11 exciting things to do in New York City if you're on a budget

If you bring your own skates, ice skating at Bryant Park is completely free
Insignifica | Flickr

Even though it's one of the most expensive cities in the world, New York offers plenty of free activities. I've learned that first-hand during my two-month long "cash diet," which allots me only $60 in spending money a week.

The past eight weeks, I've swapped pricey bars and restaurants for cash diet-friendly activities, many of which I've highlighted below.

Keep in mind that this is far from a comprehensive list. If you put in a bit of effort, there are lots of other exciting ways to experience New York City on the cheap.

An extreme budgeter teaches you how to get lots of expensive stuff for free

Do a Chelsea gallery crawl

Lots of New York City neighborhoods host art galleries, but the greatest concentration is in Chelsea, where there are hundreds to wander through between 10th and 11th Avenue and 18th and 28th street.

Pro tip: Plan your gallery crawl for a Thursday night for free wine.

Check out the Chelsea gallery map.

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

The views from the Brooklyn Bridge, which links the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, are unmatched.

Plus, there's plenty to see and do on both shores. On the Manhattan side, you'll find yourself close to St. Paul's Chapel, City Hall and Wall Street. On the Brooklyn side, you're at DUMBO's spectacular Brooklyn Bridge Park, a renovated waterfront area with cafes, playgrounds, promenades and a one-of-a-kind view of the Manhattan skyline.

Read more about the Brooklyn Bridge and free walking tours.

stockelements | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

Stroll through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The garden has more than 200 cherry trees, a rose garden, a Japanese hill-and-pond garden and more. Admission typically costs $15, but is free on Saturday mornings (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon) and Tuesdays.

Admission is also free during winter weekdays (December through February), but fewer plants are in bloom then.

Learn more about the garden.

Walk the High Line

Another great walking adventure is the High Line, an out-of-use railroad trestle converted into a 1.5-mile-long linear park above the hubbub of the city.

You can walk the High Line at your leisure, or you can take a free 75-minute tour on Tuesdays and Saturdays between May 3 and October 29.

Learn more about the free guided tours.

People on the High Line park in New York.
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images

Check out the Guggenheim Museum on a Saturday evening

Tickets to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum normally costs $25, but admission is "pay as you wish" on Saturdays from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m.

The line starts to form at 5:15 p.m. and you may want to plan on arriving around then to avoid a long wait.

Plan your visit to the Guggenheim.

Tour the Brooklyn Brewery

The Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg offers free, 30-minute tours on the weekends (7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays), which take you behind the scenes and clues you in on the history of the place.

Tours are first come, first served. If you have to wait, pass the time by walking along the waterfront close by or grab a beer in the Brewery.

Samples aren't included in the tour — but if you pay $15 for the "Small Batch" tour, it comes with a guided tasting of four Brooklyn Brewery beers and a souvenir glass.

Learn more about tours at the Brooklyn Brewery.

The Brooklyn Brewery
Getty Images

Go ice skating at Bryant Park

While skating at Rockefeller Center is iconic, it'll set you back $32 during peak season, plus another $12 to rent skates. You can find a much better deal half a mile south at Bryant Park, where admission is free (though skate rental is $20).

If you plan on storing your things in a locker, make sure you bring your own lock, as it'll cost $10 to buy one at the rink.

Learn more about skating at Bryant Park.

Get standby tickets to see a taping of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"

You can see Jimmy Fallon live completely free if you're willing to wait in line for standby tickets. People who have done it recommend arriving between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. at the NBC marquee on 49th street, where the tickets are distributed the day of each show starting at 9:00 a.m.

Check out more ways to get free tickets besides waiting in line.

NBC | Getty Images

Check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Many people don't realize that the $25 admission price to the largest art museum in the U.S. is only a suggestion. It actually costs as little as a penny to enter the Met. If you're there between May and October, check out the roof garden bar with views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

Plan your visit to the Met.

Visit the Museum of Modern Art on a Friday night

Admission on a typical day will cost you $25, but on Friday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., you can pay whatever you wish to see the latest and greatest modern art exhibits.

Plan your visit to MoMA.

Dosfotos | Axiom Photographic | Getty Images

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

Ferry tours to see the Statue of Liberty will cost you $18.50, but the Staten Island Ferry, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is absolutely free and provides a sweet view of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island and the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan.

Learn more about the ferry.

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