New York City

Visiting New York or Las Vegas? How to save money in top tourist cities

Many of America's most popular cities aren't cheap. But that doesn't mean you can't find ways to save money and still have fun. 

Sometimes, prices for food or popular attractions seem to increase in direct proportion to popularity. New York City, the country’s most visited city, is arguably the county’s most expensive. Other cities that serve as tourist magnets are no bargain either and can wreak havoc on your vacation budget.

Fortunately there are budget-friendly attractions and activities waiting to be discovered at virtually all touristy areas.  You just have to use a little creativity-- and know where to look. Here are five ways to stretch your dollar while visiting cities that can otherwise max out your credit cards.

New York City

--Looking for a great gourmet meal at a lower price? Christian Ribeiro, Chef Concierge at Hotel Indigo in Manhattan's trendy Lower East Side neighborhood, suggests finding a prix fix menu which are often better values compared to regular “a la carte” service.

--Taxis and Ubers can eat up a budget quickly, often costing $200 or more during the course of a week. Use the subway which is safe, reliable and usually much faster than navigating through the traffic.  The best deal is the 7-Day Unlimited Pass for $32. Youngsters 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare paying adult.

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-- A great option for the energetic sightseer is the New York Pass. A three-day adult pass costs about $200 (kids are $160) and is valid at over 90 attractions throughout the city.

--Pay what you wish for a wide variety of walking tours with Free Tours by Foot. Tourists get to determine what a particular tour was worth, if anything, after the excursion. 

Boston

--The Boston Fire Museum is open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is always free. This is a great attraction for kids of all ages.

--The Institute of Contemporary Art hosts Free Thursday Nights, with free admission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. This event is best suited for adults who appreciate thematic exhibitions, new commissions and emerging artists.

--Hang out at the Seaport’s Lawn from May until October. Listen to music, play assorted games or sit in the venue’s swings to relax, spend time with friends or just catch some rays.

--Walk the Harborwalk to experience resplendent views of Boston Harbor and the Boston skyline. Totaling 43 miles of walking paths, the Harborwalk affords access to more than 40 parks, a dozen museums, seven beaches and over 100 stores and restaurants.

--Eat where the locals eat. Although Boston is renowned for its scrumptious seafood, residents flock to the city’s many taco restaurants for a meal that is both delectable and affordable. You can dine for under $10 at the Lone Star Taco Bar or El Centro.

Las Vegas

Perhaps more than any other major city, Las Vegas offers an abundance of free attractions. These include the Aquarium at Silverton, a 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, and the Bellagio Conservatory, 120 gardens crafted by a team of 100 horticulturalists.

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--With locations all over the Strip and downtown, Tix4Tonight offers half price tickets for the city's top shows. Forgo the ubiquitous buffets by purchasing discounted meal tickets for popular restaurants like 35 Steaks and Martinis at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

--Visit midweek when prices for hotels are much lower than the weekend. Even the most luxurious hotels in Las Vegas are discounted heavily during the week in order to fill rooms.

--Getting around: Although there is no subway in Las Vegas, visitors can save a pretty penny by using the Strip & Downtown Express. This convenient bus connects downtown Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Vegas Strip.

--Leave the Strip and head downtown to the Downtown Container Park. Kids will love the interactive playground featuring The Treehouse and adults can enjoy free concerts and movies on the main stage.

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Orlando

-- When visiting the Orlando region with little ones, pay attention to three magic words: “Kids eat free.” Many restaurants have special offers where children dine free with a paying adult, like The COOP in Winter Park, Monday through Wednesday, or Kobe Japanese Steakhouse on Tuesdays.

--Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is Florida’s largest premium winery, and it offers free tours of the winery and estate where guests can sample wines in the tasting room. The winery also hosts several annual free events open to the public, including a Winter and Summer Music Series.

--The USTA National Campus Lake Nona offers a full agenda of tennis events to attend and 100 fully lit tennis courts. Family Zone 60' and 36' courts are available at no charge when programming isn’t scheduled.

--Popcorn Flicks in the Park in Winter Park is a free monthly film series held on the second Thursday of each month, inviting visitors to a grassy stretch of Central Park to catch a movie beginning at sunset.

--Universal Orlando Resorts City Walk is a free part of Universal where you can check out sidewalk attractions and enjoy the studio without having to go into the amusement park. Come early to snag free parking.

Roger Sands writes about budget friendly travel and family vacation destinations for several media outlets. His favorite travel experiences include snowmobiling to the top of the Continental Divide and sipping afternoon tea throughout England.