10 Family Activities that Won't Break the Bank in NYC

10 Family Activities that Won't Break the Bank in NYC

Let’s face it, traveling to New York City is expensive just to get there, pay for a hotel, and provide basic meals. Just showing up, sleeping, and eating a few meals is not really an exciting trip. Instead of stressing about having a fun trip that completely blows your budget here are 10 ideas for family activities that won’t break the bank for the next time you are in NYC! Like any place, NYC has families that are always looking for activities and travelers can often take advantage of these kinds of activities as well! Sitting in the hotel or roaming around aimlessly are no longer your only options for a frugal family trip to New York City!

1. Let’s Go to the Zoo
This is a big one which is why it is number one! There two different zoo locations in NYC that are actually free or donation only on Wednesdays! You can visit the Bronx Zoo and you simply make a donation! The Staten Island Zoo is also free on Wednesdays from 2-4:45pm! Check out one or both to save some cash and see some exciting animals while you are visiting NYC!

2. Botanical Gardens
The Brooklyn Botanic garden is free during the week from November first through February twenty eighth! The New York botanical Garden is free on Wednesdays from 10-6pm and Saturdays from 9-10am! These are two great locations for the whole family to explore and take a walking tour without having to worry about spending any of your vacation budget!

3. Children’s Museums
Both the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan are free on certain days! For Brooklyn it is Thursdays from 2-6pm and in Manhattan it is the first Friday of every month from 5-8pm. This is a great way to enrich any trip to NYC without having to spend any money. You will all get to enjoy the sights and sounds but they require none of your vacation budget!

4. Storytime Events
There are TONS of bookstores all over NYC. Some of them offer great programs and entertainment for the whole family. If you check out the bookstores near your hotel or desired city section before you travel you can see which ones will have story time during days that you are in town! There are such a wide variety and even some during the weekends that you should have no problem finding a great story time for your kids to enjoy!

NYC bookstore

5. The Queens County Farm Museum
This is a super fun place that is free, daily. Make sure you check ahead to avoid a closure for a ticketed event but it’s an awesome way to take the kids to see a working farm. There are all kinds of farm animals, an orchard where you can pick apples to purchase, and lots of old buildings to explore! It’s kind of a unique venue in relation to the hustle and bustle of NYC.

6. Bargemusic
On Saturdays at 4pm there is a music venue, located on a converted old barge on the East River, that offers a free one hour recital that’s focus is to draw in children. This can be an awesome family activity that takes you on a little bit of a journey and doesn’t cost a thing! There are also paid performances that are reasonable as well!

7. Sony Wonder Technology Lab
If you are planning your trip in advance, and possibly even if you are not, you can get tickets to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. There are TONS of awesome programming for kids. Located on Madison Avenue in an awesomely high tech building you can check out their entire list of programming and reserve tickets up to two weeks before any event! This can be an awesome way to entertain the whole family for FREE!

8. Exploring
It doesn’t matter if you have tons of young kids or a pack of older ones any family can have an awesome time just exploring the city. Take a ride on the Subway, wander around until you find a back alley pizza place that looks good for lunch, or make a plan using the subway maps. The choice is yours and the rewards are endless. You can see the city through the eyes of a New Yorker without spending any real big chunk of change! Sometimes the street performers are more entertaining for free than the paid entertainers at some venues!

9. Window Shopping in Times Square
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just go straight up crazy tourist! It can be so much fun to just mill around in Times Square. It’s so big and overwhelming that just sitting on a bench or walking around the streets can be an awesome experience. It is definitely something that everyone should experience at least once in their life. The lights, the people, the street performers, it’s all pretty amazing and as long as you plan accordingly it can really be done pretty inexpensively!

NYC times sq

10. The Strand Bookstore
The Strand bookstore is an awesome bookstore in NYC that sells new and used books and other media. It is a MASSIVE institution in NYC and if you have half a day…or a week to spare you should check it out. You can buy, or just mill around, either will keep you entertained for quite a while. You’ll be amazed that they can get that many books in one location and finding a used book with a fun inscription is always a fun way to memorialize any trip to New York City!

See, there is a ton to do if you find yourself in NYC with the family and the best part is that all of these things are budget friendly.

About Taylor Nikaci


  1. Jeanette

    I am totally going to pin this! NYC can be SO expensive it would be nice to have a guide to NYC where I am spending all my bank account!

  2. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    These are all great tips. Just BEING in NYC is an experience all its own. I’d love to hit that bookstore.

  3. Sarah

    Seriously I need to make a list of things like this for pheonix!! Those were great ins! I would have never guessed there was so much free fun things to do!

  4. Kathy

    Those are all great ideas. I’ve never been to NYC before. I hope that I can go someday. If I ever do I know I’ll be checking out these places.

  5. Reesa Lewandowski

    All of these sound like such great ideas. People always think that you have to have lots of money to visit NYC. That is so not true obviously!

  6. Annemarie LeBlanc

    I agree with you, Reesa. There are so many things to do in NYC without having to spend a ton of money. Its not always about shopping! The parks and museums are just waiting for us to visit them too.

  7. Jenn Gerlach

    A trip to the big apple would be so much fun! These are some great ideas on how to make the most of it.

  8. gingermommyrants

    These are great ways to spend time with the family without breaking the bank. We like to go to the Zoo. It is always a fun filled day.

  9. Melissa @ The Staten Island family

    We live in Nyc and i am ashamed to admit we haven’t done many of these activities! I guess now I know what we will be doing over the next couple of weekends!

  10. Mandie Stevens

    This is so awesome! I’ve been wanting to go to NYC but didn’t want to spend soooo much $$. I forgot about the zoo!

  11. Janeane Davis

    I enjoy spending time in New York City with our family and these are some great ideas. A trip is more enjoyable when you can do a lot of things without breaking the bank.

  12. Pam Wattenbarger

    New York City is such a great place to visit. There is so much to do and these are some great idea.s

  13. Jocelyn Cañasa Brown

    NYC is definitely an amazing place. And such fun things for kids to do, too.

  14. Amy Desrosiers

    These are great ideas! I so want to take the train to NY with my entire family!

  15. Claudia Krusch

    I love NY! Loved all the activities you’ve listed! Thank you for sharing them!

  16. Jennifer

    This ideas are great! It seems like everything is a money grab -especially in the city so these frugal suggestions are defiantly appreciated!

  17. crystal

    There’s so much to see and do in NYC, that I’m sure you could go broke trying to fit it all in. We prioritize every family members’ requests and try to come up with a reasonable itinerary whenever we travel. These low-cost options are great suggestions.

  18. Aimee

    NYC is one of my favorite places in the world. There is never a lull in things to do! These are all great ideas!

  19. Melissa Llado

    NYC can be so expensive. These are great tips. Can’t wait to put them into use.

  20. Kristi

    This is a great list for reference. We have yet to take the boys to NYC – and we are this close…lol

  21. Lindsey Paris

    Window shopping is always my favorite. Grab cheap street food and then walk walk walk!

  22. Liz Mays

    The only thing I’ve done on this list is window shop Times Square. Clearly I’m spending too much money when I visit.

  23. Pam Wattenbarger

    Same here! I guess I am doing the wrong things when I am in NYC and spending too much money.

  24. Liz Mays

    The next time I visit I’m going to have to plan everything out better. I know I want to check out those gardens.

  25. Clara

    I grew up in NYC and I’m still amazed at all the venues I know nothing about. Thanks for sharing.

  26. heather s-g

    I’ve been to NY, but never with the whole fam, I’d love to take them there some day. Thanks for the great suggestions!

  27. highland mommy

    Though I’m not sure if I will ever go to New York, I will keep these activities in mind. I love zoos and botanical gardens, I’m glad they are free in NY!

  28. Jacqui - @TradesofJacqui

    I love NYC! I’ll have to use these tips next time I go. I went in July with my daughter and it was quite expensive! lol

  29. Brandy

    This is such a helpful list! I’ll have to refer to this if I ever take my kids to NYC.

  30. Gabriel

    We went to NYC for a New Years concert and it’s easy to see how taking a family there could put a big hole in your wallet.

  31. Jenn @ EngineerMommy

    There are so many things to do in NYC. I haven’t been to NYC in a few years. I used to go to school there! I’d love to visit with my whole family now!

  32. Tammilee Tips

    I love New York City!! This list sounds like so much fun to do, it is amazing how much there is to see and do in NYC!

  33. Kristin

    The museums are one of my favorite things about NYC…and the kids’ museums are unreal! So many great family friendly options!

  34. Kristin

    We love NYC! This is such a great list of things to do!

  35. Mimi Green

    I got to NYC all the time, I’m headed back up tomorrow. Although I go frequently I’ve only taken the kids once. I need to bring them back for a visit so we can try some of these activities. We’ve done the shopping and I’ve been to The Strand.

  36. Janis @MommyBlogExpert

    All such family-friendly ideas and the reasons why I love New York. Children’s Museums and regular museums with sections for kids are among the best free and low-cost entertainment bargains out there.

  37. tara pittman

    Window shopping Times Square was my favorite. I also loved getting pizza.

  38. Pam Wattenbarger

    We always loved visiting children’s museums when we traveled. How cool that these in New York have free hours.

  39. Heather

    Great ideas. I’ve never been to NYC, but hopefully one day. It’s kind of a bucket list thing for me as a west coaster.

  40. HilLesha

    My parents briefly lived in NYC when they were young, but I have never been there before. I’ll be visiting next spring, but alas it will be alone. I’ll have to keep these type of activities in mind, especially if I ever travel with family someday. Thanks for sharing!

  41. Rebecca Bryant

    So much to do I need to make a trip back soon. I love NYC so much.

  42. Myrah Duque

    The strand Bookstore is an incredible one! I visit NYC very frequently to vist my daughter that attends NY, and always make it a point to pass by.

  43. Cindy Ingalls

    The Strand Bookstore is one of my fav NYC spots. They are so many great finds to choose from. Can’t say I’m a fan of Times Square, but it is one of the city’s most unique locations.

  44. Marcie W.

    I love NYC and totally understand how expensive things can get. I have yet to visit with the family but plan to keep these suggestions in mind when we make the trip.

  45. NPC

    Haven’t been to NYC yet but these are definitely some family fun activities I would do with my kids!

  46. Elizabeth O.

    I’ve lived here for a long time and really, there are so many things that you can do that won’t cost much or anything at all. I am loving this list! It’s perfect for family trips indeed.

  47. MarciaF

    What a great list. NYC is so intimidating cost wise so knowing these would make a world of difference.

  48. STephanie

    You could actually spend an entire day inside of Strand Book Store looking through all their selections. Cool post.

  49. Anjanette @MommaYoung

    I have never travelled to NYC but would like to take my kiddos and hubby there before the kids get grown and out on their own. Travel fares can be so expensive that, by the time you get there, you have little money left to do events. This list is fantastic! I have marked down a few to research at a later time for when we do book that trip! Thanks for the post and have a great week!

  50. Sarah

    What a great list of fun things to do in NYC that won’t break the bank. I love all of your ideas!

  51. Kelly

    NYC is such a great place to visit but I always associate it with high ticket price for activities. Glad to see these tips and tricks… perhaps we’ll put it on our travel list!

  52. Amy Jones

    Those sound like really nice and entertaining activities, you don’t need to spend that much money in order to have a great time with good company!

  53. Michelle @ Sunshine and Hurricanes.com

    These are fantastic tips! We haven’t made a family trip to NYC yet but I’m definitely pinning for the future!

  54. Ai Sakura

    thanks for this awesome list!! NYC is definitely on my bucket list :))Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  55. Melanie Smith

    Great ideas! Thank you so much! I will keep this in my mind for my next trip to NYC.

  56. Amanda Love

    I love that there’s an activity for each member of the family! This is why I love New York, there are so many things that you can do and you don’t even have to spend a lot to do them. I’m sure my daughter will enjoy the story time events!

  57. Annemarie LeBlanc

    Wow, I did not know you can get into the Sony Wonder Technology Lab for free! Thanks for this list. I will keep these places in mind when we visit NYC soon.

  58. MyTeenGuide

    These are all fun places to explore in NYC. It’s so nice to know that they offer free admissions.

  59. Kiwi

    Im actually going to NYC next week. Do you know I was born there but never done half of this stuff so pinning for later!

  60. Toni | BoulderLocavore.com

    My family will love all these activities! Will try these next time we are heading to NYC!

  61. Blythe Alpern

    It’s so funny, I lived in NYC for years and never checked out much of this list. I don’t know what that says about me. I’m hoping to move back and when I do I will make it a point to visit more of these fun destinations.

  62. Karen Coghlan

    I have never been past Central time zone, being retired poor, we would have a hard time affording much on vacation,,, thanks for the tips…

  63. Janell Poulette

    This is such a great list! When you have a family, its always nice to have free or cheap things to do that can also being a learning experience–like the museum. I also think the zoo would be at the top of our list.

  64. Caroline

    I love these! My family and I went to NYC a lot when I was growing up and we’ve done alot of these. The city can get expensive, and these are great affordable options!

  65. Wendy

    These are all such great ideas! I’ve never taken the family to NYC but we are planning on heading up that way next year so this will come in handy.

  66. Rose Pingol

    Nice list, I wish I can bring my children and grandson in NYC.

  67. Brianne

    These are great events to do in the city. We live here and I never thought of some of these. Looking forward to exploring some this weekend!

  68. Nicole Escat

    If I will be given a chance to go to the New York City, I will just explore the streets and take the moment at a time.

  69. Nicole Etolen

    NYC is such a very nice place. My son loves our last adventure there.

  70. Veronica

    This is such helpful information for people traveling there. I’d love to go there someday!!

  71. Jenny

    My kids would love these things to do in NYC!! I hope to be able to take my kid or even myself to the big city!

  72. Joyce Brewer (@MommyTalkShow)

    As a native New Yorker who goes home to visit once a year, I know the costs are crazy especially when I bring our son along. These are great ideas.

  73. Rose Sahetapy

    Your post come in time. I want to make a plan to visit NTC, so your suggestions of these places give me some ideas. Thanks for sharing this.

  74. Rorybore

    I would so love to go back to NYC for a visit. We did exactly that – finding a great pizza place – on the last trip I took years ago. I could just sit and people watch all day too.

  75. Ashley

    I loved our trip to NYC. One of our most favorite things to do was to walk Central Park. Sometimes free is the best!

  76. Karina Pacheco

    You have yo love NYC for all the fun things it has to offer. And there are definitely a lot of fun a nd cheap ways to have fun, some even free. Love the list you shared!

  77. Jessica

    I never thought of NYC as a place to vacation just because it is soooo expensive, especially with kids – great tips!

  78. tauyanm

    love the idea of story time events! i’ve never been to NYC but it is one of the places in my bucketlist! thanks for the long list to do! will be sharing this!

  79. Rosey

    I’ve never heard of the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. I want to check that out the next time we are in NYC

  80. Rachelle

    I would love to visit the musuems in New York! I know my daughter would love it!

  81. rika

    I have never been to NYC.. stopped there for layover and never had time to explore the city. Can’t wait to visit NYC

  82. rika

    I have never been to NYC.. stopped there for layover and never had time to explore the city. Can’t wait to visit NYC

  83. aly mashrah

    The botanical garden and zoo sound so awesome and definitely something my little one would enjoy no matter what state we were in. NY is definitely on my list of places to visit.

  84. Melisasource

    I love just being in NYC! Whenever I go, just wandering around is enough to just amaze me, but having activities that won’t break the bank would be a huge bonus!

  85. Courtneylynne

    So many awesome activities!!! I love walking around Times Square! Always so many fun store to look at!

  86. Enricoh Alfonzo

    Number 4 and 10 are my favorite! I could spend the whole week there reading books haha.
    Mad respect to you for promoting such EPIC places like these to visit.

  87. Melissa Bernardo

    I have been to NYC once and I loved it! Need to remember your post for when I visit again. Thanks!

  88. Joyce | Live Laugh Love Post

    Window Shopping in Times Square!! I love shopping in NYC! By the way, I have not touched Botanical Gardens yet. Next summer, my family and I will go to NYC. I hope the weather in NYC will NOT be humidity.

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