10 Family Fun Things to Do in New York City For FREE

1. Central Park: It is 8000 acres of greenery in the middle of a bustling city. This is my favorite place in NYC, if I happen to be in New York for my Birthday, this is where I always spend the day. There is plenty to see and do at Central Park. You can just stroll, which can be so romantic, almost any season of the year. If you are with the kids, during summer, you can sit at any of the grassy area and have a picnic, or play ball. There are benches all around the park underneath big oak trees, where you can sit and enjoy music from the local musicians, watch people dance on their roller blades, or just simply people watch. There are 2 children’s zoos: Tisch Children’s Zoo, and Central Park Zoo -which is free for kids under 3. If you don’t want t to go inside you can still enjoy watching the Seals and the Sea lions for free, who are visible from the outside. If your kids like to sail toy boats, there is a small pond just for this. For kids 6 and up, who like to bird watch, if you go by the Belvedere Castle they’ll loan you Binoculars, guidebook, map, and sketching pads. In the summer time, if you want to cool off by a fountain, there is a beautiful one. During winter, there are 2 ice skating rinks in the park.

2. Staten Island Ferry: It’s a great way to see the wonderful view of New York Harbor across a 5 mile stretch, in this 25 minute ride, as it goes from Manhattan to Staten Island back and forth. It’s free, you can’t beat that! This is one of the main means of transportation used by Staten Islanders to get to Manhattan, so try to avoid rush hours.

3. Times Square: Yes it is very touristy, but I’m still in awe with all the lights and building high advertising boards every time I see it. If you want to take a break from the glittering lights and go window shopping, you want to visit the multi-story Virgin Store, Toys R Us, Hershey’s, MTV etc. If you wish to go see a Broadway, the tickets can be purchased at a discounted price, up to 50% off, at the ticket booths with big TKTS signs on 42nd Street, on the day of the Show.

4. Rockefeller Center: If you can wake up early enough, the Today Show on NBC is hosted from the Rockefeller Plaza. We went there once with 3 month old Seth, even though it was pretty chilly that morning, I guess it was worth it being on TV for 2 seconds!! To see the view of New York from the observation deck at Top of The Rock, buy the Sunrise Sunset ticket, this allows you to visit the deck twice in the same day. If you still don’t want to spend that money taking the NBC Studio Tour or the Radio City Tour there is plenty to do in and around Rockefeller Center. My favorite thing to do is sit by the food court near a window overlooking the ice skating rink. Or, rather than pay the full $10 to $14 ice skating ticket price, go during lunchtime Monday – Thursday (excluding Holidays) between 11:30am to 1:00pm, and you can get in for just $5! The subway stop is right at Rockefeller Center, few levels down. The St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church is right across the street.

5. St. Patrick’s Cathedral: This 125 year old gothic style Catholic Cathedral built of white Marble has the most amazing architecture, stained glass windows, and marble sculptures. It is very peaceful, and gives you a sense of calm from the hustle and bustle right outside its door. After 9/11 a lot of people took solace visiting this tranquil cathedral.

6. Brooklyn Bridge: You can get an up and close look at one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. It spans the East River connecting Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. There is a water taxi you can take from here to Manhattan. You get a spectacular view of Manhattan from this side of the east River. It’s also nice to walk around Brooklyn Heights and look at all the beautiful Brownstone Homes.

7. South Street Seaport: Most recently, the evacuation scene for the Will Smith movie, I am Legend was filmed here. We just happened to be there while the filming was going on with thousands of extras. See, you never know what you will run into in New York! At Pier 17 Pavilion there is plenty of places to Shop and eat. It’s nice to sit by the window in one of the restaurants overlooking the river and Brooklyn. Or you can get this view from one of the decks. You might see and enjoy some street performer’s or live music during summer time. The South Street Seaport Museum comprises of 12 blocks of artifacts and collection of historic fleets. It shows the history of NYC as a port city. It’s quite a sight to see the skyscrapers, tall ships, and the Brooklyn Bridge, all in the same view.

8. Grand Central Station: The inside of the main concourse with high beautiful painted ceiling, tall arched windows, marble floors, is just as impressive as the outside design, with great sculpture of Hercules among others surrounding a 13 foot clock, and large Corinthian columns. It’s amazing how this hub connects all forms of transportation; it is the world’s busiest train station, with 150,000 commuters every day. On Wednesdays, and Fridays, at 12:30pm there is a free tour of the station.

9. Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you love art, and it’s never too early to start exposing your little one to this. The museum is free on 1st weekend of every month if you are a Bank of America customer, and have BOA debit, ATM, or credit card, under the Bank of America, Museum on Us program. We have visited and enjoyed more museums now than ever before, once our son was born.

10. Window Shop: As long as you are willing and enjoy walking, there are plenty of places to window shop in NYC. Take along your husband or boyfriend to 49th street Diamond district, walk on Fifth Avenue, or Upper West Side – By Columbus Avenue and Broadway. Sometimes just being there amongst all that, makes you feel like a million bucks!! Of course during the Christmas season, you want to take Window tour, with beautiful holiday themed displays at stores like Bloomindales, Barney’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue etc.

How has your experience been at some of the places mentioned above?

Check out more tips on budget travel, family fun, kids activities, and hassel free travel with kids at www.travelbargainmama.com

Sights Of A New York City Tour

For a plethora of urban delights, a New York City Tour is for you. This large city is jam-packed with tons of historical buildings and living, breathing culture. From inner city state parks to high-class art galleries and shows, a tour of New York City can show you things you’ve never seen before.

Times Square

One of the most popular attractions on any New York City tour is Times Square, originally named after the New York Times, which had moved there in 1924. Frequently seen in movie scenes, this neon-lit tourist attraction and city center is in the heart of the Theatre District. Hotels, commercial businesses and towering office buildings now populate a lot of space in Times Square with Disney and Conde Nast being two of the more renowned businesses. If your New York City tour happens to take place during the New Year celebration, be sure to join the crowd gathered in this bustling square as they frolic the night away in a gigantic street party topped off with watching the ball drop atop Times Tower.

Central Park

This beautiful park is a second favorite for New York City tours and is conveniently located right in the heart of Manhattan, stretching from Midtown to Harlem. Created in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux this rolling oasis of pastures and gardens provides a gentle resting spot to relax in with an afternoon walk. There’s a chance love could peek in on your tour of New York City as you gaze into the Bethseda Fountain on Bethseda Terrace. Heading north you’ll find the marvelous mystery that is Belvedere Castle or you could stop by the nearby Delacorte Theater and catch some of the summer plays. A delightful little zoo is available to children of all ages, and a restored carousel is sure to pique the fancy of any light-hearted soul.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

For the culturally minded New York City tour go-er, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is sure to spark your interest. Any visitor to New York should spend at least a couple hours wandering the halls of this vast and culturally diverse museum. Having more than 1.5 million square feet of exhibition space it houses European paintings by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Vermeer as well as an Egyptian Gallery that is unmatched. Asian artwork, photography, armory, and sculpture also abound in this magnificent museum built in 1895 by Richard Morris Hunt. Should you be touring New York City during the warmer months, be sure to see the open-air roof garden where modern-day sculptures are displayed.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Architecturally astounding, this massive cathedral located across from Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue is the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, making it another popular New York City tour stop. With a seating capacity of 2,500, several altars and stained glass windows, 330-foot towering spires, and an enormous pipe organ it’s no wonder many New Yorkers duck in for a moment of peace in the otherwise hectic daily life of the city. Services are held all through the day and can likely accommodate even the busiest of New York City tour schedules. All of these sites and so far the most well-known of attractions remain unseen, it truly is a spectacular place to visit at any time of year.

City Breaks – A Local’s Guide to Vienna

Having lived in Vienna for the good part of a year, I’d say it’s safe to say I’ve accrued a certain amount of local knowledge. I lived for eight months in the north of the city – that strange area that resembles a ghost town full of beautiful houses, rather than part of a capital city. The period of time I stayed meant that I was always somewhat in between a tourist and a local, which leaves me in the elevated position of being able to guide you, the reader, through the labyrinth of mesmerising Gassen (Viennese for lane or street) and hidden treasures of the city, without losing sight of the main tourist attractions, which are of course not to be missed!

Vienna is a great city for a weekend or mini-break and can be adapted to many budgets. It can be done on a shoestring, or you can go all-out. There is a sprawl of hotels and hostels throughout the city, ranging from the luxurious Hilton to the humble Jugendherbergen (youth hostels), which appear frequently in the outer districts.

Depending on your preference, the ‘main sights’ of the city can be done over one or two days. If you’re lucky – and you often are during the Viennese summer – you should be able to walk all the way around what the locals like to call ‘the Ring’. This is the large, uneven loop of streets that encircle the first district in the centre of the city.

It matters little which way you walk and where you start or finish, since at every point along the way there’s something to see. You will pass, among others, the University of Vienna, the Burggarten, the Rathaus (town hall), the Operahouse, the Volkstheater, the Natural History and Art History Museums, along with the Museums Quarter itself.

At any point, it’s just a few minutes walk into the town centre itself. The focal point of the city is St Stephen’s Cathedral, with its impressive gothic architecture. Those of you who are particularly interested in history can even take a trip down to its catacombs. The building you see today was completed in the early years of the sixteenth century. Two older churches occupied the present site and before there is evidence of an ancient cemetery dating back to Roman times.

From here, you can either head south-east towards the Naschmarkt, south towards the Palaces of Belvedere and Schönbrunn or south-west towards the Hundertwasser Haus or Prater Park, all of which are worth a visit. For those of you travelling with children, Schönbrunn boasts an impressive zoo and a hedge maze. Equine enthusiasts will also enjoy a trip to the Spanish Riding School, which stages performances daily.

The Naschmarkt and Prater and easily accessible (as most sights) by the Vienna U-Bahn, the underground system. Since they are a bit further off centre, it’s worth taking the underground to reach them – Schönbrunn too, unless you’re a keen walker. The Naschmarkt boasts a mouth-watering array of local and exotic delicacies, tiny, charming bistros, market stalls and bric-a-brac. This is a great place to stop and have a bite to eat, although I’ll expand more on eating out in Vienna in part two of this article.

Heading on from here, Prater Park is another great option if you have children. While it is, indeed, a large park, packed with locals and tourists on warm days, it also doubles as a theme park. The rides do tend to be rather expensive, so those on a budget may want to limit themselves, but there are often no queues, which is always a bonus.

For those of you more interested in art and architecture, don’t miss Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Hundertwasserhaus, built an an entirely differerent architectural plane (literally – watch your step!). Mismatching, multicoloured panels form an extraordinary fassade that captures the collective imagination of thousands of visitors each day in Vienna. The Kunsthaus Wien on the Untere Weissgerberstrasse contains further designs from the eccentric artist. You may love it or hate it – most people have a strong reaction to it – just don’t miss it. Both of these sights are just a short walk away from the Prater Park, but are less easily accessible by U-Bahn.

Finally, the Viennese Palaces. It’s mostly based on personal taste, but I consider the Belvedere the most attractive of the two, although Schönbrunn is arguably far more impressive. Both Palaces house exhibits – the Belvedere focuses mainly on art, often by Art Nouveau painters or sculptors, with Gustav Klimt as a firm favourite and permanent exhibit. If you’re a history buff, take a guided tour through Schönbrunn and possibly take the longer, extended tour too, if you have time, as it is very informative.

So! While many of you might argue that there are other sights I’ve missed out, there are the main ones. If you have no interest in extended visits and tours, they can be easily done in one rather action-packed day. Still, by this point, you’ll probably be wanting a good meal, maybe a strong coffee, which leads me on to park two, where we will be looking at the lesser-seen side of the city…

(part 2: City Breaks: A Local’s Guide to Vienna Part 2)