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Five Great Summer Nights in New York City for $1.00 to $5.00

Photo: Melissa Banigan

(photo: Melissa Banigan)

I'm always looking for New York activities that are tasty and affordable. Below are some of my favorite things to do and fun places to visit during summer in the Big Apple!

Vanessa’s Dumpling House and Columbus Park

COST: $1.50

Chinatown is always an adventure. I like to start my evening by stopping at Vanessa’s Dumpling House for a place of pork and chive dumplings ($1.00) and a sesame pancake ($0.50 each). Vanessa's has communal tables filled with hungry hipsters and Cantonese-speaking locals, and its a great place to experience New York culture while noshing dumplings. Afterwards, I always take a nice walk to Columbus Park to watch Chinese grandparents sing songs while strumming traditional instruments, playing mah jong, practicing Tai Chi and just generally beating the heat of summer by resting beneath trees. Occasionally, locals bring their pet birds in beautiful wooden cages to hang in the branches, adding to the magic of the park.

67 Mulberry St. (between Bayard and Mosco Streets in Chinatown)

Kayaking on the Hudson River and the Art Bar

TOTAL COST: $3.00 – $5.00

I love the city, but often head to the Downtown Boathouse along the Hudson River for an easy escape. There, one of many fabulous city volunteers outfits me in a life jacket and helps me into a kayak. Before heading out, I make sure to throw on a bit of the free sunscreen the boathouse provides so that I don't get too crispy paddling on the water beneath the skyscrapers. Afterward, I walk off my sea-legs and head over to Art Bar just in time to catch a half-off well drink or beer (mostly $3.00-$5.00) before happy hour ends (5:00PM-7:00PM). I skip the front room of the bar and instead make my way to the back, where I sit amidst the weird art all over the walls in a space that feels a bit like an old 80’s reliquary.

Boathouse: Westside Highway and West Houston Street in the West Village

Art Bar: 52 8th Ave (between Jane and West 4th Streets in the West Village)

Mamoun’s Falafel and Italian Ice


Hot days making me crave cool summer foods. I love ordering half a falafel pita sandwich from Mamoun’s Falafel ($2.50), which is packed with cool tomato, lettuce, tahini, and the best falafel in New York. Throw on a little hot sauce and I'm all set. I chase the spice with an Italian Ice, which is found in nearly every neighborhood in New York on both street stands and also in small storefronts. Flavors such as pineapple and cherry keep my thirst quenched for only a dollar, although I'm always on the search for my favorite flavor, coconut.

Mamoun’s Falafel: 22 St. Marks Place (between 3rd Ave. & Astor Place in the East Village)

Italian Ice: Everywhere!

May’s Place and Gallery onetwentyeight


May’s Place has a dollar menu that keeps me coming back. I skip most of the mediocre sushi and order the agedashi tofu, a delicious, lightly fried chunk of heaven that swims in a bowl of tentsuyu and scallions. For a dose of culture, I then visit Gallery onetwentyeight to see a rotating group of Lower East Side neighborhood artists each month.

May’s Place: 121 2nd Ave Gallery onetwentyeight: 128 Rivington Street

River Flicks on the Hudson River

TOTAL COST: Free to $1-2.00

Every Wednesday and Friday evenings through the summer, new and classic films are shown on the Hudson River at Pier 46. I often stop by Wednesday evenings for a family movie or occasionally on Friday for a date night flick (even if I'm by my lonesome). Although there are many free outdoor movie nights around New York (my second favorite movie night is in Bryant Park), this one on the Hudson serves free popcorn. I typically will spend a dollar or two and splurge on a cold beverage. Also, because movies are shown on a pier jutting out over the water, the evening is relatively mosquito-free. I make sure to get to the pier early, as space fills up fast! It's a lovely place to sit with a book, and people-watching makes the time go by quickly. The best thing about watching a movie on the river? Watching the sun go down just as the inflatable movie screen is blown up.

River Flicks on the Hudson: Westside Highway and Charles Street (West Village)

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