Must See Highlights of Jasper National Park

Seven Bears and Lemon Squares

I live in Calgary, Alberta, so Jasper National Park is essentially local. It attracts visitors from around the world, but crazy as it seems I have never been there until now. We visit Banff National Park several times a year, but I was blown away by the spectacular natural beauty of Jasper. Whereas in Banff there is more of a focus of the town itself, in Jasper it’s all about experiencing nature, whether by foot, bike, horseback or paddle.

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Highlights of Jasper National Park

Lots of Wildlife

After only 48 hours in Jasper I saw seven bears!  That’s more bears than in my entire life living near the Canadian rockies. Spotting a bear is quite exciting, preferably from a good distance or the safety of our car. I have always been a bit paranoid about meeting up with a bear but this time we were prepared. Check my post on what to do if you see a bear.

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On this trip we also saw big horn sheep, deer, elk and birds.

The Jasper Skytram

The Jasper Skytram was a definite must do on our list, and the views from the top are simply spectacular. Once you arrive at the upper station you can simply take in the views of the surrounding mountains, glacial lakes, rivers and the town of Jasper, or you can follow the trail further up to the summit of the mountain for even more awesome views. We arrived first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, and it was a perfect day with blue skies, so we could see for miles.

If you are just going up the Skytram no special footwear is necessary, but if you are continuing further up the trails, runners with a good tread or hiking boots are helpful.

  • Tram Upper Station altitude of 2277 metres (7472 ft)
  • Website: www.jasperskytram.com
  • Adults $35 (youth/family pricing available)
  • Well behaved dogs are welcome
  • 8 km from Jasper
  • Before hiking further up the mountain we stopped for some breakfast at the cafe. A great spot for a table with a view!

Maligne Canyon

Beautiful, free and must-see! Maligne Canyon is a deep narrow crevice carved into the limestone and can’t be seen until your are upon it.  There are good pathways along the canyon, and lots of spots to view the water rushing through. In the winter the water becomes ice and you can explore it from the bottom. We brought a picnic but there is also a cafe onsite.

  • 11 km from Jasper

Maligne Lake

It’s not surprising that Maligne Lake with its bright turquoise water is one of the most photographed in Canada.  The view of the glacial lake surrounded by mountains is stunning, and if you take the boat cruise to Spirit Island you will see many more shades of blue along the way. If possible, plan your visit on a sunny day for the best viewing.

After our cruise we stopped for a snack in Maligne Lake’s View Restaurant. They have salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, stews and baked goods. Along with other tasty treats I spied lemon squares so I had to try them.  I’m a lemon square aficionado, as my mom makes the best lemon squares, but I have to say these were really delicious and pretty much perfect!

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Next time I’ll have to try the traditional afternoon tea at the Chalet, which includes a selection of tea, sandwiches, treats and strawberries.

  • Maligne lake boat cruise tickets: Adults $64 (recommend checking out combo packages)
  • Canoe/kayaks available for rent
  • Maligne Lake’s View Restaurant
  • Afternoon Tea at the Maligne Lake Chalet (reservations essential)
  • For more info check their website: www.malignelake.com
  • 48 km from Jasper

Pyramid Lake and Island

Just a short drive from Jasper is Pyramid Lake, and connected by footbridge, Pyramid Island. It’s a photogenic, peaceful place for a walk, picnic or paddle.

  • Canoe/kayaks available for rent
  • 7 km from Jasper

Gaze at the Stars

Jasper National Park is the world’s largest accessible official Dark Sky Preserve at 11,228 sq km. For more info check jasperdarksky.org or on a clear night step out and look up!

Dine out at The Raven Bistro

We enjoyed a lot of great food in Jasper, but our best meal was easily at The Raven Bistro. We chose the “Kitchen Confidential,” which is the chef’s choice and changes regularly. Ours had a small soup, 4 tapas-sized plates including a tuna dish and an excellent venison, and a chocolate dessert. The service was friendly, the food tasty and well presented, and at $26 it was a bargain.

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Reservations recommended
504 Patricia Street, Jasper, Jasper National Park, Alberta
phone: 780-852-5151

Highlights of Jasper National Park Map

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Save some money and avoid the line-ups

There are combo tickets available for Skytram/Maligne boat cruise, or Maligne boat cruise/Afternoon tea and others. Check the websites to see what packages might interest you in advance to save money and avoid waiting in line for your ticket.

Getting there

The drive to Jasper from Banff via the 232 km Icefields Parkway has been called the most scenic drive in the world. Highly recommended.

Where to stay

As with most mountain park accommodations, if you can visit in shoulder season, June or September, your wallet will thank you.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

This 700 acre resort has lots of amenities, including a world-class golf course, spa, restaurants, and a beautiful setting next to Lac Beauvert. It has more of a rustic style than other Fairmont accommodations such as the Banff Springs Hotel. There are renovations happening at the Lodge, but our room hadn’t been and it was a little tired. I would still recommend the Lodge if you get either a good price or a renovated room. Pet-friendly.

Tekarra Lodge

These cosy cabins are located just outside the town of Jasper along the Athabasca river. The cabins are rustic but charming and they really provided the mountain park atmosphere we were looking for. They have wood-burning fireplaces, kitchenettes, and chairs on the small decks to enjoy the outdoors. There is also a nice pathway and chairs with a great view overlooking the river. Tekarra Lodge is also pet-friendly.

Prepare for the Bears in Canada’s Mountain Parks

On our recent trip to Jasper National Park we saw seven black bears!

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It was pretty thrilling when this black bear looked up and acknowledged our presence. Like all the bears we spotted, we were watching this one from our car pulled over at the side of the road while in the Jasper area. You may spot one yourself or see other cars stopped to view bears or other wildlife.

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Bears are great to see in the wild, but if you do, watch from the safety of your car or a safe distance. Many people we saw seemed to think the bears were a tourist attraction rather than the unpredictable wild animals they are. Some even brought their small children out of their cars for a closer look. One guy was even walking towards the bear calling it like it was a puppy.

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Here are some tips from Parks Canada to stay safe in bear country:

Got my bearspray!

Got my bearspray!

Prevent and prepare

  • Keep your distance – at least 100 metres away.
  • Don’t feed the bears – it’s illegal to feed any wildlife in a national park.
  • Carry bear spray and know how and when to use it.

Avoid a surprise bear encounter

Most bears will want to avoid an encounter with people, help them out by letting them know you’re there.

  • Talk and make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Hike in a tight group on established trails and only in daylight.
  • Keep children close and within sight.
  • Use extra caution near rushing water or into the wind, as a bear may not be able to hear or smell you coming.
  • Stay in the open as much as possible.
  • Use caution when travelling near natural bear foods: berries, fish and carrion (dead animals) are all food sources for bears.
  • Keep dogs on a leash at all times and never leave them unattended.
  • If you see cubs, leave the area. Mother bears may become aggressive if they feel their young are threatened.
  • Watch for and obey area closures – it is illegal to enter a closed area.
  • Bear warnings are posted in areas when there is bear activity and the chance of an encounter is heightened. Use caution in these areas.
  • Cyclists’ speed and quietness bring added risk for sudden bear encounters. Slow down through shrubbed areas and when approaching blind corners. Make noise, be alert and always look ahead.

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If you encounter a bear

  • Keep calm.
  • Pick up small children and stay in a group.
  • Back away slowly and talk in a soft voice, avoiding direct eye contact.
  • Don’t run. Bears can easily outrun you.
  • Leave the area or make a wide detour. If you cannot leave, wait until the bear moves out of the way and ensure that it has an escape route.
  • The bear may approach you or rear up on its hind legs. If one stands on its hind legs, it is most likely trying to catch your scent; this is not necessarily a sign of aggression. Back away slowly and talk in a soft voice.
  • Do not drop objects, clothing or food to distract the bear. If the bear receives food, it will have been rewarded for its aggressive behaviour, thereby increasing the likelihood that it will repeat that behaviour again.

Bear attacks

Bear attacks are very rare, but it’s good to know what to do.

IF YOU SURPRISE A BEAR and it defends itself:

  • If you have bear spray, use it.
  • If contact has occurred or is imminent, PLAY DEAD! 
  • If the attack continues, FIGHT BACK! 

IF A BEAR STALKS YOU and then attacks, or attacks at night:

  • DON’T PLAY DEAD – FIGHT BACK!
  • BUT FIRST – try to escape, preferably to a building, car or up a tree. If you can’t escape, or if the bear follows, use bear spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock.
Keep your distance from bears to stay safe!

Keep your distance from bears to stay safe!

What to Eat at the 2014 Calgary Stampede

There are 32 new foods to try and many old favorites at this year’s Calgary Stampede. We tried as many as our stomachs could handle in one day and here are our results.

Calgary Stampede 2014 food  - Moose Ears

Bannock - Moose Ears

Our favourite food from this year’s midway is the Moose Ears found at the Bannock booth at the entrance to the Indian Village (near the south entrance to the grounds). This is not one of the new 32 items but it’s new to us so we put it on our list. This was actually one of the last items we tried but we still really liked them. Moose Ears are simply fried bread with cinnamon and sugar. Served up hot and fresh, these taste more like something out of grandma’s kitchen than your usual midway food. They are also large enough to share. $5 each.

Thai Noodle Wrap

The Thai Noodle Wrap at Wrap Daddy’s is the official 2014 best food on the Calgary Stampede midway, so we had to give it a try. It’s pretty tasty although ours didn’t have much chicken, but it was still filling. The sauce is on the sweet side with a bit of a spicy kick. In the context of Stampede food, this is almost healthy. $10 each.

Papri Tot from Naaco Truck

We have enjoyed Naaco Truck in the past so wanted to give their new Papri Tot a try. The Papri Tot is tater tots topped with pico, dates, tamarind chutney and sweet yoghurt. We thought it beat out the Thai Noodle Wrap for taste and originality, but lost a bit because of the fried tater tots. $10 per order.

croc, kangaroo and ostrich sliders

Crocodile, Ostrich and Kangaroo sliders. As adventurous as that may sound, the croc tastes a lot like chicken, and the ostrich and kangaroo were a lot like beef burgers. The excitement in these burgers is less in the flavour and more in the “hey this is croc!” $12 for three sliders with a side of chips.

Chocolate Dipped Cookie Dough

Chocolate Dipped Cookie Dough – On a Stick! This is pretty good if you are a lover of cookie dough. You get a stick of four cookie-sized pieces of dough, dipped in chocolate, and nuts too if you like. Pretty sweet so better shared. $7 per stick of four.

red velvet mini doughnuts

Red velvet mini doughnuts – I was looking forward to this new twist on an old favourite. These really just tasted sweet and nothing more. I would stick to the original cinnamon and sugar variety, or better yet, head over to the Indian Village for the Moose Ears. $6 per stick of donuts.

Some new foods we didn’t have a chance to try include Turkey Dinner Poutine, Scorpion Pizza, and Deep Fried Peanut Butter Cups.

What are your favorite Stampede midway foods?

Point Pelee – Birdie’s Perch Bustaurant

Their sign reads “We use only the finest, freshest Lake Erie Yellow Perch”.

At Point Pelee National Park we asked a park warden about local fish from the lake, and she recommended Birdie’s Perch, which is located just outside the park.

Birdie’s Perch is a double decker bus, converted into a “bustaurant”. Motown and Elvis were playing and it looked like a perfect spot to grab a bite on a summer day. There are tables set up outside, and more seating on the top level of the bus.

We ordered their Perch Tacos, featuring Lake Erie Yellow Perch, and they were excellent.

Birdie's Perch Fish Taco

Each taco is made with two corn tortillas filled with chunks of battered perch, topped with fresh salsa, sprouts and a garlicky creamy “birdie sauce”. The batter was light and crispy, the fish fresh and tasty. Overall a delicious fish taco.

Recommended by TouristSite.

  • For dessert, next to the bus is Pelee Station ice cream
  • Open Daily May to October, 11:00 a.m. – dark
  • Location: Just outside Point Pelee National Park, in Leamington, Ontario. Leamington is one hour SE of Windsor, Ontario (or about the same distance from Detroit, Michigan) and about four hours SW of Toronto.
  • Link to Birdie’s Perch website.
  • Read about Point Pelee National Park.

Canada’s Deep South – Point Pelee

We recently took a drive from Toronto, Ontario to visit Canada’s Deep South – that is Point Pelee National Park. Point Pelee is that wedge of land that juts out into Lake Erie, and is the southernmost point in mainland Canada. It’s latitude is just below 42°—about the same as Rome, Barcelona, and northern California. As a Canadian, I find that quite exciting in itself.

42nd Parallel - Point Pelee National Park

In 1918 Point Pelee was saved from development and named one of Canada’s National Parks. Today it is home to five unique Carolinian habitats with diverse plants and wildlife species. The main sounds you will hear are from the wide variety of birds at this world-renowned sanctuary.

It’s a lovely, peaceful spot, with sandy beaches, forested nature trails to hike, and a boardwalk to stroll through one of the largest remaining southern Great Lakes marshlands. There are also bike paths and canoe rentals available.

The Tip

At the Tip of Point Pelee

After our walk through a leafy Carolinian forest trail we arrived at the Tip of Point Pelee. It’s a breezy spot and the colliding currents are continually changing the shape of the Tip.  We stood at the Tip and snapped our photo as everyone does, then walked down the beach to sit on the warm sand and watch the waves.

Winston at the beach - Point Pelee

The Marsh Boardwalk

The best time for bird-watching was a month ago in early May. But there was still a chorus of birds calls around us as we walked through trails on our way to the Marsh Boardwalk. We met an 85-year-old man, Walter, who has been coming to bird watch each year for more than thirty years. Walter told us if we were here a month earlier, the chorus of bird calls would be a roar. Thousands of visitors from around the world come for the annual Festival of Birds, so he reserves his accommodations a year in advance.

Marsh Boardwalk 1




Strolling around the Marsh Boardwalk on the warm sunny day was great, and there is also a birdwatching tower you can climb for even better views. We watched others paddling canoes around the network of canals in the marsh and that looked fantastic.

Exploring the marshland by canoe
Winston on the Boardwalk


We really enjoyed our day at Point Pelee and would recommend it for all ages.

Eat

See our review of fresh fish tacos at Birdie’s Perch Bustaurant.

Point Pelee National Park Facts

  • Point Pelee National Park is recognized as: a UNESCO Wetland of International Significance, a world-renowned Birding Area, an International Butterfly Reserve, and a Dark Sky Preserve.
  • Point Pelee National Park Entrance Fee: $7.80/Adult, $3.90/Youth, $19.60/Family or Group.
  • Location: Point Pelee is located next to Leamington, Ontario, one hour SE of Windsor, Ontario (or about the same distance from Detroit, Michigan) and about four hours SW of Toronto.
  • There is a shuttle running from the Point Pelee Visitor Centre to the Tip from mid-April to Thanksgiving.
  • Swim or sunbathe at one of three beach areas.
  • Picnic: Day-use areas are equipped with barbecues, picnic tables, washrooms and parking.
  • Paddle: Canoe rentals available at the Marsh Boardwalk.
  • Bike the 4km Centennial Trail from the Marsh Boardwalk to the Tip.
  • Hike one of eight trails through a variety of Carolinian habitats.
  • Don’t forget: sunscreen, bug spray and water.
  • Pet friendly (must be kept on leash).
  • In the park, snacks available for purchase at the Marsh Services Canoe Rental area.
Montreal bagels

Sorry New York, Montreal has the Best Bagels

…and they’re here in Calgary.

Tension was building as we made our way through Calgary’s Friday afternoon traffic. We didn’t have to say what we were both thinking, “Would we get there in time?”

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We’ve faced disappointment before when we arrived too late and the owner, Siva, told us ‘sorry bagels are sold out today’.

Once you’ve tried Montreal Bagel’s hand-shaped gems, boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven, there is no turning back to the more bread-like New York style bagels. Siva, himself from Montreal, uses the traditional methods of that city to achieve the chewy, dense texture and slightly sweet taste.

If you are lucky enough to get these bagels when they are still warm from the oven, it’s impossible to resist eating one on the way home.  But we always get a dozen at least as they freeze really well and when toasted with butter, it’s chewy, crispy, carb heaven.

We arrived at Montreal Bagels and opened the door in anticipation. Siva looked up with a tray of sesame bagels fresh from the oven, and we exhaled. Today we would not be disappointed.

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Montreal Bagels

8408 Elbow Dr SW, Calgary
Bagels (sesame, plain, poppyseed, multigrain
$1/each, $5/half dozen, $9/dozen

We also recommend trying their Montreal smoked meat. Great with your bagel.

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Winston Goes to Spain

“Who will look after my dog?” is a common dilemma when going on vacation.  Our solution was to bring our Yorkshire Terrier, Winston, along with us for a six week trip to Spain.

Winston has travelled with us on several road trips in western Canada and the US, but we have never taken a pet on a transAtlantic flight. If we were taking a shorter trip or one with multiple stops, we wouldn’t take our dog as it wouldn’t be worth the expense, red tape, or the stress on our dog. The experience turned out to be a great one for us as well as Winston.

I'm ready. Let's go!

“I’m ready…let’s go!”

I love the warm Spanish sun on my face.

“I love the warm Spanish sun on my face.”

WINSTON AT THE NERJA FERIA

WINSTON AT THE NERJA FERIA

Why we decided to take Winston on this trip:

  • Our stay was long enough to make the effort and expense worthwhile.
  • Winston is small enough to fly in the cabin with us.
  • We were planning to stay at one location, rather than moving a lot from place to place as we have on other trips.
  • There is no quarantine period for pets entering the EU from Canada.

Pet Travel

Click here for more details on this trip and how you can travel with your pet.

Winston’s Big Adventure

Follow TouristSite’s board Winston’s Big Adventure on Pinterest.

Why I love Nerja Spain

I love Nerja! This lovely Spanish town is surrounded by the Mediteranean sea, the Sierra Almijara mountains, flowers and orange trees. Although Nerja is visited by lots of tourists and is a favored spot for British expats, it still maintains its authentic Spanish flavor more than most beach towns along the Costa del Sol.


In the centre of the old town is The Balcón de Europa (Balcony of Europe), which gives stunning views across the sea and of the beaches and coastlines. King Alfonso XII visited the area in 1885 after a devastating earthquake, and declared “This is the Balcony of Europe”.


Weather

Nerja enjoys what many consider the best weather in Europe, with at least 300 sunny days per year. Little more than a light jacket is ever needed, even in January, and the Mediteranean provides a place to cool off in the summer.

Friendly people of Spain

One of the best things about Spain in general is the friendly, fun-loving and family-oriented Spanish people. They are very welcoming, and when I have attempted to use a few words of my limited Spanish, they have been patient and helpful.

We also enjoyed the British and Irish expats we met.  Although we were taking Spanish lessons during our last stay, sometimes it was great to be able to talk easily with people in your own language. “Oh, you speak English too?” Instant friends.

Location

Nerja is about 50km east of Malaga and 90km southwest of Granada, in the Andalucian region of southern Spain. With Nerja as a home base, Granada, Cordoba, Seville and Gibraltar are all within a couple hours drive, as are many interesting hill towns. Short flights anywhere in Europe are possible from Malaga, and on a clear day you can even see Morocco across the sea.

Nerja Beaches

There are 13km of beaches in Nerja. Burriana Beach has the most facilites, restaurants, etc, while others are quieter.

Plazas

Nerja has a variety of plazas, some bustling and some quiet. They are often lined with cafe’s, and great places to people watch.

Caves of Nerja (Cueva de Nerja)

The Caves of Nerja are one of Spain’s major tourist attractions and stretch for almost 5 kilometres. In the summer you can even attend a concert in one of the chambers, which forms a natural amphitheatre.

Great food

I’ve read there are more than 300 restaurants in Nerja. There is something for everyone – fresh seafood, tapas bars, pubs, Italian, Indian and more –with mostly high quality and great value. Look for the places busy with locals and you can’t go wrong.  Tapas bars are a popular choice and often feature very fresh seafood. Very tasty and inexpensive pizza and pasta can be found Little Italy and La DamaAlthough touristy, a favorite spot for lunch is Ayo’s, located right at Burriana Beach. Paella €6.50, with 1/2 L of Sangria (€6.25).

Value

  • accommodation: plenty of great hotel rooms or holiday apartments available for less than €60/night. Even better value for stays of a week or more.
  • bus to Malaga €5
  • cafe con leche (coffee with milk) €1-€1.50
  • glass of wine/beer €1.50, including tapa
  • sandwich €3
  • menu del dias (set 3 course meal, sometimes including beverage) €8- €10
  • cafe con leche (coffee with milk) €1-€1.50
  • glass of wine/beer €1.50, often including tapas

Pin for later?

Nerja, Spain

Learn more

Lots more local information can be found at Nerja Today and MyNerja.com.

Kimchi Paella recipe

I love eating Paella, love kimchi, and was cutting back on carbs, so I came up with this Spanish/Korean fusion recipe. It may sound strange but it’s delicious and easy. By substituting grated cauliflower for rice, it’s also very low-carb! 

1 whole raw cauliflower, grated to a rice-like texture

1 chopped red pepper

1 cup shrimp peeled deveined shrimp

2/3 c frozen peas

1-2 cups kimchi, according to taste

2 T oil
Heat oil medium-high in a large pan, and stir-fry grated cauliflower and red pepper until cauliflower begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add kimchi and cook about 5 minutes more. Add shrimp and peas and cook until shrimp is opaque.

Enjoy!

Note: Kimchi is a flavourful fermented vegetable dish usually made with cabbage, garlic, vinegar, chile pepper and other spices. It is very healthy and due to fermentation contains “good bacteria” that helps with digestion. It is available at Asian food stores and major supermarkets.

10 Ways to Love New York Without Breaking the Bank

New York City is one of the most captivating cities in the world, and one of the most expensive. Fortunately there is an abundance of things to see and do for free or a reasonable fee. For me, exploring one of the distinct neighborhoods is a great way to spend an afternoon. Here are 10 more great things to see and do in New York without breaking your budget.


1 Bike, walk or row through Central Park

For the best escape from the city, rent a bike, take a walk, or rent a rowboat from the boathouse in Central Park.

CENTRAL PARK

CENTRAL PARK

2 Get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty

A visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a must on any trip to New York. The $18 ticket including both is already good value. But for only $3 more for a crown access ticket, you will receive priority entry, saving you wait time, and given access to climb the 393 stairs up inside the statue for an unforgettable view from the crown. These tickets go fast and must be booked in advance.

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STATUE OF LIBERTY

See a Broadway play for half price

For same day tickets at up to 50% off, head to the official TKTS booth, located “under the red steps” on
Broadway and 47th Street. It helps to be flexible, but there is usually a good selection of plays available.

Times Square

TIMES SQUARE

Walk the High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long new urban park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Day or night, the park is a place for running, walking, eating, or just relaxing.There are food kiosks on the High Line between West 15th and West 18th Streets. See the High Line website for access points and more info. The High Line is fully wheelchair accessible. Note that dogs and bicycles are not allowed on the High Line.

Visit a world-class museum for free

NYC has some of the best museums in the world, and several offer free entry certain days of the week. Here are just a few examples: Fridays: Museum of Modern Art (4 to 8pm) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (pay what you will, 6 to 9pm) Saturdays: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (pay what you will, 5:45 to 7:45pm) Sundays: Frick Collection (pay what you will, 11am to 1pm)

Head to Chinatown for deals and dumplings

Check out the deals then try some authentic dumplings, in the home of the largest population of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch a taping of your favorite show

Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Michael, The View, Saturday Night Live, and more all have live audiences that you can be part of for free. You have a better chance of getting in with advance tickets, but you can try arriving early and joining the standby lineup.

Visit the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is the largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States, and offers pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday.

Walk across the Brooklyn bridge

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge (from Manhattan to Brooklyn) is one of my favorite New York activities. There’s a dedicated pedestrian walkway above the car traffic and you will have the best views of the city . While you’re in Brooklyn, get a pizza at Grimaldi’s or hot chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolate.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE

BROOKLYN BRIDGE

10 Hit some golf balls at at Chelsea Piers

Located on a scenic Hudson River pier, this four-tiered driving range features a 200-yard fairway, and an automatic ball tee-up system. Starting at $25/148 balls, off-peak hours.