Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting my niece, Sage, in New York City.
It was her first time visiting the City, and our first time spending a big chunk of one-on-one time together.
Having never been on a plane or train, this brave 15-year-old packed herself up, got dropped off at the Buffalo Amtrak station, and eight hours later, we picked her up at Penn Station in New York.
She only had two nights with us, so it was time to get the party started!
After hanging with the kids that first night, making s’mores and noshing on a quick pasta with zucchini, peppers, garlic, olive oil, and Calabrian chilies, it was time to get to bed.
Our plan was to wake up early and see as much of the city as we possibly could in one day.
NYC can be an expensive place, but especially in the summer, you can easily get away with spending just a Jack$on for the day.
We took three subways and one bus, which accounted for the majority of our money spent at $2.75 a ride.
Navigating the Metro system can be tricky, but Google Maps provides a pretty easy-to-follow guide.
And if you get confused, just ask someone. You may be surprised at how helpful people in New York are willing to be.
And although a bus or subway can be key to getting you from one site to another, the most important thing by far is your own two feet!
Towards the end of the day, Sage informed me that she had been tracking our steps, and our final total ended up being 16,568 steps—or just over 6 miles.
To make me as streamline as possible, I wear a cute pair of sneakers and a fashionable but functional backpack with some extra room in it for any goodies we might acquire.
As massive as NYC is, many of the popular destinations are within walking distance of one another.
Plus, while walking from one to the next is when you find local joints to stop at that weren’t on your list. Walking also allows you to really get a feel for different neighborhoods.
There are a ton of sites to see for free in NYC. You can walk the Brooklyn bridge, explore Central Park, see the New York Public Library, visit Chelsea Market, and so much more.
We started with The High Line, which is a 1.45 mile-long elevated park planted on an old railroad track.
The best part about the High Line, besides the stunning landscape and views, is that it’s a great way to get from Points A to Z.
So we got to walk our 20 blocks quickly and beautifully!
For lunch, I brought a couple of things from home and we supplemented with some hot soup and bread.
Bryant Park is a great spot for lunch outside because they have a ton of tables and chairs, so you don’t need to bring a picnic blanket, and you can still have a comfy spot.
They also do massive yoga sessions on the lawn, and set up an ice skating rink in the winter.
I particularly like visiting because the restaurant there, the Bryant Park Grill, is where I had my wedding reception.
I think it’s important to do the bigger tourist sites, but it’s also nice to get a sense of what New York is all about.
And really, it’s all about the people.
So I took Sage to meet some of my favorite New Yorkers. My friend Alexis (above), is the best acupuncturist in NYC.
My chef friend, Amber, is often seen whizzing around the city on her bike, and whipping up killer creations all over town.
And my teacher friend, Michelle, showed Sage what school can look like in the City that Never Sleeps. The playground on the roof is pretty awesome.
These visits were not only free, but impactful; they showed how people work and live in the city, and allowed us to hear about their passions and struggles. These are the things that can change a young lady who is exploring the world for the first time.
With just a hour left, we got down to the World Trade Center site.
It is very moving to stand on the edge of where the buildings once stood, and to watch the water pour in.
You can pay to go up in the Freedom Tower, or to go the museum. But the fountains and park are free to see and no longer have security protocols, and the memorial and the Oculus (a giant shopping center and train stop) are free.
There is so much good food in New York City, and so much bad food.
We ended up getting some hot dogs and empanadas from some booths in Times Square. Not the best things I’ve ever had, but way better than the normal street carts.
And the bonus was the seats right in the middle of Times Square! They even offer beer and wine if you want to spend a couple of extra bucks.
Over the course of ten hours, we saw 12 sites.
All the sites we saw were free, we spent a little money on transportation, and ate two meals for $17.72 each.
So there is definitely a way to do NYC on the cheap!
But, in full disclosure, we did splurge on one big thing…we saw Hamilton!
My niece is the youngest stage manager ever at her high school, and I really wanted to see a show with her. It was also her first show she has ever seen outside of the ones her high school has done.
I’m not going to lie, it cost us more than a Jack$on, even for the seats in the back, but this is how I like to live my life. I don’t spend money needlessly, and when I do, it counts, and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.