Families Can Have Fun in New York City for $15 or Less
Savvy families visiting New York City are finding out what
native New Yorkers already know: You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the
city. New York City is bursting with hundreds of no-cost and low-cost pleasures that
include concerts, plays, museum exhibitions and tours throughout all five
some clues on where to look? Try browsing the city’s official tourism web site
or drop by NYC’s Official Visitor Information
Center at 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street, the
NYC Heritage Tourism Center downtown
at the southern tip of City Hall Park, the Official
Visitor Information Kiosk for Chinatown located at the triangle
where Canal, Walker, and Baxter Streets meet or the Harlem Visitor Information Kiosk uptown at the State Office Building plaza at 163 West 125th
Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
You’ll find hundreds of
brochures and expert, multilingual visitor counselors who can advise you on all
things New York. Order online or call for a free copy of the
Official NYC Guide (800-NYC-VISIT in the U.S. and
Canada or +1 212 397-8222 internationally),
filled with helpful information and coupons to save money on hotels,
restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
Your 15 Minutes of Fame
planning in advance, you can attend free tapings of popular television shows
Night with David Letterman (212-975-5853,
www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow); Live with Regis and Kelly
www.tvplex.go.com/buenavista/livewithregis); The Montel Williams Show (212-989-8101,
www.montelshow.com). Standby tickets are available on the day of taping
for some shows.
unique perspectives on the history of entertainment, the Museum of Television & Radio
(212-621-6800, www.mtr.org) gives
visitors access to its collection of archived television and radio programs
dating back to the invention of each. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for
students and seniors and $5 for kids under 14.
Kids of All Ages Won’t Blow Their Allowance Here
toy boats and soldiers, presidential papers, paintings, Fabergé Imperial Easter
eggs, objets d’art and other memorabilia at the Forbes Magazine Galleries (212-206-5548). Entrance is
free and the gallery is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to
4pm. Guided tours of
the collection are available free of charge, but reservations must be made one
month in advance.
hands-on, interactive exhibits, workshops and performances, the Staten Island Children’s Museum
(718-273-2060) encourages children to learn by doing. Admission is $5 per
person and children under 2 are admitted free. Just across the water,
kids can explore science, culture and other areas of interest at the
Brooklyn Children’s Museum (718-735-4400, www.brooklynkids.org).
Admission is $4 at all times, and free for children 1 or under.
advantage of free hours of admission (September 1 through June 30, Fridays from
2 to 5pm and Sundays from 10-11am) at the New
York Hall of Science (718-699-0005, www.nyhallsci.org) in Queens. Regular prices, in effect during July and August, are $11
for adults and $8 for seniors and children. Parking is $7 per car.
The New York City Police Museum (212-480-3100,
located in historic Lower Manhattan, captures the rich history of the New York Police Department,
giving visitors an insider’s look at the world’s most famous law enforcement
agency. Permanent exhibits include turn-of-the-century mug shots, photos
of notorious criminals and their “tools of the trade,” a display of police
vehicles, a model of a jail cell and, in the most solemn of the exhibits, the
museum pays tribute to every NYPD officer killed in the line of duty throughout
the department’s history. Suggested admission is $4 for adults, $4 for
seniors and $1 for children ages 6 to 18.
animal attraction at the city’s Wildlife
Conservation Parks (www.wcs.org).
To start, don’t miss the Bronx Zoo
www.bronxzoo.com), home to more than 4,000 animals. Pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays,
otherwise admission is $12 for adults, $9 for children aged
2 to 12, $9 for seniors and
students. In Manhattan, admission to the Central Park
Zoo (212-861-6030, www.centralparkzoo.com) is $6 for adults, $1.25
for seniors, $1 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children under the age
of 3. Discover an incredible world of wildlife at the Prospect Park Zoo (718-399-7339,
www.prospectparkzoo.com) in Brooklyn where admission is $6 for adults, $1.25 for seniors and students
and $1 for children ages 3 to 12.
you leave Staten Island, stop by the biggest little zoo in the United States – the
Zoo (718-442-3174, www.statenislandzoo.org) – at a cost
of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors or $3 for visitors ages 3 to 14. On
Wednesdays after 2pm, admission is a suggested donation at this eight-acre zoological
garden with wonderful horticultural displays and a large collection of mammals,
reptiles, invertebrates, fish and birds.
New York City’s fascinating past at any of the 20 Historic House Museums (212-360-8282, www.nycparks.org)
located throughout all five boroughs. Admission fees are minimal to
none. Visit Manhattan’s oldest house, the 1765 Morris-Jumel Mansion (212-923-8008,
www.morrisjumel.org), once the headquarters of George Washington; or stride
back into history at Brooklyn’s Old Stone House
Historic Interpretive Center (718-768-3195, www.oldstonehouse.org),
which survived the Revolutionary War's Battle of Brooklyn and served as the 19th-century
clubhouse for the team later known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Discover the historic Dyckman Farmhouse Museum (212-304-9422,
http://www.dyckmanfarmhouse.org), built in the early 1780s and restored to
provide a window into the past of northern Manhattan. There are guided
and self-guided tours available, as well as educational programs focusing on
topics such as “Life on the Farm.” Admission is $1 for adults and free
for children under 10.
Delve into the past on Staten Island with a visit to Historic Richmond Town (718-351-1611,
www.historicrichmondtown.org,) a living history village and museum complex with
homes, shops and public buildings from the 1690s to 1900s. Admission is
$5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3.50 for students and free for children under
the age of 5.
Experience New York’s salty maritime
history at the South Street Seaport (212-748-8600,
www.southstseaport.org), boasting a museum and numerous shops and
restaurants. Browsing is free; museum admission is $8 for adults, $6 for
students and seniors, $4 for children ages 5-12, and free for children under
the age of 5.
Stories of faith and courage that affect
nearly every American are told at the Statue
of Liberty/Ellis Island Immigration
Museum (212-269-5755, www.nps.gov/stli). Admission is free but the ferry ride is $11.50 for adults,
$9.50 for seniors and $4.50 for children ages 4 to 12. The interior of the Statue of Liberty Monument and
the grounds of Liberty Island are open to the public as well as the gift shop and
about New York City’s famous transportation system at the Gallery Annex of the New York Transit Museum (718-694-5100,
www.mta.info/museum). Exhibits in the Annex (located in Grand Central
Terminal) are free. The main facility at Boerum and
in Brooklyn reopened in September 2003 after an extensive renovation.
nation’s only independent public museum dedicated to the history of growth,
opportunity and entrepreneurship in our democratic free market economy, the Museum of Financial History (212-908-4695, www.financialhistory.org)
offers $2 admission to visitors of all ages.
Shop ‘til You Drop
New York’s famous Fashion Institute of Technology (212-217-5800,
www.fitnyc.suny.edu) shows off thousands of designer costumes and accessories,
fabrics from around the world and the work of renowned fashion photographers in
the institute’s free museum.
fashion update, join a Macy’s (212-494-4662)
group tour. Tours, offered at $10 per person, discuss the history of the
world’s largest department store from its humble beginnings in 1857 to its
status today with more than two million square feet of selling space.
Where the Grass is
the beauty of the Brooklyn Botanic
Garden (718-623-7200, www.bbg.org), free all day Tuesdays and from
10am to noon on Saturdays; free
admission for seniors on Fridays. The regular admission fee is $5 for
adults and $3 for students and seniors is in effect all other days, although
children under 16 are always admitted free. The grounds of the
Staten Island Botanical Garden
(718-273-8200, www.sibg.org) are open from dawn until dusk at no charge while
the world-renowned Chinese Scholar’s Garden is just $5 for adults and $4 for
students, seniors and children at other times. Entrance to the beautiful Queens Botanical Garden (718-886-3800,
www.queensbotanical.org) is free at all times.
at the New York Botanical Garden
(718-817-8700, www.nybg.org) blossom all year. Situated on 250 acres in
the Bronx, the garden includes 27 outdoor gardens and plant collections and
a Victorian conservatory featuring a monumental 90-foot-high glass dome.
The garden is free on Saturdays from 10am to
noon and all day Wednesdays;
regular admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and students, $5 for
children ages 2 to 12 and free for children under 2. Parking is $7.
the Bronx, enjoy spectacular views from Wave
Hill (718-549-3200, www.wavehill.org), the acclaimed public garden
and cultural institution overlooking the Hudson River and
New Jersey’s soaring 500-foot
cliffs, the Palisades. Entrance is free all day Tuesday and on Saturday from 9am to
noon. All other times
admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and students and free for children
the only working historical farm in New
York City. The
Queens County Farm Museum (718-347-3276,
www.queensfarm.org) has free admission and is open every day, year-round.
There are weekend tours of the farmhouse and greenhouse, educational programs
and a fresh produce stand.
farm-fresh produce, homemade breads, cheeses, cider and more at the Union Square Green Market (212-477-3220,
www.cenyc.org), where some vendors offer free samples.
the young and the young at heart can enjoy New York City’s carousels: Central Park (212-879-0244), year-round, 90
cents per ride; Bryant Park
(212-768-4242, www.bryantpark.org), seasonal, $1.75 per ride; and Prospect Park (718-282-7789,
www.prospectpark.org), April through October, $1 per ride.
The Dana Discovery Center (212-860-1370, www.centralparknyc.org) in the northeast corner of
Central Park will lend you a pole for an afternoon of catch-and-release
fishing in the Harlem Meer, a beautiful lake also frequented by numerous
species of wild birds. Take advantage of the center’s educational workshops
for children, or grab a pair of binoculars and sharpen your bird-watching
eye. The center is free to all and is open daily, April to October, from 10am to
5pm (4pm in winter).
to Know New
feel for New York through a New Yorker’s eyes with a free neighborhood exploration
with a Big Apple Greeter (212-669-8159,
www.bigapplegreeter.org). Experienced, multilingual local volunteers
share the secrets of their favorite neighborhoods. Reserve at least three
to four weeks in advance.
Rockefeller Center (212-332-6868,
www.rockefellercenter.com), a majestic Art Deco masterpiece, on a free,
self-guided tour. Pick up maps in the main lobby at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Saturdays at 2pm, take a free walking tour offered by the 14th Street-Union Square Business
Improvement District (212-460-1204, www.unionsquarenyc.org),
including stops at New York’s first film studios, opera houses, grand theaters
and nickelodeons, “Ladies’ Mile” and Union Square Park.
tour of New York City landmark Grand Central Terminal with the Municipal Art Society (212-935-3960,
www.mas.org) on Wednesdays at 12:30pm for a suggested donation of $10.
There are also free tours of New York’s fascinating neighborhoods, including
historic 34th Street with the 34th
Street Partnership (212-719-3434, www.34thStreet.org), a grand tour
of midtown with the Grand Central Partnership
(212-883-2420, www.grandcentralpartnership.org) or a tour of Times Square with
the Times Square BID
world history in the making on guided, multilingual tours of the United Nations (212-963-TOUR, www.un.org) with an admission fee of
$11.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, $7.50 for students and $6.50 for children
ages 5 to 14; children under five not permitted on tours. Or take in
Chinese culture in the country’s most famous Chinatown; walking tours offered
by Toro Associates, Inc.
(212-625-9977, www.chinatowninfo.com) at $15 for adults and $10
for children. Visitors can see a Buddhist temple, historical Chinatown
landmarks and herbal medicine stores and hear the little known stories about
this diverse neighborhood.
cruise on the Staten Island Ferry
(718-815-BOAT) for spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, New York harbor
and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry runs 24 hours a day and is free at
all times. Or take a walk across the footpath on the Brooklyn Bridge for
a fantastic and free view of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn.
just $4 round-trip, ride the Roosevelt Island
Tram (www.roosevelt-island.ny.us) across
the East River and enjoy fabulous views of Manhattan and Queens.
Cultural Treasures for a Trifle
advantage of "pay what you wish" evenings at some of the world’s
finest museums: Fridays from 6 to 9pm at the
Whitney Museum of American Art (212-570-3676, www.whitney.org);
Thursdays from 5 to 9pm at the Jewish Museum
(212-423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org); and Fridays from 6 to 8pm at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
(212-423-3500, www.guggenheim.org). Pay what you wish” days are also in
effect every day at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art and The Cloisters
Target Free Fridays, sponsored by Target, are from 4 to 8pm at the Museum of Modern Art (212-708-9400, www.moma.org).
admission at the Museum of the City of New
York (212-534-1672, www.mcny.org) – where you can explore five
floors of New York City’s past, present and future – suggested admission is
just $7, or $5 for seniors, students and children; $15 for families.
folk paintings, furniture, pottery, quilts and other decorative arts from the
18th century to the present at the American
Folk Art Museum (www.folkartmuseum.org), which now houses its
collection in two locations. The smaller branch, the Eva & Morris Feld Gallery on Columbus
Avenue (212-595-9533), offers free admission at all times. The museum’s
new home on West 53rd Street (212-265-1040) charges admission: $9
for adults, $7 for students and seniors, free for children 12 and under; free
to all on Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
and contemporary design can be viewed at the Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Museum (212-849-8400, www.cooperhewitt.org) for $10
general admission or $7 for students and seniors, or “pay what you wish” at the
Museum of Arts and Design
Thursdays from 6 to 8pm. Unique urban art is showcased at the Municipal Art Society’s Urban Center Gallery
(212-935-3960, www.mas.org) at no charge, 11am to 5pm. The gallery is
closed on Sundays and Thursdays.
free to explore the world’s largest collection of artifacts devoted to Native
American history and culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (212-514-3700,
www.nmai.si.edu). The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm, 8pm on
advantage of special exhibitions free of charge at the beaux arts
New York Public Library (212-930-0769,
www.nypl.org) as well as free concerts, film series and other special events in
adjacent Bryant Park (212-768-4242, www.bryantpark.org).
ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary classics, the Brooklyn Museum of Art (718-638-5000,
www.brooklynmuseum.org) offers a vast art collection and special exhibitions
year-round. The suggested admission is $8 for adults, $4 for students and
seniors, and free for children under 12 or for everyone after 5pm, and all day
the first Saturday of each month.
Socrates Sculpture Park (718-956-1819, www.socratessculpturepark.org), a free outdoor
museum located on the East River in Long Island City, Queens. It serves
as both a major art institution and reclaimed open space allowing public access
to the waterfront with impressive Manhattan views. Open daily until
Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center (718-448-2500,
www.snug-harbor.org), an 83-acre
National Historic Landmark district featuring remarkable examples of Greek
revival architecture and free admission. The cultural program includes
concerts, art and theater.
the grandeur of Morningside Heights’ Cathedral
of St. John the Divine (212-316-7540, www.stjohndivine.org) along with its Biblical
garden and children’s sculpture garden. Tours are available Tuesday
through Saturday at 11am, and Sunday at 1pm. The fee for visitors is $5
per adult, and $4 for students and seniors. When completed, it will be
the world’s largest gothic cathedral.
The Japan Society (212-752-3015,
New York’s leading cultural institution focusing on Japan, presents a range of
lectures, musical performances and exhibitions. Admission to the gallery
ranges from $10 for students and seniors to $12 for adults.
contemporary art at its best through exhibitions at the Dia Art Foundation (212-989-5566,
www.diacenter.org). Admission to the galleries, including entrance to the
rooftop, is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students and free for children
under the age of 12.
natural science and historical exhibitions at the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences (718-727-1135,
www.siiasmuseum.org) for just $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and
students. Admission is free for children under 12.
Music and More Under the Stars
in the best classical music, jazz, drama, opera and dance that New York has to
offer at free warm-weather performances in the city’s parks by the New York Philharmonic (212-875-5000,
Opera (212-879-5500, www.metopera.org), the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park
www.publictheater.org) and others (City of New York Parks and Recreation
Hotline, 888-NYPARKS, or Central Park Conservancy, www.centralparknyc.org).
concerts and dance performances under palm trees at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden (212-945-2600,
www.worldfinancialcenter.com), a stunning, glass-enclosed shopping and business
complex on Lower Manhattan’s waterfront.