This post is by Jessica Tiare Bowen, one of our contributors.

When one thinks of New York City, a lot of things come to mind: Concrete Jungle, Skyscraper National Park, The Big Apple.  “Cheap” would probably not make the list.  New York is notorious for ridiculously priced cocktails and Broadway shows,  which is why I compiled a list of my top five attractions for under $5.  Whether you’re a tourist wanting to see the city on a budget, or a local looking to add a little spice to your summer, the below sights will give you a completely authentic taste of the city, without putting a dent in your wallet.

1.)  The Cloisters
I admit, I have a certain soft spot in my heart for the Cloisters.  My first 4 years of living in the New York, I resided in the tippy-top of Manhattan, the neighborhood of Inwood, which is where the Cloisters are located.  I would take daily walks through Ft. Tryon Park with my chihuahua, almost always circling around the Cloisters.  Anytime I had out-of-town guests come to visit, this was a staple in the sightseeing circuit.

That being said, The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), and is set up like a medieval castle.  The art is primarily Renaissance, featuring a lot of tapestries complete with religious motifs.  The word “Cloisters” refers to a place of religious seclusion, such as a monastery or a convent, as well as the covered walkways and courtyards that were included in the design of these holy places.  Basically, it’s a serene escape from the downtown crowds of the MET and MoMA, and also a wealth of medieval art.

Cost: “Suggested Donation”, i.e. a gracious $5 will suffice.

2.)  The Staten Island Ferry
With truly one of the best views of Manhattan, this is the place to go for an impromptu photoshoot with some friends.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good ferry ride?  The best part is, you skip the line and the price of the Ellis Island Ferry, but still get the same great photo.

Cost: The swipe of a Metrocard ($2.25)

3.)  The Strand Bookstore
For all you literary junkies, this is the place to be.  Situated in the hustle and bustle of Union Square, The Strand Bookstore is truly a NYC institution.  The staff is helpful and informative, and I’ve never left without finding my next favorite read.  Check out the huge selection of $1.00 books, located on carts outside the store.  Also, they have an enormous selection of literature about NYC, funky postcards and the hip Strand Bookstore tote bags.

Cost: Pick up a book for $1.00

4.)  Bryant Park Film Festival
Starting on June 20th, 2011, every Monday night during the summer, Bryant Park hosts their annual HBO film festival.  Join hundreds of New Yorkers for this summer must-do.  Bring a blanket, cheese, crackers and bottle of Perrier, and you’re set for the evening.  Movies start around 8:30, but to get a decent spot on the yard, set up camp by 5:30ish.

Cost: Free

5.)  The High Line
The old elevated railroad on the West Side is a 1.45 mile long structure running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, and was converted into a park in the last few years.  Truly an amazing way to check out the hip neighborhoods of the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts, with a fantastic view of the Hudson River.  Lounge on one of the chairs, watch the sunset, and let yourself breathe out the mantra, “I Love New York.”

Cost: Free

Image via nebulux‘s flickr stream