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Thrifty Thursdays: Summer in the City (NYC edition)

- Alex

Tired of feeling like you have to spend a lot of money to have a good time? I’ll be starting a weekly blog pertaining to ways that the average teenager or college student can enjoy the beauty and excitement that US cities and places of nature have to offer on a shoestring budget for the lazy and unemployed (kidding about the lazy part…watching Netflix all day during the summer totally takes a lot of effort). This summer, I will be living and volunteering in Manhattan’s vibrant East Village neighborhood, and am looking to maximize my fun and minimize my costs. Sound like an Intro to Econ class? Nope, having fun for free is actually quite simple…as long as you do your research. Here are a few categories of entertaining activities that one can partake in for free or at least a very minimal budget.


Free music

New York is bustling with free music festivals, concerts, street performances, and the Subway also has some serious talent these days as well. As a music lover, my starting point was this nifty compilation put together by the Village Voice. Check out all of the venues listed for some true variety!

My free music summer highlight has been, for the last few summers, the Village Voice’s 4Knots festival that takes place on a Saturday in July in the Southstreet Seaport. Free samples, free music, free fun! Doesn’t get much better than that. Central Park stages many shows throughout the summer as well, and most performers can be heard from just outside the venue fence…why pay to see artists like Beck and Conor Oberst when you can listen to them for free? For you Brooklynites, McCarren and Prospect Park also host some sweet summer lineups as well.


Dancing and art

Nothing but class in this category. For you artists among us, ArtForum is a great resource to discover up and coming artists in New York’s various neighborhoods. It’s also a helpful tool to use if you want to attend the multitude of free gallery opening events, many which often offer free food and drinks if you arrive early enough. If you’re like me and a classy night out at the galleries isn’t enough, stop by many of the free dancing venues in the city. One that comes to mind is Sunset Salsa in Chelsea, all the way on the West Side between 14th and 15th streets.


Food and movies

There are ways to score some free food that are more acceptable than going into WholeFoods and trying all of the samples (trust me, we’ve all done it). On any given day in New York, there are likely at least one or two food festivals happening. Sampling all of the scrumptious bites is one way to go but also check out NYEater for a list of some concrete places that cater to the thrifties among us. Free movies are perhaps more plentiful than free food and are offered at a variety of venues that include: Bryant Park in Midtown, Coney Island, Hudson River Park, McCarren Park, and many others. Check out NYCgo for more ideas!


Parks and nature

For people looking to steer clear of spending temptations entirely, no worries! As long as it’s a nice day, New York has plenty to offer. Try walking some of the East River Bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge is classic but don’t underestimate the beauty of the Manhattan or Williamsburg bridges. If parks or more of your thing, obviously check out Central Park (touristy but worthy of the title), Washington Square Park (always something happening, especially a great fountain), Union Square Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, or McCarren Park. If nothing else, park-hopping will help you get some much-needed New York people watching in.

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Check out some helpful websites

Research is key. I have multiple websites and online platforms that I check regularly. TimeOut New York is a big help for deciding what to do on a given day or what to do over the course of a summer. There is usually a “free” or “cheap” search tab that makes your hunt simpler, but the site also contains some great resources in case you do want to drop a couple bills for a fun night out. TripAdvisor is also a dependable choice for research, especially with the capability for user reviews and suggestions. NYCgo is another helpful site if you’re looking for more classic suggestions on how to spend your New York minutes. Whatever venue you choose, just make sure to seek out the typically unsought and unknown; that’s where the real magic happens.




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