In our Go Local Guides, we’ve teamed up with local insiders from popular travel destinations; giving you their money-saving tips on how to get a taste of the places they call home, without breaking the bank.
NYC-based baseball, music and dim sum aficionado Luke Friend gives us the ‘inside skinny’.
By ranging wider across the Five Boroughs (and beyond) you can make your dollars stretch - and see ‘Gotham City’ a little differently.
One of the great weekend strolls is to head from the Lower East Side south to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Wait until you reach the halfway point to turn round to look at the breathtaking sweep of the Manhattan skyline. Swerve the pricey food chains around the Bridge’s southern end and head into Brooklyn Heights and historic Plymouth Church, where Abraham Lincoln liked to preach. The earthy Henry Street Ale House is just around the corner and their delicious burger is just $12 (£10.21) and there are craft beers from $7 (£5.96). Once you’re fuelled up, walk north from the Heights and watch the Latino Softball leagues play in Sternberg Park. Try the $2 (£1.70) ‘empanadas’ and ‘etoles’ that the mamis and papis hawk out of bike baskets and handcarts. A few blocks up you’ll hit Human Head Records, which is the greatest little Vinyl store in the five boroughs. The $1 (£0.85) bin shores up some real beauties.
Queens gets a bad rep. It’s a sprawling dormitory — but one of incredible texture and colour. You can dwell in the borough’s underdog status by heading to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It’s a great night out for as little as $11 (£9.36) for seats in the bleachers - and there’s a ton of street food options to choose from. Citi stadium is just north of the Tennis complex at Flushing Meadows, where the US Open takes place every summer. Tickets are VERY pricey, but a great slice of free fun year round is to wander through Corona Park. There’s a great little eighteen hole pitch-and-putt golf course ($18/£15.32), with concessions available, as well as serene Garden of Meditation and other free pop-up attractions. To round off the wholesome Queens fun, make like a Ramone and go for a surf at Rockaway Beach. The nice people at Boarders will rent you boards and wetsuits for $35 (£29.79) a day.
The island is a sprawling expanse many times the size of Manhattan that flows eastward out to the Atlantic and the suburban aesthetic provides a contrast to the madness of the rest of the city. The Long Island Railroad runs services from midtown Manhattan’s subterranean Penn Station all the way to Montauk (another classic NYC surf spot, and not as glitzy as the rest of the Hamptons). You can use the discounted Metro Card on the LIRR for a great value three hour ride to the end of the line. Grumman, the aerospace corporation, employed tens of thousands of people in Long Island all through the mid 20th century, but all that remains is the stunning Cradle of Aviation museum, which houses the only remaining version of the Apollo Lunar Module, which Grumman built in their Long Island Facility. It’s worth the $16 (£13.62) entrance fee just to see the actual spacecraft on which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other Apollo astronauts trained for the main event.
The ferry to offbeat and quirky residential sprawl of Staten Island isn’t the only reason to go there, but you should take the ferry even if you just head straight back to Manhattan again. And amazingly, in one of the most expensive cities in the world this 24/7 service, which carries an estimated 22 million passengers every year, is absolutely free of charge. The 25 minute free ride each way will not only provide you with stunning views of Lower Manhattan as you head out from Battery Park, but you’ll also get to scope out the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island without having to fork out the hefty price tag of the official tour. Make it a rush hour trip just to see the stoic Staten Island commuters braving the choppy waters of Upper Bay.
In the nineteen seventies and eighties The Bronx was a byword for urban decay. It’s been cleaned up and is much safer now –– but still retains much of the cultural power that made it the seedbed of Hip Hop. The best way to learn about the early days is to go with Boogie Down Bronx Tours, who employ Hip Hop originators from the borough to tell the tale ($50/£42.56). But the real royalty of contemporary Bronx are of course the storied New York Yankees. It’s always worth waiting for last minute walk-in tickets in the bleachers for $12 (£10.21). The food is pricey but super high quality, with everything from pulled pork and carne asada specialty spots ($15 - 18/£12.77 - 15.32). But every now and then, the best thing to do up in Yankee Stadium is to watch the game in Stan’s Famous Sports Bar, where ice cold beer is $5 (£4.26) a pop served by young Sinatra lookalikes. Join in when the Yankees score with a chorus of ‘New York New York’. Start Spreading the News…
The hidden corners of Lower Manhattan and Chinatown recall a time when New York was more affordable. There’s an enduring out-of-hours cosiness to the place, summed up by three spots. First up there’s a place we call No Name, perfect for Sunday lunchtime Dim Sum. Look on Bayard Street near the north end of Columbus Park for a pink-and-yellow signage in Chinese characters I can’t decipher. Ask for the sweet beef and chilli prawn. If you’re plant-based, take the greens and water chestnut ($7/£5.96 for five). Arturo’s, further West on Houston in the Village, is a Sicilian-American classic, which has one of the city’s only remaining coal-fired ovens. The crusts this oven produces melt in the mouth and their pizza ‘pies’ cost around $17 (£14.47). Go deeper into the Lower East Side, where you’ll find my go-to bar is Old Man Hustle, a classic little NYC dive that has killer standup nights, free to enter, $5 (£4.26) to perform (with a free beer into the bargain) and cocktails from $8 (£6.81). Classic NYC nights, with old school Lower East Side prices.
Top of The Rock. Great viewing platform of the Five Boroughs on a clear day.
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112, 1-877-692-7625
From $38 (£32.34), discounts and concessions available.
Long Island Iced Tea: five white liquors, sour mix and coke.
The Bowery Bar, 310 Bowery, New York, NY 10012, 646- 609 - 3238
Red Rooster, Harlem. Contemporary take on soul food in the heartland of African American culture.
310 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY 10027, 212.792.9001
Poppa Eddie's Shrimp And Grits Gumbo Stew: $23 (£19.58)
Walk! Or yellow taxi.
Any street corner.
$3.30 (£2.81) standing fare. $2.50 (£2.13) Per Mile. Plus congestion and nighttime surcharges.
Restaurants and bars.
15%-20% is customary although over 20% for high-end restaurants is expected. Tip $1 per drink if ordering at a regular bar or $2 at high-end bars.
Our insider city guides - packed with tips from locals in the know.