Top 10 budget-friendly things to do, eat & drink in New York City

The best way to travel is with a local. You learn so much more about the city that way, and gain real, raw experiences that are memorable and priceless. Maybe that’s why I get an email or text almost once a week for recommendations from my friends (or friends of friends) of what they should do while visiting my old stomping grounds, New York City.

If you’ve been to New York, you know there are countless things to do. It’s actually overwhelming, even for me, but also amazing. New York has no bounds when it comes to niche activities and events (for example, the annual hot sauce expo).

This was tough, but I’ve narrowed my 5+ years of experiences in NYC to this list of my top 10 in each category (with the budget-friendly traveler in mind):


To eat:

  1. Gaia –  little underground Italian cafe with the best paninis and pastas imaginable
  2. Lucali – best pizza and calzone in New York, hands down; also it’s byob
  3. Coppelia – 24hr diner; get the nachos and lomo saltado
  4. Super Taste – best dumplings in Chinatown; also try the spicy beef noodle and baos
  5. Tasty Hand-pulled Noodles – perfect on a cold day; order the dumpling noodle soup
  6. Prince Street Pizza – best pizza you can get by the slice; get the grandma slice
  7. Russ & Daughters Cafe – must get the lox bagel
  8. The Halal Guys – must go to the original location, not sure why but it tastes best 😉
  9. Jack’s Wife Freda – Mediterranean brunch; try the green shakshuka
  10. Amy Ruth’s – two words: soul food; and make sure to check out some live jazz while you’re in Harlem!


To drink:

  1. Whiskey Tavern – was my go-to spot for cheap and delicious drinks and food; everyone who works there, from the owner to the chefs, are awesome humans
  2. Local 138 – great dive bar for happy hour and jams
  3. Verlaine – lychee martinis for $6 til 10pm, everyday
  4. Clockworks – dive bar with surprisingly good (and strong) frozen margs
  5. Welcome to the Johnsons – super dive bar with basement living room vibes
  6. The Tippler – hidden gem with amazing cocktails underneath Chelsea Market
  7. Frying Pan – bar on a boat, perfect for a nice day; try their sangria
  8. Dear Irving – chic speakeasy with unique cocktails
  9. Angel’s Share – another speakeasy, in the back of a Japanese restaurant; so good
  10. Press Lounge – rooftop bar, so a bit pricier, but worth the stunning views of the city


To do:

  1. Central Park – fun during any season; rent a bike there on a nice day
  2. The MET – my favorite museum, can spend all day here; donation-based
  3. MoMA – modern art; free on Fridays from 4-6pm
  4. Booze cruise – best summer activity; can find deals for big groups too
  5. Times Square – locals hate it, but you gotta see it at least once (at night of course)
  6. High Line / Chelsea Market – park and market with tons of shops and eateries
  7. Top of the Rock – best view of the city and Empire State Building
  8. Brooklyn Bridge Park – walk across the bridge to the park with views of the skyline
  9. Free kayaking – few piers do this, but my fave is the one in TriBeCa (Pier 26)
  10. Staten Island Ferry – free ferry with amazing views of Lady Liberty and downtown

Phew! And that concludes my list of top things to do, eat and drink in New York City. Hope you enjoyed, and please let me know in the comments section if you checked out any of these recommendations and what you thought. I’ll be posting more about the Big Apple and other cities I’ve visited, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!