Here’s how I spent a weekend eating and sightseeing in New York City for less than $50

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We packed a ton of activities into one weekend.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

Between Broadway shows, towering department stores, and $200-a-head tasting menus, New York City has no shortage of ways to blow all your cash.

But, luckily, the city is also home to plenty of affordable activities that make it possible to live here without going bankrupt. So when my friend Kelly came up from Philadelphia for a recent weekend visit, I intended to strike a balance between showing her the magic of New York and sticking to my budget.

Kelly agreed. Thanks to multiple weddings, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties on both our schedules for the fall, we knew we wanted to keep our weekend together cheap.

Despite aiming to keep our expenses low, we still managed to fit in plenty of food, exploring, and classic New York sightseeing. In total, we spent less than $50 per person on food and activities for the entire weekend.

Here’s everything we were able to fit in.


Kelly arrived around 8 p.m. on Friday night, and we headed straight to dinner. We met up with a few friends at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, where we filled up on the joint’s classic artichoke slice.

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Artichoke’s signature slice of pizza, loaded with globs of cheese.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

Known for its late-night crowdand huge, creamy pieces of pizza,Artichokeis a must-try for anyone visiting New York. We went to the one in Park Slope, but there are locations throughout the city, including the original on 14th Street.

Cost: $5 per slice … but trust me, one slice is more than enough.


From dinner, we headed to a nearby dive bar called High Dive.

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You can’t beat dive bar prices.
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Stephanie P/Yelp

You can’t beat the prices at $6 per beer, and it was a fun way to see some of Park Slope’s local flavor.

I had an early morning run planned for the next day, so I stuck to one drink.

Cost: $7 with tip


I’m training for a half marathon, so I got up with the sun to go running, and Kelly decided to join.

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Park Slope, Brooklyn.
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Karlnorling/Flickr

While I don’t advocate forcing guests to exercise against their will (she volunteered!),going for a runor walk is far and away the best way to see a city in my opinion.

As we cruised through the tree-lined streets of picturesque neighborhoods like Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, I got to show Kelly all the little things that make New York – and Brooklyn in particular – great, such as historic brownstones and cute coffee shops.

Cost: Free!


Post-run, we cleaned up and made our way toward the subway to meet our friends in Manhattan.

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Almost forgot to snap a bagel photo.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

Along the way, we stopped at the local bagel joint in my neighborhood for some true New York bagels. A good bagel is a necessity on any trip to New York – or any Saturday morning, for that matter.

Cost: $3.59 for a bagel with cream cheese


We got off the train at Fulton Street and walked down to the South Street Seaport. It’s right on the water, with quaint cobblestone streets and myriad shops.

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We landed on a healthy lunch choice: fries.
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Malcolm R./Yelp

We window shopped for a while before popping into the seaport’s outpost ofSmorgasburg, a popular food festival with pop-up locations around the city. Although smaller than its sister sites in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, the venue still had plenty of options to choose from.

Still full from our bagels, Kelly and I opted to split a cone of fries from Home Frite. We went with the original fries and lemon garlic aioli dipping sauce.

Cost: $5 for a full cone of fries


New York is bursting with free activities, so we decided to check out one our friend Larissa had seen on Twitter: a free carnival hosted by Tommy Hilfiger for Fashion Week, located right at the seaport.

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A free carnival was an unexpected find.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

It ended up keeping us pretty amused; there were free rides and games, including a full-sized Ferris wheel.

The lines for the rides wound around the entire pier, but the games weren’t too overwhelming, so we tried our hand at one that involved knocking over clown figurines with bean bags. I completely failed, but my friends won a couple of bubble wands.

Cost: Free!


Next, we decided to take advantage of one New York’s most underrated free attractions: the Staten Island Ferry.

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The view from the ferry.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

It always feels novel to ride on a boat, even if you don’t care what the destination is. The ferry doesn’t cost a dime and goes right by the Statue of Liberty – you can’t beat that value, or that view.

Cost: Free!


It’s about a 20 minute ride to Staten Island, and the ferries run every half hour on the weekends. We could have turned around and immediately hopped on the next boat back to Manhattan, but decided to make a pit stop in the terminal for Blizzards from Dairy Queen.

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If it falls out, it’s free.
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Nate B./Yelp

DQ hit the spot, but if you’re looking for a more unique ice cream option in NYC, I recommend heading straight back into the city after the ferry ride and trying a local shop such as Morgenstern’s, Ample Hills, or Van Leeuwen.

Cost: $3.15 for a mini Blizzard


We returned to the city and immediately headed uptown to catch an improv show. After stumbling into the wrong theater at first, the second place we tried was — luckily — the correct location for a show our friend’s improv class was putting on.

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Not my friend’s show.
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Flickr/Aimee Custis Photography

If you enjoy this brand of comedy, New York City will never let you down.

Our friend’s show was free, but there are plenty of cheap or free options almost every night of the week. The People’s Improv Theater hosts a weekly Super Free Wednesday event and the Magnet Theater offers $5 shows every Saturday.

Cost: Free!


When the show ended around 7 p.m., we left starved and tired from a long day. But not too tired to miss our chance at an Instagram-worthy meal.

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Pokéworks’ sushi burritos filled us up after a long day out.
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Alex B./Yelp

We headed over to Pokéworks to test out the spot’s famous sushi burritos.

It’s not traditional sushi in any sense – bring on the Sriracha mayo – but it was delicious nonetheless.

Cost: $12 for a “Poké Your Way” burrito


Our early morning and endless stream of activities on Saturday left us ready to sleep in on Sunday morning. We finally got out of bed around 10 a.m. and decided to squeeze in a few more iconic New York scenes before Kelly’s bus left at 3 p.m.

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Not my bagel because I got too excited and ate it before remembering to snap a photo.
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Yelp user Jan J.

We couldn’t start the day without another round of bagels, so we stopped by my local bagel joint for the second time that weekend.

Cost: $3.56 for a breakfast sandwich


We took the 3 train from Brooklyn all the way to the Upper West Side to try the hands-down best cookies in New York at Levain Bakery.

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Levain’s chocolate chip walnut and chocolate peanut butter varieties.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

They’re my favorite, so I make Levain a mandatory stop whenever a friend comes to visit.

Warm, gooey, and filled with melted chocolate – these cookies definitely live up to the hype. We decided to split a classic chocolate chip walnut one and a chocolate peanut butter one, with a glass of milk on the side, of course.

Cost: $4 per cookie, $1.50 for milk


Since Levain occupies just a small storefront, we carried our cookies a few blocks over to Central Park.

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Central Park offers endless crevices to explore.
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Emmie Martin/Business Insider

We explored the park for a bit before camping out in the shade and capping off the weekend with a relaxing day outside.

Cost: Free!


Over the course of the weekend, we spent around $42 per person on food and activities.

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Spending time in New York doesn’t have to break the bank.
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dibrova/Shutterstock

New York’s reputation for being expensive precedes it, but it’s only budget-busting if you let it.

Taking in the view from the top of the Empire State Building or catching a Broadway show are quintessential New York City experiences well worth paying for, but if you want to see the city without breaking the bank, low-key activities like riding the Staten Island Ferry and exploring Central Park make for fun-filled adventures too.

You might even stumble onto a free carnival.