Your Perfect (Practically Free!) NYC Walking Tour

Being a Native New Yorker, it is imperative to find ways to actually not spend money in the city.  My city, as I like to call it, does not always have to be geared towards the rich and famous.  It is in fact quite possible to spend the day in New York, without needing to spend tons of money.  I grew up here and I know that New York itself is one of the perfect places to stroll around the city streets, coffee in hand, pondering life, as well as store windows, while feeling a different buzz from neighborhood to neighborhood.

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This buzz is especially apparent around Christmas here in the city.  I don’t know if it is because I was born in the month of December or that I grew up here, but I have always thought New York was a magical place this time of year–the lights, the smell of pine on almost every corner, the excess of plans with friends.  I have actually given myself my own therapy sessions by walking through the city streets. Throw the Ipod on and you are good to go for hours.  (Does not mean I solved all of my problems, but I gave it a try!)

Start the day in the West Village, take a moment in Doma on Perry Street and grab yourself a coffee. This is a great bustling and cozy café.  Just do not use your cell phone in there.  It is frowned upon. Coffee will be about $2.50.   Then just start your trek around the village and head towards Bleecker Street.  You will pass all those beautiful, movie set-esque type brownstones.  Don’t be swayed by the expensive stores in the area.  There is always Housing Works on West 10th Street.  They have tons of great bargains and vintage gifts.  Plus, all their proceeds go to charity.

Hopefully, that coffee is still giving you that buzz.  Crank up a Pandora station on your phone and keep getting your walk on.  Try to only think positively about your current state in life, whatever it may be.  I am not a fool and I do know how hard the daily grind in New York can be.  It can leave you screaming at times.  But there are days such as these where if you can just appreciate the simple things like a walk and a good Christmas song, I swear you can enjoy yourself.

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If you still need a little gift for yourself or for a friend, there are plenty of great old used bookstores throughout the village.  If you get a chance, check out Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books on Carmine Street.  They have a wonderful selection of photography books, rock-and-roll biographies and discount classics.  The owner always plays great music and it is the type of place that still makes us believe in an old New York, without all the commercialism.  There are still tons of interesting local places thriving in New York.  Take the time and try to hunt these places down.

From this point, go on over to Mamouns on Macdougal Street.  It continues to pack ‘em in and remain the best Falafel place in the city–and for $2.50!  I mean, seriously.  After this, walk over to the newly renovated Washington Square Park.  I spent many a day here back in the 80’s and 90’s.  Find a bench near the enchanting Christmas Tree and you’re set for at least a half hour.  You may even catch a musician playing classical piano nearby.  (Makes the effect of the tree better with music!)

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At this point you can decide if you want to venture uptown and continue the full Christmas in New York day.  If so, I would probably spring for another coffee and a trip to any nearby Sephora for a refresher.  I love perfume as much as the next girl, but if you can’t afford it on this day, hop in for a sample of your favorite scent.  I am a firm believer that the right scent can make you instantly feel like a million bucks.  After this catch a train up to Central Park, preferably on the East Side near The Plaza Hotel.  I do know the hotel appears quite different than it used to look, but since my father took me as a little girl, actually around Christmas, it has always been a thrill.  There is usually a beautiful tree inside and of course there’s always that famous picture of Eloise to gaze at in the hall.

Everyone has a different way of spending their perfect NYC day.  I hope everyone has at least one perfect New York day this time of year.  It can be whatever you need it to be, just for yourself.  You do not need to spend a lot of money to be satisfied!  Sure, it would be nice, but you can still be fulfilled in this city.  I am here to say it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

By: Jenny Rubin



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  • cash says:

    Wish I’d read this before I was in NYC last time. Not knowing where to get my Middle Eastern feed on I ended up in the Falafel stand from Hell somewhere near NYU. I asked the counter guy what the difference between two dishes was and he pointed to a picture on the wall above him. Thanks a lot pal. I ordered the wrong thing of course and then had to eat it while getting pounded by heavy metal at full volume. I scrambled out of there with an upset stomach and a headache. Gotta remember Mamouns

  • Melody says:

    What a great blog article! Absolutely love this post. Its so true – there a gizillion free things you can enjoy with a refocus of your attitude and a lil creativity. Love Housing Works – great mention. Im a firm believer in intentional buying – supporting those businesses who chose to make a difference and give back in positive sustainable ways. Love your blog! Thanks for sharing some holiday spirit with us! :)

  • Nerdhappy says:

    I used to live off of Falafel at Mamoun’s, it was $1.75 in 1994. How has it only gone up 75 cents? A Christmas Miracle!

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