The hardest thing about saving money for my future travels is that I am living in New York City. The land where a yoga class costs $30 and a mixed drink costs $14. I decided to try a little experiment over the next year. I’ll be visiting different neighborhoods in New York City and spending an entire day on a budget. This week I tried a bunch of things to do on the Upper West Side on a $30 budget for the day! Crazy right? Here’s how it went!
Pier 96 Kayaking
We started our day off with a trip to Pier 96. During the summer you can go kayaking for free on the Hudson River. They provide you with a locker, life vest, and kayak. There was absolutely no line when we arrived, so we got to jump right in. Not to mention that there was a sound check happening at the pier next door for later that evening which meant free tunes while we rowed (even if those tunes were for a teeny bopper concert). I have to say that kayaking was the highlight of my day. The only downfall was that our butts got soaking wet. We didn’t bring a change of clothes, so we were forced to walk around in our wet pants for the remainder of the day which attracted more than a couple of strange stares.
Old John’s Luncheonette
After getting our morning workout in, we decided to grab a bite to eat. What better way to save money than to combine breakfast and lunch and simply eat brunch? We stopped by Old John’s Luncheonette on 67th Street for their french toast, which I read online was the best. I don’t know if I would say it was the best, but it was pretty delicious (not to mention cheap by NYC standards). We each chose a different type of french toast and the Brooklyn french toast ended up being the yummiest followed by the cinnamon apple. We paid $12 per person including tax and tip.
Of course you can’t have a day on the UWS without taking a stroll through Central Park. We entered at 72nd Street and walked along the traverse until we reached The Lake. This is by far the prettiest part of the park and often the part shown in movies. It’s the perfect place to watch romantic couples in row boats from afar and listen to the sounds of NYC’s best street entertainers. We happened to come across a rather unusual performance to say the least, which you can see pictured below. Along the way, we stopped to grab an ice cream ($3 each).
Museum of Natural History
When it came time to enjoy some culture, it was easy to choose the best place on the Upper West Side. The Museum of Natural History is on 77th Street and Central Park West. This is where we cheated the budget a little bit. There is a recommended donation of $22 per person. Obviously, on a budget of $30 each we wouldn’t have made it. We chose to donate $5 each since we would only be there a couple of hours. We made the mistake of forgetting to grab a map and quickly got lost between Asia and Africa. After wandering around aimlessly for an hour, we finally made our way upstairs. I’d recommend starting at the 4th floor by the dinosaur exhibit and working your way down. Otherwise you are completely exhausted by the time you reach the best part!
Green Flea Market
We made an unexpected stop at the Green Flea Market on 77th Street behind the museum. Although purchasing something was not in the $30 budget, it was fun to look around at all the eclectic items. It’d also be a cool place to get non-cheesy souvenirs. The flea market is open on Sundays from 10am to 5:30pm all year round.
Finally, we took a long walk along Central Park West up to 111th and Broadway to grab some of Koronet’s famed pizza. They’re known for the largest pizza slices in New York City. To quote an article it’s “the cheapest pizza per square inch.” For the low price of $4.50 you get a slice that equals almost three regular slices. Not to mention, you can people watch all of the Columbia students walking by.
Upper East Side Itinerary Breakdown
10:00am Kayaking at Pier 96- Free
11:30am Brunch at Old John’s Luncheonette- $12
12:30pm Walk through Central Park- $3 (Ice Cream)
3:00pm Natural History Museum- $5
5:00pm Green Flea Market- Free
7:00pm Pizza at Koronet’s- $4.50
Total Spent on the Upper East Side – $24.50 each!
Our day on the Upper West Side came to a grand total of $24.50 per person. We each spent the remaining $5 differently (water bottle, coffee, extra slice of pizza, etc.). It could also be used to tip the entertainers in the park, leave a donation for kayaking, take the subway, or give the museum a little extra money. All in all, we had a very successful first outing. We stuck to our budget, tried new things, and had an awesome day acting like tourists!
Thinking of trying these things to do on the Upper East Side? Ask any questions in the comments!
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.