slip-on sneakers.

When I forget to take an umbrella out, and  New York’s horizontal, drenching rain starts, I buy one at an exorbitant price. The cost of street umbrellas = how hard it is raining; there is no price ceiling.

Getting Around

Subway Metro Card.  The subway is not at all to be feared; most all of us take it because it is the fastest and certainly the cheapest way from point A to B. So go down into a station and buy a metro card at a machine by the windowed kiosk.  Then, go back to the hotel or a coffee shop to study a subway map around your hotel and destinations.

Taxi App:  Curb app. Sometimes you’ve just got to splurge. Download the Curb app onto your phone before your trip. Load your credit card information. All yellow taxis take payment from the app. Just look at the screen until the Curb code is posted and enter it into the opened app on your phone.

Of course you can Uber or Lyft. You’ll be surprised at how speedily your ride appears, so be ready. And– message the driver with the exact streets and corners of your location; that’s a big deal.

Cash is King.  Still. Carry some. Occasionally a smalll deli-store or a coffee shop or diner will declare that their credit card reader is broken.  And– tipping the bell staff at hotels is very much alive and well.

The Great Outdoors

Parks. A few hours in glorious Central Park is compulsory; depending on the weather. Frederick Olmsted’s masterpiece of landscape architecture and engineering is a part of most New Yorker’s lives. Get some ethnic food to go and have a late lunch on one of the greens in the Park.  If you head up to Museum Mile to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, or The Frick, definitely budget Park time.

The Highline. Downtown to Chelsea. The Highline is an elevated walkway above the city. Crowded with tourists, it is still the best way to see the west side of downtown and Chelsea. Begin your outing at the Whitney Museum, then climb the nearby stairs onto the High Line and walk up to 28th street.

Most Manhattan neighborhoods downtown, east, and north of the Park have delightful small parks and dog parks. Great places to sit and study your city and subway maps or check out dinner options.

Eating and Drinking

American franchises like Starbucks, Chipotle, and Duncan Donuts will be on the lower cost end, but higher than what you pay at home. And, they are reliable.  Some New York chains that are also on the lower cost end are:

Then the best food at great prices can be found at corner food trailers and tiny Mediterranean, Thai, and Indian restaurants.

Eataly is a huge, fun, Italian themed food hall with restaurants and wine bars. It is a destination unto itself, so go.

For those staying in the Chelsea area or near the Westside 20’s streets, here is an awesome list of local and ethnic cheap eats:  The 15 Best Cheap Restaurants in Chelsea by  These would also be convenient for Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, or if you have walked up from Greenwich Village.

So have fun in New York! People-watch, hear street conversations in multiple, often unidentifiable languages, walk briskly, order quickly, and don’t worry if you take the wrong subway train– just get off and start over like the rest of us have. 🙂