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BIG APPLE Small Budget New York Habitat featured in Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star
June 25th, 2000
Section: Travel
Page: G1

A trip to the Big Apple doesn't necessarily mean Big Bucks.

There are enough free, near-free, and not-too-pricey excitements to fill a two-week vacation in Manhattan. And there are ways to avoid those pricey hotels, too.

Where to stay

Lodging is generally the biggest expenditure when you're on vacation - and that can be especially true in New York, where it isn't unusual for a hotel room to cost $200 a night. And the costs really run up if you need a couple of rooms for the whole family.

Here's an option: Rent an apartment. You'll have more room, you can spend a little more on a per-night basis because you can cook your own meals (saving on the second-biggest expenditure) and you'll feel more like a native.

New York Habitat is one of the more respected services offering vacation rentals of apartments fully stocked with linens and dishes. Tell them what your budget is, where you want to stay and let them do the hunting for you.

They can be reached at: 307 Seventh Ave., Suite 306, New York, NY 10001, (212) 255-8018. Check out their Web site at www.nyhabitat.com.

For inexpensive hotels ("inexpensive" is relative in New York; for hotels, it means under $150, instead of more than $200), check out www.travelscape.com.

How to get around

Sure, you could take a taxi everywhere, but that's definitely not cheap. Walking is, but that can be tiring.

Taking the subway - which is remarkably clean and safe these days - is the best deal. Or grab a city bus, which is slower but has better views. They are both $1.50 a trip.

You can buy a $4 MetroCard Fun Pass, which will give you unlimited travel on the bus or subway for one day.

There longer? Plop down $17 and get unlimited bus and subway travel for seven days.

They're available at most subway stations and through the Web site, www.mta.nyc.ny.us.

Where to eat

This is a toughie New York restaurants are a food lover's dream, and a budget traveler's nightmare.

But you can get away with some good meals at good deals. A few of the Manhattan restaurants that offer good eats for under $20 a person:

* ABC Parlour Cafe, 38 E. 19th St., serves up more than bargain chow - you can buy the furniture, too, at this Flatiron District restaurant.

- Angelo's, 146 Mulberry St., looks just like one of those Little Italy restaurants you saw in the "Godfather" movies. And you might spot a celeb or two at this popular spot.

- Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, 33 University Place (in East Greenwich Village), serves up American eats, such as steaks, hamburgers, seafood and pasta. From Wednesdays through Saturdays, you'll get live jazz, too.

- Martin's Caribbean Bistro, 228 W. Houston St., in the very trendy SoHo district, offers food full of delectable Caribbean spices.

- Ratner's, 138 Delancy St., is a popular Lower East Side kosher dairy eatery with onion rolls worth a trip to NYC for, and pastas that'll make you feel all warm and safe.

- Rue des Crêpes, 104 Eighth Ave., might make you feel as though you're at a sidewalk cafe in Paris rather than in NYC, but you can live with that. If it's crepes you want, this is the place.

Check out the Zagat 2000 guide, in bookstores or on the Web at www.zagat.com. for more ideas.

What to do for free

You can explore Manhattan's churches - many are like museums; cruise through all the free art galleries (check out The New York Times for what's on and where at); or just sit in Washington Square Park and people-watch.

But there's a whole bunch more to do for free:

- One of the best-kept secrets of the city is Big Apple Greeter, a guide group that has lifelong New Yorkers showing you around their favorite neighborhoods. You get tidbits about who lives where, the architecture, the stories, even the gossip. Tour groups are kept small, and you'll feel like you know the city after a spin through the neighborhood with one of the greeters. The organization is funded by the city, has a paid staff to do the organizing, but all the guides are volunteers. They ask that arrangements for tours - you can request a specific neighborhood - be made 10 days in advance. Contact them at (212) 669-2896; or online at www.bigapplegreeter.org.

- The Winter Garden of the World Financial Center along the waterfront in lower Manhattan has dance and concerts throughout the summer. On Wall Street, between Liberty and Vesey, (212) 945-0505.

- Check out the Staten Island Ferry. You'll get great views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the New York Harbor. It runs every 30 minutes or so. Catch it at Battery Park and Whitehall Street. (718) 390-5253

- Take in an opera, a concert, a dance performance - sometimes by some of the biggest names in the business - in Central Park. Check out the Web sites www.centralparknyc.org and www.nycparks.org for a schedule of free events in the park.

- The New York Stock Exchange - you've seen it on TV; now see it in person. You can take a self-guided tour and watch the action from the Stock Exchange's viewing gallery. 50 Broad St. (212) 656-5167.

Bargain museums

- The Museum of American Folk Art, 2 Lincoln Square, is free (though a donation is requested), and is a little-known NYC treat. It includes paintings, textiles, sculptures, furniture and pottery, and there are often performances by folk musicians, dancers and storytellers in the gallery (212) 977-7170.

- Guggenheim Museum SoHo, 575 Broadway, is a branch of the uptown Guggenheim. It offers some intriguing exhibits, and it's always free.

Kathleen Allen