Culture on the Cheap: 10 Ways to Experience all that NYC has to Offer without Breaking the Bank

Art ain’t cheap, people! Just ask the $450million da Vinci painting that sold this past November. Oy vey! But that doesn’t mean we have to max out our credit cards every time there is a new play, museum exhibition, dance premiere or event we want to attend!

Here are 10 ways to experience top-notch and stimulating culture on a budget:

  1. TKTS: TKTS kiosks offer day-of tickets to a wide variety of shows at a discount of up to 50%. There are booths throughout NYC, including in Times Square, at Lincoln Center, South Street Seaport and Downtown BK.
  2. Museums: Some museums, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, are always free. Other museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum offer a “suggested donation” model, which means you can pay however much you decide for entry. And while some others require purchasing a full-priced ticket, almost all museums in New York have specified hours of completely free admission. For example, MoMA offers free entry on Friday evenings, and the New York Botanical Gardens are free to attend all day on Wednesdays. Be sure to double check websites if there is something you really want to see! You might be pleasantly surprised by the choices.
  3. Under 35? There are many reduced ticket options available for younger patrons at a variety of theaters. Check out Lincoln Center Theater’s LincTix to purchase discounted tickets in advance for buyers 21-35 years old. Roundabout Theater Company has a similar program called Hiptix, which offers $20-$25 tickets to all Roundabout shows for patrons age 18-35. Another option is through New York City Ballet’s 30 for $30 program. This initiative offers $30 seats throughout the house for day-of purchases to patrons under 30 years of age. I may be young and foolish, but at least I can get cheap tix!
  4. Broadway Week: Nothing better than enjoying the theater at half the regular price! During Broadway Week, many popular productions offer 2-for-1 ticket options. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
  5. Art Galleries: Most galleries in NYC are free to enter and browse. There are so many options throughout the city, it is hard to know where to begin. If you are feeling out of your element and would like a more guided look at New York’s gallery scene, I highly recommend New York Gallery Tours. These tours are $25 for the day, but can be reduced if you subscribe to the newsletter. Each tour focuses on one neighborhood at a time, getting folks acquainted with Chelsea, the Lower East Side, Tribeca and beyond.
  6. Bookstores: Is there anything better than browsing in a book store? Maybe chocolate cake. Maybe. I love browsing for new reads, and even better is when stores also offer curated events for the public. Places like The Strand host free readings, author talks and book signings (with people like Patti Smith. I mean, are you kidding me !?!? Amazing.) Another great shop is Book Culture, which boasts four locations throughout New York and also has an active events calendar. In addition, Book Culture hosts multiple book clubs that meet monthly and focus on a range of topics.
  7. NYC Parks: Yes, we all know that our public parks are free to walk through, and they are truly a godsend in this concrete jungle! But even more fabulous is the programming available at all these wonderful spaces. There are so many amazing (and often FREE) events that take place in Central Park, Bryant Park, and at The High Line – just to name a few. Check out the many things our green spaces have to offer (beyond those much-loved grassy patches)!
  8. Street Art: In addition to some of the famous Banksy graffiti sprayed across a few of our buildings, New York boasts some pretty incredible street art. There is so much to see in every neighborhood, but if you would like to have a more curated experience of this special type of public art, there are plenty of ways to do so. If you want a guided tour, I recommend Free Tours by Foot. Most tours led by this group are free, but none cost more than $30 per person. They lead numerous tours a day in multiple different neighborhoods. You can also take yourself on your own walking tour. I encourage you to do some research to see what is out there. This is a great option for graffiti art in Brooklyn.  PS – RIP 5Pointz 😦
  9. New York Public Library: The most beautiful building in New York? Probably depends on who you ask, but the NYPL definitely has some of the most accessible programming! I’m talking free exhibitions, author talks and art talks. Some neighborhood libraries also host book discussion groups led by trained mediators. Perhaps most exciting is the “Live from NYPL” series which offers thought-provoking discussions featuring a variety of star-studded headliners. Past events in this series have included notable guests like Van Jones, Salman Rushdie, Philip Glass, Colm Toibin (a personal fav!), and Alec Baldwin. With tickets beginning at just $25, this is a pretty unbeatable option.
  10. The Moth: The Moth is a live storytelling forum that began in New York, but is now active all over the world. The forum takes place in different locations throughout the 5 boroughs and most of the time costs less than $10 to get in the door. I recommend purchasing tickets in advance and arriving early. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. You can share your story or just listen, but either way it’s a totally unique and gratifying experience. They also have a newsletter, a podcast and a radio show if you’d like to hear more!