Budget Guide 2013: Brooklyn

The days of visiting New York City and staying solely in Manhattan are over. Although the city’s center borough has earned its fame, there’s a new New York in town: Brooklyn. It’s true that many neighborhoods in Brooklyn have already gentrified rapidly, but there are still far more budget-friendly neighborhoods in the borough than not. The collective desire to keep expenses down still exists in Brooklyn and from that demand stems the economically sensible result: Brooklyn is still a treasure box of unbelievable deals, but this fades every year. So strike while the iron is hot and hop on the train over to the vibrant borough of Brooklyn, where each neighborhood brings something new and the bargains are many, no matter the area.


The Nu Hotel: With four locations in Brooklyn, The Nu Hotel is an increasingly popular choice for budget accommodations in Brooklyn. With attractive and simple design, this boutique hotel is loft-inspired and even offers use of their new 2012 Brooklyn Cruiser bikes. The hotel’s general manager will even guide you on a jog across the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday mornings, which for first-timers is a must. To keep the Brooklyn theme going strong, the art on the walls is done by local artists – including some of the rooms featuring murals. From $160. nuhotelbrooklyn.com 85 Smith StreetHotel Le Bleu: Located on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus, this neighborhood is easily walkable with plenty of options for dining, drinking, shopping, recreation, arts and general nightlife. Accented in blue, as it should be, Hotel Le Bleu offers a clean and crisp modern design with complimentary breakfast and parking. For a quick drink and live music nearby, check out The Bell House. From $111. hotellebleu.com 370 Park Avenue

Union Hotel: Union is also located in the well-developed and charming neighborhood of Park Slope on the border of artsy Gowanus. The rooms are admittedly small, but they come with relatively comfortable beds, working air conditioning and a decent breakfast. Minimalist style makes the limited space less stuffy. The Brooklyn Flea, which is still pretty new to the area, is just 10 blocks from this hotel. Although this hotel sees its share of negative Yelp reviews, fans of the place can’t seem to stop raving about the comparatively low price. From $79.
unionhotelbrooklyn.com 611 Degraw Street

Eat and Drink

Tacos Matamoros: If you’re craving incredibly well-reviewed and unbelievably cheap tacos, grab the N or R train to 45th street in Brooklyn (or just take the N or D express to 36th street and walk to save time) to try out the food at Tacos Matamoros in Sunset Park, where you can still get a decent taco for $1.25. Types of tacos even include lengua and chorizo and they come garnished with cilantro, radish, chopped onion, lime and their own special sauce. While you’re in the area, check out the park in Sunset Park (mentioned below) and grab a coffee at the Green Fig Bakery Café, which has a great sandwich, baked goods selection and new owners, as of late 2012, who continue to enhance the place.
4508 5th Avenue

Foodswings: Located in Williamsburg, Foodswings is a saving grace for vegans and vegetarians as well as meat-eaters who aren’t afraid of soy. Unlike so many other animal-free restaurants everywhere, especially in NYC, Foodswings is good for budgeting vegetarians craving fast, comfort food staples. You won’t find a lot of fresh veggies here, but you will find a $3.50 vegan corn dog available even late at night. For some handmade imported goods ranging from books and housewares to jewelry, finger puppets and other little treasures, check out the nearby Fuego 718. foodswings.net 295 Grand Street

Christie’s Jamaican Patties: Christie’s Jamaican Patties, which is between the friendly and easily navigated neighborhoods of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, offers widely acclaimed patties with Caribbean flavor. For just $2 a pop, you can get patties in beef, veggie, chicken, meatloaf, coco bread, callaloo loaf and patty coco bread.
christiesjamaicanpatties.com 387 Flatbush Avenue

Budget Activities

Brooklyn Botanic Garden: If you’re feeling a little blue because of the lack of green in New York, visit Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden for a strong dose of nature’s beauty. Go on a Tuesday and your admission is free. Admission is also free on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon. The Garden has only just recovered from the substantial damage from Hurricane Sandy. The massive effort to restore the prized outdoor space established a strengthened sense of community. For some great drinks and affordable Mexican before or after the Garden, drop into one of my favorite places in Brooklyn, Chavela’s.
bbg.org 1000 Washington Avenue

Sunset Park: For one of the best free views of Manhattan, climb the stairs of Sunset Park and enjoy. With new restaurants, bars and other hang-out spots popping up all over the neighborhood, your journey to the park will help you fit a good walk in after eating and drinking at one of the new neighborhood hotspots. Get to Sunset Park by taking the N or D train (both express) to 36th street.
nycgovparks.org/parks/sunsetpark 41-44 streets

Brooklyn Crab: The newly opened Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook is a go-to spot for multilayered fun. With an 18-hole, mini-golf course and cornhole available for just a $5 entrance fee, Brooklyn Crab also offers a full menu featuring a wide range of crabs and other seafood.
brooklyncrab.com 24 Reed Street

Get Around

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) isn’t without its flaws, but it does the trick in getting you all around the New York City area via train and bus for a low fee. A single subway ride is $2.25. Although the MTA sadly doesn’t offer 1-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards anymore (formerly referred to as a Fun Pass), you can still get a 7-Day Unlimited Pass for $29, which will save you tons in New York, even over the course of just a couple days if you plan on using the train a lot.

From LaGuardia airport, take the NYC Airporter, a shuttle bus that stops at Grand Central and Penn Station for $13 per trip. Manhattan can also be accessed through the M60 bus and several Q bus lines available from the airport stretch across Queens. For Brooklyn, it’s easiest to take one of the buses to a subway stop – the M60 stops at the Astoria Blvd. N/Q train station. Brooklyn and Manhattan can easily be accessed through the A from John F. Kennedy Airport while Queens can be accessed through the E or J/Z line. The NYC Airporter also makes trips from JFK every 30 minutes for $16.

Alternatively, you can pedal your way through your NYC trip. Bike rentals and bike shares are easy enough to come by in the city for around $40 a day. But more than anything else, New Yorkers take the cheap route and walk. Prepare to walk at least 5-10 miles a day if you’re going to be exploring the city and always wear comfortable shoes. Ladies: if you’re adamant on wearing stilettos, stash them in your purse until you get to your fancy destination.

Budget Tip

If you’re trying to save on expensive tickets to museums and art performances, by all means, pay attention to the art in the subways, parks and streets. Too often New Yorkers and travelers alike rush by these artists, dismissing them before giving them a chance. Don’t do that. Watch the boys breakdancing and risking their necks on your subway train. Listen to the musicians playing on the subway platform. Take a minute to look at the art all around you. Brooklyn is bursting with creative people who just want to share their talent. Allow them to share it with you, whether you’re in the park or the train, and do so with an open mind. The spare change or dollars you give to street and subway performers won’t leave much of a dent in your wallet, but it will help to keep them doing what they’re doing: offering their talent to anyone in New York interested enough to slow down.

5 places that offer free classes in New York

Think you need to pay a fortune to learn something new or gain a little knowledge in New York? Think again. The Big Apple is actually full of free opportunities to take classes and hone your skills in dance, art, computers, comedy, acting, meditation, and more. Check out this list of fun, interesting, and free options.

Check out the New York Public Library class schedule
Locations vary

The New York Public Library is not your average library. In fact, the collections in this library are on par with those of the British Library, the Library of Congress, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Music, film, art, and history exhibits are also part of the library’s regular programming, as are myriad of free classes. Everyday, the library hosts free classes that anyone can attend on an array of usual and unusual topics. Create beaded bookmarks, build your own periscope, bend and stretch during a Yoga session, become a better parent, or write a personal essay under the direction of a successful freelancer. Check their full schedule for a complete list of classes.Learn improv comedy at the Magnet Theater
254 W. 29th between 7th and 8th Ave.

If you’ve never taken an improv class, the Magnet Theater gives people a chance to try it out for free. No experience is required and the class is open to all. The instructors are professionals in the business and include Rick Andrews, who has taught at improv festivals across the country, Mark Grenier, who has studied both film and acting and has taught improv at various institutions and schools, and Megan Gray, who is the Artistic Director of the Magnet Theater and has a performed on cruise ships and written for major networks like MTV2 and Comedy Central.

Learn to Salsa with the NYC Salsa Fiesta Meetup
Locations vary

Whether you’ve never danced before or you hit the club every weekend, the NYC Salsa Fiesta Meetup & Dance Group is a great way to improve your technique and moves…for free. Free salsa lessons can be found every Wednesday at 8:15PM at Honey Lounge and every 4th Sunday at 8:45PM at Abigail’s Cafe.

Learn photography with PhotoManhattan
51 W. 14th St., between 5th & Avenue of the Americas

A few times each month, PhotoManhattan offers a free introductory photography seminar. Participants will learn about aperture, shutter-speed, film speeds, focal length, and light-meter for both digital and film cameras. Click here to check class times and sign up for yourself.

Learn to Meditate at NYC Meditation
Locations vary

In Manhattan and Queens, NYC Meditation offers free meditation classes multiple times each month. The class will go over posture, breathing and concentration techniques, and how create your own mediation space at home. Contact the center to find out when their upcoming free meditation classes are.

New York on a budget: Your free day in New York

Visitors to New York often think that to experience the culture of the city they will have to pay a fortune. To disprove that theory, here is an itinerary that will allow you to enjoy a free afternoon (well, you might have to pay $2.25 for the subway).

The walk begins in Rockefeller Center. Take the F, D, M, or B to to the 47th-50th St. Rockefeller Center stop, the N or the R to 49th St., the 1 to 50th St., or the 6 to 51st St. Begin your day by exploring the many shops, cafes, and studios in Rockefeller Center (tip: visit Rain to sample South African bath and body items and get free advice on how customize your perfect scrubs). Stroll through the Channel Gardens and Promenade and admire nature and art. There are also traces of art and history located around the entire Rockefeller Center, including oil paintings, stone statues, bronze sculptures, and more. Another fun free thing to do is to sit in on a live taping of the show. If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, you can try to get standby tickets when you are there. If it is winter, enjoy the feeling of Christmas in the air by watching ice skaters and characters in costume move around the giant lit-up Christmas tree that New York is so famous for.When you leave Rockefeller Center, begin walking down 5th towards 50th. Here, you will see the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Explore the many sections of the church, including the crypt, chapel, sanctuary, baptistery, and more with a free guided tour.

After St. Patrick’s, continue walking up 5th towards 52nd street and make a right. Walk for less than a minute and you will come to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Located at 11 East 52nd St., this free museum hosts art and exhibits of all different forms, including oil paintings, photography, video, multimedia, sculptures, and more. Most of the artists have some kind of connection to Austria, whether they live, work, or grew up there. From now until January 3, 2012, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is hosting their Beauty Contest exhibit, which uses different perspectives to convey and breakdown different concepts of beauty.

Get back on to 5th and continue walking uptown. Fifth Ave. is famous for its shopping, and while buying merchandise isn’t free, window shopping certainly is. The walk will allow you to peruse an array of shops, from the reasonably priced Forever 21, Hollister, and Abercrombie and Fitch, to upscale designer stores like Gucci, Fendi, and Prada. You will also pass the well-known Trump Tower.

If you would like to see some more of the religious structures in New York, you will pass both St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on your left.

Once you hit 59th you will be able to enter Central Park, which is basically a day trip of its own. If you would like to keep your day free of charge, you can walk the park either by yourself or with one of the free walking tours offered by the Central Park Conservancy. There are many different tour focuses, such as art, the castle, a memorial walk, and many more. If you are going to explore on your own, you can either purchase a map (remember, the park covers more than 800 acres) or just have a spontaneous adventure by choosing your route at random (you will come to many different forks in the road as you explore). Visit the many memorial statues erected around the park, take photographs of the various ponds, fountains, bridges, and plants, play Frisbee in Sheep Meadow or chess at the Chess & Checkers House, be entertained by live performers, visit Belvedere castle and much, much, more.

Hungry? Head over to Tavern on the Green to check out some of the local food trucks. Enjoy a delicious, filling meal for under $10. You can also check out Ball Field Cafe & Beer Garden to sample sangria, discounted buckets of beer on ice, and meals such as burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads for a reasonable price. Sheep Meadow Cafe will also allow you to full up for free, with meals for under $10.