6 Easy Steps To Being A Social Butterfly Without Spending Money

Plus: where to go when you need to bring the kids along, too.



When you’re looking to keep to a budget, entertainment is almost always the first place where the belt gets tightened. After all, movies and museums aren’t like food and clothing, where you need them to survive. But trying to save a few bucks doesn’t have to mean spending your free time at home playing Candy Crush. Here, some tips on how to get world-class entertainment at bargain-basement prices.

Head into the Great Outdoors

From the heritage festivals at the Kensico Dam Plaza to the jazz ensemble that’s probably playing in a park in your village, free, outdoor events abound in the county once the weather warms up. Every town, village, city, and park runs on its own schedule, though, and it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening where. Luckily, ArtsWestchester keeps tabs on all of it for you. Consult its annual “Music in the Air” guide for information on free and low-cost outdoor events throughout Westchester.

For more information, visit www.artswestchester.org.

Go at an Off-Time

You might have a better time scoring bargains if you avoid Friday and Saturday nights. 

At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, for example, general-admission movie tickets—which are $12.25 on weekend nights for non-3D movies—are just $7.50 on Tuesdays. The Tuesday beer deal is even better, with local draft beers costing only $3. The theater also has two series—the Sunday Cinema Club and Movie Party (one Thursday a month)—for which tickets are only $5. 

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Yonkers (914) 226-3082; www.drafthouse.com/nyc_area

In fact, if you’re available during the day, you might be in better shape. If you’re a music fan, clear your lunch schedule on Wednesdays. Downtown Music at Grace hosts free music performances in the historic Grace Church—and the programs are designed to fit within your lunch hour. This month, you can see pianist Alex Ruvinstein perform Bach and Beethoven (May 7), jazz musician Peter Muir perform the music of Scott Joplin and Fats Waller (May 14), and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra violist Vincent Lionti give a program titled “Lost Gems of the Romantic Era V” (May 21). 

Downtown Music at Grace, Grace Church (914) 949-0384; www.dtmusic.org

Buy a Membership

It may seem counterintuitive, because a membership costs more money upfront, but memberships could save you in the long run—and give you access to some perks in the process. 

An individual membership ($75) at the Jacob Burns Film Center, for example, gets you $5 off a regular admission ticket—you break even after 15 visits. With the membership, though, you also get invitations to occasional free screenings, discounts on special events, and deals at neighboring businesses through the Reel Partners program (think 10 percent discounts at the Art of Wine, Bhog, Little Crêpe Street and Little Kebab Station, and many others), which helps you hit that break-even point a heck of a lot faster while helping stretch your dining budget. 

Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville (914) 747-5555; www.burnsfilmcenter.org

At Historic Hudson Valley, membership gets you worry-free access to one of the most sought-after tickets in the area: The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. Not only does a membership ($60 individual, $100 dual, $160 for a family of two adults and three children—see the website for additional membership options) get you free Blaze tickets, it also gets you access to a members-only reservation period where you can pick your preferred time slot without worrying about the rush of the general-admission crowd. Last year, tickets cost between $12 and $16 for kids under 17 and $16 and $20 for adults, so a family of five can recoup between 43 and 55 percent of their membership investment on that one event alone. But membership also gets you free admission to all of the Historic Hudson Valley sites; free tickets to special events like Sheep-to-Shawl, Animals and Acrobats, the Pinkster festival, and others; and guest passes so you can bring some non-family members with you. 

Historic Hudson Valley, Pocantico Hills (914) 366-6900; www.hudsonvalley.org

Similarly, a family annual pass to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center costs $230 for a family of four. If two parents and two children buy the cheapest possible tickets for a single visit (those would be the “weekday saver tickets,” purchased online at least a day in advance), it would cost $66. (Weekend family visits are more like $72.) That means if you plan on visiting four times or more in a given year, you’re better off with the annual pass, which allows for unlimited visits. The pass also lets you save on food in the on-site café (20 percent), purchases in the store (10 percent), and birthday parties (10 percent). 

Legoland Discovery Center Westchester, Yonkers (866) 243-0770; www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/Westchester

Unplug the Kindle

Yes, yes—we know you love your e-readers. But if you power off for a while and head to a bookstore, you’ll find more than just printed words on a page. You’ll get to mingle with other like-minded readers, and possibly get to rub elbows with a writer or two. Author readings are usually free—but you might be tempted to buy a copy of the book afterwards (and maybe get it signed). Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont, for example, recently had visits from baseball biographer Kostya Kennedy (Pete Rose) and YA superstar Amalie Howard (Alpha Goddess). The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, on the other hand, recently hosted a book-signing with Windows on the World’s Kevin Zraly at a new wine shop in Pleasantville. And, though they aren’t free, readings at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center usually cost $5 or less. 

Anderson’s Book Shop, Larchmont (914) 834-6900; www.andersons booksny.com
The Village Bookstore, Pleasantville (914) 769-8322
The Hudson Valley Writers’
Center, Sleepy Hollow (914) 332-5953; www.writerscenter.org

Look in Unlikely Places

If you’re looking for a movie, your first stop is a movie theater, right? Not necessarily. If you widen your search, you’ll find that it’s our live performance venues—the Irvington Town Hall Theater, the Tarrytown Music Hall, and Paramount Hudson Valley—that offer movies at bargain prices. The Irvington Town Hall Theater’s “Best Of” film series shows recent, highly regarded movies—in the last couple months the series has included The Great Beauty, The Past, and the Oscar-nominated short films—for just $9. The Paramount Hudson Valley and The Tarrytown Music Hall’s films skew towards older movies, classics, and musicals, but only cost $8 at the Paramount and $5 at the Tarrytown Music Hall. 

Irvington Town Hall Theater, Irvington (914) 591-6602; www.irvingtontheater.com
Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown (914) 631-3390; www.tarrytownmusichall.org
Paramount Hudson Valley, Peekskill (914) 739-0039; www.paramounthudsonvalley.com

Similarly, if you’re looking for live music, you might not think to visit one of our Revolutionary War sites. But the historic Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site actually has a robust performance series, with recent performers covering everything from bluegrass to Brazilian jazz to pipe-organ music—all for free. There are even some lectures and demonstrations thrown in for good measure. Many free performances often take place on the first Thursday of every month, when you can tour the church and cemetery at 6 pm before the performance at 7; check out the website for upcoming events. 

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site, Mount Vernon (914) 667-4116; www.nps.gov/sapa 

Sign Up for Yet Another Deal-of-the-Day Newsletter

The fashionistas have Gilt, the nesters have One King’s Lane, and, well, everyone has Groupon, but what about the artsy crowd? Yes, they have their own deal-of-the-day site, too: Pavé Life. Deals focus exclusively on arts and culture in the surrounding area. The site is based in Darien, Connecticut, so many of the events take place just over the border, but you can also snap up tickets to the Westchester Philharmonic, the Emelin Theatre, and the Smart Arts events at Westchester Community College, as well as some events in New York City.