Free Things To Do In NYC
Free Things To Do In Nyc: There is no shortage of cool things you can do in New York City, from visiting historic sites to checking out some of the best food in the world to adding your camera with amazing photos of the city’s colorful skyline.
Unfortunately, a lot of the great things to do in the Big Apple also happen to cost a big chunk of change. Heading to the top of the Empire State Building, for example, will generate amazing views of the city, but it will also cost you. And a visit to Times Square and a Broadway present may be on most people’s bucket lists during a visit to the city (and, honestly, we don’t blame you), but tickets for the most famous shows aren’t exactly cheap.
Don’t fear, there is affluence of things to do in New York City that don’t cost a dime but still take advantage of the history and culture of the city at the same time. These are the free things to do in NYC.
Free Things To Do In Nyc Today
African Burial Ground
One of Lower Manhattan’s most fascinating, and controversial, things of recent years circulates around the new African Burial Ground National Monument site. It began when a development project in 1991 uncovered a burial ground of slaves – more than 400 caskets were found – from an age when New York had more captive than any American city outside Charleston, South Carolina. Outside you can see part of the site now enveloped by architecture, and the compact visitors center does a masterful job at retelling African-American history in the city. 290 Broadway in between Duane & Elk Sts, Lower Manhattan.
Jazz at Barbès
If the Village Vanguard and Smalls are way out of your price range, head across the bridge to Barbès in Brooklyn to enjoy stellar jazz for free, every night of the week. 376 9th St at 6th Ave, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Brewery tours
Free tours of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery run on the hour from 1-5 pm Saturday, 1-4 pm Sunday. 79 N 11th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Visit the main branch of the New York Public Library next to Bryant Park to catch in the majestic Rose Main Reading Room. This famed room, located on the third floor, is the main feature of the Beaux-Arts-style library, which opened in 1911. Boasting 52-foot-tall (16-meter) ceilings, the Rose Main Reading Room has undergone facelifts and renewal in 1998-99 and 2014-16. With paintings of clouds and skyscapes high above and windows galore, visitors can request reading materials from the library’s Milstein Stacks collection and sit in the same room as countless Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, historians, and scholars have done in the past.
It doesn’t take brilliant trip minds to tell you that a park is free to visit – most parks are. But most parks aren’t Central Park, Manhattan’s famed allegation to thinking ahead (even if it was designed in the 1860s to boost real-estate value uptown). It’s filled with free events, statues, people-watching, and sites related to Strawberry Fields, an ‘Imagine’ mosaic near the Dakota, where John Lennon was killed in 1980. Another site is ‘the Pond,’ at the southeastern corner, spot Holden Caulfield kept turning to in ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ wondering where those ducks go when it’s cold.
Central Park spans 863 acres (349 hectares) and approximately 3.5 square kilometers (1,34 square miles) in the middle of Manhattan. The park is free for all to enjoy, so pop in and explore all of its lush nooks and crannies. Stroll across the romantic Bow Bridge, a picturesque cast-iron bridge that pays as the setting for unforgettable TV and film scenes as well as wedding and engagement photos. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is an ideal background for a run as the trees and flowers blossom in the spring and change colors in the fall with the skyline serving as a backdrop.
New York’s most concentrated area for a arcade crawl is in Chelsea, mostly in the 20s streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. Check the Gallery Guide for listings. All galleries are free entry, with no burden to buy. And try timing your visit for wine-and-cheese breach on Thursday evenings.
Home to New York City’s authority since 1812, City Hall is the oldest city hall in the USA that is still used for its original purpose. Tours take in its cupola-topped marble hall, the governor’s room as well as the location where Abraham Lincoln’s coffin lay in state briefly in 1865 – make sure you reserve your spot in advance. City Hall Park, in the front of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan.
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum
It’s always Fashion Week in the FIT Museum, which appearance rotating exhibits by students and a surprisingly interesting and detailed collection of the country’s first gallery of fashion, picked from a collection of 50,000 garments dating from the 18th century to present. Seventh Ave & 27th St, Garment District, Midtown West.
Two presidents were inaugurated in New York City, starting with the first ‘Dubya’ – George Washington – who took the oath in Federal Hall in 1789, back when New York was the first capital. (Chester A. Arthur was the second.) There’s a nice piece outside, overlooking the New York Stock Exchange across Wall Street, and a short museum on post-colonial New York inside. 26 Wall St, Lower Manhattan.
Also called ‘Grant’s Tomb’, the $600,000 granite structure that holds the remains of the Civil War hero and 18th president (and his wife Julia) is the largest mausoleum in the US, and is patterned after Mausolus’ tomb at Halicarnassus, making it a plagiarized version of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Riverside Dr at 122nd St, Morningside Heights.
Free Things To Do In Nyc This Weekend
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
A case in point: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge can become one of your most memorable activities during a visit to New York, and it doesn’t cost a penny.
This plan assumes decent weather. Strong winds can make it an unpleasant journey, and you want it to be memorable for all the right reasons.
Expect the walk to take about an hour (two hours round-trip) and don’t forget to bring along a camera to capture some nice views of the Manhattan skyline.
If you decide to start on the Brooklyn side and walk toward Manhattan, be sure to get clear directions to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Take a Free Tour
There are worthwhile guided tours in New York City, but most will require an investment on your part. For example, a tour of the NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Center costs $33/person for adults. If you’ll be doing multiple tours, consider a City Pass for New York which pays for multiple attractions at one price and allows you to skip ticket lines.
At that level of pricing, you’ll want to add a few free things to your itinerary.
One example of such a freebee is Conservatory Garden Tours in Central Park. These are conducted on Saturday mornings from April through October. Check locally for tour times and meeting points.
If you like to look at money as you save it, visit the Federal Reserve Bank, where free 45-minute tours are offered Monday-Friday (except during banking holidays) and reservations are required.
Looking for still more? Check out Free Walking Tours of New York City, where you’ll only be asked to tip if you liked the presentation.
We’re all trying to save money. But it is always best to offer a gratuity to anyone who gives you a good guided tour. Some will refuse it because it’s against the rules to accept money, but it never hurts to try.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The trip between Staten Island and Manhattan takes about 25 minutes and is absolutely free. You’ll enjoy views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of lower Manhattan.
Consult a Staten Island Ferry Schedule as you do your planning. It’s best to avoid rush hours if you’re simply sightseeing.
Some people plan their Staten Island trips for mealtime. The ferry cafeteria serves up inexpensive drinks and snacks.
When you look at what boat tours of the harbor will cost, it’s easy to recognize this as one of New York’s best free things to do.
Rest assured there are more free attractions and landmarks in NYC when you step off the ferry.
This is the glass-dominated entrance to the Apple store on Fifth Ave. This picture was taken early on a Saturday evening.
The exclusive shops along Fifth Avenue host fashion show that draw designers from around the world. Most of what’s offered in these stores are far beyond what we could ever spend on a change of clothing.
Beyond high fashion, FAO Schwartz is a world-famous toy store and technophiles will find stops to suit their tastes, too.
Looking at it all costs nothing. This is one of those experiences that is unique to New York. Try showing up with a healthy budget of imaginary dollars. Compare what you would buy with the imaginary purchases of your travel companions.
The stretch between 34th and 59th streets earns the most raves from window shoppers.
Museums and Free Museum Days
Is there a particular museum that interests you? If so, go to its web site and search “free days.” Many will offer free admission on certain days.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History list their admission fees but read carefully. These are “suggested donations” and if you cannot afford to pay those prices, it is possible to pay less.
Want more ideas? Check out a list of museum deals and free admissions from About.com New York City for Visitors.
Things To Do In Nyc Today For Free
Once the nation’s most visited tourist attraction outside Niagara Falls, the gorgeous Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is the eternal home to some 600,000 people (or about 530 miles of bodies, head to toe). It’s leafy and lovely, features Brooklyn’s highest point at Battle Hill – a site from the Revolutionary War now marked with a seven-foot statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. Watch for the squawking green parakeets at the cemetery’s Gothic entry – these are runaways from a JFK mishap in 1980 and have lived here since. 500 25th St, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
You know you’ve made it when you get a grange (the next level unlocks when a hit Broadway musical is written about your life). Hamilton Grange reopened in 2011 after renovation and is the Federal-style country retreat where Alexander Hamilton spent quieter, pre-death-by-duel New York days. St Nicholas Park at 141st St, Hamilton Heights.
It may technically be a public park, but the expanding High Line project has the impact and feel of a real-life tourist attraction, complete with its own opening hours. Created from an abandoned stretch of elevated railroad track, the landscaping of this park (which stands 30 feet in the air) connects the Meatpacking District with Chelsea’s galleries, ending at the Javits Center on the south side of Hell’s Kitchen. There are wonderful views of the Hudson River and of pedestrians on the sidewalks below. Watch for public-art installations and events. Gansevoort Street to 34th St, between 9th & 11th Aves, Chelsea.
The films and lectures usually involve a ticket, but the gallery exhibits at the Japan Society (focusing on Japanese art) are free from 6-9 pm Fridays. 333 E 47 St, between First & Second Aves, Midtown East.
National Museum of the American Indian
This Smithsonian expat, just off historic Bowling Green and Battery Park, is neighbor to frenetic commuters and tourists heading to the Statue of Liberty but often gets overlooked. Situated in the spectacular former U.S. Customs House (1907), the National Museum of the American Indian is one of the country’s finest collections of Native American art. The focus of its million-plus items, as well as its programs, is on culture rather than history. 1 Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan.
New York Earth Room
Now for something completely different: the Earth Room, Walter De Maria’s 1977 art installation, a single room filled with 280,000 pounds of dirt, combines the framework of an ordinary office with the scent of a wet forest. 141 Wooster St, SoHo
Best Free Things To Do In Nyc
Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in New York City, and walking across it is one of the best ways to take it all in. When the bridge was finished in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge. Now, the Brooklyn Bridge has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and it happens to be one of the best places to view the downtown skyline. Pro tip: go early as the bridge tends to get very crowded during the day.
Take a Free Walking Tour
There is so much history to discover in the city, and a walking tour is one of the best ways to see it up close and personal. SANDEMANs NEW Europe offers free 2.5-hour tours of downtown Manhattan, covering some of the most historic sites in the city, including the Charging Bull, Wall Street, and the 9/11 Memorial. While the tours are technically free, they do encourage tips for the guides.
Let the Kids Loose in One of the City’s Inventive Playgrounds
New York City has no shortage of playgrounds for kids to burn off extra energy, but some are simply cooler than others. At Ancient Playground, next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, kids can explore pyramid-shaped climbers and check out the obelisk and sundial, both inspired by The Met’s collection of Egyptian Art. The Imagination Playground at Burling Slip, designed by architect David Rockwell, encourages kids to use their imagination with giant foam blocks, fabric, and crates. Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park features playgrounds like the Sandbox Village where kids can play in little wooden houses in the sand, and the Water Lab, guaranteed to leave them soaking wet and cool on hot summer days in the city.
Hang With Farm Animals at the Queens County Farm Museum
Find cows, sheep, pigs, and more at the Queens County Farm Museum, which dates back to 1697 and is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. Spread out on 47 acres, the museum is free to enter (except on certain event days), and it allows people to learn all about what the area was like before a bustling city sprung up around it.
See Shakespeare in the Park
You don’t have to fork over a ton of money to see a great theater performance. Each year, the Public Theater hosts Shakespeare in the Park, a summer series at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The series draws celebrity names and offers the chance to score free tickets for each day’s performance through a lottery system.
Tour an Ice Cream Museum
At Ample Hills’ interactive ice cream museum in their 15,000-square-foot Red Hook factory, you can watch ice cream being made and even make flavor suggestions on their “every flavor tells a story” board. If you get hungry after (and we’d be shocked if you didn’t), try “The Hook,” a flavor unique to the factory-made of burnt sugar ice cream mixed with salty fudge bites and Dutch stroopwafels.
Tour the Brooklyn Brewery
Learn the art of beer making during one of Brooklyn Brewery’s free weekend tours, offered every half hour from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. While you wait, you can sample the beers in the Williamsburg tasting room.
Kayak at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Get out on the water and try your hand at kayaking every Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday during the summer from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Even kayaking novices can join in the fun because the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse will teach you all you need to know before you get out on the water.
What can you do in New York with no money?
- See Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry.
- Walk along the High Line.
- Explore Central Park.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
- See the collection Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Watch the crowds at Grand Central Station.
- Look into the windows on Fifth Avenue.
- Read in New York Public Library and Bryant Park.
What museums are free in NYC?
- Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
- Bronx Zoo.
- Museum of Jewish Heritage.
- New York Botanical Garden.
- Queens Botanical Garden.
- Staten Island Zoo.
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
- Whitney Museum of American Art.
What to do in NYC by yourself?
- Experience peace at Shakespeare Garden. Park.
- Brooklyn Bridge, New York. Bridge, Park.
- Relax and recharge at a meditation class. Art Gallery, Bookstore.
- Dine solo at Veselka.
- Browse the shelves at one of Brooklyn’s biggest superstores.
- Get thrifty in Williamsburg.
- Lounge in a chic hotel lobby.
- Explore a museum at your own pace.