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If you think you need a month and an unlimited budget to tour New York City, you’re probably right. However, our family is living proof that it can actually be done in a day and on a budget. Don’t get me wrong, this whirlwind tour is not for the faint of heart. But if you follow these tips you’ll see all the highlights of the second largest city in the world. Lace up your walking shoes and get ready for the day of a lifetime!

Bethesda Fountain in New York City Central Park

The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

  • Start your day as early as possible. Plan for traffic, tolls and bad weather.
  • If you’re driving, park your car in the Staten Island Ferry Parking Garage . It’s $8 per day and BY FAR the cheapest parking you’ll find anywhere near the city!
  • Take the FREE Staten Island Ferry to New York City. The ride is a cool 25-minute experience. And as a bonus, you’ll also be treated to some of the best city and Statue of Liberty views. ┬áThe Ferry runs 24/7 and did I mention, it’s FREE?!?!
  • Take the subway across town to the Central Park Area and plan to spend the rest of your day walking back toward the Ferry.
  • Sights you don’t want to miss in New York City (all FREE to see): Statue of Liberty; Central Park; Times Square; Rockefeller Center; Broadway; St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Wall Street (the charging gold bull); Freedom Tower; 9/11 Memorial; The Empire State Building; Grand Central Station; and the Brooklyn Bridge. ALL of these can been seen if you route yourself correctly from Central Park back to Ferry.
  • New York food can be both affordable or expensive depending on what, when and where you choose to eat. We did a bagel brunch (after having breakfast at our hotel- see my post: Don’t Blow Your Vacation Budget on Food) and a late-afternoon pizza “linner” (as my kids call it: lunch/dinner). We also splurged on desserts and a few street vendor snacks!
  • Catch the Ferry back to your car and plan to drive around an hour to a hotel if you want something affordable. We found tons of great options in Forrestal, NJ (I specifically HIGHLY recommend the Marriott there!)
New York City pizza

New York Pizza is a MUST when you are in the city!

And there you have it, you’ve truly experienced New York in a day without spending a fortune! If you have a little extra wiggle room in the budget and want to splurge, here are a few of my New York favorites:

  • Broadway Musical
  • Central Park Carriage Ride
  • Top of The Rock Viewing Platform
  • National 9/11 Museum (not to be confused with the FREE memorial)
  • Ellis Island
New York City Times Square

Checking out Times Square.

Do you have any additional New York tips?

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