Big Apple - Small Budget
Enjoying many of the Big Apple’s biggest attractions like the Empire State Building, a Broadway show or the Guggenheim Museum can be expensive. However, purchasing a seven-day, unlimited ride, $32 MetroCard on New York’s subway system, opens up a world of free experiences.
The subway is an attraction in itself and you will inevitably spend much of your vacation time checking out routes and ducking in and out of the various stations, armed with a MetroCard and a copy of the iconic subway map. Here are 5 of the best free NYC activities.
Take the high road
Once an abandoned and unsightly stretch of elevated railroad track, the High Line was transformed in 2009 into a snaking day park, suspended 9 meters above the ground connecting the Meatpacking District with Chelsea’s market and art galleries. From wonderful views of the Hudson River to lush gardens, art installations and sculptures, this shining example of urban renewal is full of hidden moments and perspectives. Architecture fans will love looking down 18th Street, and over at 17th and 30th Streets, steel cut-outs frame the scenes below. After experiencing this unmissable free attraction, explore Chelsea’s nearby art galleries situated mainly around 21st to 24th Streets and 10th to 11th Avenues, and time your visit for wine-and-cheese openings on Thursday evenings.
A walk in the park
Just like most ordinary parks, New York’s Central Park is free to visit, but Central Park is no ordinary park. This 340-hectare swathe of green is jam-packed with free events, points of interest, familiar scenes from the movies and some of the world’s best people-watching. It would be easy to spend loads of time here. Some top picks to get you started include a visit to Strawberry Fields, a tranquil garden area created by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon, a free Shakespeare in the Park production at the Delacorte Theater during July or August, picnicking in Sheep Meadow, strolling the Literary Walk or watching street performers at the ornate Bethesda Terrace and Fountain.
A night at the museum
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) showcases arguably the most comprehensive collection of modern masterpieces on the planet including classics such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Jackson Pollock’s One. Although the usual cost is $25 for adults; it’s free every Friday between 4 pm and 8 pm. Whether you have one hour or four hours to visit the galleries, it helps to have a plan. If it’s a short visit, concentrate on a specific collection or explore a special exhibition in depth. If you have more time, then endeavor to explore the MoMA from top to bottom, see a film or stroll through the Sculpture Garden.
Who pays the ferryman?
Every Big Apple visitor wants to see the Statue of Liberty, but with cruise tours of New York Harbor costing as much as a seven-day MetroCard, for a free alternative, join commuters on the Staten Island Ferry to enjoy spectacular vistas of the Manhattan Skyline and glimpses of Ellis Island, Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty. After leaving the southern tip of Manhattan’s financial district, the ferry takes about 25-minutes to make the 29 kilometer crossing to Staten Island, where most visitors simply hop back on for the return journey to experience more city skyscraper views that are even more dramatic.
A bridge too far
Built entirely from granite and completed in 1873, the Brooklyn Bridge with its distinctive pointed arches is one of those iconic landmarks that make New York, New York. Strolling the 1,600-meter span of this graceful bridge that links Manhattan with Brooklyn is a rite of passage for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Well recommended is to first take the subway to High Street Station on the Brooklyn side and walk back across the bridge to Manhattan. Early evening in good light can be particularly atmospheric; the shifting perspectives of Manhattan’s skyscrapers seen through the intricate struts of the bridge are a-dream-come-true for creative photographers.
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Article by Andrew Marshall
Photos: Paul Marshall