10 Cheap Things All NYC Students Must Do

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New York being one of the most expensive cities in the world definitely affects us, the broke college students. As an NYU student, trying to have the best college experience while staying within a reasonable budget can get pretty hard sometimes. Although it sounds like an impossible task, you can still achieve that goal. Want to know how to stay entertained and happy without spending an extra penny?

Take a look at these 10 cheap things to do in New York City around NYU.

1. Immerse yourself in the infinite shelves of The Strand

The Strand houses over two million used, new and rare books of all genres, from historical fiction to poetry. Starting as a family-owned business in 1927, The Strand has become one of the most iconic bookstores in the city. Go to the Rare Book Room on the third floor to see the first edition of Sherlock Holmes, an 1894 Atlas of Manhattan, a signed copy of a tribute book to Muhammad Ali, among other gems. The Strand regularly hosts book-signing events that only requires you to buy a copy of the book or a gift card to attend. Some of the previous guests have been Lil Wayne, James Franco, Carrie Fisher and Marina Abramovic. Check out the bookshelves outside of the bookstore to find the most rare and intriguing books with prices starting at $1.

2. Take over the city at the Street Fairs

From the San Gennaro Feast to the Lower Broadway Fair, NYC holds several fairs each month. In all of them, you can find anything that comes to your mind: delicious food, vintage decorations, carnival games—even a massage. “I love funnel cake, especially because you can only get it at street fairs,” New York University junior Tenzing Pasang said. The food prices range between $5 to $10 with an extraordinary variety of cuisines: Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Greek. You can also find unique clothes and room decor at special prices. Some sellers will even give you an extra student discount if you ask for it, so make sure you ask. Since their visits only lasts so long, visit the NYC Street Fair’s website to have an updated schedule of the incoming events.

3. Explore the art world at the New Museum

The New Museum remains as the to-go destination for any art lover that wants to see the most recent creations of contemporary art in the city and the world. Although you can find the general ticket price $18, as an NYU student you get free entrance. In addition to the alternating exhibitions, the museum regularly holds talks with artists and art tours that explain the displayed pieces. They even offer an American Sign Language interpreted tour. Recent exhibitions included the works of ready-made artist Sarah Lucas and pieces from the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA). On the weekends, you can visit the Sky Room on the top floor of the building from where you can see the NYC skyline from a new angle and take Instagram-worthy photos.

4. Meet Celebrities at BUILD Series

Each week, the live-interview studio BUILD Series has a different list of actors, directors, singers and producers that will talk about their most recent project for 30 minutes to then have a Q&A time with the audience. I got a selfie with Nick Jonas at one of these events last year—cool, right?  Although it is free, you have to get a ticket on Eventbrite. They usually sell out fast, so you better hurry and subscribe to BUILD series newsletter to have the latest updates on their events.

5. Laugh at the UCB Comedy Theater

The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) perform longform improv and stand-up comedy shows every day for $10.50. The comedians ask the attendees about a funny or weird experience they have had and then create stories based on them on the spot without previous planning or writing. “Last year when I went, I didn’t know what to expect because it was my first time going to a comedy show and I knew it had some form of audience participation,” New York University sophomore Fareeha Mahmood said. “The comedians worked so well with each other I just loved it,” Mahmood said. Do you want to do it yourself? UCB also has an improv academy where you can learn how to become a better performer and person from Improv 101 to advanced courses.

6. Practice yoga at Yoga to the People

In a time when yoga seems more like a trendy expensive workout than as a relaxing activity available to everyone, Yoga to the People tries to recover the essence of this practice. The organization runs thanks to the donations of the yoga students and provides different yoga style classes every day. Yoga newbies and experts are all welcome to this judgement-free zone where we can become the best version of ourselves.

7. Get your groceries at the Union Square Greenmarket

The challenge of keeping a healthy diet in college comes about because we don’t have access to affordable organic food. The Union Square Greenmarket has a centric location  that makes it the perfect spot to get fresh ingredients and free recipes to prepare the quickest and healthiest meals. While shopping, you can also enjoy the free samples that the farmers usually give, from edamame pasta to sautéed shishito peppers. You will find tasteful gluten-free and vegan products as well in the different pastry stands. The Greenmarket works on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, keep that in mind while scheduling your grocery shopping.

8. Treat Yourself With Desserts from Mango Mango

A little inexpensive place, Mango Mango mixes the best of Hong Kong dessert and ice cream shop to serve creative homemade desserts. Bringing the sweetest mangoes from Brazil, most desserts have a sweet mango touch. “It serves really good mango juice with sago,” New York University sophomore Jia Sing Chu said. The company has a strong commitment to sustainability, using locally-grown ingredients for all their creations. Despite being a franchise, Mango Mango has limited locations to provide a unique delightful and friendly experience.

9. Admire The View at The Hudson River Park

Take a break of the concrete jungle and visit the Hudson River Park to enjoy the view of the river and New Jersey’s skyline. Photography enthusiasts will particularly appreciate the wonderful sunset colors that can be seen in this area. A splendid place to read a book, take a nap or just to think far from the bustle of the city. If you want a planned activity, the Hudson River Park provides nature walking-tours, fishing and fitness classes. The HRPK Fall Fest on October 21st will include carnival rides, magic shows, pumpkin painting and fun, all for free.

10. Enjoy the street performers at Washington Square Park

The heart of NYU and iconic location for several movies, Washington Square Park acts as setting for the free performances of talented artists. From jazz music to live action painting, you never know what you will find there. Hanging out at the park on the weekends will give you hours of entertainment—yep, all for free. The perfect place to host a picnic at the green areas in a sunny day or to build a snowman in the winter. The park has a designated dog area where you can enjoy looking at them play. You can try politely asking the owners to play with their dogs for a while, they are usually happy to let you do so. Walk around the neighborhood, pay attention to your surroundings and you will see that New York has so much to offer you if you just slow down your pace and enjoy the view.

Travel photographer, art lover and foodie. Sophomore at NYU double-majoring in Journalism and Sociology.

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