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The Big Apple on a Small Budget

How to save in New York City

Invest in a New York CityPASS, which will save you 40% on six top attractions, including the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Plus, the pass lets you skip some ticket lines. $116 per adult; $92 for ages 6–17.  

Get a warm (and free!) welcome from Big Apple Greeter’s team of volunteer tour guides who’ll show you the city through their eyes without a preset itinerary or cheesy theme. Be sure to book at least three weeks in advance, and choose whatever neighborhood appeals to your brood, from Tribeca or Battery Park City in Manhattan to locales in the city’s other four boroughs. Around mid-December, take a pay-what-you-wish walking tour with Free Tours by Foot to see some of the most extravagant holiday light displays in the country in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood.

Take a cable car ride on the Roosevelt Island Tram to see the beautiful Manhattan skyline from 250 feet above the East River, then visit Four Freedoms Park, a memorial to FDR, for another expansive view of the city. $2.75 per person each way; free for kids under 44 inches.

Forget the expensive ticket prices posted at New York museums — many have “suggested donation” policies if you pay at the admissions desk, which means you can pay what you like to ogle the new 122-foot-long Titanosaur at the American Museum of Natural History. For young artists, stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturdays for free hourlong programs that introduce kids ages 3–11 to works in the gallery. And each Saturday and Sunday, the Museum of Modern Art offers free family drop-in programs that include free admission to the museum for kids ages 4–10 and their caregivers; arrive before 10am to get tickets.

During the holidays, New York’s department stores go all-out with their window displays, which are free for passersby to “ooh” and “ah.” Visit Macy’s Herald Square early in the day for unobstructed views of their iconic scenes depicting the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th StreetBergdorf Goodman, at the corner of 57th and 5th across from Central Park, also puts on one of the most over-the-top window displays in the city.

The nonprofit New Victory Theater showcases family-friendly acts from around the world. In December, catch Mother Africa: My Home, a circus show with live stunts, dancing and acrobatics; tickets start at $20.

Nothing will get you in the holiday spirit like Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Ticket prices start at $36 but vary by day, time and section. On your way to the show, be sure to stop for a family selfie in front of the lit Rockefeller Center tree (up until Jan. 7).

If you’re wandering through the Village, grab a to-go — and bigger-than-your-face — slice of iconic New York pizza at the Carmine location of Joe’s Pizza. Catch wait staff performing Broadway show tunes at the 1950s-themed Ellen’s Stardust Diner near Times Square, or give the kids a thrill at one of three Uptown locations of Alice’s Teacup, a whimsical, book-themed tearoom where children wear wings and have fairy dust sprinkled in their hair while nibbling scones and sandwiches.