If your travel plans have you landing in New York City don’t wring your hands at the thought of how expensive this vacation could cost. It’s true that NYC is notoriously expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar to have the best experiences. There are a lot of free and inexpensive activities for families to enjoy in the city.
When you begin planning your vacation, take some time to do some research and make a list of everything your family wants to see and do. It might make sense to purchase a The New York Pass that grants access to multiple attractions for one fee. You will need to do some number crunching to determine if it’s worth it for your family. Hop on – Hop off tours are another way to see the city easily, but it may be just as easy to navigate via public transit. If you’re not sure what to do and see, here are a few suggestions for families with younger and older kids that won’t break the bank.
Starting at the bottom tip of Manhattan, also known as the financial district, families of all ages can find engaging ways to learn and have fun. The Imagination Playground at Southport Seaport is an innovative playground for under-12’s to explore. It’s unlike most playgrounds you’ve probably seen. Unlike traditional play structures the Imagination Playground encourages kids to manipulate their environment by introducing sand, water, and other lose parts. The park is open from 9-5am daily and access is free. There is a team of park staff on hand to facilitate play.
Wander the area to view the country’s largest privately owned fleet of historic ships, then walk towards Orchard Street to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The museum runs several different tours all focusing on immigrant life in New York. This might not be the best stop for families with young children (they recommend 8+ and children under 6 are not permitted) but older kids will learn from this interactive experience. This is not free, and could be considered a big expense however, it is worth the price of admission. If you’re going to spend money on one museum during your visit – this should be the one.
Sticking with the immigration theme, Liberty and Ellis Island are only a short trip away. There are special tours that run to the islands. If you are wanting to tour Ellis Islands tickets can be bought online or at Battery Park. A few tips, getting off the ship at Liberty Island is generally wasted time. Aside from seeing the statue there’s nothing else to do on the island. If you have young children Ellis Island is likely to go over their heads and be an unenjoyable experience for everyone. If you still want to see the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty, take the FREE Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall. You can cross the river and come back easily.
Finally, visiting the ethnic neighborhoods of New York are a great way to experience new cultures and taste amazing food. There’s a parade or festival just about monthly in the city so chances are good you’ll be able to join in! Chinatown and Little Italy are well known but if you venture into the boroughs, why not visit Astoria Queens for Greek and Arab neighborhoods or Williamsburg Brooklyn for Jewish, Polish, Puerto Rican, and Italian neighborhoods. Visit a grocery store, bakery or mom and pop restaurant in the area for a real taste of the culture.
Have you visited New York City? Do you have any budget friendly tips others may enjoy?