Fabulous NYC on a (Moderate) Budget

There’s no way around it, New York is expensive. I’m talking really expensive, more so than any city I’ve ever been. But! It’s so worth it, and with a little research you can make it less burdensome on your wallet and still eat and sleep well.

We love New York! Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d ever stayed over and it was such a special experience. Here’s what we did and where we ate, shopped, and stayed.


7:00 am Hopped on the Megabus ($20 for both of us), destination 28th & 7th We packed one bag each plus a bag of food-essential for saving $$ on a trip. Also, not having to check a bag on Megabus saves you a good amount of time and guarantees a decent seat (but you still need to get there early!).

9:30 am Arrived to a cold NYC. We walk to our hotel in the East Village since we’d been sitting for the past 2 1/2 hours and need to stretch our legs.

10:45 am Rang the buzzer on an unmarked red door on Avenue C, home of the East Village Bed and Coffee. We’re led to our room, The French Room, on the 2nd floor. It’s large and perfectly situated with a shared living space, bathroom and kitchen that is equipped with (locally roasted) coffee and tea for all.

For the next couple hours we settled in, drank a pot of coffee and ate our snacks before bundling up and venturing out towards Nolita.

1:30 pm We headed over to Lombardi‘s Pizza, a touristy spot but it was in the neighborhood, warm, friendly and delicious! After, we wandered through the neighborhood breezing in and out of shops like Erica Weiner (antique jewelry) and Saja (Indulgent wedding gowns and appointment only, FYI!).

From there we walked around  the West Village a little bit, scoping out our restaurant for the next day and loving the winding, confusing roads with nowhere to be but there.

4:00pm Unsure how long it’d take us, we started our walk back to the East Village. We were chilled the bone, but it was still to early for happy hour. We finally found a coffee shop with seats (after trying no less than 4- try finding an open seat in a coffee shop in NY on a cold day- ain’t happenin!) and relaxed a bit before a friend-filled evening.

5:00 pm We arrived at Mermaid Inn at the crack of happy hour and settled into seats before the restaurant filled up! They have $6 wine, $7 cocktails and $1 oysters and we all loved it! My college roommate and her boyfriend met us as well as L’s friends since he was 5 years old and the lovely Tina. The restaurant had a great vibe and it was the perfect start to the night.

7:30pm Back to Nolita we found ourselves at Tacombi, the most posh grungy taco joint you ever will find. Somehow in a crowd of people we scored a table and devoured fabulous tacos and had such an amazing time.

9:30pm In a misty city we walked back to the East Village in search of a place to call our own for the next couple of hours. We settled into a huge table and were joined by more friends and chatted and laughed for hours until we all admitted defeat after a long week and headed in our respective directions [we love you all so much, thank you for celebrating with us!].

We headed back to a very lively Avenue C! We were both so beat that it didn’t seem to matter, the booming music of the nearby bars that is. But if you’re a light sleeper, ask Anne for a fan- it does wonders! PLUS there are complimentary ear plugs in the kitchen…you are in New York, after all.


9:00am We woke to a very sunny city- finally! I showered, changed (the shared bathroom really isn’t bad, just byo shampoo and soap as the selection varies by floor), and put a pot of coffee on.

10:30am we walked up to St. Marks Place and found Cafe Orlin. For less than $30 we had an amazing brunch, my special including a cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice. Seating is tight, welcome to NY! Get there early, people watching is free!

We walked miles and miles up 5th avenue then Madison, walking past the library, spotting the Empire State Building and stopping in some fancy shops and arriving at Central Park!  What a day! We parked ourselves on a bench and were later joined by friends to just relax and soak up as much sun as we could. Tip: grab coffee and snacks before you enter the park (from 59th street) as the pickings are slim the further uptown you go (no to-go spots in sight near to our 66th and 5th street spot).

There’s a Ladurée on Madison right by this spot- a splurge that I was willing to go for until I saw the line! But for those of you with patience, check it out.

4:30pm We began the long walk to West Village by way of 5th avenue and sparkling windows of Cartier and Harry Winston.
We turned onto 12th street West at around 5:30 and parked ourselves on the bench outside of our destination, Cafe Cluny.

Every night, reservations from 5:30-6:30 give you access to a $35 prix fixe menu, selecting from anything on their menu. Let me tell you it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever visited! We devoured tuna and octopus followed by venison meatballs and the most perfect steak frites I’ve ever had. For dessert you must get the chocolate torte- I didn’t (L did) and I’m still sore about it!

7:30pm Our days and miles (and my cold) caught up with us and we decided to stroll “home” by way of Astor Wines to grab a bottle and watch a movie. What a great store! Our floor was pretty empty by the time we got back and it was just like our own apartment! We settled in on the couch, poured some wine and let ourselves relax and enjoy it, you see.


10:00 am Spring forward and I am wishing I wasn’t robbed of that hour! I got dressed grabbed some cash and headed to Tompkins Square Bagel for some breakfast sandwiches (reasonable at about $4 each). The whole process in and of itself is fun! Following the signs to order, stand in line and pick up your loot among all the neighborhood people. I rushed back so they wouldn’t get cold, making my way through the small but mighty farmer’s market in the park.

11:00am Devouring our sandwiches in the empty kitchen (see, shared spaces aren’t so bad!) with cup after cup of joe of coffee and reading magazines… Life is good, indeed!

12:00pm We check out of the wonderful East Side Bed and Coffee decide to take advantage of being in NY for the last couple of hours and walk to the bus… a whopping 3 miles but so worth it in the beautiful sun! We found ourselves at The High Line (a 1-mile  linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad) which sped up the journey a bit.

1:30pm In line for the last leg of our journey, the Megabus home ($38 for both of us)! We score seats in the front and settle in for a quick 2 hour ride.

Back in Philly we’re happy to be home but had such a fabulous time. We didn’t have an agenda and enjoyed every minute- the beauty of not having that “oh my God I’m never going to be back here” feeling and trying to do too much.

The guesthouse made our trip so special. It’s not for everyone to be sure but we loved the “city apartment” feeling and just how comfortable we felt as soon as we walked in. For warmer months there are bikes to borrow for free, too!

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