How I Spent a Day in NYC on $0

In the last of this year’s series of posts on New York City, I’ll be telling you about how I spent the day there on a $0 budget. Now, I had to pay to take the train to and from Morristown, NJ to actually get there, but over the course of the entire day, I spent nothing. I’m assuming most of the people reading this will already be in the city, but commuting from any of the surrounding towns in New York or New Jersey should cost you $14 one way at the most.

My main objective of the day was to see DUMBO, the hugely popular district by the waterside in Brooklyn. If you follow any influencers at all, chances are you’ve seen their photographs between the red brick buildings with the Manhattan Bridge in the background. The Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge has Franklin D. Roosevelt along the water, whereas Brooklyn’s side is decorated with park after park. It also gives you incredible views of the city skyline, without having to pay to see it from a boat along the Hudson.

I woke up super early in order to maximize my time whilst avoiding the rush hour traffic coming home that evening. Rush hour from Jersey to the city is slightly earlier than I’m used to, so by the time I boarded the 8.23 NJ Transit to New York’s Penn Station, it was pretty quiet. I packed a phone charger, travel adapter, a packed lunch from the night before’s leftovers and a reusable water bottle. I brought $100 with me just in case I found something I wanted to buy in a store, but for the first time in a long time my focus was not on shopping.

I arrived at Penn Station at around 9.30am and exited through the corner of 31st Street and 8th Avenue. I had already pre-downloaded and pretty much memorized my route downtown,so I headed across to 9th Avenue and started to walk down. I walked all the way down to 15th Street, where I stumbled across Chelsea Market. On my no spending quest, I just went in to explore, first in Philosophy, then through the coffee, fish, vegetable and flower vendors. As I visited during the week, it was not as unbearably busy as I imagined it to be. The lack of natural light inside gave it a very underground feel, but it as incredible to see the bones of a late nineteenth century factory still standing in Manhattan.

From there, I walked down to 14th Street and walked towards the High Line, a bridged garden, art space and walkway spanning over 20 blocks. Again, I didn’t intend on finding this, but I just so happened to catch a glimpse of it when walking across the street. W 14th Street is home to some of the best shopping in the entire city, the flagship stores of so many incredible designers like Diane von Frustenburg and alice + olivia. Again, the space was not overly crowded, and gave incredible unobstructed views of the city from above. On one side, views all the way along the respective streets could be seen, the buildings becoming progressively more massive as they approached 7th, 6th and 5th Avenues. On the other side, a view of the Hudson, the shipyards and over to Jersey to see Hoboken and Newport.

Once I descended from the High Line at the end of its span, I headed towards the water and found myself in Hudson River Park. I decided to put away my phone and use One World Trade Center as a guide for the next hour or so, while I walked around the very outskirts of Manhattan. The park has everything from dog parks to hard surface tennis courts, and the view on the summer day meant bright blue skies and a bluer Hudson River. I stopped at a few of the piers, used the free water filling stations to fill up, and headed towards Chambers Street, where I took a left back into the belly of Downtown Manhattan. Chambers Street is undoubtedly one of the most exceptional streets in the entire city, for a multitude of reasons. The historical buildings and architecture are worth a venture down alone. Restored banks, City Hall, and the Manhattan Municipal Building at the end, with its famous arches, a nod to the former New Amsterdam.

Before I headed to the bridge, I took a brief detour via the Supreme Court building where I saw Ice T filming Law and Order (lowkey highlight of my day) and doubled back to walk over the water. No matter how many times I visit New York, I will always make a point of visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s a subway station at it’s mouth, so it is super easy to access, and the views of the city are just out of this world. The bridge’s architecture is astounding, and every time I cross it I notice something new and awe inspiring about it. It’s a pretty lengthy walk across, around thirty minutes if you’re stopping along the way for pictures, which everybody on it is.

Before the very end of the bridge, there’s an exit on the left to take you down to DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Brooklyn has such a different feel from Manhattan, a much more relaxed sense about it, even though it is still absolute chaos. I walked through the buildings, using the Manhattan Bridge as a guide, until I arrived at the water. There were restaurants all along the front, at the base of another converted warehouse. In front of them were a bunch of benches, which is where I sat and ate my lunch. I intentionally didn’t bring earphones with me on this day trip, so I could people watch and listen to the water in peace. After I ate, I walked around the park a little, looking at the art installations and watching the boats pass on the water with the incredible Manhattan skyline in the background. By this time, it was around 1pm, and I’d already hit my 10,000 steps for the day. I decided to make my way back to Penn Station via the 9/11 Memorial and for a chance to see the World Trade Center that had not been completed when I last visited. Through Tribeca, then following 6th Avenue back up to 31st where I could get the NJ Transit back home, I saw many of the sights I’d seen in visits past to New York.

After over 17,000 steps and 12 kilometers of walking, I was on the train by 4pm. This itinerary is definitely not for the faint-hearted, and I was absolutely exhausted after walking around in the searing heat all day. However, I went with the intention of writing this article eventually and wanted to show another side to visiting Manhattan that did now involve spending hundreds of dollars to see the sights. Hopefully, between this and my review of flying to NYC for cheap (if you’ve not seen, you can watch here), anybody who thinks they can’t quite manage a trip to the city might change their mind.


24 thoughts on “How I Spent a Day in NYC on $0

  1. I enjoyed your article. We are visiting NY on Sunday and want to see the bridge.
    We often visit London on a budget – so much to see and do for free.

  2. Great post..I love NYC and the Highline is always one of my go to places as a ‘tourist.
    Bryant park too is always on my list (I know not mentioned here…)

    I really enjoy your posts…keep them coming😁

  3. Wow, this sounds like a pretty great day! 😊 One of the top points on my Bucketlist is to live in New York City for a full month and get to know the city like a local, just enjoy NYC! This post is definitely inspiring, thanks!

  4. I really like your blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and very interesting blog. I come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. A soon. Angelilie from Paris.

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