Reason number 146329 to visit Newark: that feeling of pleasant surprise when you discover that many of the city's gems can be explored either free of charge or at a steep discount. Score! An ideal destination for those eager to experience maximum fun at minimum expense, Newark boasts plenty of free and inexpensive options and attractions perfect for the budget-minded traveler. But don't just take my word for it. Ask the expert! Newark's own Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche, America's favorite financial educator and #1 bestselling author of "The One Week Budget," agrees that Newark makes financial "cents." Check out her tips for taking advantage budget-friendly Newark. "Stay in Newark, explore NYC."
Newark sits just ten miles from Manhattan, so Aliche suggests a hotel stay in Newark as a great option to enjoy all the perks of a New York City vacation for a fraction of the price. Less than a mile from Newark International Airport is the comfy and tranquil Best Western Plus Newark Airport West, which is not only a great value but provides hourly courtesy shuttles to and from Newark Penn Station (it's a mere 20 minute train ride into Midtown from Newark Penn) and offers free breakfast in the morning. "Always look for free breakfast," when choosing a hotel, says Aliche. "I like to stash some fruit for later, that way you're getting breakfast and a snack."
Alternatively, you can choose to stay right in Newark's downtown at the Hilton Newark Penn Station for half the price of a Manhattan hotel. The Hilton is connected to Penn Station by a convenient indoor walkway and offers a "Newark to New York Package" which includes a round trip train ticket to NYC with your stay. The Go Bus 28 is an inexpensive option for travel between Downtown Newark and Newark Airport (just $1.50!).
According to Aliche, Newark's close proximity to Manhattan is "one of the reasons why I live here. I do so much work in the city, and it makes it so convenient."
Tax Free Shopping
Pro Tip: bring an extra suitcase! Aliche says that those in the know stay in the hotels right across the street from The Mills at Jersey Gardens to take advantage of tax free shopping in the premier fashion outlet destination in the New York area. Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Newark Airport is just steps from The Outlet Collection and offers a "Shopping Package" that includes a $25 gift card for shopping, complimentary shuttle service to and from the mall, complimentary hot breakfast buffet, a Jersey Gardens shopping bag, a Jersey Gardens Coupon Book, two bottles of water and snacks and free high-speed Internet access. Your extra suitcase will come in handy once you finish scouring over 200 brand name fashion outlets under one roof!
Eat on the Cheap
In Newark, you never have to sacrifice local flavor just because you're on a budget! Aliche suggests McWhorter Barbeque, where you'll get huge portions of authentic Portuguese barbecued ribs, chicken, shrimp, wings and sides for under $10. Mi Gente Café is another great option for a cheap lunch, with fresh and delicious fresh Central American choices like pernil, baccalao, empanadas and pastelón. For inexpensive Mexican, try Agave Mexican for low cost, high quality tacos, enchiladas and salads. And if you've never experienced Brazil's version of a hamburger, bring your appetite to Hamburgao and order up the Cheese Tudo. It will take two hands and lots of napkins to enjoy this beef patty garnished with mozzarella, ham, bacon, fried egg, corn, potato sticks, lettuce, tomatoes and a special sauce, all for $5.50!
No matter how small your budget may be, Newark offers up plenty of cultural attractions and landmarks that won't leave your wallet empty. Aliche is particularly big on the burgeoning art scene downtown. "Literally every weekend there is a gallery opening or an exhibit that's free. And there's always wine. Plus, Newark's art scene is so eclectic. You'll see a five year old, a 65 year old, white, black, gay and straight in one room," says Aliche. The Newark Arts Council is a great resource for information on local galleries and events. Visit their Arts Calendar for a listing of Upcoming Events and experience the transformative power of the arts! Or allow Bank of America to cover your entry fee into the Newark Museum and Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art (closed Sundays). Simply produce your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and ID at either venue on the first full weekend of every month. Want to enjoy the great outdoors? Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon under one of the Cherry Blossom trees at Branchbrook Park or take a free yoga or tai chi class in the newly renovated Military Park. While visiting Military Park, for just $3 admission you can walk over to the New Jersey Historical Society which houses one of the largest collections of New Jersey-related materials in the world. And of course, the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau, located right across the street from Military Park, is Newark's number one free resource with a wealth of information for travelers and tourists.
Lauren Craig, also known as InaWordFab, is the Glambassador of all things fashion, art and entertainment in Newark. When she isn't busy practicing law or watching reality television, Lauren is devoted to inspiring others to live their most fab and fulfilling life...and world peace. Visit inawordfab.com for more and be sure to follow her life in the fab lane @inawordfab on Twitter and Instagram.
Photo Credit: Branchbrook Park Image: Harry Prott