For first-time visitors to New York City, Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton sure packed in a huge amount of Big Apple highlights in record time. A whirlwind Sunday-through-Tuesday trip had the royals zooming from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to the Financial District to the Upper East Side, then back to London via JFK Airport in Queens—all while remaining stately and dignified.
As we all know, though, New York welcomes everyone—the tired, the poor, the huddled masses... You catch our drift. Here's how we commoners can follow the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's aristocratic itinerary without spending a pence more than absolutely necessary.
1. The Carlyle Hotel
Where it is: NYC's tony Upper East Side, rosewoodhotels.com
Highlight you have to see: Take the stairs up to the hotel's bar to peek at the giant wall murals featuring the children's book character Madeline. Her creator, Ludwig Bemelmans, gifted the iconic scenes to the Carlyle in exchange for a year and a half's stay for him and his family. It's worth noting that the hotel was one of Princess Diana's favorites.
How you can go for cheap: Reserving a room at the Carlyle this time of year starts at a hefty $585 per night (rumor has it Kate and Wills' luxury suite cost as much as $10,000 a night). But in the early evenings, for the price of a drink (from $9), you can sit at Bemelmans Bar, munch on complimentary nuts and snack mix, and listen to the musical stylings of talented pianists such as Earl Rose and Chris Gillespie. Pro tip: They sometimes take requests.
2. The Barclays Center
Where it is: Across the Brooklyn Bridge in Prospect Heights, barclayscenter.com
Highlight you have to see: Make like William and Kate and take in a New Jersey Nets game—or grab tickets to shows by acts from Justin Timberlake to The National to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. If you're like us, you'll want to peruse the pre-concert food options: Brooklyn favorites Nathan's hot dogs, Williamsburg Pizza, Fatty 'Cue BBQ, and other innovative standbys all have indoor posts along the stadium's circumference.
How you can go for cheap: You'll have to beat Ticketmaster on this one. Military and first responders can score discounted tickets. Otherwise, sign up for Barclays email and newsletter offers and scour sites like Craigslist, CheapTickets, and StubHub for deals.
3. The 9/11 Memorial Museum
Where it is: Downtown, in Manhattan's Financial District, 911memorial.org
Highlight you have to see: The museum's steel "tridents," two 70-foot columns of the Twin Towers' facade that remain, and the Survivor Tree, a callery pear tree that weathered the attacks and was rehabilitated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
How you can go for cheap: Admission is free every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to close. Book in advance at 911memorial.org/freetuesdays, or head to the ticket window at 4:30 p.m. on the Tuesday you'd like to visit. If you'd prefer to visit the outdoor reflecting pools rather than venture inside the museum, quiet observation is always free.
4. The Door
Where it is: The edge of SoHo, thedoor.org
Highlight you have to see: The Door is a non-profit organization that aims to assist NYC's "disconnected youth." Programs offered include tutoring, foster care, English language classes, and free meals.
How you can go for cheap: There's no admission fee to help the city's young people. The org holds regular volunteer information sessions every Tuesday from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. Find out more at thedoor.org.
5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Where it is: The Museum Mile section of the Upper East Side, next to Central Park, metmuseum.org
Highlights you have to see: The royals were at the Met to get their black-tie gala on at a fund-raiser for their alma mater, St. Andrews University in Scotland, but for those of us who prefer to view our art in slacks and flats, popular works that see high foot traffic include Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Claude Monet's Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, and Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware. What you'll personally enjoy is subjective, of course. One of our favorite aesthetic pleasures is the Greek sculpture Marble statue of a kouros (better known as the "New York Kouros")—and the view from the Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar on the museum's rooftop.
How you can go for cheap: Technically, the $25 admission is a suggested donation, so you don't have to pay the full cost. If cheaping out feels chintzy, you could become a member for a tax-deductible $80 per year, which includes unlimited free admission plus discounted merch. Only in town for a bit? Consider purchasing an NYC CityPASS for $109, which ushers you into a slew of attractions including the Met, the Empire State Building Observatory, the Statue of Liberty, and others—and you get to skip the ticket lines.
6. The Empire State Building
Where it is: Smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, as it should be, esbnyc.com
Highlight you have to see: The view. It really is worth the 102-floor vertical trip. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio accompanied Prince William to the top, joining the list of famous Empire State twosomes including Cary Grant and Debra Kerr, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and Mindy Lahiri and Danny Castellano.
How you can go for cheap: Riding up only to the 86th floor is the cheapest option at $29, but $46 will take you 16 floors higher, to the tallest vantage point. Just be patient: The "Express" lines move faster, but the prices are nearly double. Also, see the CityPASS option above — it'll get you onto the 86th floor, which could be worth it if you're short on time and plan to pack as many sights as you can into your visit. Just like the royals do.