How To: 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC (without spending a fortune)

Behind-the-Scenes Details

I flew in on Thursday evening and flew out on Tuesday afternoon to miss the crowds at the airport and save a few bucks on flights. I took a cab to and from the airport, which wasn’t cheap at a minimum of $40 each way, but everyone should experience the adrenaline rush of putting your life in the hands of an NYC cabbie at some point. 😂 It’s kind of a rite of passage, as is stepping into the street to hail one for the first time.

Tips for a Budget-Friendly 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC

Okay, enough about why, when, and how I arrived in “the city that never sleeps.” I know what you care about is how to have a phenomenal time without going into astronomical debt when you visit New York. So, let’s get down to business.

Exploring the City

Some basic subway etiquette and navigation tips:

  1. Plan your activities by geographic proximity whenever possible. This minimizes walking and the number of subway fees you’ll pay.
  2. Pay attention to signage so you get on the right train going in the right direction and off at the correct stop.
  3. Move with purpose. In the subway, everyone is in a hurry.
  4. Don’t be afraid to grab onto a rail or pole if there are no more seats, but don’t hog it. Sharing is caring.
  5. If you’re standing, watch your balance. Those trains start, move, and stop abruptly.
  6. Don’t block the doors when they are open, and don’t be roaming around the train when it’s moving. There will be time to get to the door when it opens.
  7. Keep your purse strapped cross-body and in front of you where you can keep an eye on it, even in sardine situations.

Taking Advantage of Free or Low-Cost Activities

Believe me, if you want to, there are a million ways to spend money during your 3 unforgettable days in NYC. But you don’t have to be a big spender to make lasting memories and have an iconic big-city experience. So here are some activities that don’t cost a lot but leave a lasting impression, roughly organized by geographic location.


A view of the lake at Central Park, one of many budget-friendly things to do during your 3 unforgettable days in NYC.


A view of Times Square, another suggested activity for your 3 unforgettable days in NYC
  • The Little Island – another island park- is much smaller and steeper than Roosevelt Island. Peruse levels upon levels of gardens, great views, and a fountain. This spot was packed full of influencers trying to get the perfect “don’t I look cute in NYC” shot, but it’s a must-add to your list of things to do during your 3 unforgettable days in NYC.

East Village (ish)

While I waited for my late-rising New Yorker friend to get up and ready each day, I took some time to trek around and explore the gentrifying yet still a little gritty East Village. Below are some budget-friendly spots you should check out if you’re there.

a shot of the East Village near where I stayed for my 3 unforgettable days in NYC


  • 9/11 Memorial – My friend and I did not tour the museum, but we did stop by the outdoor memorial fountain and gawk at the One World Trade Center. No visit to Manhattan is complete without it. An inverted fountain does not photograph that well, but it does leave quite an impression in person.
  • New York Stock Exchange/Wall Street – although mostly a ghost town except for tourists like myself on a federal holiday weekend, it was cool to visit a financial center of the world and see the charging bull statute.
  • Staten Island Ferry – The ferry gets crowded, but it’s free, and you get to see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, and some adorable lighthouses. Pro tip: head to the view platforms on the back of the ferry rather than fighting for a spot on the “statue side” like everyone else does. You’ll see the statue and a lot more.
Me on the Staten Island ferry with all the other tourists
  • Brooklyn Bridge – Walking the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again is another inexpensive way to soak up the city. Unless you choose to buy fruit cups, ice cream, or tchotchkes from the vendors whose booths line the bridge, it’s free. Ignore the crowds and stop near the halfway point to snap a picture of you on the bridge – it is worth it!
  • Chinatown – Not only will you find arguably the best Asian food in the States here, but it’s also an experience, like being transported to another world. Noodles, dim sum, and fried ice cream? Yes, please!

Eating Out Like a Local for 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC

Yes, New York has countless 5-star restaurants you could splurge at, but with so much affordable yet delicious food available, you don’t have to! Here are some phenomenally yummy budget-friendly options I ate at, thanks to the recommendations of the locals I met during my 3 unforgettable days in NYC.


Lunch/Happy Hour


One Worthwhile Splurge During 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC

Wrapping Up Your 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC

Until Next Week,

4 thoughts on “How To: 3 Unforgettable Days in NYC (without spending a fortune)

  1. Wow! Your blog post is extremely helpful. I’ll definitely use your tips whenever I take a trip to New York City!

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