Free New York | The Best 10 Things To Do In The Big Apple That Don’t Cost A Thing!
Do you like free stuff? Of course, you do! Everyone does! Exploring the Big Apple can get costly so I wanted to share some of my favourite free New York things to do!! This list is not the be all or end-all list of free New York things to do, just what I have personally experienced or want to do on my next trip to NYC!
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HELPFUL GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
- Flights: Find a cheap flight using Skyscanner or Momondo. I like these two booking sites because they both search all websites and airlines around the globe including budget airlines.
- Accommodations: I use Booking.com or Tripadvisor to find the best rates on hotels. Hotels.com offers a free night after booking 10 nights
- Get up to $40 off your first Air Bnb stay by using this code!
- Travel Insurance: Having gotten sick on my travels in the past, I never travel without being insured. You never know when something may happen. For my round the world trip and extended long-term travel, I use World Nomads. For other trips, I have used Roam Right and they cover activities like extreme sports.
Research great hotel rates with cancellation on Booking!
Table of Contents
Best Free Things To Do In New York
Free New York: The Highline
The Highline is a green space that was built on an elevated train line that was no longer used on the West Side of New York. It is free to visit and is one of my favourite things to do in the city. On my last trip to New York, I visited three times and lucked out with great weather. Sometimes I start at the top of the Highline at 34th and walk south to the Meat Packing district. I went with my cousin and we ended our stroll with a drink at the Standard Hotel. In warmer months, I recommend just chilling out on the seating and people watching. It can get really busy at times but it’s worth the visit.
Free New York: Central Park
A visit to New York City is not a proper one without going to Central Park. When I go to NYC, usually stay with friends in Lower Manhattan so I will schedule a whole day’s worth of activities uptown (**schedule your activities around a certain area or neighbourhood so you’re not going back to the same place and wasting time and cab/subway fare). I usually visit one of the museums, then talk a stroll through Central Park, and eat in the area.
This is the fall foliage but I love Central Park anytime
Free New York: Staten Island Ferry
I haven’t done this in eons but I rode the Staten Island Ferry because I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty without paying
touristy prices to see her up close. You can see Ellis Island and Lady Liberty from the deck of the ferry. The best part? It’s free. If you have about an hour to spare, it’s approximately 25 minutes for the ride one way.
Photo credit: Flickr
Free New York: Walk Over The Bridges
I love walking over NYC bridges because not only do you get great bridge/architecture photography but you get some awesome views of New York City. My favourite is walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. Any time of day is great but I’ve been going at sunset to catch the sun coming down over the city and to watch the commute home. It’s also always fun to people watch. If you don’t want to walk both ways, pop into the subway and walk one way there or back.
Also, check out the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges!
The iconic Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Bridge shot from Lower East Side
Free New York: Times Square
Times Square is really touristy and hectic. Most people hate it but I think you have to go at least once for the experience. I like to people watch since there’s a grandstand there, you can sit on and absorb the madness for hours. I remember going to New York City in the early 90s and Time Square was still really seedy and lined with pawn shops and strip bars.
Exploring Times Square with my late husband Eric
Maybe the best photo ever from Times Square
Free New York: Markets
The Union Square Green Market is free to walk through and people watch but it will cost you if you buy some items at the market. I love walking through here just to see what’s in season around New York City. I love going to farmers markets so I always stop through here when I’m in the area.
Another market I love is the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. It’s a popular flea market with food stalls. It’s free to enter but of course, if you buy anything, it does cost. Smorgasburg became so popular there is now an offshoot in Los Angeles.
Free New York: Art Galleries in Chelsea
I love visiting art galleries and museums in New York. I have been able to catch some really cool art and photography exhibits. If art is your thing, meander around the Chelsea area. The best part is it’s free to visit the galleries! I always check out what’s at the Mary Boone Gallery, David Zwirner, Milk, and the Gagosian Gallery. Then I wander around to see other galleries in the vicinity. If you are visiting the Highline or Chelsea Market, put aside some gallery time!
Takashi Murakami at the Gagosian Gallery
Madonna by Richard Corman at Milk Gallery
Selfie at Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery
Free New York: Museums
There are a handful of museums that are free in New York such as the National Museum of the American Indian or you can always find free hours or free days. Check this listing of free museums or free days/times from NYC Go.
National Museum of the American Indian in NYC. Photo credit: Flickr
The MOMA is free on Fridays between 4-8 (it’s crazy busy!)
Free New York: Iconic Buildings
You can pay to go to the Empire State Building or to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center but you can also see some amazing iconic buildings for free!! Grand Central Station is a hub of activity. It’s great to people watch and if you’re hungry, head downstairs to the concourse. There are great food options and shops down there! I also love the Flat Iron building. Eataly is close by so I love heading there and grabbing a coffee and sitting at Madison Square Park which is a short walk away. You can also head down to the World Trade Center site and pay respects to all those who lost their lives on 9/11 and see the Freedom Tower gratis or you can visit the 9/11 Museum where admission is charged. Information here.
Grand Central Station
Flat Iron Building
9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools
Free New York Summer Activity: Movies In The Park
Free movie screenings are a big thing in New York for locals but I love going to outdoor movies if I happen to catch one. There are many screenings all over the different boroughs but the popular ones are at Bryant Park and Central Park. They are crazy busy so before to get your spot early!
Photo credit: NYC Go
There are tons of things to do in New York City that is free. Exploring doesn’t have to cost a lot especially when you’re on a budget. This is just a list of 10 things that I have experienced for free but there is always free concerts, events, and tours all year round in New York.
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What are your favourite New York free things to do?