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Tips on Finding Deals in New York

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

With the economic plunge, New York has become more affordable and available to visitors. Here are tips to help you take a bigger bite out of Manhattan. (For information on travel to the city: NYC & Co., 212-484-1200 or 202-530-0222, http://www.nycgo.com.)

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CULTURE

-- Play the lottery. More and more shows, especially on Broadway, are picking names out of a hat to sell day-of tickets. Most require that you visit the theater to enter drawings; ticket winners are generally announced two hours before showtime and are allowed to buy no more than one pair of tickets. For a comprehensive, up-to-date list of shows conducting lotteries, as well as those with standing-room tickets, see Playbill.com's list at http://www.playbill.com/celebritybuzz/article/82428.html.

-- Dance for dollars. Ballet consistently offers some of the best bargains in all of high culture. Seats at the New York City Ballet go for as little as $20, and although they won't be the best in the house, there's hardly a bad seat at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch (formerly the State) Theater. (212-870-5570, http://www.nycb.org.)

-- How to get to Carnegie Hall? Practicing is important, but so is showing up at the box office at West 57th Street and Seventh Avenue at 11 a.m. (noon on Sundays) to purchase $10 tickets for that day's performances. Seats are often partial-view, but Carnegie's legendary acoustics will never let you down. (212-247-7800, http://www.carnegiehall.org.)

-- Poetic justice. Fans of the spoken word are accustomed to performances by the penniless. Not surprisingly, then, the Bowery Poetry Club should be on every culture cheapskate's short list. Admission fees for readings are generally about $10, and recent evenings have featured such celebrated poets as Galway Kinnell. (308 Bowery, between Houston and Bleecker, 212-614-0505, http://www.bowerypoetry.com.)

FOOD

-- In blogs we trust. New York gourmands are all over the Internet, and their blogs are indispensable for bargain hunters. Eater's DealFeed (http://www.eater.com) features interactive maps of restaurants with cut-rate deals in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including one map especially for drink specials. Another source for info about drink specials is WinedandDined.com's list of "Wine-Friendly Recession Specials." Other helpful dining blogs include NewYork magazine's Grub Street (http://www.nymag.com/daily/food), TimeOut New York's Feed (http://www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/the-feed-blog/restaurants-bars) and Serious Eats (http://newyork.seriouseats.com).

-- Booking it. Eater's editor, Amanda Kludt, tracks restaurants' availability in the site's ResyFeed feature. She wrote in an e-mail: "There are certain restaurants that are still difficult, and there is a new crop of affordable restaurants that are now difficult. But a great deal of once-impossible reservations are much easier to come by now." To score a reservation at a popular spot, Kludt recommends calling "exactly when their reservations lines open, or call right before you want to go to see if there are any cancellations. Or be willing to eat on the early side (6 p.m.) or the later side (after 10)."

-- Consider lunch instead of dinner, or even breakfast, when available. Some restaurants also have Sunday night dinner specials.

HOTELS

-- Be flexible on dates. Hotel rates are "very date-driven," said John Fox of the consulting firm PKF. "Hotels and aggregators are very good at adjusting prices day by day, depending on demand." If you don't like the rates you're given, try plugging in different dates.

-- Include a Sunday in your stay. That's traditionally the slowest day of the week for hotels. Similarly, weekends are generally cheaper than weeknights, although that trend may be changing because of the falloff in business travel, Fox said.

-- Shop around. Check individual hotels, especially the major chains, for special deals, then check the aggregators (Kayak.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Quikbook.com and the like), which negotiate their own packages.

-- Stay out of Midtown. Hotels on the East Side and downtown generally have lower rates, said Hari Nair of Hotels.com, "simply because that's not where the action is." Fox also recommends looking in Chelsea and on the West Side.

SHOPPING

-- The big department stores (Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, etc.) usually have some kind of sale going on, but for additional reductions ask about discounts for signing up for a credit card or for being an out-of-towner. (At Macy's, for instance, visitors receive 11 percent off purchases.) Also, check online for coupons. Some retailers near universities, such as Topshop and Club Monaco, have student discounts.

-- Hit up the sample sales, which give major discounts on overstock and fashion industry leftovers. (Upcoming shows include Theory and Tory Burch; see http://www.clothingline.com for details). Find the sales through such sites as DailyCandy.com and Lazarshopping.com, or look for listings in New York magazine and Time Out New York. To avoid the crowds, go during the week when most New Yorkers are at work. In most cases, there are no dressing rooms, so wear a tank or T-shirt and leggings to try on clothes. On the final day and hour of the sale, ask at checkout if there are further discounts on any particular items in your cart.

-- Many of the luxury stores, such as Gucci and Prada, hold twice-a-year sales to clear out the old season's styles and make room for the new ones. The next sale starts in June and lasts through the month. After the sale, unsold items are often shipped to outlets. The closest Gucci outlet to New York is at the Harmon Cove Outlet Center in Secaucus, N.J.

-- At consignment and vintage shops, find out when new items are dropped off, so you can get the best picks on the racks. Ina, which has five locations in the city, accepts garments on weekdays; owner Milo Bernstein says Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have the widest assortment. Also, ask the salesperson if any of the items have been sitting on the shelves for a while and will be further discounted.

-- Listen for chatter about a store or chain closing. When a retailer's days are numbered, the savings are extraordinary. Recently, Balducci's was shuttering its two New York stores and offering deep cuts, such as 40 percent off artisanal cheeses.

-- Scour the small boutiques around such neighborhoods as SoHo and Nolita for steep discounts. At the very least, these independently run shops will have a designated rack of sale items. Also, it never hurts to tactfully bargain, especially if the item is from another season or slightly damaged. For a full house of original designers, head to the Market NYC (http://www.themarketnyc.com), which is open weekends at two locations. The prices are usually lower than the ones found on the designer's Web site, and it's always a bonus to meet the artist behind the apparel and accessories.


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