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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Affordable Outings in New York City This Winter

Here are five underrated low-budget activities to do with your friends in New York City!
Acadia Bost
My parents were awed walking through a corridor filled with hanging lights at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

As the season draws to a close, many of us are looking to make the most out of the last month of winter. In New York City, however, that can end up costing a lot. If you’re wincing at the price tags on museum trips or ice skate rentals, here are a few activities to do this winter that won’t break the bank. They’re not all free, but we’ve got a range of low-cost activities, so hopefully, everyone can find something that works for them. 


A combination of a fun carnival ride — bumper cars — and a classic winter pastime — ice skating — makes ‘Bumper Cars on Ice’ an exciting new winter activity. (Acadia Bost)

Bumper Cars on Ice is a blast at Bryant Park! Tickets, which start at $20, reserve a booking window for a ten minute (very bumpy) ride across the skating rink. My family checked out the cars along with Kate Hankin ’24, and we had such a good time. There was one guy, in the corner of the rink, who spent the whole ten minutes spinning in place, and he looked like he was having a wonderful time. 

Hankin and I were a bit more excited to bump into people than just spin, so we spent most of the time ramming our cars into strangers. It was really fun, and everyone was laughing and whooping. It felt like a slide of an amusement park or state fair, right in the middle of Manhattan!

Once you leave the ice, you can take a walk through the Bryant Park Winter Village. There are all sorts of snacks and drinks and trinkets, but, if you’re not looking to buy anything else, it’s also a cozy place to walk around or sit and chat with a friend. Check out this link to get tickets, or purchase them in person!


Skaters enjoy a day out on the ice. (Acadia Bost)

If you’re looking for another reason to get a library card, here it is – you can skate with hot chocolate for just $15 at Wollman Rink if you show yours! This is a part of the rink’s new Access Program, which aims to make Wollman more accessible to those who can’t afford its often steep prices. Even better, on Wollman’s Community Days, admission is completely free!

The rink is one of my favorites and has hosted annual ice skating outings for my friends and I for years. We’re all excited for free or reduced tickets this time around!


Going around to thrift stores is one of my favorite year-round pastimes. And, unless you find a piece you can’t live without, it’s completely free. There are amazing shops all around the city, but I have a few favorites to recommend.

Ilias Papageorgiou ’23 went on a thrift store adventure with me and found this jacket! (Acadia Bost)

First off, you can never, ever go wrong with Goodwill. Whether you make the trek to Queens to visit the bins or dedicate a day to taking the train to different outlets around the city – which I would highly recommend if you love the subway as much as I do, it’s a very fun way to check out new train lines – you’re sure to find some fascinating pieces.

I first went to the bins around a year ago, and it was amazing. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, it was my ‘turn’ to thrift (the bins operate on shifts, so you have to wait till the next shift to start looking through). Walking through the warehouse, I found some of my favorite pieces to this day, including a pair of jeans that fit like a glove, a few shirts, and a gorgeous pair of heels. I also found my biggest thrifting heartbreak – my dream prom dress, which was snatched quite literally from my hands by another shopper, so be careful of that when you go.

If you’re not in the mood for a rigorous comb through what is essentially people’s closet rejects, you might want to head somewhere more curated. Luckily, Lower Manhattan is packed with fun, unique thrifts! At this link, you can find a map of almost every vintage or thrift store in the city!  It’s a fun way to explore a beautiful neighborhood while looking at beautiful clothing. Especially during the holiday season, I like to look through the photograph and letter sections. The amount of history held in these little shops is often overlooked.


Located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Bowery Mission has served unhoused New Yorkers since the late nineteenth century. The Mission functions as a soup kitchen, a clothing drive, and for a few dozen residents, a home. Every day, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers at the Mission prepare and hand out food to hundreds of people!

My dad and I did a volunteer shift for my birthday, and it was a saddening but rewarding experience. Our first hitch of the day was that you have to be 18 in order to serve food, but they generally don’t check IDs, so after a moment of panic, we were able to head in. The building was pretty, and charmingly old in some places – the employees were joking around about how the lockers don’t quite close.

Cindy and I spent some time separating trays so we could to grab them faster during the rush of customers at the Bowery Mission. (Doug Bost)

We were given aprons, gloves, and hairnets and got to serving pretty quickly. At first there weren’t too many people – Cindy, a frequent volunteer, explained to me that the first wave of people were just the residents – but within half an hour there was a line all the way through the cafeteria and out the front door. It was shocking to me – it probably shouldn’t have been, but it was. Over three hundred people came to the mission for lunch that day.

Everyone was so kind, and it was really meaningful to chat with people while serving them lunch. At a certain point, there wasn’t any time to stop and talk, and we became this sort of well-oiled machine churning out dozens of plates of food. Still, it was nice, nice to talk with people, and nice to feel like I was doing at least a little something.

If you’re interested in helping out, the Bowery Mission is always taking volunteers. You can check out this link and go with friends, family, or just by yourself! 


The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens‘ greenhouse is beautiful on a regular day, but during the light show, it’s breathtaking. (Acadia Bost)

Gilding the lily of the already gorgeous Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, each winter, the Garden puts on a spectacular light show. It is the most expensive item on this list, as tickets go for up to $24, but it’s well worth the price. My family and I went a few weeks back, and we had a wonderful time. 

The holidays were stressful, and we were all looking for some time to relax. Luckily, just a 20 minute walk from home, we found it at the Gardens. 

This is by far my favorite photo from the night. Here is my mother at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, standing in front of a star. (Acadia Bost)

Walking past the gift shop, we were immediately awed by the beautiful display of dancing lights out on the pond. There were geysers of water shooting up in an interpretive performance of a classical song and multicolored lights added to the mesmerizing picture. It didn’t end there, though. Art pieces were littered across the thirty minute walk through the park.

My favorites were a strip full of hanging lights that you could walk through, some really interesting nature-themed projections onto trees, and of course the beautiful sea of lights just at the end. There were a few hot chocolate stops along the route, and the music was wonderful. Elton John’s I’m Still Standing and Taylor Swift’s Snow on the Beach were my favorite additions, because of how well they fit with the light sculptures – you’d have to see it.

Altogether, the Botanic Gardens Light Show was just what we needed, and hopefully, you’ll love it too!


Before the weather gets too warm, I’d highly recommend checking out these affordable New York City spots. Between ice skating with hot chocolate, window shopping at thrift stores with real character, and carrying the holiday spirit to the new year with community service, you’ll be able to pack a lot of seasonal fun into these last weeks of winter.

About the Contributor
Acadia Bost, Staff Reporter
Acadia Bost is a returning Editor-in-Chief for ‘The Science Survey.’ Placing an emphasis in their writing on the more structural, long term problems New Yorkers experience, they hope to push systemic issues closer to mainstream consciousness. Beyond the socio-political, Acadia is also deeply interested in film and media, and plans to continue writing about movies and music from a queer perspective. As an Editor-in-Chief, they perform in-depth edits of their peers' articles, often working with them over the course of the year to encourage the development of their individual voice as a writer. Outside of school, Acadia spends most of their time walking around the city with their close friends, watching films and reading. They plan to study journalism and social work in college, and eventually plan to live in the city working as a reporter and editor.