The Best Things in Life Are (Almost) Free

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 02:08 PM

When my mother was a young woman living in New York in the early 1950’s, she was on a very tight budget. Oftentimes, she would venture down to Battery Park on a hot summer night and ride the Staten Island Ferry for entertainment. In those days it cost five cents. Today, it is free. She also has wonderful memories of buying standing room tickets for Broadway shows. I seem to recall that seeing Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I is one of her favorite memories.

When I first moved to the city back in the mid-1980’s, I, too, was on a tight budget. I walked everywhere. And, one of my favorite things to do on a hot summer day was to ride the carousel in Central Park. I seem to recall that the price for one ride back then was fifty cents. Today, the price is two dollars for a three-and-a-half minute ride.

I bought standing room for New York City Opera on a regular basis. And, when I was an evening host on WQXR, I spent many of my days playing tennis in Central Park, and having a burger and a beer at the 79th Street boat basin. When I first started playing tennis in the park, I believe the season permit cost fifty dollars. Today, the permit costs one hundred dollars--twenty dollars for seniors and ten dollars for juniors. Amazing! 
Tell me YOUR secrets, New Yorkers!  Where are the best bargains in town?

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Comments [6]

e. scrooge from Downtown

Avoid the crowds! Enter Central Park at night. Best place : Strawberry Fields off of West 72nd Street. Always safe and placid, even at 2 or 3 am. Meditate in the dark on the spirit of John and Yoko. Remember : it's illegal to be in there past 1 am, so keep a low profile!

Jun. 09 2010 02:05 AM
Frances from Tarrytown, NY

If you are an art lover, New York City boasts several world-class art galleries where you can view orginial works by well-known artists for free! Last summer, my husband and I toured the Gagosian Gallery's "Mosqueteros" show by Picasso. This summer we will visit both Gagosian Galleries again (West 21st Stree and West 24th Street) to view the "Late Work of Claude Monet" and "Still Lifes of Roy Lichtenstein." Usually, these art shows are critically reviewed in the NY Times, so it gives the visitor some insight into the shows. We could hardly believe that these events are free and open to the public. What a wonderful way to share original art!

Jun. 03 2010 01:04 PM

Lots of pretty cheap but fun things to do in the city. For the cost of a fare and a bit of a ride, you can get to City Island off the bronx and walk in what is a pretty close approximation to a New England fishing village.

In Manhatten, there are a lot of things that are pretty cheap and fun. Grab a sandwich and go sit in Battery Park, or along the waterfront down in the village. Wander around neighborhoods like Chelsea and you never know what you are going to see. Go to Chinatown and grab some really cheap eats; Often bookstores have readings and the like by well known authors.

The Morgan library often have performances, and it is pretty cheap I recall.

For music on the cheap, you can't go wrong with Juilliard, there are always performances and recitals going on and most of them are in fact free, from the pre college through the Juilliard college orchestra or Jazz program performances. Not only do these kids play well, but they still have the excitement at playing that many professional performers have lost in my opinion, which makes it extra special.

Take a walk in central park, it is an amazing place all times of the year. If you want to sail a boat, you can rent a boat for 11 bucks and dream for an hour or wander and people watch. Lots of birds flying around, and if you are lucky the bird enthusiasts are on the east side and you can get a glimpse at Pale Male and his mate and offspring in their fanastic nest on the building on 5th avenue (no thanks to the idiots who tried to evict the couple).

Take a ferry ride to governors Island and hike around, it has beautiful views of the river. Take a hike over the brooklyn bridge, great exercise and you can' t beat the view:)

Jun. 01 2010 07:39 PM
Larry Stoler from Stamford, CT.

Reading the comments reminds me of how things have changed i.e. how much it costs to do anything you enjoy in New York City as opposed to a few years ago.

I agree with the previous poster. Maybe one of the best things to do is to find a place to hang out in the city and just see what happens. it doesn't cost much and it can be interesting and fun too.

May. 31 2010 06:17 AM
Natty Bumppo from Manhattan

The most Excellent free event in NYC is the M thru F
concerts at Juilliard School at Lincoln Center. . Almost every week-day evening there are 4 concerts; 2 in Paul
Hall, and 2 downstairs in Morse Hall at 6 and 8 PM.
Check the on-line Juilliard Concert calendar for time and
performer..Mostly classical but sometimes Jazz.
95% are free and do not require tickets...These are the top performers to be. Neither hall is ever more than 1/2 full..Talk about a cheap date-Wow.

May. 30 2010 09:50 AM

I think the BEST free thing to do on a nice day in New York is almost NOTHING. I''ll wander up to the upper west side...( maybey upper Broadway & 80th st.) and find one of those median park benches. I might buy a tall coffee & a bagel and just sit and WATCH. All the people...all the taxi's wizzing by....(even some famous movie stars walking I wonder if Midge Woolsey might wander into view on her way to a tennis match...........mmmm...(she's dreamy.)

May. 29 2010 12:24 PM

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