Your weekend plans begin here, with a couple of dozen FREE and cheap things to do this weekend, including Christmas tree and Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies and events, weekend crafts markets, the annual Tuba Christmas concert in Rockefeller Center, a Kwanzaa celebration and more.
Everything on the NYC on the Cheap weekend list is $25 or less, and most things are FREE, so you can enjoy NYC more for less money.
Let’s hope the weather cooperates with all the outdoor events.
And if it doesn’t, here are some rainy and snowy day activities in NYC, besides re-arranging your sock drawer.
Madison Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony – 3:30 to 5:30pm
Battery Park Holiday Lights and Caroling – 6pm at South Cove at the southern end of South End Ave
Celebrating youth, three New York dance companies – BombaYo, Innervisions, and Opus Dance Theater – will highlight the African influences in the diaspora including Puerto Rico, West Africa, and Harlem.
- FREE, at 7pm at Hostos Community Center for Arts & Culture, 450 Grand Concourse, Bronx
Get discount tickets now for holiday shows for kids, $25 or less, including the Big Apple Circus and a musical version of A Christmas Carol.
Through Saturday, Dec. 8 only
Fans of overstuffed corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are still cying in their Cel-Ray tonic over the closure of the famed Carnegie Deli in 2016. It’s returning – but just for one week, and everything on the menu will be $1, or less. Sandwiches are 99 cents, potato knishes are 75 cents, desserts including cheesecake and Black and White cookies are 50 cents. Dr. Brown’s sodas also are 50 cents.
And there’s 1950s decor, including a jukebox loaded with good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Sunday, Dec. 9
Get aboard for a trip back in time, on a vintage NYC subway train, for the price of a MetroCard swipe. The annual and popular MTA Holiday Nostalgia Train rides again for 2018, with vintage R 1/9 cars that were in service 1932 to 1977.
You might remember light bulbs, woven wicker seats, ceiling fans and windows you could open before air conditioning.
Hundreds of tenor and bass tuba players will congregate to play Christmas carols and other crowd favorites. Tubists of all ages will line up under the famous Christmas tree and fill the plaza with the organ-line sound of low brass. Spectators are encouraged to sing along with the Christmas carols and holiday favorites.
The musicians, hailing from across the country, will be conducted by Chris Wilhjelm, conductor of the famous Goldman band. The first Tuba Christmas was presented at Rockefeller Center in 1974, conducted by Paul LaValle, of Band of America fame, and has become a Christmas tradition is firmly established in over 200 cities around the world.
- 3:30pm at The Rink at Rockefeller Center
On Saturday, Santa will be everywhere. It’s the annual SantaCon, when grown-ups dress up like Santa, Mrs. Claus, their elves or gingerbread men, to drink and make merry. More than 60 bars and other special event spaces in Manhattan are participating with a one-time $12 cover charge that provides access to them all, plus it is tax-deductible and donated to charity.
The drinking and partying starts at 10am.
NOTE – Because of abuses in past years of public drunkenness and – er – upchucking on the subway, the MTA released a 24-hour alcohol ban to ensure the safety of everybody, most especially those who want no part of rowdy Santas. The alcohol ban is noon Saturday through noon Sunday, December 9.
Santaland at Macy’s
The big guy will see you now. He’s set up shop inside the world’s largest department store on Herald Square. As last year, you’ll need to make an appointment. It’s FREE to see him, FREE to make an apoointment, even if it’s just 30 minutes ahead of your hoped-for visit.
Give your kids a chance to get up close and personal with ol’ Saint Nick himself at Breakfast with Santa. This is a morning meet-and-greet that includes a continental breakfast and the opportunity to pose for photos and present a holiday wish list to the big guy in red. In addition, Elfprov (from the silly minds behind Improv 4 Kids) perform an interactive musical comedy starring Santa’s favorite helpers. For an extra-special holiday treat, go VIP for reserved stage-side seats, priority access to Santa and tasty treats at your table.
- Discount tickets from $12 for multiple dates in December.
Santa is now in residence at Brookfield Place. Visiting him is FREE, getting photos of your naughty or nice experience is not free. Photos are $29 and up, which is not NYC on the cheap. Daily except Mondays, with the exception of Dec. 24th.
- Hours are Tuesday – Friday: 12 – 8pm; Saturdays: 10am – 8pm; Sundays: 10am – 6pm; and Monday, Dec 24: 10am – 4pm
Holiday Train Show at GCT
The 17th Annual Holiday Train Show is now open at Grand Central Terminal, and it’s FREE again this year. These are classic, vintage Lionel Trains which run on eight separate loops of track through a 34-foot long miniature New York City scene, at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store in GCT.
Things to do in NYC every Friday
Freebie Friday – FREE admission to NYC museums including MOMA. No passes or coupons needed. Just go.
Get FREE admission to more than a dozen NYC museums with the IDNYC card. Enrollment is also FREE.
Freebie Friday: Family Fridays at MoMath – Solve puzzles, family-style, and learn how math affects everything, from music to space flight. 6:30pm, FREE The National Museum of Mathematics is at 11 E. 26th St.
Freebie Friday – Grand Central Neighborhood Tour. FREE every Friday at 12:30, docents from the Grand Central Partnership guide you through the history of the fabled Grand Central Terminal and some equally-fabled nearby landmarks including the Chrysler Building. There are no tickets, no reservations. Just meet at Sculpture court at 120 Park Avenue (southwest corner of East 42nd Street). Tour is 90 minutes.
Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow examines the meaning of citizenship for African Americans following the abolition of slavery, through Reconstruction and the rise of the Jim Crow era. By 1868, all persons born in the United States were citizens and equal before the law, but efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested from the start. A harsh backlash ensued, ushering in the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow.
Marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment – back in the news today with all the headlines about immigration and birthright citizenship – and featuring art, artifacts, photographs and media, the exhibition highlights the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights and also examines the depth and breadth of opposition to black advancement. Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow is part of New-York Historical’s new initiative to dedicate rotating gallery space to covering topics of freedom, equality, and civil rights in America.
- New York Historical Society, Central Park West at 76th St., through early 2019.
Also at New York Historical Society is the Harry Potter History of Magic exhibit.
See both exhibits for one price on the same ticket.
Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York
Enjoy the exuberance and brilliance of dancer, choreographer, artist and poet – and native New Yorker – Jerome Robbins in this FREE exhibit celebrating the 100th year of his birth, and his hometown, where the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, and the people ride in a hole in the ground, as we learned in On the Town.
Jerome Robbins was an inveterate observer, seeker, and creator. In diaries, drawings, watercolors, paintings, story scenarios, poems—and, especially, in dance—he reimagined the world around him. And New York dominated that world, where he was born one-hundred years ago and where he lived his entire adult life.
Ideas of New York have long inspired artists but often the city serves as a backdrop in an artwork rather than the basis for plot, theme, and meaning. Robbins put the city at the center of his artistic imaginings. From Fancy Free—his breakout hit ballet in 1944—to the musical West Side Story on stage (1957) and screen (1961) and the ballets N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (1958) and Glass Pieces (1983), Robbins explored the joys, struggles, grooves, routines, and aspirations of New York. And in recreating the city around him on stage, Robbins found a place for himself.
Voice of My City traces Robbins’ life and dances alongside the history of New York, inspiring viewers to see the city as both a muse and a home.
- Open through March 30th, 2019. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
- The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), Seventh Ave. at 27th St., through early January 2019.
Things to do in NYC every Saturday
FREE Saturday admission at top NYC museums every Saturday all year includes the Jewish Museum and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
Things to do in NYC every Sunday
FREE Sunday admission at top NYC museums including Morgan Library and Museum.
FREE Flatiron Walking Tour – Join professional guides on a 90-minute journey through this vibrant neighborhood, viewing some of the City’s most notable landmarks, including the New York Life Insurance Building, the MetLife Clock Tower, the Appellate Courthouse and the famous Flatiron Building. Every Sunday at 11am, rain or shine. No advance registration is required. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
You now get FREE admission to more than 30 NYC museums and cultural institutions with the new CulturePass. It’s a new perk to use with your library card from the NYPL, Brooklyn Museum or Queens Museum systems.
NYC isn’t expensive when you know where to go and what to do, and we do. And we love to share.
- Unless a price is noted, our weekend list is FREE, but we usually remind you anyway.
- Unless otherwise noted, outdoor events are rain or shine, so let’s hope for shine.
- Street fairs are 11am to 6pm, unless otherwise noted.
Getting Around NYC – Know Before You go
FREE apps on subway track work and schedulng delays – Know what trains are bypassing what stations so you aren’t late for one of these free and cheap weekend events.
NYC official street closures website – Know what streets are closed when for street fairs, parades, political protests and more.
2018 NYC parking calendar – Know when you have to move your car, or not.
Where to eat at LaGuardia Airport – Top NYC restaurants and cafes are replacing fast food joints.
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Enjoy your free and cheap NYC weekend.