February 19, 2018

5 Ways to Do New York City on a Dime with Kids


American Museum of Natural History

Is there such a thing as doing New York on a dime, especially with kids?  Manhattan certainly has a reputation for being an expensive vacation, and one look at hotel rates will prove that notion correct.  My husband and I have taken our kids, ages 5 and 2, to Manhattan twice in the past six months. Since both were impromptu business trips, we were looking to save a buck or two!  Here are five things that we’ve done on recent visits that saved a little cash.

1. Go to Museums at Reduced Rate Times. We went to the American Museum of Natural History at 5 pm on a Sunday, and they weren’t charging admission because it was near closing. What a great deal!  We got to stay for an hour and a half (which is as long as my kids would last anyway), saw all the highlights, and it was free!  I know a lot of the other museums (Guggenheim, the Met, etc.) also have reduced rates, so be sure check out their websites before you go.

2. Eat the Famous Cheap Eats. Grab a hot dog like Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks at Gray’s Papaya (Upper West Side) or stay trendy at Shake Shack (several locations). These NYC institutions are inexpensive, but you feel like you’ve gotten the Manhattan experience. Some sit-down places that are less expensive are Boqueria (Flat Iron) and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (Chelsea).

3. Eat at Markets. This is a trick my husband and I have used since our broke-college-backpacking-through-Europe days. Who knew it would also be a great way to eat good food without trying the kids’ patience? Try Eataly (Flatiron), Chelsea Market (Chelsea) and Zabar’s (Upper West Side).

4. See the Sights Via Cheap (or Free!) Ferries. The Staten Island Ferry is the most popular due to its views of the Statue of Liberty. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel though, so we took the East River Ferry from Midtown (34th St) to Brooklyn/DUMBO. The boat travels under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, so you get a fantastic view of the NYC skyline and you get to see the Statue of Liberty. One way ferry tickets are only $4 a pop!

5. Walk in Central Park. One of my favorite things to do is walk through Central Park and pick out all the familiar movie scenes!  It is incredibly beautiful, boasts playgrounds-aplenty and is 100% free.  If you don’t mind shelling out a couple of bucks, let your kids race sailboats like Stuart Little at the Boathouse!

You might also enjoy these ideas of Things to Do in New York City with your teen!

So, what are some ways that you save money when traveling with your kids in New York? Let us know in the comments below.

Sarah Bohl is an interior designer by trade and a traveler by heart. She and her husband were both bit by the travel bug at a young age, and have been to more than 20 countries combined. They are still hitting the trail with their five and two-year-old in tow! Find Sarah on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Danimir Ljepava


  1. Great tips! Now to find cheap airfare!

  2. Love! I use to live in NYC (and my sis lives there now), but I’m back home in Houston. I haven’t taken my son yet to NYC, but I am hoping to take him soon (only 17 months). Any advice on the best parks or play areas for tots?? (Indoor or outdoor)? I can’t wait to take him to see the sites and just experience the city of course.


    • Sarah Bohl says:

      Hi Tara! I found that the best playgrounds were in and around Central Park. The Diana Ross playground on the west side is an old-school wooden playground that seemed very popular. My kids loved it! -Sarah Bohl

  3. Love the tips… great advice.

  4. great tips!

  5. I’m 22 and those tips sound good to me!

  6. Angie Lanigan says:

    Great tips Sarah. I hope to make it to NYC with my kiddos someday soon.

  7. Megan R says:

    Thanks for the great advice!

  8. Great tips! I lived in Manhattan for 5 years and am afraid to visit with the kids. I’m impressed!

  9. Melania says:

    Congrats Sarah! Great post full of fabulous tips. Can’t wait to take the girls!

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