your weekend itinerary
Lately I've noticed lots of reader interest in money-saving tips for visiting NYC (or living here). This is a great topic worth exploring, since it seems many people are intimidated by Manhattan's pricey reputation. To be honest, there's no reason to be. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the city on a budget- you just need to know the right places to visit, and when to visit them.
That being said, here's a guide to a $20 weekend in NYC (that's right, $20).
Friday night: MoMA (free)
Years ago, UNIQLO started sponsoring Free Friday Nights at the MoMA (as someone who works in marketing, this is such a cool example of a brand awareness campaign done right).
Admission is free for all visitors every Friday from 4:00 - 8:00 pm. Naturally, it's more crowded than usual on these days, but that usually tapers off after 7.
Plan to arrive then, and in an hour you'll likely be able to see all or most of the galleries. Security oscillates between enforcing a bag-check policy (last time I stopped in, they didn't). However, when they do, the line is usually about 20-30 minutes long. I recommend leaving your bag at home (or hotel) just in case.
Saturday Afternoon: Central Park Picnic ($10)
Central Park has been a hallmark of the city for centuries, and it's absolutely worth making time for one weekend afternoon- especially if you're traveling on a budget.
Sheep Meadow is a famously popular place to hang out. You'll see plenty of locals and tourists alike reading, playing guitar, painting, napping, tossing a football around, etc.. We grabbed a simple picnic lunch from a local market (baguette, Gouda, green grapes) and a bottle of pink 2 buck chuck from Trader Joes, and spent the afternoon people watching, sketching, listening to music (here's what I'm listening to this week) and reading some books.
If you're not from the area and want to do more exploring, Conservatory Water (east side, 72nd street) is a great stop. You can race wind-powered model sailboats or grab a coffee (there's a tiny coffee stand on the south side of the water) and relax.
Sunday: Shop Vintage
If you're a style enthusiast, you'd be remiss to pass up on the vintage shopping opportunities of the city. Style has lived and breathed in these streets for decades, and there are unspeakable finds waiting to be discovered at local vintage stores- pieces you will absolutely never be able to get elsewhere (think a 1950's Gucci swing coat some local woman just dropped off after cleaning out her closet).
The quality of vintage you will find here is unlike what you might be imagining, or might be used to. Employees at higher end vintage stores likely work in fashion themselves and know what brand names they're looking for.
Most stores turn away the majority of drop-offs that come their way (these items are rerouted to Goodwill, certainly not thrown away) and only accept certain labels and only items that are still good-as-new.
I won't put a budget on what your shopping trip might run you- although you're technically shopping thrift, it's mostly couture, so that Gucci coat is still going to be priced at around $400. While $400 might seem like a lot for a coat, it's practically free for a Gucci coat. However, with some luck and diligent browsing, you might have a great time grabbing a luxury vintage piece that is within your budget (I grabbed this Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, unworn, tags still on, for $70). And the best part? Most of these shops offer you glasses of champagne and mini cupcakes while you browse.