Play in New York without peeling off the bills

New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, but there are ways to cut corners while having fun.

Play: The Upright Citizens Brigade offers improv, stand-up and open-mic shows nightly. Even with $5 tickets most nights, it gets some great acts. You might see the writers for "The Colbert Report" improvising or see Scott Adsit and John Lutz ("30 Rock") combining improv skills. Buy tickets in advance; they sell out quickly. Two locations in New York: 307 W. 26th St.; 212-366-9176; and 153 E. Third St.; 212-366-9231;

Explore: Many companies and nonprofit organizations offer free walking tours of neighborhoods, architectural sites and cultural havens, including Greenwich Village, Times Square, Central Park and the Grand Central Station area. There are too many tours to list. Our favorite free tour company is Free Tours By Foot, which offers neighborhood, food and bike tours gratis (though you are encouraged to "pay what you like." 646-450-6831,

Eat: It's easy to eat on a budget. There seems to be a $1 pizza parlor on every other block, and hot dog stands along the streets of the city sell their goods for less than $3 a pop. But if you want gourmet on the cheap, check out BaoHaus, a Taiwanese sandwich joint where each bao is made from hormone-free meat or organic tofu. Our fave is the Chairman Bao, which is stuffed with pork belly, Taiwanese red sugar and crushed peanuts ($3.50). Eat one for a light lunch or two or three for dinner. Most baos are about $3.50. BaoHaus, 238 E. 14th St., 646-669-8889,

Listen: Some of the top young musicians in the world perform concerts at the Juilliard School, and you'll have the chance to hear them before they get too famous. There are a handful of concerts and recitals daily. Almost all appearances are free, but some free concerts still require tickets, so plan ahead. The Juilliard School, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza; 212-799-5000;

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