New York is a city of dreamers (cue “Empire State of Mind”). It’s full of people who came with a plan and stayed on for what happened next. Millions of visitors join them every year to take their bite out of the Big Apple: the allure of fame, big-city living, and the excitement of constant change — it’s simply too tempting to resist.

It doesn’t take long to get attached: 48 hours, 200 dollars, and one good idea are all you need to get the most from this bustling metropolis. Come for a weekend in NYC under $200, and feel what life might be like in the city that never sleeps.

Eat for under $70

Eating your way through NYC doesn’t have to break the bank, This cupcake tour proves it.

Assuming your accommodation has breakfast covered, here’s where and how to spend your money on lunch and dinner. A slim wallet just means more room for creativity. No really — you can still eat cupcakes with the best of ’em, thanks to a little bit of budgeting and research. Skip the flagship restaurants and head straight to the counter for the best slice of New York pizza you’ve ever tasted for $3.50. Or, start your day at Tal Bagels, one of the most popular traditional bagel shops in Manhattan. There are tons of unassuming places serving up some super authentic dishes from all over the world — like Fred’s. Head here for award-winning (and cheap) shawarma wraps. Or just let someone guide you through the diverse flavors of the city.

See the city for under $130

See the city from above at the top of the Empire State Building.

1. Start with a bird’s-eye view 

It might be helpful to start with a bit of perspective on this sprawling city. Our tip? Climb New York’s tallest building for the 360-degree views. Bring a camera along if you want to get great shots for your Instagram feed. 

Think about your main priorities for the trip — if you care about convenience, consider investing in a flexible explorer pass to get discounts on all the top sights. Remember that some places are so special and iconic to New York that you just can’t miss them, even on a quick trip. Make sure you visit the 9/11 memorial and the Statue of Liberty (it’s even bigger in person). 

Skip the line and (see some masterpieces) at the Museum of Modern Art.

2. Soak up some culture

You can see the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for free every Friday evening, though it’s also when it’s the most crowded. If you want to absorb the masterpieces of modern art with a little bit more space to yourself, consider a skip-the-line tour. Or, visit one of New York’s many free museums.

NYC celebrates tons of festivals each year, like the Afropunk festival in Brooklyn.

3. Check the calendar for upcoming festivals

See if there are any street festivals happening while you’re in the city. They’re usually free to attend, year-round, and definitely a cool, local thing to take part in. Whatever you’re into — from women’s roller derby to prohibition-era whiskey — there’s probably an event for it. 

Got a hankering for grandma’s homestyle cooking? Then maybe you’ll want to taste your way through Little Italy. If you’re in town in September, stuff your face at the 11-day Feast of San Gennaro. It’s a perfect time to challenge new friends to the ultimate cannoli-eating championship.

Music brings people from all walks of life together, that’s just a fact. Afropunk and the Governor’s Ball Music Festival are a testament to that. They’re only some of the ways to enjoy New York’s music scene. Other ways, like this gospel tour of Harlem abound. There’s simply no shortage of groovy things to do.

Walking around town is a great way to get a feel for the city’s colorful boroughs.

4. Explore on two feet

Window shop along the outdoor mall that is SoHo, peruse the discount wares at Century 21, or simply people-watch while enjoying a picnic at Battery Park. There are endless ways to chill out and cruise around the city without spending all your pennies, it just depends on your interests.

Plan your trip to NYC

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