A man with two children, in coats and hats, walking across a street in NYC

Visiting New York with kids: How to save money while you’re there

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New York is a great city for a short family break and there’s so much to do. The costs can quickly add up though so here are some great tips for saving money while you’re there.

See the Statue of Liberty… for free

Although tours to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty are available, you might not want to spend loads of time seeing this landmark. Sometimes children just want to see something, take a quick look and leave, so it might not be worth spending money on an expensive tour.

To get a free view of the Statue of Liberty you can take a ride across the river on the Staten Island Ferry… for FREE! Yes, it’s absolutely free. Generally, ferries run every 15 minutes or so from around 7 am until 5 pm. On either side of this, they run every 30 minutes.

While you won’t get the best view of the Statue of Liberty, it’s a great way to do it for free! Kids will love going on the ferry too.

Buy the New York CityPass

Something I hate when visiting a new city is paying separately for all of the different attractions I want to visit. You can save the hassle by buying a New York CityPass. This great pass can be purchased online and downloaded to your smartphone. You have one year to activate the pass and once you do, 9 days to visit the attractions listed below:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck *OR* Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island *OR* Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum *OR* Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Aerial view of the New York skyline on a sunny afternoon

Spend the day at Coney Island 

When I visited New York in 2015, one of my favourite things was a trip to Coney Island. This might not be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do but it’s such a different area of New York. By getting the D, F, N, or Q train from Manhattan, you’ll be minutes away from a really fun day out. 

You might not know it but Coney Island is home to a lovely beach and boardwalk, as well as so many other things to do. It’s free to walk along the boardwalk, and to visit the beach but other attractions will need to be paid for. There are amusement parks, an aquarium and of course, some wonderful food. Head to Nathan’s Famous on the corner of Surf and Stillwell for some amazing hot dogs. If you’re visiting in July, there’s an annual hot dog eating contest! 

Walk around Central Park

When you’re visiting a city as big and as busy as New York, it’s nice to find an outdoor green area to spend some time. Central Park is perfect for this as there’s something for all ages and the best bit is that you don’t have to spend anything if you don’t want to.

Walking around Central Park is beautiful any time of the year. If you walk the 2.5 miles down the mall, you’ll end up at the Bethesda Terrace, where you can see the Bethesda Fountain. Another option for music fans is to walk to Strawberry Fields, a memorial dedicated to John Lennon.

Of course, just a stroll around the different areas of Central Park is enjoyable. There are often street performers to watch (although they do want money), lots of benches to sit on and there are a few different playgrounds in you are visiting with younger children.

Ride the subway

A really cheap of doing something a bit different, and iconic during a trip to NYC is to ride the subway. It’s a great way to get around the city and kids will love it. One journey only costs $2.90 (2023 price) so it’s a cheap and easy way of ticking something off a list of things you must do in New York City.

Empty New York Subway Station

Go on a film and TV tour

New York City is famous for being the backdrop for so many films and television programmes. Although there are tours you can pay for, you can easily see some of your favourite places on your own. Here are some ideas, depending on the age of your children:

  • West Village – apartment from Friends
  • Tribeca – Ghostbusters firehouse
  • West Village – Carrie Bradshaw’s Upper East Side flat (which isn’t in the Upper East Side at all!)
  • 5th Avenue – Tiffany&Co
  • Rockefeller Center – Reunion scene from Home Alone 2 (as well as many others)
  • Natural History Museum – Night at the Museum
  • Grand Central Station – Gossip Girl

Pizza slices and hot dogs

One of the great things about visiting New York City is the ability to feed yourself on a low budget. You’ll find so many places selling pizza by the slice starting from only $1, depending on where you are. The pizza slices are much bigger than we’re used to, and they make a really quick and easy lunch.

For hot dogs, Gray’s Papaya is a must-visit for me. You might have seen this place in shows like Sex and the City or the film Only Fools Rush In. Gray’s Papaya does something called the Recession Special, which gets you 2 hot dogs and a drink for $6.95 including tax (2023 price). The Recession Special has been going since the early 1980s!

Walk across Brooklyn Bridge

Another free thing to do in New York is to visit the beautiful bridges. Walking across Brooklyn Bridge is absolutely free and it’s something a bit different to do, if you need break from being right in the middle of the city. You’ll get a fantastic view of the city from the bridge and it’s a great place to take some pictures! We had so much fun doing this on our trip to NYC and I was so glad we made the time for it. 

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