New York, New York–the city so nice they named it twice, is also the city so nice that it offers up an incredible array of free things and stuff to do. Thanks to NYC’s generosity, you’ll have no trouble making sure your trip to Gotham City is jam-packed without blowing your budget in a New York minute.
New York City is famous for its amazing museums, but here’s a little known artifact you may not be aware of—you can get into many of them for free if you visit at a certain time. Like the Whitney Museum, home of the finest collection of twentieth century American art in the world—it’s totally contemporary cool and admission is free on Fridays from 6 to 9 P.M. Thank God it’s Friday applies to the Museum of Modern Art too, where you can walk through the doors for free between 4 and 8 P.M. and check out amazing modern art from around the planet, including stuff by Picasso, Matisse, Pollock and Warhol.
There are so many iconic landmarks in NYC, why just stand there staring at them when you can take a free tour and discover everything about this stuff! First stop, the Grand Central Station Terminal Tour. Rated New York City’s Best Walking Tour by AAA, this 1.5-2 hour tour chugs along with insight after insight like how the terminal became so neglected it was once home to vagrants and the stunning ceiling was covered in black grime. The tour is free every Friday, at 12:30 P.M.
Once you’ve done the tourist thing and taken that picture with Times Square in the background, take the free Times Square Expose Walking Tour and learn about the theatres, New Years Eve and more. Tour leaves at 12:00 P.M. sharp every Friday, rain or shine. Few people realize how huge the famous Central Park is. How huge? Over 840 acres, with gardens, play areas, a castle, a waterfall and more! You couldn’t cover everything there is to know about Central Park with just one free tour, so the Central Park Conservatory offers 13 free tours!
Want to get a real taste of New York City? Book a free tour with a Big Apple Greeter. Over 300 New Yorkers serve as Big Apple Greeters, giving you a look at their neighbourhood and their city from a local’s point of view. It’s a great way to discover and explore stuff in places like Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. If you’re a gold bug, you should head over to the NYC branch of the Federal Reserve. This place is home to the largest known deposit of gold and you can get in without donning a balaclava and breaking through a skylight after hours. Free tours are available weekdays throughout the day.
New York City is on Manhattan Island so it only makes sense that you would want to do a few free things that involve water, right? Say no more. How about jumping on the Staten Island Ferry? It’s a free commuter ferry that shuttles over 60,000 passengers a day between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan. The five mile, 25 minute voyage provides an awesome view of stuff like the New York City Harbor, the skyline, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
What about kayaking in the New York City Harbor? Visit Riverside Park, where novice and experienced paddlers can rent a kayak for free and embark on a guided paddle past skyscrapers, parks, bird sanctuaries and more. You can even go for day-long trips, which include paddling back at night with the New York City skyline magically lit up beside you. More of a landlubber? Head over to Brooklyn and take in the ocean breeze, the rolling waves of the Atlantic, people chillin’ on the beach and the excitement of the amusement rides while walking along the free, three-mile boardwalk at NYC’s summer playground, Coney Island.
All that walking and paddling around New York City can make a tourist hungry, but if thrifty is the word, then we need to find you some free eats and drinks. The world-famous Union Square Greenmarket is a great spot, home to over 140 farmers, fishermen and bakers and their stands. Enjoy mouthwatering free samples of stuff such as just-picked fruits and vegetables, artisan breads, fresh baked treats and more. If you’re in the Brooklyn area after 6 P.M., make your way over to the Mark Bar where you can scarf down complimentary pizza and cold cuts. Touring on Sunday? Mark Bar gives away free coffee and donuts after 12 noon. Like a free drink? If you’re out and about on a Saturday head over to Big Nose Full Body in Brooklyn, where every afternoon they hold a free, two-hour wine tasting session.
Visiting New York City is not just a walk in the park. Say for example after a long day of sightseeing in NYC, you feel like taking a load off and catching a movie. Well Bryant Park is the place to be where, from June to August, you and hundreds of other people can watch a free flick under the stars during the Bryant Park Outdoor Film Festival. Grab a couple of drinks and some popcorn from a street vendor and settle in for a movie-watching experience that will be a memorable event you’ll remember long after your trip is over.
Doth though require a fix of The Bard? Shakespeare in Central Park is one of New York City’s most beloved summer traditions and it is free to the public. If it’s music you crave, the Central Park Mainstage is home to noteworthy, free performances all summer long featuring local favourites and big name acts. If you prefer the soothing sounds of classical music, grab your air conductor wand, a blanket and your picnic stuff, and catch the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks series, playing throughout the summer in different parks across New York City.
One of the best free things to do in New York City is to visit those places and do the stuff in NYC that, when family and friends are talking about them, you can say triumphantly, “I’ve been there!” Places like Federal Hall, on Wall Street, where you can stand on the exact spot where George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States. Remember the movie Big? Perform the same footsteps as Tom Hanks did on the same dance-on piano keyboard, by visiting FAO Schwarz, the famous, 150-year-old NYC toy store—it’s even guarded by a real live toy soldier! And don’t forget to walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Built in the late 1800s, it was, at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world and is still viewed today as a magnificent engineering marvel.
And what could be more New York than being part of a live studio audience for one of the many TV shows taped in NYC. Being part of Live! With Kelly & Michael, Late Show with David Letterman, The View, The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is one of the neat free things to do in New York City that you’ll be talking about for years. Tickets get snapped up quick, so call or go online and book yours well in advance.
A way to enjoy almost-free things to do in New York is to check Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities. Visit the New York “Things to Do” Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon New York page is a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your New York visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.