BUNAC's Aimee, who is currently based in our New York office before heading out to Camp for the summer, has put together a handful of free or cheap must-dos in the Big Apple!
Where else can you find a tranquil spot to spend your afternoon daydreaming in the sun right in the centre of one of the busiest and fast-paced cities in the world? Sit under a tree with your favourite book, people-watch to your hearts content, or lap up the diversity by wandering, (and getting lost) around the ever-winding paths. Strawberry Fields, summer concerts, vendors, tai chi, Cleopatra’s Needle, roller skating, abstract art… How many of these can you spot?!
Sounds too good to be true? I assure you they’re free. However, there is one small catch: 6:00 AM starts! It’s not for everybody, but this is a great way to see some big acts from Lady Gaga to Sting, without spending a dime. Morning television shows such as the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America”, feature concerts throughout the summer, which you can find out about from their websites. If you want a decent view, (and the chance to have your five minutes of fame) don’t arrive later than 6 AM, as viewing is on a first-come, first-served basis. Unless, of course, you want to join the dedicated fans who camp out the night before!
Staten Island Ferry
Sail across the New York Bay on the free – yes, free Staten Island ferry at the very bottom of Manhattan. Go in the evening for a true Kodak moment, as you gaze back at the iconic skyline and get a glimpse of our Lady Liberty. Unfortunately, Staten Island itself is severely lacking in any form of entertainment, so you may want to make your visit short and sweet. But the photo opportunities will be well worth it, I promise!
Food: Think BIG
Carbs and meat seem to be New York’s favourite food groups, so get ready to loosen your belt. NYC has some of the tastiest, (and greasiest) food around. Expect to experience burgers as big as your head, (literally), and portions to feed a small family. My top tip is to take advantage of having your leftovers boxed up so you can take them away with you. This is common practice in the States, so you can often stretch your meal to tomorrow’s lunch! Also, for the best bargains and unusual bites, make sure you fully embrace the independent restaurants. As you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover; don’t judge a restaurant with a worn exterior and plastic seating – these are often hidden gems! Try Big Nick’s burger joint, (bignicksnyc.com) for a melt-in-your-mouth beef or ostrich burger on the very sweetest challah bread. Or perhaps search for a “Bento box” at the many Japanese restaurants, (try Sushi Hana Japanese Fushion, 433 Amsterdam Avenue.) For under $10 you can get a pick ‘n’ mix lunchbox which will provide sound practice in the use of chopsticks.
Prepare to haggle your way through the endless markets and persistent street sellers, whilst keeping an eye out for the cops! Drive a hard bargain, (but don’t be rude) and you can get clobbered out with Chanel bags, Tiffany necklaces, Swatch watches and Ray Ban sunnies for a smidgen of their original cost. Note: these are all fakes, but very convincing! Chinatown’s best feature is the cheap, authentic restaurants which are in abundance here. Don’t miss out on filling up on Chinese, then heading to a bakery, such as the Tai Pan Bakery, 194 Canal Street – a sugary dessert heaven!
Be a tourist
A visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without visiting some real tourist sights, (free, of course). Be dazzled by the lights in Times Square; re-enact Sex and the City when you visit the New York Public Library (females only); enjoy the art deco architecture of the Rockefeller center and the Chrysler building, but most importantly use your accent to your advantage! Feel free to start up a conversation with an absolute stranger, because it almost always results in learning interesting “inside” information. It may not be in our British genetic-makeup to do this, but embracing the real American culture could make your stay a lot of fun!
Like the sound of this?
Work America will re-open this September for 2017
Check out the rest of our experiences pages for more Work America stories.