New York consistently ranks among the most expensive cities in the U.S. And, while many who call the city home have become immune to paying $10 for a coffee and a muffin, we also realize that visitors are typically aghast. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of free tours, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions. In fact, surprisingly, there are so many Free Things To Do In New York City!
Here are 21 fun things you can do in NYC without spending a dime.
Table of Contents
Friday Evenings at the MOMA
If you’ve been jonesin to see the Museum of Modern Art, but don’t want to pay the $25 admission fee, we’ve got great news. Lucky for you, the museum offers free admission every Friday evening from 4 p.m. to 8 pm. Bonus: You can also visit the sculpture garden for free every morning from 9:30 to 10 am.
Take A Walk Through the Famous Central Park
Central Park is akin to paradise in the middle of a massive city. Arguably one of the most famous parks in the world, it’s one of the best Free Things To Do In New York City. Not only is it the first public park built in America, but it is also one of the most frequently visited, with over 25 million guests per year. With 840 acres, there is much to see and do within the park. You can take a Yoga class organized by the Wachusett Wellness Center or join a free and spontaneous yoga meetup. And did you know that the Central Park Conservancy offers free guided tours of Manhattan’s largest park. Themes range from an introductory tour to a hike around the North Woods, where you’ll see waterfalls, rustic bridges, and pools near the Harlem entrance.
Visit Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station can get very busy, but is totally worth visiting. The 102 year old train station is one of the most magnificent standing architecture in NYC. In fact, one of the most alluring Free Things To Do In New York City actually resides right here in Grand Central Station … the Whispering Gallery. Here two people stand at diagonal arches and whisper to each other, their voices actually right through, like the old school game of telephone! Of course Grand Central Station’s centerpieces is the Main Concourse, where people watching reaches next level awesomeness.
Chill out in the New York Public Library and Bryant Park
When public libraries are recommend as fun Free Things To Do in various cities, I let out an audible groan. But the New York Public Library is awesome. But the the New York public library is different. One, the Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Ave is architecturally amazing. It is not only free to visit, but it also hosts exhibitions, events, Author Talks and Conversations, Performing Arts, and Films! Check the site to see what is being offered during your visit. I promise, this is not your typical free public library recommendation. And, if you are looking for a luxe leisure activity, grab a book and read it in amongst Bryant Park’s lush setting.
Catch Some Rays At Local Beaches
During the summer, a great way to beat the East Coast heat is to find water. Local beaches, like Coney Island, Brighton Beach, The Rockaways and Fort Tilden are popular hotspots for local New Yorkers. Coney Island is, by far, the most popular, but these others have their own appeal that draw beach goers.
Admire NYC Wealthy Sector
One particular street worth visiting is Fifth Avenue. Dubbed as the “most expensive street in the world,” Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue has the world in its hands. Visit the Empire State Building, old stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a whole bunch of luxury residential condos and co-op buildings.
In an article published on Yoreevo, it states that the average condo price in Manhattan is approximately $2,000,000. The insane price tags are evident in architectural gems such as the Italian Renaissance palazzo-style apartment building 998 Fifth Avenue and The Pierre, 795. Just gawking at these magnificent structures is a treat in itself. To appreciate them even more, we suggest looking up the histories and backgrounds of each individual building.
Ride the Free Staten Island Ferry
During the summer, there are few things more pleasurable than taking a ride on a boat in the Hudson or the East River. The East River Ferry—which, by the way, is a great way to travel between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn—costs $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends, but the Staten Island Ferry is absolutely free.
You can actually appreciate the Midtown Manhattan skyline from the water and you will even pass by the Statue of Liberty. Ikea also offers free ferry services from lower Manhattan to Red Hook, Brooklyn during the weekends. There are also free ferry services from downtown Brooklyn to Governor’s Island during the summer.
Chill Out in the Park and Watch Movies
A quirky little idea for Free Things To Do In New York City … a movie in the park on a warm summer night. Now its true that a lot of cities and towns offer Movies in the Park and NYC is no different. But, in New York, you have a few choices as a handful of NYC parks offer free outdoor movies during the summer. As we head into summer, be sure to check out the Summer Schedule in Bryant Park. And for a comprehensive list of all the movies across the city, check out the complete schedule here.
Frolic and Stargaze on the High Line
The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Saved from demolition by neighborhood residents and the City of New York, the High Line opened in 2009 as a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design. Taking a stroll on New York’s famous elevated park is one of the great Free Things To Do in New York City.
But, maybe even cooler is the fact that every Tuesday night, from April through October, the Highline offers visitors a chance to take a closer look at the stars. Peer through high powered telescopes provided by the members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York and see rare celestial sights … stars rarely, if ever, visible in NYC.
Finding Free Things To Do when traveling is among the greatest budget saving tips we have. Every city, town, municipality, offers free things and finding them is often gold. Even notoriously expensive places like New York City and Las Vegas offer free things for all visitors and often they help identify the vibe of the locale!