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New York City is one of those places that many people dream about visiting. It can also be a very expensive place to visit, leading many to put off those dreams. The good news? It’s totally possible to visit NYC on the cheap, especially if you happen to be traveling by RV.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the Big Apple two times since we started traveling seven years ago. The first time was with my husband and son a few years back; my second visit was a last-minute trip with my son, my mom, and a few other family members. We had to stick to a small budget both times, and both times we had an absolute blast.

Below are my tips for visiting New York City without breaking the bank.

What to Do in NYC on the Cheap

First, let’s discuss what to do in NYC without spending much money. Believe it or not, there are actually a number of free and cheap things to do in New York City. The options below are a few of our favorites.

Walk Times Square

No visit to New York City is complete without checking out Times Square. While the bustling area does get overwhelming quickly (you’ll definitely want to keep the kids close and have a plan in case you get separated from your party), the sights and sounds are like nothing we’ve seen anywhere else in the country.

There are tons of stores in this part of the city, and food carts and restaurants are around every corner. Be sure to take a minute to look up at the many lights and moving advertisements. If you have kids with you, stop in at the M&M store, the LEGO Store, and the huge Disney Store.

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

Of course, you will want to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s practically the law. The thing is, tickets to go to Ellis Island are not cheap. Instead, we rode the free Staten Island Ferry. This ferry takes passengers right past the Statue of Liberty, providing a great view, fantastic photo opportunities, and some free fun in NYC.

Visit Museums on the Cheap

Everyone knows that New York City is full of great museums. What many don’t know is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to check them out.

Most museum reciprocal programs include free or discounted admission to at least a few NYC museums. ASTC alone includes the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the National Museum of Mathematics, the New York Transit Museum, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Additionally, many museums are always free, while some others will occasionally offer free days, pay-what-you-wish days, or discount days. A few examples include…

  • The American Folk Art Museum and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, are always free.
  • The Jewish Museum, which is free on Saturdays.
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is free from 4pm–8pm on the first Friday of every month.

Check Out Shakespeare in the Park

Both times I’ve been to New York, I’ve splurged on tickets to a Broadway show. I don’t regret this at all, and I 100% recommend seeing a show on Broadway if you are a fan of theater and you have the funds.

That said, if you’re short on cash or just don’t want to shell out money for a $100 ticket, there is another option. Every summer, there is Shakespeare in the Park productions in Central Park. These are free to see, but you do still need a ticket and they go fast, so be sure to snag one.

Stroll and Play in Central Park

Speaking of Central Park, this famous sprawling urban park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, particularly if you have kids with you. The park is home to a huge number of playgrounds as well as plenty of walking paths, Turtle Pond, free concerts, the aforementioned Shakespeare in the Park, and more.

Head to the Beach

Many people forget that NYC does have beaches. These are open for swimming on Memorial Day through early September, and lifeguards are on duty from 10am–6pm. The beaches are sandy, sunny, and each one has its own unique personality. They are the perfect place to relax on a hot summer day.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t made it to see the 9/11 Memorial. It just feels like a really heavy thing to take kids to see on vacation. That said, I know it would be an excellent educational opportunity and it is on my short list of things to see next time we find ourselves in the big city.

The memorial is free to the public and an audio guide app is available for those who’d like a guided tour of the place. There is a museum as well, but there is an admission fee to visit the museum and tickets must be booked in advance.

Tour Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Finally, I must mention the Hamilton Grange National Memorial. If I had known this existed during our most recent visit, I definitely would have wrapped it into our trip, as it would have been the perfect spot to visit after seeing Hamilton on Broadway.

This national memorial is located in St. Nicholas Park in Manhattan. Here, guests can tour the relocated home of Alexander Hamilton. You do need to book tour tickets in advance, but they are free.

Where to Stay

Okay, so there are a lot of free and inexpensive things to do in New York City. Unfortunately, inexpensive places to stay are a bit harder to find. That said, RV camping makes finding inexpensive lodging a bit easier, and camping in NYC does exist. Here’s where to look.

Camp Gateway – Brooklyn (Floyd Bennett Field)

Floyd Bennett Field is where we stayed the first time we visited NYC. We were fairly new to towing our trailer and were a bit freaked out pulling it through Brooklyn, but we made it just fine and the awesome location made the scary drive worthwhile.

The park is located right by a bus stop and you can see some of the city across the water. When we stayed, the park offered dry camping only, but the cost was insanely low and there were bathhouses available, so we were happy.

Unfortunately, this campground didn’t open for the 2022 season, but there has been talk of it reopening with more amenities in the future!

Cheesequake State Park

My next pick for RV camping near NYC on the cheap is Cheesequake State Park in New Jersey. This campground is relatively inexpensive and is located just outside of the city, so taking a train to see the sights is super easy. I should mention that the park only offers dry camping and it does have an 11-foot height restriction, so taller fifth wheels and motorhomes might have a problem getting in.

Liberty Harbor RV Park

Lastly, there is Liberty Harbor RV Park. Honestly, this park is far from cheap, but it is cheaper than a hotel room in the city. The park does have water and electricity at its sites, and you won’t have to worry about height restrictions. The campground is right outside of the city and public transportation is just a short walk away, meaning the sights and sounds of NYC can be reached in minutes.

About the author: Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.

You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.

David P. ~ “I had to use the Coach-Net system for a coach jack problem. Pat helped me resolve the issue.  He was very helpful and I was able to continue my journey. This was the first time I had to use it and it worked out great. When the time to renew, I most definitely will.  Thanks again for the help.”