50 dirhams a day

What can we do with 50 dirhams in New York City? 50 dirhams is approximately 13.62397820163 (to 11 decimal places), and it definitely won’t get you a movie ticket, since the average movie ticket costs $14.30 ($9 with student discount).

Now I could make a list of things that are absolutely free- like availing of the numerous ferries they have taking you to the even greater number of islands: Governor’s Island, Staten Island, Ellis island, Long Island, etc…but I’m sure you’ll easily find many resources which will say the same thing so allow me to dig a bit deeper.

Let’s say it is Monday and I have the full day ahead of me to do whatever I please, but with one caveat: I have only 50 dirhams in my pocket. I have no use for dirhams in New York so I go to the nearest bank to exchange my dirhams for dollars, and I end up with $13.6. My New York-accustomed mind knows this is not a substantial amount but I am determined to make the most of this. We got this.

I want to have breakfast, so I head to a nearby grocery store in Brooklyn where they have bakeries and croissants, but I remember there’s an Au Bon Pain restaurant near the NYU Tandon campus. I buy an orange juice and a croissant for $2.79. I return to my dormitory room and decide that I feel like going for roller-blading, and what do you know? There’s a roller-blading rink just five minutes from my place, located at Brooklyn Bridge Park –Pier 5. Checking the schedule, I see that they have free admission from 3-6pm and the skates cost $6. So I’ll come back to this. So that leaves me with $4.82 to spend.

I’ve heard about the Chinatown Ice-cream Factory and its exotic flavors, but there is a nearby ice-cream shop with equally exotic sounding flavors.. I can’t remember the name so I check Google maps to find the nearest ice-cream shops and I see the name: Emack and Bolio’s Ice Cream. I head there and order a Maple Walnut and Chocolate Moose (yes you read that correctly) double-scoop ice-cream for $2.45, and think about my next plan of action. I now have $2.37 left to spend and I see there’s a thrift shop down the corner: Housing Works. They are selling DVD’s for $1 each and books for pretty reasonable prices and so I pick a book for $2 and hurry to the roller-blading rink for the 3pm session.

Alas! The weather is “inclement” and there is no skating today so I must find something else to do. Just as well I suppose since I was getting hungry and I had spotted a halal cart vendor on the way to the pier. There are many halal carts all over NYC, especially mainly Manhattan, where a meal of rice with chicken/lamb or a gyro only costs $4. I retraced my steps and order a lamb gyro with pita bread, which is the version of the chicken or falafel shawarmas we get in the Middle East. The Greek word gyros, refers to the rotating method of cooking of the meat which allows us to see that the gyro is in fact a different version of the shawarma.

If you’re going to be in New York for an extended period of time, say a semester, make sure to take the opportunity of signing up for the online Broadway lotteries! While the lottery tickets are considerably cheaper than if you bought them full price, there still cost twice the budget we have ($35 for Wicked, Aladdin; $40 for Cats) but I present to you Hamilton which is for a whopping $10! Pretty great deal for a pretty great show, I tell ya. Most Broadway shows are situated near 42nd Street, so a stroll through Times Square will give you plenty to see and do, especially if you head into M&M’s World located at 1600 Broadway where the sheer sight of all the colorful M&M’s will satisfy your appetites. Or not.

New York’s multicultural scene is vibrant as any other, so go to Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Odessa (or Little Russia as it is also known), Koreatown, or Jackson Heights which can informally be referred to as Little India (mainly Bengali scripts found here). The main difference that pops out between these areas in NY is the price – the prices are NY-scaled, but still one can find delicacies which sell for cheap, for example the 2 for $5 offers for cannolis in Little Italy.

If you’re looking to spend a quieter day in the city, make sure to go to the New York Public Library located near Bryant Park, 42nd Street. Though it is mainly a research library with numerous resources from magazine archives from the early 19th century, to resources enabling oneself to trace one’s ancestral heritage (or family genealogy), it is a valuable resource located at the heart of New York. And it is absolutely free. There is the famed Top of The Rock located in Rockefeller Center which starts at $26. For another day.

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