I took my mom to New York City for her 60th birthday. She had never been on the city before. Seeing New York and visiting Ellis Island was on her bucket list, and I was happy to oblige. Planning a first-time trip to NYC was a lot of fun.
Here are my recommendations of what to see and do on a weekend trip to New York City, especially for someone who is visiting the city for the first time.
See a Broadway Show
Seeing a Broadway show is my #1 favorite thing to do in New York City. Even if Broadway tours visit your city, the magic of Broadway isn’t found anywhere else. You’ll love the intimacy of the theaters, the posters, the lights and most of all the performances. Read this post for my tips on saving money on Broadway tickets.
Visit Central Park
The iconic Central Park in NYC is worth the hype. Walking paths, carriage rides, ponds, bridges, the zoo and so much more. Know that the park is HUGE so you won’t be able to see it all. We decided to do a 20-minute carriage ride, which was terrific because our guide told us so many facts about the park and area around it. (Prices are $56 for 20 minutes.) It definitely was a highlight of her first time visit to NYC. Had we spent more time in the park, I would have done the Stuart Little Pond and the Zoo!
Visit the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Before airplanes, New York was one of the major ports people immigrated through to live in America. Plan to spend a few hours visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The iconic landmark and important center for immigration is a powerful visit.
The Statue of Liberty has recently opened a brand new museum, which is fantastic and worth checking out while you are there. You’ll see the original torch, copper casts of parts of the statue, pictures from it being built and so much more.
On Ellis Island, we stopped by the Memorial Wall to see the names of my ancestors who passed through Ellis Island as they immigrated to America.
To visit these two landmarks, we chose to do a guided tour, which was fantastic. The guide gave us a much deeper understanding and appreciation of what we were seeing. Our tour went from 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. and then we stayed another 90 minutes.
Experience Times Square
No trip to New York is complete without seeing Times Square. The lights, the sounds, the people! Note that it is always crowded, but crowds are more intense in the evening. Be sure to stop in a few stores as well. Most of the stores have special stock dedicate to New York, or at least items you likely wouldn’t find in your hometown. I love the Disney Store.
Take a New York City Bus Tour
At the last minute we booked an evening bus tour and it was an awesome way to see a lot of the city all at once, including many areas we couldn’t otherwise squeeze into the weekend. We chose to do an evening tour that left just before dusk and it was wonderful to be on the top of a bus, driving through the city as the sun went down. Tip: Check Groupon for discounted tickets. The tickets I bought were 2 for $35, which was a great deal for the 2-hour tour.
Walk-in to St. Patrick’s Cathedral
You’ll feel like you are in Europe when you step into this gorgeous cathedral. It will likely be on your path as you walk to Times
Stop by the 9/11 Memorial
The two acre-sized pools, featuring the names of everyone who perished on 9/11 are a moving tribute to the people whose lives were lost on that horrific day in American history. You might see roses on some names to signify the person’s birthday. If you have time, also visit the 9/11 Museum. Though I have not been to it, many have said it is incredible.
Visit a NYC Museum
New York City has so many museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Natural History, the Jewish History Museum, the Tenement Museum, the Spy Museum and so many more.
We visited The Met, which was spectacular. With exhibits from all over the world + special exhibitions, you could easily spend a whole day at The Met. I appreciated that the $25 ticket gives you access for three days, so you could easily go more than once during your visit. Be sure you go on the rooftop for spectacular views of the city!
Eat Lots of Food
Write a post on Facebook or Instagram asking for NYC restaurant recommendations and you will receive far more than you could ever visit. My #1 recommendation is to go to the Stardust Diner on 51st (near Times Square). Singers wanting to make it on Broadway are servers/performers at this one-of-a-kind restaurant. Plan to wait in line and know that it will be WORTH IT.
Visit Little Italy and Chinatown
Little Italy is a street within Chinatown (Mulberry Street). Go there to have a wonderful Italian meal + dessert (gelato and canolis). We absolutely loved Bella Vita’s $11.95 lunch specials. Afterward, do some shopping in Chinatown, which is known for its knock-offs and deals.
A few other NYC recommendations
If you want to swap some of these ideas, here are some other recommendations for great places to visit for your first time in NYC.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
The New York Public Library
Top of the Rock
Empire State Building
Circle Line Boat Tour
Grand Central Station
Shop beneath The Plaza Hotel
Also, check out these blog posts from other travel bloggers I love:
Hamilton Grange National Memorial (Alexander Hamilton’s House)
Buy a CityPass
Though I didn’t buy one this time because of the activities we chose to do, I highly recommend buying a New York City CityPass as a way to save a lot of money on museum/tour tickets. It’s especially perfect if it is your first time in NYC and you want to do a lot of the most popular attractions.
CityPASS admission in NYC will save you 44% on tickets to the following:
Empire State Building
American Museum of Natural History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Click here to read how we used the CityPASS in Atlanta.
There’s no right way or best itinerary to visiting New York City. I hope this post gives you some good ideas on where to start for your first time in NYC.
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If you visit New York City, seeing a Broadway show is a non-negotiable, must-do. But, Broadway shows can be expensive, with many tickets in the $150-$300 range. Here are four ways to get cheap Broadway tickets and see a show for less.
Cheap Broadway Tickets Tip #1: Buy Rush Tickets
Theaters will often sell their leftover tickets for crazy low prices (like $10-$40) the day of a show. Your best bet to get rush tickets is to go to the box office right at opening. Some theaters will have lines at opening, so plan to get there early/stand in line for your best chance to secure a day of rush tickets.
Playbill has a list of all the shows offering Rush tickets here. Another way to find out if a show has rush tickets is simply to google a show name + rush tickets and posts will come up about that show. A few shows, including Hamilton, only offer rush tickets through a lottery via app, so do your research in advance. (I always enter the Hamilton lottery when I am visiting NYC, but have never won.)
Cheap Broadway Tickets Tip #2: Buy Partial View or Obstructed View Seats
Some theaters will have partial view, obstructed view, limited view and/or poor audio seats that they offer at a reduced price. For instance, when I saw Beetlejuice this summer, we bought limited view seats for $55 online about two weeks before attending. Literally, the seat right next to us was nearly three times the price. We found the limited view to not be a big deal at all and loved the show.
When I saw the Tony-winning play The Ferryman, I went to the box office just a few hours before the show and was able to get a front row, far stage right seat for $59 because it was a single, partial-view seat that hadn’t sold. Again, the seat was amazing, even though a couple views were a bit restricted.
In my research, I didn’t find a site that showed what shows offer partial/obstructed view tickets. I lucked out on the shows I got these tickets for. You can google “partial view + show name” and see what comes up. Shows will be very upfront about what seats are obstructed, so be sure to pay attention when buying your tickets.
Cheap Broadway Tickets Tip #3: Use TodayTix or TKTS
Both TodayTix and TKTS are famous for offering discounts on Broadway shows. I used TodayTix to buy tickets for my Mom and me to see Waitress two days before our trip to New York. I saved 49% on the price of the tickets. With TodayTix, you won’t know your exact seats (just the area) until you pick up your tickets 30 minutes before the show. You are guaranteed to have seats together if you buy your tickets on the same order.
TKTS has three New York City locations (Times Square, Southport Street and Lincoln Center) where you can buy tickets. Read this helpful article from The New York Post about show tickets through TKTS.
For both of these services, you generally won’t find the hottest shows, like Wicked, Lion King and Hamilton, available. But, if your goal is simply to see a great Broadway show, you certainly don’t have to see these shows. I like that you can buy your tickets online through TodayTix vs. physically going to a TKTS booth.
Cheap Broadway Tickets Tip #4: Go to the theater by yourself
I know this might not be feasible, but if you are going to be in New York by yourself, enjoy a night out by going to a show. Sometimes you’ll luck out and get a great last-minute ticket because it is the only one left. When I visited New York in January I saw Bryan Cranston in Network. The often sold-out show had a single ticket available that I was able to buy. Seeing that show was one of my life’s show highlights – it was truly remarkable. I am so glad I didn’t let fear of being alone prevent me from seeing a show.
This Broadway discounts aren’t complicated, but it is important to be flexible and have a willingness to not plan too much in advance!
Bonus Broadway tip: Before or after your show, go to the Stardust Diner for dinner. The Stardust Diner’s servers are all actors hoping to make it Broadway (some are on Broadway and work at the Diner as a second job). They take turns singing and performing the entire time you are at the diner and their talent is jaw-dropping astonishing. (The night my mom and I went, our server had just been cast in the forthcoming Disney show, Hercules. Another server had been Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast for two years!)
It’s located just off Times Square on 51st. Plan to wait in line, but I promise, it is worth it. We went at 9:50 pm and waited about 30 minutes to get in. Seriously, this is one of my favorite things I have ever done in New York, and I think I will likely go every time I visit the city.
I hope this post helps you enjoy New York City’s Broadway shows at a discount. Leave a comment and let me know what shows you see using these tips, or if you have other tips to add.
PawPatrol is all about solving problems and going on adventures, which is why a scavenger hunt is perfect for a Paw Patrol birthday party. For my son Ezra’s 4th birthday, we hosted an epic Paw Patrol party and the scavenger hunt was the main party game for the kids.
Paw Patrol Party Game: Scavenger Hunt Overview
Around our yard, I had hand-painted Paw Patrol characters (Skye, Zuma, Marshall, Chase and Rubble) along with the prizes. (If you don’t want to hand-paint pups, you could use Paw Patrol toys, plush or party decorations instead.) After the kids found a pup and the prizes, they then had to listen to the next clue, then find the pup.
Paw Patrol Scavenger Hunt Prizes
We went to the Dollar Tree to find prizes that were affordable, since we had 20 children coming to the party. I looked for items that were packaged in multiples, then we wrote clues that fit the prizes and the pups. I have linked similar toys on Amazon in case Here’s what we came up with:
**The Dollar Tree had packages of rescue vehicles that included 1 helicopter and 1 boat per package, so this worked well.
Marshall: Finger Paint
Paw Patrol Scavenger Hunt Clues
Ok, friends, let’s circle around
It’s Ezra birthday—time to gather the hounds
Bark if you’re here—we need every pup
We can’t find PAW Patrol—something must be up…
Can you help us find Zuma?
Has anyone seen him?
Let’s search for a pool,
maybe he went for a swim.
Or maybe he’s chillin’ on something that floats
I bet we’ll find him on a ship or a boat!
Good job pups, but there’s no time to waste
We need to find Skye, so let’s search every place
No need to look down, look up in the sky
Cause’ chances are good that Skye’s flying high
She’s fearless & smart, & no one can stop her
When she’s using her wings or flying a chopper
Good job team, Skye’s safe and sound
So let’s look for Rubble, the youngest PAW hound
Maybe he napping or playing in mud
Or maybe he’s chillin’ in a tub full of suds
Im sure he’s okay and not into trouble
But knowing that bulldog, he’s bathing in bubbles
We found him—good job!!—only 2 pups to find
Let’s search for Marshall, that spotted canine
Maybe he’s hiding and tricking us all
Cause we know that Marshall can be a goofball
Wherever he is, there’s a mess that’s close by
If he’s painting we’ll know by the paw prints we’ll find
Way to go, pups! Be of good cheer!
Marshall’s covered in paint but at least he is here
Now let’s look for Chase—wonder where he could be
Maybe he’s saving a life or chasing a bad puppy
Or maybe he’s chillin, making shapes and foods
With playdoh of all colors cuz he’s in a creative mood
Yay! We found him! And there’s playdoh galore!
Now—WHO LET the DOGS OUT—let’s party cuz Ezra is 4!!
Paw Patrol Scavenger Hunt Stations
Here is what we set up for each of the Paw Patrol stations.
Zuma: For Zuma we filled a tub of water and had the boats floating in it for the kids to grab.
Skye: For Skye we attached the helicopters to fishing line and secured them to a small tree in the yard.
Marshall: For Marshall, I put the little containers of paint around a toy firetruck we had.
Chase: For Chase, I put the little playdohs just around his picture in the yard.
Rubble: For Rubble we buried the bubbles in our sandbox, which was messy but fun for the kids.
Scavenger Hunt Tips
- Give every child their own bag: As I mentioned, I bought a pack of colored gift bags and had each parent write their child’s name on the bag. This kept everyone’s gifts separate and made them easy to identify.
- Have a leader: Designate one person at the party to read the clues and guide the kids.
- Be patient: Four-year-olds are QUITE excited during a scavenger hunt, so be sure to have a little patience, as the kids are likely going to want to race ahead and not listen.
- Buy extra: We had a few unexpected siblings show up to the party. Be sure to have a few extra prizes in case more people show up – or a child loses something.
Kimonos are one of the year’s hottest styles. Get 2 for $20 shipped with this awesome sale (affiliate links used in post).
Cents of Style is having a huge blowout sale on kimonos with pricing cheaper than you will find anywhere. Get two kimonos for $20 shipped with the code KIMONO20. (Free shipping included!) This works out to just $10 a kimono, which is an absolute steal.
There are 25 different styles and one size fits most! They are totally modern and are the perfect addition to level up your shorts, pencil skirts, or even your best skinny jeans. The flowy silhouette of these kimonos make for a flattering, comfortable fit that you will love adding to a variety of outfits! For date night layer it over a little black dress and some strappy heels, or for a more casual laid back look pair it with a simple white tee, your favorite shorts and sandals.
You can wear these over your swimsuits for the perfect coverup too. Kimonos are on trend, versatile and offer endless styling possibilities. I think they are beautiful on women with all body types and heights.
I’m wearing the Evie Tropical kimono in these photos (regularly $24.95, only $10 with the sale – when you buy 2 kimonos)
Shop the sale now for best selection. Perfect time to stock up for you, as well as a buy a few gifts for the holidays.
If you have been around for awhile, you know I love to throw a big party with lots of handmade details. It isn’t unusual for me to spend months planning a party.
But my kids are getting older and hand painted cardboard cutouts are no longer my big kids’ jam. So this year I did a 180 and planned the party based entirely on stuff I had in my clearance stash, around my house, and what I could get at Dollar Tree and Aldi. I hope this budget friendly party inspires you to shop your house and shop cheap for your next party.
The Photo Spot
I love having a photo spot for my parties. I used a paper background that I have had for a few years and spruced it up with garlands that I bought at Target 90% off (for 30 cents each). These types of garlands are always in Target’s dollar spot and can usually be found on clearance.
The Tablecloth & Table
This was a $1 tablecloth from Hobby Lobby. They have the same ones at Dollar Tree. It is amazing how a simple plastic tablecloth makes a table so much more special.
In the center of the table I put flowers that I was given at work. Because it is summer I would have simply picked flower from our garden had I not received those bouquets.
I like to give favors that kids will actually use and enjoy. Since Adeline was having a sleepover, I bought plush unicorns 90% off at Target after Valentine’s Day for $1.29 a piece. I also bought Jo-Jo Siwa tattoos after Valentines. The BFF necklaces were $1.48 for three on clearance at Target in the girls’ section. All the girls immediately put them on and loved them!
Adeline wanted to make a bunch of crafts for her party. Here’s how we kept it affordable.
Craft 1: Puffy paint trucker hats
For summer Dollar Tree had these fun hats. I bought one for each girl. We used puffy paint I had in my craft stash to decorate them. (Buying a bulk puffy paint kit a few years ago was a great investment and something I have used again and again.)
Every girl loved this craft. I definitely recommend doing them at the start of the party so that there is plenty of time for them to at least start to dry. The next morning, the girls looked so cute wearing their hats!
Craft 2: Watercolor ice cream cones
Adeline took Emily Lex’s online watercolor class this summer and loved it so much that she wanted to do watercolors with her friends. A few watercolor palettes and watercolor paper was all we needed for the girls to make stacked ice cream cones from the class.
When the girls finished their hats, they sketched the ice cream cones, then painted them.
Every girl’s painting was unique and they had so much fun painting them.
Craft 3: Homemade bath bombs
I bought Crayola bath bomb kits 90% off after Christmas and the girls were so excited to make them. Unfortunately, the kit was a bit of a bust and more than half of the bombs didn’t turn out. (Check out other kits here.) The girls had great attitudes about the project and still had tons of fun mixing and molding the bombs.
I bought nearly all the food at Aldi, which kept things very affordable. Here’s what we had on hand:
Pizza: Aldi’s giant fresh pizzas are just $5-$6 a piece. Two was perfect for our group of 10.
Fresh fruit: Watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and strawberries all for less than $10
Ice cream: More on that below, but just $2 for a half gallon.
Cake mix: At 88 cents a box, you can’t go wrong. One box was all I needed to make the cake pops.
Frosting supplies: I was able to buy powdered sugar and butter for the frosting for just a few dollars.
Popcorn: Microwave popcorn made the girls’ evening movie marathon a success. (If you don’t have a silicone microwave popcorn maker, get one. Best $10 you’ll ever spend!)
Pancake mix: We had Kodiak pancake mix on hand, but Aldi sells it in store.
Rather than do a traditional cake, we decided to do cake push up pops and ice cream sundaes. The cake push pops were so fun to make. I bought the forms on clearance after Christmas several years ago, but you can buy them anytime on Amazon.
We also had an ice cream sundae bar, with four kinds of ice cream, whipped cream, sauces and sprinkles in waffle cone bowls. It was super easy and the girls loved it.
The girls watched a movie, had popcorn and finally fell asleep close to midnight.
Frugal Party Recap
To recap, shopping clearance, The Dollar Tree and Aldi is a great way to save a lot of money and throw a super fun party. The kids will have a BLAST and your budget will still be intact.