Ah, New York: the city of dreams, unidentifiable smells and crippling mark-ups. It may appear that visitors have no business here unless they’re willing to pay a pretty penny for just about everything. But fear not! There is plenty of adventuring to be done off the beaten, tourist-ridden path, even if you’re living on an intern’s wage (or lack thereof). Here’s a list of ideas for throwing down in the Big Apple that take, at most, a few bucks and an open mind.
1. “Pay As You Wish”
Botanical gardens, zoos and museums are but a few of the options you can explore for little to nothing, depending on the date and time. Here’s a list of attractions that are free every day, as well as ones that are free during specific days or hours. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art technically only provides suggested prices. You’re not a jerk for paying $5 instead of $25; you’re just broke.
2. Yoga to the People
Very similar to the previous concept, YTTP does not require guests to pay for class, though they accept donations. With five locations throughout the city and a variety of classes every day, you’re bound to find one nearby at a time that works for you. For more information, head to their website.
3. Underground art galleries
Research galleries of up-and-coming artists who aren’t established enough to charge much for admission and show up to support! Unless they’re holding an invite-only event (which they probably aren’t), they’ll likely be thrilled to have been discovered by a stranger as young and hip as yourself. Check out this list of free, intimate exhibitions for inspiration.
4. Actually keep up with those Facebook pages.
No, really. Pages like Free Events in New York City are chock-full of exciting ways to spend your time. Sure, you’ll be surrounded by tourists, but maybe you’ll find another intern who’s just looking for a good, cheap time.
5. Take your own public art tour
New York is full of incredible public art that often goes overlooked. Check out the Mosaic House in Cobble Hill, or this bodega made entirely of felt. You’ll soon discover a whole new world of artistry that’s about more than just a mural or two.
6. Window shop at Dover Street Market
If you’re not familiar, DSM is a 7-floor department store full of clothes by some of fashion’s most innovative designers. The quirky interior was designed by the legendary Rei Kawakubo of designer label Comme Des Garcons. It’s like a clothing and architecture museum with free admission and a cafe!
7. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise
This one will require some comfortable shoes and, if you’re like me, an alarm clock, but the views are well worth waking up for. Bring your camera (or a smartphone with lots of storage) and maybe a journal if you’re a Thoreau type. If you’re more of a night owl, try walking at sunset. Don’t be afraid to stop frequently to take it all in; just make sure you’re not standing in the bike lane.
8. Have an Instagram photoshoot in the lighting shops on Bowery
Here’s an unconventional way to get your clout up. Just past Little Italy, beginning at Bowery and Broome, there is a multi-block stretch of lighting stores specializing in everything from neon signs to chandeliers. If this doesn’t sound exciting to you, then you clearly haven’t been in a room filled with thousands of illuminated crystals. Bring a friend, your phone and a sense of humor, and you’re bound to end up with a golden hour-caliber ‘gram.
9. Embrace your inner tourist
There is no shame in embodying a cliché! Photograph everything. Strike up conversation with the cute barista (I’d recommend the tall guy with the dimples at the Starbucks on 56th). Ask locals for recommendations and directions of all kinds. Find your favorite celebrities’ regular spots and look on, respectfully, from afar. If there’s something you’d like to try, give it a shot and don’t look back; that’s what this city is all about.