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New York City Attractions on a Budget - Free things to do in New York City

A Day Visiting New York City Attractions on a Budget

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Wondering how to see New York in a day? Ridiculous, I know; there’s too much to see for just a day, yet my kids and I seem to find ourselves in these kinds of situations a lot, either from adding a day on to a business trip or sweeping through on one of our road trips. But I like having tastes of places — it’s a smaller investment, and when we love a place, we’ll go back eventually.

We visited New York City at the end of a road trip, which meant we were a little low on funds, but the beauty of New York is that the best way to enjoy the city is to just start walking and see what turns up. Here’s how we spent a day visiting New York City attractions on a budget:

Where to Stay

When I’m traveling with my kids, I like to make sure I’m staying somewhere convenient and comfortable, and I’ve reached a point where I’m willing to spend a bit more on my hotel to make sure I meet those needs, while spending less on eating out or other extras.

We were fortunate to stay at Millenium Hilton, located in the financial district of New York City. It’s a gorgeous hotel and within walking distance of several sites and neighborhoods we wanted to see.

World Trade Center Site

A very short walk from Millenium Hilton is the 9/11 Memorial that honors the lives of those lost. The 9/11 Memorial is one of the free things to do in New York City, and now you can also visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opened in May 2014, for an admission fee.

The Memorial consists of fountains that have been created in the footprints of the Twin Towers surrounded by a grove of trees. It’s a moving and powerful memorial and is sure to spark important conversations between you and your children.

Stray Boots & Chinatown

With a quick stop back at our hotel for water and snacks, we started walking towards Chinatown. Noted as one of the Fun Things to do in New York City with Teenagers, Stray Boots is a great way to see New York City attractions on a budget. While it is a game, we used it to get a fun, self-guided tour of a part of town, skipping the game aspects. Cost is $12/person for the tours, which are purchased online and all clues for navigating the city are received via text or at their web site. You can easily wander around on your own, but the Stray Boots app takes you to places you might not have noticed and provides little bits of information as you go along.

For the tour through Chinatown, we were led to cool restaurants, shops, parks, and tiny streets filled with Chinese businesses and architecture. These self-guided tours are ideal with kids because you can set your own pace and pop in and out of the places that interest you. We spent quite a bit of time in Columbus Park listening to traditional Chinese music, and then found an enormous dim sum restaurant, Jing Fong, for some quick dumplings.

After our dim sum, we headed back to our hotel for another quick refresher before heading out again.

Times Square

Another one of the free things to do in New York City, a visit to Times Square is obligatory if you haven’t taken your children to New York City before. My kids very much wanted to see Times Square and shop in some of the flagship stores that reside there like Hershey’s Chocolate World and M&Ms World. However, the intense crowds are not for me. We dropped into Times Square, saw the sites, then started walking south along Broadway.

We kept walking for quite a ways. I wanted to both escape the crowds of Times Square and find a reasonable place to eat. I found what I was looking for in Hill Country Chicken on the corner of Broadway and 25th St. It was the perfect little restaurant for our foot sore party of three, with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cole slaw.

Easy Food Delivery

We walked a tremendous amount and returned to the hotel. The fried chicken didn’t last us long, and heading out again was too much effort for us. But this was New York City, and I knew we could easily get delivery. Our problem was more that there were too many places to choose from. In cases like this, Grubhub is a great resource when traveling, conveniently listing nearby restaurants that deliver and providing ratings and a slick, online ordering system.

We covered a lot of ground in New York in a day and stuck within our budget. That night, we simply enjoyed the view from our room while kicking back with our Grubhub delivery. We’re already planning our next visit.

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Andrea L Posted by:

Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…

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