N.Y.C. for a "cheap bastard"

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012
Courtesy Rob Grader

When Rob Grader worked at a temporary job as an unemployed actor, he had to figure out a way to look like he was busy, or else they would give him some real work to do. So he wrote The Cheap Bastard's Guide to New York City—an extensive guide to living and visiting the city relatively cost-free—during his work hours.

"I am as cheap as they come and there is nothing that thrills me for than getting something for nothing," Grader told Budget Travel.

Grader also threw us a couple of his favorite finds in the city:

Big Apple Greeter is a non-profit organization that provides visitors with a personalized guided tours by locals. Tours are offered in 22 languages and available in the five boroughs, completely free of charge and tip. Request a Greeter at least three to four weeks before arriving.

The Postcrypt Coffeehouse can be found in the basement of St. Paul's Chapel on the campus of Columbia University. "This is absolutely the best place to hear acoustic music in New York," Grader told Budget Travel. "The small space holds about 35 people, and they get a great assortment of local and national singer/songwriters every weekend during the school year. And, there is always free popcorn!" (Performances are on Friday and Saturday nights and resume in September. Check out their blog for past shows.)

For "some of the best jazz anywhere in the city," Parlor Jazz at Marjorie Eliot's is another sweet find located at her Washington Heights apartment (555 Edgecombe Ave) every Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Just show up at the door, but get there early for good seats. The jazz that's played ranges from traditional swing to bop, but leaves room for improvisation, of course. "The intimate concerts are always wonderful and the atmosphere is so welcoming you will feel like you are hanging our in a good friends living room, which you are," Grader said. (Call 212/781-6595 for the weekly show details.)

Grader's book on New York was the first in the Cheap Bastard series. You can find out about other city guides at

—David Cumming


Free bikes for downtown

The free Times Square walking tour


The Cheapskate blog

Keep reading

NYC: Tim Burton artwork will take over MoMA in November

Fans of Tim Burton will be excited to learn that MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art) is planning an exhibition dedicated to the zany director. Opening in November, the exhibition "Tim Burton" will salute the director's 27-year career by displaying various items, from his pen and ink sketches of Edward Scissorhands to watercolor paintings from The Nightmare Before Christmas. More than 700 rare examples of his work will be on display from Nov. 22, 2009, through April 26, 2010. When museum curators expressed interest in displaying Burton's artwork at the MOMA—one of the world's foremost contemporary art collections—he was slightly surprised. "I didn't grow up in a real museum culture," Burton said at a press conference Wednesday. "I think I went to the Hollywood Wax Museum as my first museum…I was of that generation where I got more out of The Beverly Hillbillies than Monet." But the exhibition "Tim Burton," considered the largest monographic collection the MOMA has curated to date, isn't a feat to be modest about. It will consist of never-before-seen paintings, drawings, photographs, storyboards, puppets, costumes, and a film series, with the first public showing of his student and early nonprofessional films. From November 18–30, full-length features will be screened, too, including Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The exhibit takes a broad view of Burton's conceptual and production process, including original puppets from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, severed-head props from Mars Attacks!, and costumes from Batman Returns and Sleepy Hollow. Burton said producing art was always a private and quiet process for him. He used his artwork as a subconscious journal to explore ideas over the years. So Burton is getting to re-discover some of the residual work he had kept hidden away in drawers for years. "Every now and then, and since I had never done it, it's good to kind of go back and reconnect with yourself," he told reporters yesterday. "It kind of re-energizes you and connects you and gets the nerve-endings going again." ("Tim Burton" opens November 22, 2009., admission, $20 adults.) —David Cumming


Readers' best France photos

Thanks for your terrific submissions of images from across France. Among the 19 photos we selected, check out a frozen-in-time village in the Loire Valley, lavender fields in Provence, and scenes of Paris that include a flower market, a sunrise over the Eiffel Tower, and an artist in Montmartre. Click here to see the slide show. GET PLANNING! Real Deals: France From $599 Hotels: Paris Hotels From $99


This weekend: Gettin' snappy at the Maine Lobster Festival

Rockland, Maine, really knows how to throw a party. In January, it was the Pies on Parade event, in celebration of National Pie Day. This weekend, the town is putting on the 62nd annual Maine Lobster Festival. These people are not afraid of butter. The Lobster Festival, a five-day event packed with traditional festival activities like food booths and live music, really tears through its namesake crustacean—in 2008, more than 20,000 pounds of lobster were prepared in a cooker on the shore (apparently a show in itself). Also indulge in the Lobster Crate Race, where participants run over partially submerged lobster crates in the chilly waters of the harbor. The new record—4,501 crates—was set just last year. There's also a seafood cooking contest, an art fair, a marine tent with live lobster and other sea specimens, a 10K run, a huge parade with floats, a children's activity area, and tours of the U.S. Coastal Guard station. See the full schedule. The festival officially kicks off tomorrow with free admission all day; tickets are regularly $8 per person ($2 for kids). At the food tents, a huge lobster dinner will set you back $15, but it doesn't get much fresher than "cooked on the shore." Parking and shuttles to the festival area are free and plentiful. If boats are more your style, check out the 7th Annual Boat Builders Festival (with live pirate raid!) in Boothbay Harbor, Maine—about 45 miles southwest of Rockland.


Worth reading: Even presidents need a vacation

A few of our favorite links from around the 'net this week. School's out for summer: the Obamas will spend their August vacation on Martha's Vineyard. [Gadling] Following some Twitter-only fares (also known as Twares)? Read the fine print. [Upgrade: Travel Better] How to keep your e-mail safe while traveling. [AP via Yahoo! News] Air Tahiti Nui's flight attendants are ready for the runway with uniforms designed by Balenciaga. [The Faster Times] Finland's talking trash bins speak six languages. But do they tell jokes? [Jaunted] Trend-spotting: L.A. institution Pink's hot dogs will open a LAX location. [World Hum] Austin: The Superest Super 8 of them all? [HotelChatter] For more travel blogs, go to Alltop.