By Amanda Statham
New York’s one of the top cities in the world for fashion, nightlife and sightseeing, but it’s also on the pricey side. However, it’s perfectly possible to visit the Big Apple and not break the bank - you just need to know where to go.
If you’re after high-end goodies but don’t want to pay high-end prices, hit the concession and discount stores. For bargain dresses, make a beeline for Dress Barn (747 Third Avenue). Don’t be put off by some of the gaudy goods on offer, hunt around and you’ll discover some choice pieces; I picked up two Calvin Klein dresses for under $100, a fraction of their normal price.
For chic-but-cheap designer tops, trousers and lingerie, Daffys (426 Broadway and several other locations around the city) is unbeatable. You may have to root around for the good stuff, but the rewards are great with T-shirts from as little as $5.
New Yorkers bag a bargain at Century 21 (22 Cortlandt Street) where there’s up to 65 per cent off everything from adult and children’s clothing to homewares. Arrive early morning or mid-afternoon to avoid the lunchtime crush.
The Big Apple is top of the tree when it comes to vintage and my in-the-know second-hand store is Cheap Jacks (303 5th Avenue), where stylists, designers and celebs all pop in for a bit of inspiration. You can pick up quality goodies like sunglasses from the 50s or an 80s suede jacket for tens rather than hundreds of dollars.
Finally, browse bric-a-brac bargains at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market (39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues), which runs every weekend and is lined with stalls selling everything from vintage clothing and pottery to jewellery and art.
See the sights
The Staten Island Ferry is probably the best sightseeing bargain in the world: it’s free, passes close to the Statue of Liberty and offers amazing views of the city skyline. Twenty million people per year take the 25-minute cruise from Battery Park, Lower Manhattan, to St George on Staten Island, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Invest in a CityPASS, $89, which gives you up to 50 per cent off entry fees to six must-see attractions, lets you jump the queues and provides extras such as a free audio tour of the Empire State Building.
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You don’t have to pay the earth for award-winning food in Manhattan. Take the 6 train to 77th Street in Brooklyn and treat yourselves to some slices of pizza at Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano (1524 Neptune Avenue). It opened in 1924, is cheap as chips and still serving the best pizzas in town in 2012 according to Zagat judges.
A picnic in Central Park is a must-do when the sun shines. Grab some gourmet goodies from the basement Wholefood Market in the Time Warner Center (10 Colombus Circle), then cross the road and enter the park at its southwest corner, where there’s plenty of grass to chill on.
If you want to cut down on the lbs as well as dollars, visit the Better Burger NYC (178 8th Avenue) which serves up delicious low-fat, 100 per cent organic, hormone-free turkey, chicken and veggie burgers until 11pm.
For a tasty-but-cheap lunch stop, drop by Calexico, a mobile cart selling delicious Mexican food where Broadway meets 5th Avenue opposite Madison Square Park. For great value Mexican in the evening, like chili con carne or quesadilla for $9 each, book a table at Arriba Arriba! (762 9th Avenue). Live DJs keep the experience upbeat as do killer cocktails – don’t miss the frozen margaritas, which come in three sizes, bebe, mama and papa.
Finally, my best free food find is the new Crocodile Lounge (325 East 14th Street), a funky East Village bar covered in, you’ve guessed it, crocodiles – even the door handles are croc – which gives away a pizza with every beer you buy.
New York’s famous for its jazz scene, but going to a legendary club like Iridium or Blue Note can set you back $30 before you’ve even had a drink. For a sophisticated evening with a background of smooth jazz for less, go to an off-the-beaten-track venue like the Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street). Ditto the Zinc Bar (83 West 3rd Street), one of the most intimate places in town to enjoy live jazz, funk, blues and world music until 3am at weekends. If you don’t have big bucks to spend on a Broadway show it’s possible to get 25 to 50 per cent off ticket prices from one of the Theater Development Fund’s ticket booths. There’s one in Times Square which gets very busy, so head instead for the less crowded Downtown booth in South Street Seaport (199 Water Street), where you can queue for same-day evening performances from 11am–6pm.
Where to stay
Apple Core runs five hotels in amazing Midtown locations from just $190 a night. They aren’t going to win any design awards, but the extras are way better than you’d expect for the price, such as free continental breakfast, WiFi and US telephone calls. In-room facilities include cable television, pay-per-view movies, coffee makers and modern bathrooms with marble units and hairdryers. Unsurprisingly, occupancy rates are high, so book early. Alternatively, consider opting for an apartment. HouseTrip is a great new website where native New Yorkers rent out their flats, meaning you get to live like a local and pay less than a hotel room for the privilege. There’s lots of choice, from compact one-bedroom apartments in the Upper East Side through to palatial pads in Midtown.