Cheap or Free Things To Do In New York Next Week?
May 18, 2007 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a week in New York City and limited funds...

I'll be heading to New York City on Sunday and I'll be there until Saturday. I'd like some ideas for cool things to keep me occupied without costing me a ton. I'm staying at the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. I plan on taking subways and walking, what is the best way to quickly get accustomed to the subway system? I've been to New York City once before, but it was about 3 or 4 years ago.

Friday I plan to hit some museums because they have free/pay what you can nights. I'd love to get tickets to see a taping of a show, but it seems like this is a bad time for that, are there even shows taping at this time? If so, how can I go about getting a hold of a couple tickets? I'd love to go to a neat tea store or cafe. I love tea, especially really unique atmospheres of tea stores. I'm sure there are a ton in New York, but what are some of the best?

I just graduated from art school and I think it would be cool to show my illustration portfolio to some art directors if possible. Does anyone know the best way to get in touch with art directors? Or is there a cool art scene I can hit up?

Also, this is probably a shot in the dark, but last time I was in New York we stumbled across a Udon place near the location of the former World Trade Center. My fiance's mom has tried to locate the place again on other trips but has been unsuccessful. Anyone know what this restaurant is called? It was almost exclusively udon, but it had other Japanese items as well.

I know there are a lot of New York tourist questions, but I didn't find any specifically addressing my questions about free/cheap things. Especially events that are taking place this coming week.
posted by Becko to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
pick up a copy of time out new york. that will have all sorts of event listings. even locals use it!

as for the subway, get a map, and don't be afraid to ask for directions. people are nice and will get you where you need to go. it's a confusing system, so just relax and ask for help if you take a wrong turn. get a streetwise map of manhattan, as well. i carried one for years when i lived there.

for tv tickets, go to the website of the show you want to see. there should be info there.

since you're there for a week, you might invest in a city pass, which costs something like $50 and gets you into eight or nine things, including a lot of museums, the empire state building (cheesy but worth it) and a circle line cruise.

as for tea houses, i don't know if it's the best, but teany is owned by moby (woo) and on rivington street, on the lower east side.

you might check out,, and the art directors club to see if there are any design gatherings the week you're there. i don't really know how the business works, though. you might do better to just look up folks you might want to work for and send them cards or whatever.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:36 PM on May 18, 2007

To meet an art director or few, check out Courtney Pulitzer who has been bringing together people who contribute to the world technically, artistically and socially.

Go to MOMA on Friday night - it's free. And well worth it.

And for restaurants and things to see when you are there, look Where
posted by seawallrunner at 6:50 PM on May 18, 2007

Saturday afternoon, hit the Cloisters, you should be able to take the 1/9 there. After, or before, if you want lunch rather than dinner, hit one of the small central American restaurants -cheap, yummy food. That would be subway stop from the 150s to the 190s.
posted by kellyblah at 6:56 PM on May 18, 2007

really unique atmospheres of tea stores: Tea & Sympathy is a cute cute cute teahouse in Greenwich Village, sandwiched by A Salt & Battery (fish & chips and deelicious deep-fried candy bars) and a shop that sells other British food imports
posted by whatzit at 7:00 PM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

questions about free/cheap things got me pondering a little more, and I wanted to add these:
  • if you want a view of the Statue of Liberty for free, you can go to the ferry terminal to staten island from Whitehall and go round-trip (60 minutes ish), getting just as close as the Circle Line. Doesn't get onto the Island, alas, but avoids spending money and going through security (!!).
  • i read about the Earth Room art installation recently, and plan to go next time. Free, in the Village. By the same guy who built the house with the lightning rods that you can stay overnight in.
  • i always always eat off this list of international cheap-eats restaurants when I am visiting New York. The only non-win has been one restaurant that had closed, and finding only one closed restaurant in a list that's a couple years old, for New York, is fantastic. Since you're at the Brooklyn Bridge, I highly recommend checking out the Damascus Bakery in Brooklyn on Atlantic Ave (see page 3 of Time Out list, under Syria).

  • posted by whatzit at 7:09 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

    Free and cheap? Peoplewatching! Union Square is great, Central Park is fun too, and even inside.

    As for the subway, just, if you don't know the line well, do NOT listen to earphones, and stare very intently at a map for a while, memorizing all stops between the one you want to get to and the one you're at, as well as one past the desired just in case.
    posted by crayolarabbit at 7:16 PM on May 18, 2007

    If you're looking for Japanese tea houses, I think Takashimaya (midtown) and Wild Lily Tea Room (Chelsea) are particularly worth a visit. I have also enjoyed High Chai (East Village) which has sort of a Russian flair -- they have teas and housemade infused vodkas to go with them.

    Artsy/free stuff: seconding getting a copy of Time Out -- they mark free events with an icon so you can just scan through and pick them out. Online, Flavorpill lists weekly event highlights, some of which will be free. Art openings are on usually on Thursday nights, free, and serve alcohol. Stain Bar in Brooklyn has a free craft night on Mondays. (And if you are interested in that sort of thing, sign up for the Nonsense mailing list for more listings.)
    posted by xo at 7:23 PM on May 18, 2007

    Don't forget about the answer right underneath your nose - take a nice stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge - THE best view in NYC.
    posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:41 PM on May 18, 2007

    The Met and the American Museum of Natural History are actually pay what you can at any time... they just don't make that very clear. Seriously, you can go up and pay them a buck.

    Seconding the Staten Island Ferry. It's a free ride, and great for views of Lady Liberty and lower Manhattan.

    Here's the official info for getting Letterman tickets, including stand-by. But there's a secret I learned when I worked next to the Ed Sullivan theater- on days of show tapings there will often be interns standing on the street on the blocks around the theater around lunch time. They usually have clipboards, and wear an ID card on a lanyard. You can approach them for tickets... they will ask a trivia questions for tickets (which I got wrong, but they gave them to me anyway). When Bowie was on the show a few years ago, I knew tons of people trying to get tickets through the published methods without success, but I got mine the day of through this method.
    posted by kimdog at 8:07 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

    The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is one of my favorite places in the city. The shows are always funny, and with ticket prices that range from free to $8, it's definitely something you should check out.

    Their schedule is available online:

    Also, instead of trying to learn the subway system, use for bus/subway/walking directions.
    posted by quixotic at 8:40 PM on May 18, 2007

    Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the input. You guys have given me a lot of great ideas.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to get tickets for shows... On NBC's Website they tell how to get tickets. But I can't seem to find out how to tell if these shows are taping on specific days. Same with Food Network shows like Emeril and Rachael Ray. Any idea?
    posted by Becko at 9:17 PM on May 18, 2007

    Buy a metrocard for the bus/subway. Do NOT give money to the thugs selling swipes at the subway turnstiles.

    If you like books, the Strand at 12th and Broadway has half price review copies in the basement.
    posted by brujita at 11:22 PM on May 18, 2007

    Best answer: Whenever I've requested tickets for a show, I put in my name and number in my party, and a phone number, and they usually tell me what date I've been assigned a few weeks later. Good luck trying to get tickets to the stuff you want. If you aren't successful, research doing standby and what times you should pass by to even see if they're taping that day? There's plenty of blogs and message boards that leak the procedures they try to keep secret. The worst that could happen is that you show up at the designated time and they aren't taping that day.

    Anyway, there's plenty of other stuff to do just in case. I'm seconding Upright Citizens Brigade (they have a few free shows on the schedule), use of Hopstop, and Flavorpill. Too bad you're coming so soon; there is plenty more in terms of free music/performances/films/etc. in the summer when it's warmer at night. I like Flavorpill's events listings, but most of the stuff they have on there isn't free. Nonsense NYC is one alternative -- it's wackier, non-mainstream, and filled with weirdness, which often correlates with free-ness. Here's also a citywide events calendar from city government. also does a regular "Pencil This In" entry that lists that night's events, oftentimes free.

    Coming up this weekend on Sunday is the 9th Avenue Food Festival/Street Fair. If that's not your thing, and you have some free time, Other Music (a record store) is giving away a bunch of free concert tickets to popular indie/hipster bands this Sunday at noon. They're at 15 E. 4th Street; get there early. New York Design Week 2007 is also happening this week (actually weekend, but I saw some Monday, Tuesday events in there as well). It's also Bike Month.

    First off, are you A Bank of America customer? They have a Museums on Us promotion running during May.

    Many of NYC's top attractions don't cost a dime: a walk through Times Square, a tour of the New York Public Library, exploring Grand Central, lying on a blanket in Central Park on a nice day, gazing at the Chrysler Building, a stroll through Rockefeller Center, admiring the Flatiron Building and Empire State Building from Madison Square Park, walking through the Union Square Green Market, gawking at Church of St. John the Divine or Grant's Tomb, taking a walk down St. Marks Place, etc.

    Here's a list of all of the museums that offer some sort of free/discounted admission time or (unstated) policy. Also, Film screenings at the MoMA are free of charge with admission to the museum. Here's a list of places to get cheap dance, theatre, or classical music tickets. See also: Freenyc's events calendar.

    Additionally, there is great art to be had in many Chelsea galleries, also free, as well as public art in the parks.

    You can also find many self-guided tours of NYC, both online and in book form. I like City Walks: NYC if you go the book route; it's actually pack of fifty-some cards. NYC government maintains an NYC for Free list that has some free, guided tours of places of interest. I also like this Lower East Side noshing tour.

    Here's some Newyorkology resources:
    Among the free things to do are Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry, most national park sites many of the museums, some guided tours, and all TV show tapings.
    posted by kathryn at 11:43 PM on May 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

    I just spent a week in NYC during spring break. You have been give some great advice above.

    Buy a subway/bus pass for the week. about $24. Go to 810 7th ave. It is the tourist center. You can pick up FREE maps for the subway and the buses. You can also wander around down there.

    Don't be afraid to take the bus. Sometimes it is a great way to get around and you get to see the city instead of being underground.
    posted by nimsey lou at 6:16 AM on May 19, 2007

    You can also check out galleries in Chelsea. They're free. Wander around in the 20s between 10th avenue and the river. Tons of amazing art and whatnot to see.

    I read Time Out all the time. It's a great magazine, and tells you how much just about everything is, to boot.

    I'm not sure what sorts of shows you're interested in seeing, but I do know that Regis/Kelly isn't taping, and the View is. The View is almost always booked solid, but they do two show days where you might get in for the second show (if I'm not mistaken, they're doing two shows on Tuesday next week). Either way, you can try to get in standby, where there's not enough people to fill the studio. I believe the Food Network studios are around Chelsea market, on 9th ave between 15th and 16th.

    You won't be far from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, either. It's a great time of year to hit it, and it's cheap(ish) if you're a student.

    Also, you can get free subway and bus maps in any subway station (if they have them, which they generally do).
    posted by nevercalm at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2007

    The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York has some good tips. It's written for residents, but there are some things in there (free films, etc.) that would be useful for a visitor. (Caveat: The editions I found online are a few years old, so some of the info may be outdated.)
    posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:24 PM on May 19, 2007

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