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weekend in nyc

December 8th, 2016 at 07:07 pm

I took a fairly spontaneous trip to New York City this past weekend and did it as frugally as possible! The main reason for my visit was to see an Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit, which I’ve known about for a year as it traveled the world, but it is only in NY from November 18 – December 11. Such bad timing with Thanksgiving and the holiday season in that window! This weekend was the only chance for me to go.

I haven’t been to the city during the holiday season since the 1980s, so I thought it would fun to go for the exhibit and then walk around and enjoy the festive atmosphere. A friend was tentatively going to join me, but she had to cancel, so I decided to go by myself. The best way to get to NY from my area is to drive anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours and then take a train into the city. For an overnight trip (it’s just a tad too far to make a day trip worthwhile), the best option is to drive for 2.5 hours and then train for about 2.5 hours. But since I made my travel plans so close to the weekend, the best train times were either very expensive or sold out. So, I opted to drive to a commuter town closer to the city and take a train from there. Parking at the station is free on weekends, and the ride costs $8.75 one way and is just under an hour.

I didn’t want to invest a lot in lodging and thought I would have to stay outside of the city. But, after some research, I found a room in a basic little place in Chelsea that had good reviews. One drawback was shared bathrooms, but it was significantly cheaper than the cheapest hotels with private bathrooms. I opted to pay $10 extra for the choice to cancel up until 6:00p the day before in case I changed my mind about taking the trip. The total cost for the room was $168.74 including all taxes. It worked perfectly for my needs, was in a great location and I liked it! Very clean and the staff was friendly. My room was Spartan, but the young owners made the place as hip as possible so there was some creative flair.

I practiced packing light, which is difficult for me! I wanted to walk from Grand Central to my lodging and was able to utilize the backpack that I bought for a walking trip in Portugal that I took in October. This was so much nicer than dragging luggage through the city. The hotel room had a fridge, so I took some food that I already had on hand – two salads, rice and roasted veggies, hardboiled eggs, apples, applesauce, peanut butter, and some walnuts, almonds and raisins.

Leaving my house on Saturday morning at 7:00a, I drove 4.5 hours to the train and was in the city by 12:45p. I love New York! I exited the station and started walking down Park Avenue taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. The first time the Empire State Building comes into view is always exciting. It was a gorgeous brisk sunny day. I strolled around for a bit and stopped to eat one of my salads at a café table on Herald Square across from Macy’s, which was all decked out for Christmas.



I found my hotel, checked in (my room was ready early), dropped off my things and headed back out. I walked along the High Line, then down into the Village. I wasn’t going to eat any meals out, but decided to splurge on a burger and a beer at The Spotted Pig in the West Village. I’d heard that their burgers were really good, but that the place gets crowded. I was able to snag an empty window stool and just made the cutoff before the kitchen closed at 4:30p to prepare for dinner. The burger was delicious and the fries were amazing – super thin shoestring fries with garlic and rosemary. The local beer was good, too. Yum! I filled up fast and took the leftovers to go. Total cost of the meal was almost $42.93. In retrospect, I wish I had skipped this meal or just ordered fries and a beer and put the money towards something else that would have brought me more joy than eating out.


A rare unoccupied section of the High Line





I then walked over near Chelsea Piers to the photo exhibit, which was free. It was mostly digital, which was fairly disappointing, but I enjoyed it. I left when it closed at 7:00p and returned to my room for a quick bathroom break. Then I headed back out and walked up to Times Square to marvel at the over-the-top media, then on to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, enjoy a light show at Saks Fifth Avenue, and walk through Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. So many people! Everywhere I went, the streets were packed, but I noticed that I didn’t see one incident of aggression, arguing, or rudeness. I then headed back to my room. By this time it was about 11:00p. I was exhausted after walking all day. I wonder how many steps would have been recorded if I had a fit bit? Smile


times square


light show at saks


cool dress - saks


the tree


offering candles at saint patrick's cathedral



The next morning I slept in for a bit, then relaxed in my room and ate my other salad and an egg for brunch. I packed up my stuff and checked out around 11:30, leaving my bag with the front desk. I then walked over to the Fifth Avenue and then up to Central Park, about 30 blocks. So many fun window displays! I noticed lots of police as I got closer to the park and realized that I was going to pass Trump Tower. I decided to go in, through all the security of course, and check it out. Yuck.


ny public library lion decked out for the holidays


saint patrick's by day


dolce & gabbana display


i need new sneakers!


central park

I then continued on to the park where I strolled around for a bit before catching the subway back to my hotel. The subway cost $3! I found a dime in the change slot when I got my receipt from the ticket machine, but then I lost a dime in my car yesterday! I felt old as I remembered when the subway used to be a dollar. Smile I grabbed my bag and walked back to Grand Central for the train out of town. Then I had a very long 4.5 hour drive back home. In the dark. Yuck. At one point, I stopped for some fries at McD’s.

I really enjoyed my time in the city, although I miss the grittiness of 80s New York – it’s pretty tame and homogenized now. The consumerism around Christmas was intense!

I broke my 23-day no-sugar streak last week with some really good (free!) cookies left over from a work event. I got a craving for a chocolate caramel candy bar on the walk back to my room on Saturday night, but didn’t pass any drugstores. There was a 7 Eleven on my block, so I spent $2.60 on a small candy bar. The next day I found a 2 for 1 sale on a bigger size of the same candy bar at a drugstore. Well, 2 for 1 if you had the store’s courtesy card, which I didn’t, but the guy at the register gave me the deal anyway. Smile I ate one on my walk to the train and on the train and the other during my long car ride, but the caramel had leaked and the bar stuck to the wrapper so it was hard to fully enjoy. I should have skipped all of the candy bars and ate the apples and nuts that I brought with me! I did start no sugar again this week and am on day 4. My work holiday party is Saturday, so I will break it again if the dessert selection is worth it. Smile

I tallied up my expenses and my weekend cost just under $300 – not bad for 24 hours in NYC!

42.87 gas
17.50 train roundtrip
11.10 highway tolls
3.00 NYC subway

1.00 lit candle in St Patrick’s

168.74 lodging

43.00 Saturday early dinner
5.53 3 caramel candy bars
2.82 McD’s fries on ride home

1.17 Repub Wireless temporary data upgrade (my phone plan costs 11.47/month for cell calls and text, but only wifi for data. I upgraded to a 3G data plan for the two days for only $1.17. Was so convenient to have full data while finding my way around the city).

TOTAL SPENT 296.73

13 Responses to “weekend in nyc”

  1. snafu Says:

    Thanks for the wonderful photos, very much appreciated.

  2. Laura S. Says:

    Great photos!

  3. Carol Says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  4. ceejay74 Says:

    Wow, that is one frugal trip to NYC! Thanks for the pics--they're gorgeous! Though I went to college in one of the commuter towns near the city (Bronxville), I never saw NYC in full holiday regalia because of going home for winter break.

  5. NJDebbie Says:

    I live 50 minutes away from NYC and 90 minutes by train (NJ Transit). I'm glad you had a good time in the Big Apple!

  6. PatientSaver Says:

    How wonderful! You really captured the essence of New York with your photos, with those over the top platform sneakers and all the rest.

  7. Bluebird Says:

    We love NYC and go at least once a year! Glad you had a great time!

  8. Dido Says:

    Great photos, thanks for sharing. I have to get back into the city. I live close enough for a day trip (there are people in my town who commute daily) but somehow haven't been in in a decade.

  9. CB in the City Says:

    Wow, sounds (and looks) like a fabulous weekend!

  10. starfishy Says:

    thanks to all for reading my lengthy post! it was a fun trip, i'm glad i decided to share. Smile

  11. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    Great pictures!

    One night's stay was $168????

  12. starfishy Says:

    FT - yes $168 for one night. Does that sound cheap or expensive?

  13. Frugaltexan75 Says:

    In NE prices, $$$$$$$$, but for NYC, I'm guessing it's a good deal.

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