36 Hours in New York City on the cheap!

This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.

Going to New York City? Ahh, you lucky bugger. We’re totally jealous – the Big Apple ranks as The Global Couple’s favourite city in the world!

Need some inspiration of what to do while you’re in the Concrete Jungle? Look no further – here’s TGC’s 36 Hours in New York City!

We love spending as little money as possible while covering as much ground as possible, so we have made this 36 Hours itinerary with that in mind. Enjoy!

Friday evening

Line up and grab a burger and shake at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Believe us, that line is worth it! If you still haven’t had enough calories, wander across Broadway to Eataly and lick a gelato. Oh and while you’re there, take a look at NYC’s first skyscraper – the Flatiron Building (one of our personal favourites!).

Saturday a.m.

For breakfast, you’ve got to do what the New Yorkers do and wash a bagel down with a bad coffee. Then head over to the West Village and get a MUCH better coffee at Stumptown (30 W 8th St), and wander the streets of the West Village with it in hand. Find some solace in Washington Square Park before heading to Chelsea Market at W 15th St and 9th Ave. Satisfy your hunger pangs with lunch at one of the many excellent food outlets in the market – we recommend Los Tacos.

Serenity in Washington Square Park

Serenity in Washington Square Park

Saturday p.m.

To help digest your delicious lunch, climb the stairs behind Chelsea Market and head north on the Highline (another one of our favourite places in NYC). It’s so lovely to be off the street and amongst lots of greenery. If you’re feeling like a bit of exercise, walk all the way up to Central Park and soak in more greenery.

Saturday evening

No matter where you’ve ended up in Manhattan, there will be a subway station close to you. Head to Brooklyn on the L train and alight at Bedford Ave in Williamsburg. We love going to the Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave) – it’s a fun atmosphere and you can bowl, have a drink, and watch live music all at the same time! Across the road, The Ides rooftop bar at Wythe Hotel has incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and is a great place to watch the sun go down.

Sunday a.m.

Have a late start, and nurse your hangover with brunch in Williamsburg – there is an abundance of good places to choose. Take a look around the quirky shops and boutiques in Williamsburg, and pick up some treasures to take on your journey. Wander through the DUMBO area (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) with its cobbled streets and converted warehouses, and make your way to Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park for lunch and gorge yourself with goodies from Smorgasburg, a delicious concentration of food trucks and stalls.

Sunday p.m.

Admire the views of downtown Manhattan while walking towards the island across the Brooklyn Bridge, and then head to Battery Park and catch the free ferry to Staten Island. Wave to Lady Liberty as you pass by and enjoy the stunning views of the Financial District. Get off the boat at Staten Island and get on the one heading back to Manhattan, and do it all again.

NYC from the air in a helicopter

NYC (from the air) – you’ll get a similar view but from sea level on the ferry!

To finish off your whirlwind 36 Hours in New York City, catch the subway up to Grand Central Station and find the Whispering Gallery (if you can’t find it, just ask someone!). Then head three blocks west to Times Square – yeah, we don’t really like it either but you’re in New York so you have to go there once!

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

We hope you enjoyed your 36 hours in our favourite city. Of course, we’d recommend spending much more than 36 hours there! We also recommend buying a Lonely Planet guide to help you out while you’re on the ground. Buy one here!

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What’s your favourite thing to do on the cheap in NYC? Have we missed anything that you think is a ‘must do’? Leave your comment below!

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  1. I wish I’d seen your post a few days ago. I literally just got back a few hours ago from a long weekend trip to NYC. One of our favorite things we did was the Staten Island Ferry to look at the Statue of Liberty. We weren’t planning to do it, but we just happened to get there as they were shutting the doors and they let us on. It was the closest I’d seen the statue and I was so glad I did it. I’m going to keep the rest of your itinerary in mind for my next trip to New York.

    • Petra

      Thanks Meagan! The Staten Island ferry is awesome right?! Good on you slipping through the doors! Why you’d pay to go on a boat cruise past the Statue of Liberty, I don’t know 🙂

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  3. This is PERFECT. I’m travelling to NYC for 36 hrs in Jan, and arriving on a Friday evening! You’ve saved me a lot of time and effort – thanks!

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  5. Jay

    Sounds like a pretty busy 36 hours, I recently returned from NYC and hardly did any more than you guys despite having a full 4 days in the Big Apple! For those with more time I’d definitely recommend a visit to the American Museum of Natural History or a Yankee Stadium Tour! 🙂
    I’d really appreciate it if you checked out my (VERY) new blog!

    • Petra

      Haha yep it certainly is a busy itinerary! The museum and stadium sound great, we didn’t manage to check them out – on the list for next time! I’ll be sure to check your blog out 🙂 Thanks for visiting Jay!

    • Petra

      Thanks Bobbi! We try to take interesting photos 🙂 We will be sure to let you know if we want to some post exchanging – your blog looks great!

  6. Oh man I used to work in the offices above Chelsea Market. Los Tacos is where I spent half my paycheck! They’re amazing! It’s also great because I used to straight up take naps during work breaks on the High Line. they’ve got an excellent set wood beds that move around on the old rails a bit South of Chelsea Market.

    New York is hard in 36 hours…it’s hard in 7 years I’ve lived in the area – I’m still only getting around to do some things here before I leave again.

    • Petra

      Oh lucky you James! Chelsea Markets and the High Line were our favourite spots in NYC. Those tacos are so delicious right?! I agree NYC is hard in 36 hours, you could live a lifetime in that city and still not see everything. But if you only have a short time there then you can cram a lot in! 🙂

  7. Great suggestions. I’ve been to New York a few times now, and I always love how many free/cheap things there are to do in the city. People might assume it’s really expensive to visit New York, but depending on how you plan it and what you want to do, it doesn’t have to be. I’m not a huge art or museum person, but I loved visiting The Bronx Museum of the Arts. It’s a small art museum focusing a lot of local artists and art. It’s not as crowded and much less intimidating than trying to visit one of the big art museums (which are also cool to check out, but not really my thing). Plus admission to The Bronx Museum of the Arts is free, which always helps the budget.

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  10. Thera Zamora

    Hi! My husband and I are planning our first 36 hour trip to NYC and we are so excited! We were able to get airfare at a great price from Chicago, but we are struggling with hotels! Can you recommend a hotel that is decent, but not bank breaking? We are visiting in December because its always been a bucket list to see the tree at Rockefeller and we’ve been married and together for 14 years and have never taken a vacation together!! Well overdue. 🙂 Anyway,thank you for your blog and helpful NYC tips!

    • Petra

      Hi Thera, awesome to hear you’re travelling to NYC! We would recommend AirBnb for accommodation, it’s much cheaper than hotels and the experience is a lot better in our opinion. Otherwise if you want to stay at a hotel, head to Brooklyn – hotels on that side are so much cheaper than Manhattan. Hope that helps!

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  12. Glad to see my home city is #1 in your book! Great recommendations, too.

    Staten Island Ferry is definitely the best free/cheap way to see the Statue of Liberty. You can also drink on the ferry, so go ahead and bring a bottle of wine or buy some of the really cheap beer they sell on board.

    Hope you’ll have a chance to visit again soon. Feel free to reach out to me at @niftynyc if you want specific recommendations of free & cheap things to do.

    xo Claire at Nifty NYC

  13. New Your City is great, we got city passes to see everything. They are worth getting if your wanting to see as much as you can but your not looking as spending a lot of money.

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  15. Hey Petra and Shaun !!!!

    Its been great to read such article.,I really appreciate it.Going to New York City? Ahh, you lucky bugger. We’re totally jealous – the Big Apple ranks as The Global Couple’s favorite city in the world!Need some inspiration of what to do while you’re in the Concrete Jungle? Look no further – here’s TGC’s 36 Hours in New York City!

    Keep posting such article
    Warm regards.

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