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!
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.
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!
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!
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.