I could not be happier to be home in New York City this summer. Compared to the endless greenery of my college town, the city is a much-needed change of pace. I am dying to soak in as much of the urban experience as I can before I return to school. New York City is the perfect place to spend your summer, especially if you are a curious college student looking to get your fix of culture, cuisine, learning, and even the great outdoors.
And with a bit of research, you’ll find many opportunities that can be had on a college student’s budget.
For the culture buff
Many popular culture venues offer discounted ticket programs for college students.
Most of the time, registering is free of charge and comes with a complimentary subscription to monthly newsletters about discounted performances. My favorite is Lincoln Center’s student program that allows you to purchase inexpensive tickets for the Metropolitan Opera.
The summer is often filled with free performing arts concerts. The New York Philharmonic does a series of outdoor concerts at parks across the five boroughs. Pack up a picnic and enjoy listening to the best classical music in the city.
Also, get a sampling of the Great White Way at Broadway in Bryant Park (http://bryantpark.org/plan-your-visit/broadway.html). Every summer, current Broadway shows present selected numbers for free around lunchtime.
One of the best free experiences in the city is an age-old tradition: Shakespeare in the Park (www.publictheater.org), annual free performances of the Bard’s classics at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Free tickets are distributed the morning of each performance. All you have to do is wait in line. The performances are stellar and often feature big-name Hollywood stars.
The IDNYC card (www1.nyc.gov/
For the foodie
The city offers some of the best cuisine in the world, and every summer, the city has Restaurant Week (www.nycgo.com/restaurant-week), when some of the best restaurants offer a reduced-price menu. You can enjoy a famous steak at Delmonico’s or French cuisine at the French Culinary Institute on the cheap.
Dining like the rich and famous is an exciting experience, but I have found that some of the best food in the city can actually be had inexpensively. If you have a hankering for ethnic cuisine or want to try something new, I recommend a trip to Queens, the most diverse borough in the city, where cuisine is often authentic and affordable.
For the scholar
New York City is home to many museums that showcase pretty much everything from art to taxidermy to old subway cars.
One trick to conquering Museum Mile without breaking the bank is to be wary of suggested donations. The key word is “suggested.” Do not be bashful; you can pay less than the suggested donation if you have to. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters are two of the best institutions in the city, and to spend a day (or more) there will only cost whatever you can afford.
Furthermore, museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and the Frick Collection, have free admission or pay-what-you-wish days. Between certain times or on certain days, you can browse the museum for a much lower price.
If you have an IDNYC card, you are eligible for a free, one-year membership package at 33 of the city’s leading cultural institutions, including world-class museums, performing arts centers, concert halls, botanical gardens, and zoos in all five boroughs.
For the adventurer
Central Park is free for jogging, biking, strolling, or taking pictures. Enjoy the ever-changing landscape of the park as you make your way through it. You can also spend a day on Roosevelt Island, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the skyline of Manhattan.
Get in shape with gratis workout classes across the city conducted by Shape Up NYC (www.nycgovparks.org/programs/recreation/shape-up-nyc). Or, try kayaking for free in the Hudson River, (www.downtownboathouse.org/free-kayaking/). No experience is necessary, but you will be sure to get a great upper body workout and also see the city in a novel way. If you are more of a spectator, head over to Flushing Meadows Park to watch the U.S. Open qualifying rounds for free.
Googling “Free things to do in NYC,” and financial consciousness can get you a long way. Remember that budgeting your money does not mean that you cannot splurge once in a while. So get out there and enjoy your summer!
Aglaia Ho is a sophomore at Williams College and a native New Yorker. She also writes for her own blog at www.aglai