We did two nights and two days in New York this weekend on what we consider the cheap. In the end, it still cost more than it would have been to stay in DC for the weekend, but we said Happy Anniversary (our anniversary is in June) and called it a good vacation.
I had frequented New York quite a bit when my brother was at NYU for school. Any chance I got to go to training in New Jersey meant a quick trip over to New York before or afterwards. Prior to that, we had been with our family on one of those big Asian tour bus trips, then I took my brother out to look at schools again when I was working (sugar momma sissie) and he was in the middle of transferring to film school, and a lot of my high school and college friends were here for school or work at the time, so I'm pretty familiar with New York and how crappy the subway system is to a non-New Yorker. But I had never been to New York with three small kids, so I was a bit nervous, and a lot relieved I didn't have to party until 4 AM again. HA!
In the end, we learned to be aggressive with our stroller on sidewalks with a polite "excuse me" and "sorry" whenever we had to veer onto the path and people were just standing there waiting to take the intersecting crosswalk, learned the best way to navigate the stairs of the subway system with one holding the back and the other the front (Bubba in his chariot, Jordan walking, and Dagny in the carrier), and were thankful for our kids' sincere prayers when it only rained a tiny bit first thing Friday morning and last thing Friday night and then a bit Saturday morning. For the most part, it was overcast or bright and sunny with a chill perfect for us to walk around pushing the boys and wearing Dagny.
The food was deliciously cheap, the lights were big and bright, the streets were bustling with tourists (and annoyed working people on Friday), and we had an absolute blast!
Here's how we did New York cheap.
1) We ate from street carts, hole in the walls, etc. and ate most of our meals a la fresco on the steps and sidewalks of the big New York buildings, and we only got told once by the big security guy that we were not supposed to be doing that.
2) We stayed in a semi ghetto hotel with a fridge in Jersey, drove to the nearest park and ride, and bused into New York (10 minutes and $10 to park and one round trip plus $6.50 for another round trip since kids ages 5 and under are free). You politely ask the bus driver to open the bottom trunk, then you slide your stroller in on its side, and retrieve upon arrival!
3) We used the subway for far distances but mostly walked our way around midtown, uptown, etc.
4) We enjoyed free things like playgrounds: Hecksher Playground (on the southwest side of Central Park), a nice stroll in Battery Park (and we walked past the West Thames playground, but that is on the list for next time we're near the WTC 9/11 Memorial), took the FREE Staten Island ferry (that runs on the half hour) to see the Statue of Liberty from afar (zoom on our iPhones work great) to and from, and enjoyed all the beautiful churches and architecture inside (Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton is buried and St. Patrick's Cathedral), and spent time window shopping at kid friendly stores like the M&M Store and Disney Store in Times Square and the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center.
5) We don't drink so we ate cheap and weren't out enjoying New York's nightlife without our kids. Sadly, we were bummed we didn't get to do any shows as we walked by the Theatre District every night on our way to the bus stop inside the New York Port Authority, but we figure when our kids are older, we can all go together.