Not all of us can be jet-setting trendsetters who breakfast in Los Angeles, have dinner and watch a show in New York the same night. For many of us, visiting New York is the result of hundreds of hours of work and many more hours of planning.

Touring New York City, specifically Manhattan, doesn’t have to break your budget. If you plan ahead and watch your money, it can be – if not exactly frugal – at least, affordable. With that thought in mind, throw some virtual clothes into your knapsack and go on a budget tour of Manhattan.


People don’t visit Manhattan to watch the crowds. Although an interesting activity in its own right, most visitors want to see the sites. The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Guggenheim Museum and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the price of admission to most of these places is getting higher and higher.

By mixing low-cost activities with more expensive tours, you can stretch your money further. For example, spending a day in Central Park – seeing the zoo, riding the carousel and touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art – can be done much less expensively. The park is free (of course), the zoo costs $13 for children and $18 for adults, a ride on the carousel costs $3 and the $25 fee to visit the Met is actually a recommended amount, you can pay what you want. For a family of five, this means that a day in Central Park, visiting the zoo, riding the carousel and touring the Met will run $87 plus what you can donate to the Met.

The Statue of Liberty is another moderate cost option. The ferry ride to Liberty Island and the basic tour runs $18 for adults and $13 for children. The self-guided or National Park guided tour is included in this cost. Getting up past the pedestal or, for healthy curious visitors, into the crown will, of course, cost extra.

The view

One of the major attractions of visiting Manhattan is the view from observation decks on the Empire State Building, 1 World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building and others. The costs to visit these decks has risen as steadily as the height of the buildings themselves. Currently it costs at least $34 for adults and $28 for children. For that virtual family of five we are wandering around with, it would cost $152 to visit the observatory.

There is an alternative, however. Several of the buildings have rooftop restaurants and uninterrupted views of the cityscape. The Crow’s Nest overlooking the East River is a quiet restaurant and cocktail lounge while Birreria in the Flatiron district and West Village’s Le’s Bain offer unmatched views with wonderful foods for less compared to visiting an observation deck.

For an interesting view that is also an attraction, consider visiting the High Line on the west side of Manhattan. Formerly an elevated railway, the High Line is now a 1.45-mile-long greenway and park sitting above Manhattan. You can add a little green to your day and get some wonderful memories and photos of the Hudson River.

Getting around

Forget the taxis, they cost too much. Walking around Manhattan can get tiring and stressful. The least expensive and easiest way to do your sightseeing & tours in New York City is by bus. Hop on/Hop off passes can be combined with popular tours to bring the price down even lower.

Although Manhattan is not a cheap vacation, it can be done on a budget while still seeing major tourist attractions and enjoying the time you spend in the city. Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish and you can stretch that buck for an additional visit to this amazing city.