Spencer Platt  /  Getty Images file
Times Square, New York City
updated 6/8/2005 4:02:40 PM ET 2005-06-08T20:02:40

GETTING AROUND: Get a free subway map from any station kiosk. Buy a $7 one-day "Fun Pass" for unlimited rides on subways and buses; good until 3 a.m.

The subways are relatively safe, but leave your iPod home. Those trendy white earphones have triggered a recent rash of thefts underground.

New Yorkers love to give directions, so feel free to ask anyone on the train how to get from Times Square to the East Village. Don't be surprised if three people butt in with alternate routes (thereby demonstrating the local term "butt-insky").

Slideshow: The Big Apple Wear comfortable shoes. Walk fast to blend in.

MUSEUMS: Suggested admission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, 212-535-7710, www.metmuseum.org) is $15 ($7 for students). "Suggested" means you are encouraged to pay the full amount, but they'll let you in for whatever you can afford. The Chanel exhibit is up through Aug. 7.

The newly reopened Museum of Modern Art (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, 212-708-9400, www.moma.org) charges $20 ($12 for students). But it's free on Fridays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Just be prepared to wait an hour on line. Fortunately the building is so massive the crowds dissipate inside. From the top floor, you can power-walk down through the entire collection, which ranges from world-famous art by Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso to cutting-edge video installations.

The Whitney Museum of American Art (Madison Avenue and 75th Street, 800-944-8639, www.whitney.org) charges $12 (students, $9.50) but there is a pay-what-you-wish admission, Fridays, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Edward Hopper landscapes will make you homesick for a place that's nothing like New York, while Joseph Stella's "Brooklyn Bridge" is almost as beautiful as the real thing.

PUBLIC SPACES: Skip the $14 fee and two-hour wait to get to the top of the Empire State Building. Instead, enjoy it from afar. It can be seen from all over Manhattan and serves as a useful landmark for figuring out whether you're headed uptown or downtown (it's at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue).

Many other famous Manhattan landmarks can also be experienced for free. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and behold the shimmering New York skyline. Take the Staten Island Ferry for the best view of the Statue of Liberty. Stroll through Central Park and contemplate how well it still fulfills the vision that its 19th century designers, Olmstead and Vaux, had of an oasis from urban life, complete with meadows, ponds, bridges and fountains.

Times Square's colorful lights are best seen at night; they are especially pretty in the rain. At Grand Central Terminal, walk through the waiting room (follow signs for Metro-North trains) and notice the chandeliers, 60-foot-high windows, and the ceiling painting of the night sky.

Many out-of-towners will want to make a pilgrimage to the World Trade Center site. Don't be surprised if your local hosts lack your enthusiasm for visiting there. Some New Yorkers are put off by tourists with video cameras at Ground Zero.

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LIVE ENTERTAINMENT: The TKTS booth (www.tdf.org/tkts/) at Broadway and 47th Street sells half-price, same-day tickets to some shows. Prices vary, so $20 buys a discount ticket to some, but not all, shows. TKTS does not accept credit cards.

Some shows, including "Rent" and "Avenue Q," hold lotteries at the box office for same-day tickets, $20 to $25. For details, go to www.talkinbroadway.com/boards/ and click on "Rush." The same Web site lists shows that offer discounted standing-room tickets, including "Spamalot," which sells $21.25 standing-room tickets to any performance that sells out.

The Metropolitan Opera (64th Street and Columbus Avenue) has student tickets, $25 and $35, for some shows, and sells standing-room tickets at the box office each Saturday at 10 a.m., $15 to $20, for shows the same day through the following Friday; cash only. Details at (212) 362-6000.

You can get free tickets for TV shows that are taped live, but plan ahead. A year's wait is typical for attending "Live with Regis and Kelly" (www.livewithregisandkelly.com). However, many shows - including David Letterman's (www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/) - have same-day standby seats.

Or join the crowds watching "Today" through the glass studio windows, 7 a.m. at Rockefeller Plaza. If your taste is more Kelly Clarkson than Katie Couric, head to MTV, Broadway and 44th Street, where the under-25 set gathers Monday-to-Thursday afternoons as guests arrive for "TRL" ("Total Request Live") at 5 p.m. It's hard to see the second-floor studio from the street, but sometimes guests wave at the window.

Good music can be found all over Manhattan without emptying the nearest ATM. Jazz fans may enjoy the Knickerbocker (33 University Place, 212-228-8490, $2 cover), 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, or the Zinc Bar (90 W. Houston St., 212-477-8337, $5 cover, www.zincbar.com). Or buy a pint at Puck Fair (298 Lafayette St., 212-431-1200), where you'll find 20-somethings partying until 4 a.m. to everything from hip-hop to '80s top 40. For a club that matches your taste, check listings in Time Out magazine.

SPORTS AND CONEY ISLAND: Bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are just $12, but the $8.50 beers could break your budget. Reserved seats for the Yanks' minor league team, which plays on Staten Island, are $9, while general admission for the Brooklyn Cyclones - the Mets' minor leaguers, with a stadium in Coney Island - is $5.

While you're in Coney Island, stroll the boardwalk, take a dip in the Atlantic (yes, the water is safe for swimming), or visit the Coney Island Museum at Surf Avenue and West 12th Street (99 cents, open weekends noon to 5 p.m.). Admission to the New York Aquarium is $11, but you can enter the amusement parks for free. Or, for $5, scream your head off on the legendary and relentless Cyclone roller coaster. You've been warned.

FOOD: For breakfast, get a $1.25 bagel with cream cheese from a deli or pushcart.

For lunch, "a slice to go" runs $2 at the city's ubiquitous pizza places; hot dogs from street carts are around $1.50. Frankfurter aficionados swear by the 95-cent dogs at Gray's Papaya, located at Broadway near 72nd Street; Eighth Avenue near 37th Street; and Sixth Avenue near Eighth Street.

For supper, go ethnic. Ali Baba, 34th Street east of Third Avenue, has Middle Eastern entrees around $12. Share a feast in Chinatown with friends, where main dishes are around $10.

Make an evening of the East Village. Check out the scene in Tompkins Square Park, browse the vintage stores and sidewalk vendors, then dine on Japanese food at Kenka, 25 St. Mark's Place, where beer on tap is $1.50 and a bowl of silken fried tofu is $4. Or go Ukrainian with pirogis and borsht at Veselka, Second Avenue and Ninth Street. Either way you'll find immigrants, students, punk-rockers and yuppies side by side.

FADE OUT: After a long day in Manhattan, your cousin's fold-out sofa in Brooklyn will look mighty comfy. If you don't have a cousin (or friend of friend) to crash with, rooms in the $150 range are surprisingly easy to come by. Nice, moderately priced hotels include the five in the AppleCore chain (www.applecorehotels.com), which offer WiFi access, free breakfast, and midtown locations.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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