SUNDAY April 13, 2003
Priceless New York

By Thomas Burr
The Salt Lake Tribune

NEW YORK -- Taking a bite out of the Big Apple doesn't always mean shelling out bushels of cash.
* *The price tag for visiting New York City -- and all its famous skyscrapers, shows, sites and more -- does not have to look as if it came off Fifth Avenue.
* *Seeing the New York skyline from a ferry is free. So is taking a stroll through Central Park or other famous parts of Manhattan, such as Chinatown and Times Square. Then there's Wall Street and Battery Park and the more solemn Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center. There's no toll for walking the Brooklyn Bridge nor a charge for watching Dave Letterman.
* *All free.
* *Of course, you can't visit New York without seeing the Statue of Liberty or the city from atop the Empire State Building, but those tickets ($10 per person at each spot) are worth the price.
* *Sure, it will cost a bit to get there. Unless you want to spend a week stuck in a car -- and fork over nearly $2 a gallon at the pump -- flying is about the only option. And even the inexpensive hotels seem to have forgotten the inexpensive part. But good deals can be found, with a little searching.
* *Once in Manhattan you can spend days checking out the sites without seeing your wallet shrink.
* *Here are a few tips:
* ** Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the famous skyline and Statue of Liberty from Upper New York Bay. It's free and runs about every 30 minutes. Ride on the front or back of the ship for the best views. If you are lucky, musicians looking for a few dollars sometimes play on the ferry.
* ** Stroll Battery Park along the Hudson River and pick up a few souvenirs, like an NYPD hat or "I Love NYC" T-shirt. Take a moment to see The Sphere, which survived the World Trade Center tragedy and has since been moved. The park is a few feet from the Staten Island Ferry and the dock for Statue of Liberty ferries.
* ** Pause for a few moments at Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center brought down on Sept. 11, 2001. A steel-bar fence is as close as visitors are allowed, but pictures of the site before and after, along with names of those killed in the terrorist attack, line Church Street.
* ** Admire for a moment all the money being passed back and forth at the New York Stock Exchange, only a few blocks from Ground Zero. Tours were suspended indefinitely after 9-11, but you still can see the outside of the building. Only a few steps away is the site of Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated and the first Congress wrote the Bill of Rights. Admission is free.
* ** Spend a day in Central Park. For even more fun, try to see the whole 843-acre park or sprint through all 58 miles of trails in a day. For those who are not marathon runners, eight walking tours of the park are offered for free. Think of it as urban wilderness, albeit one landscaped and dotted with statues and memorials.
* *Or, if you want, fling a Frisbee on the Great Lawn. During June, July or August, you can catch a free SummerStagecq concert. And Beatles fans should take a moment to see Strawberry Fields and its "Imagine" tribute to John Lennon. For the best experience, fork over a few bucks to a sidewalk vendor for a hot dog and pretzel and dine on one of the 8,968 benches. (Take your pick!) The park is pretty safe during the day, but getting lost there at night could make your adventure less fun than frightening.
* ** Walk the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy, and if you are up for it, haggle on prices for a watch or handbag from street-level shops. If you are hungry, the authentic food usually is less expensive than anywhere in Manhattan and tastes better than the price suggests.
* ** Get on TV, or at least in a television audience, such as Dave Letterman. Tickets are usually gone a year in advance, according to Letterman's people, but you can fill out a Web site form ( and some intern may call to offer a couple passes right before your trip. Just be prepared to answer a question about the show -- they want fans, not wannabes. If nothing else, stand in line outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre during the day for standby tickets.
* *Or there is Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "The Today Show," "The Early Show," "Good Morning America" and for those age 16 and older, MTV's "Total Request Live."
* ** Absorb the excitement and in-your-face advertising at Times Square, and watch the news tickers and giant TV broadcasts. At one end you can see the Hershey's store (just look for the colossal candy bars), or see the Lego-brick Empire State Building and an animated dinosaur at Toys 'R' Us, where for a few bucks, you can ride in the in-store Ferris wheel. There's a free walking tour on Fridays at noon.
* ** Dream a little while window shopping on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue shops such as Tiffany & Co. and Saks Fifth Avenue; just don't plan to spend any money unless you win the New York lottery. Bloomingdales and Macy's also are fun to explore.
* ** Walk the Brooklyn Bridge -- or at least half of it; it's a long bridge. Marvel at the 19th-century suspension bridge and snap a few photos.
* ** Find less expensive tickets for some Broadway shows at the TKTS Discount Theatre Centres in Times Square or at the downtown location just off the South Street Seaport. It's New York; you have to see a show, but you don't have to pay full price. The TKTS booths offer same-day tickets at much less than face value, sometimes half-price or less. But plan to wait in line and bring cash, because they don't take credit cards, checks or promises.
* ** Watch international diplomacy at the United Nations headquarters on the East River. Technically, you are stepping out of the United States, but it does not seem that way. You may want to pass on the tour, unless you just have to see the Security Council chambers (often closed anyway), but you can see displays and visit the international post office or the gift shop for free. For fun, try to find an Iraqi flag for a keepsake.
* ** Explore the Lincoln Center, the "world's largest cultural complex," which includes the Juilliard School, Metropolitan Opera House and the New York State Theatre. The tour is extra, but you can walk around for no charge. The fountain looks fun, but bathing is frowned on.
* ** Check out the Rockefeller Center -- site of that big Christmas tree during the holidays -- and walk through the NBC Store, or the sunken concourse and plaza. Ice skating in the winter costs a few bucks and during the summer is hard to find. The NBC Experience tour takes you to the set of "Dateline," the "Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" and "Saturday Night Live," but it also costs $17 per person. Radio City Music Hall is nearby, so you ought to snap a few pictures there, too.
* ** Discover great works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which costs $12 per adult but with so many exhibits, displays and paintings, is well worth the expense. The Guggenheim Museum, in its fancy Frank Lloyd Wright building, costs a bit more at $15 per person.
* *There is even more to see, such as Grand Central station and Madison Square Garden, so pace yourself. And with so many professional athletic teams, a visitor has to try for tickets to the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, Rangers or Knicks. A $10 seat is still a seat. Above all else, take lots of pictures -- developing film is a lot less expensive than going back.
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* New York on a budget
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* Getting there: This won't come cheap, but it can be less expensive if you know where to look. jetBlue airlines offers a round-trip, nonstop flight from Salt Lake City to the JFK Airport for less than $300. Or search discount Web sites, such as and, for other deals. Round-trip flights on to JFK Airport from Salt Lake City started at $283 per person this week on Delta; jetBlue had the same round-trip flight at $268 per person. (Once at the airport, several companies offer shuttles to hotels for a fee depending on the number of passengers, or you can take the PATH train and subway, but trying that with luggage could be an unhappy adventure.)
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* Getting around: Forget the cabs and take the subway. The underground train -- nearing its 100th birthday -- is part of the New York experience and it can be the least expensive way to travel. Buy a $17 Metrocard, which offers unlimited rides for one person for seven days, and map out a path before taking off to see the sites. Then walk from there and enjoy the atmosphere. Just don't lose the card, bring comfy shoes and try not to use it late at
* night.
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* Getting some shut-eye: Hotels can be one of the most expensive parts of a New York vacation, but several Web sites offer a way to find the best deal. As with airfare, try discount Web sites such as, or, all of which will show you a range of prices. Make sure to check the hotel's amenities -- sharing a bathroom with several floormates might be more excitement than you can to handle.
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* Getting advice: Request a free official guide or travel planning guide from New York City & Company: Or try for an online guide and maps of the area and for online suggestions.
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* NYC on Orange alert: While America continues Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East, the nation and its law enforcement are on Orange alert -- and New York City is taking notice. The city thrives on tourism, and officials say they are prepared to keep guests safe.
* *-- Thomas Burr
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