Though I was very familiar with the Big Apple before I officially moved here, there is still a lot I have to learn. I was apprehensive about wasting money since rent and transportation can add up quickly. Luckily I am a resourceful gal, and quickly found an arsenal of websites that encourage people like me to have rich experiences in the five boroughs without breaking the bank.
Several websites, which have pages on Facebook and downloadable apps, offer discounts on food, drink, entertainment and shopping, that can be sent right to your inbox. Here are a few of my favorites.
Time Out NY– I had been reading the print version of this for years before moving here, drooling over all that this city has to offer. They do a great job of organizing things to do by neighborhood, by day of the week and by subject making exploring the city a lot less overwhelming. Scoutmob is an app that I learned about from one of my first roommates here. They offer discounts, (mostly on food and drink) with humor. Living Social, Amazon Local, Groupon, and Zozi are similar sites.
In terms of shopping for unique clothing, furniture or books I have to recommend Buffalo Exchange and Housing Works. I was an avid thrifter back home, but in the city, it’s a different ballgame. A lot of second hand shops here charge twice if not three times the amount that a real thrift store would in the ‘burbs. I have found that Buffalo Exchange is quite fair in their pricing. They operate on trade, which means you can also sell things there for cash or store credit. They always have a diverse selection to peruse, in a handful of stores between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Housing Works operates at least a dozen thrift shops with clothes, furniture and random treasures between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe
Housing Works also operates my favorite bookshop in the world, on Crosby Street in Soho. They also operate on donations; even the wee café in the back. I have seen musical acts perform here, and I have attended lectures that were made all the more special just by the atmosphere in this beautiful two story space lined with dark wooden bookcases and staircases. Best of all, Housing Works profits benefit people suffering with HIV and AIDS.
Sometimes the events here are free, though for the best ones, I’ve found you’ll need to buy a ticket. Another great place to catch authors and musicians is Barnes and Noble, particularly the one located on the north end of Union Square. I’ve seen Rufus Wainwright, Anderson Cooper, Sondre Lerche, Badly Drawn Boy and three of the Golden Girls at such events, among others. Yes, that’s right, I have Betty White, Bea Arthur, and Rue McClanahan’s autographs!
Another unique entertainment experience that costs nothing is attending a taping of a TV show. I have been to tapings of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (at the end of the taping he runs through the audience, and he grasped my hand for what felt like a heavenly eternity), Anderson Live (he is even more beautiful in person!), Last Call with Carson Daly, and Conan O’Brien, back when he filmed in New York. Shows like these are much easier to get tickets for than Saturday Night Live, which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try! I am one crazy person who waited in the standby line recently at 6am on a Saturday, only to get a ticket, but be turned away later that night when they reached capacity. Still an adventure – I literally bumped into Tom Brokaw! Just be prepared to wait in long lines for these tapings.
Another site I have to recommend, particularly for outdoor excursions, is MeetUp. You can find groups that take walks around various neighborhoods, or even walk around the entire perimeter of Manhattan. This is a nice alternative to meeting people with similar interests outside of the nightlife scene.
If you prefer to spend some quiet nights at home, such as on these brutally cold winter nights, you can find an enormous selection of DVDs, and of course books, at the New York Public Library. Their website is extremely useful, allowing you to organize materials and even coordinating having them sent to a branch that is convenient for you. I frequent the Morningside Heights branch located two blocks North of Bank Street, right on Broadway.They have an extensive range of foreign and classic films, as well as TV shows. Thanks to the library, I recently re-watched many seasons of PeeWee’s Playhouse!