I think the idea that visiting a large city will cost too much money is a big reason people don’t travel more. I hear it all the time; ’It’s too expensive there’. People are often under the impression that I spend heaps of money on my travels which couldn’t be further away from the truth. In fact, if you do find a cheap airfare ticket, which isn’t too hard these days, I promise you, you can get away with even the smallest budget. Even in a city like New York there are so many incredible things you can do without even opening you wallet. I put together a list of my absolute favorite and completely free things to do in New York City that will leave you felling frugally fulfilled after you vacation is over.
1. KAYAKING ON HUDSON RIVER
You can go kayaking for free at the Downtown Boathouse. They offer free 20-minute Kayaking tours on the Hudson River during the weekends. 18+ only, though.
2. CENTRAL PARK
Central park spans 843 acres and is so much more than just an escape from the city; It’s a world of it’s own. Watch numerous performers, visit strawberry fields and the ’Imagine’ mosaic dedicated to John Lennon, picnic in the green areas or visit famous movie locations (like Home Alone II, Enchanted, When Harry met Sally or Gossip Girl).
3. NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Yes, this is indeed where Mr Big left Carrie at the altar. It's also a gorgeous building with that hold over 51 million items and is something of a wonder to stroll through. They always have lots of ongoing exhibits and make sure you don't miss the reading room.
Probably the most famous Museum of Modern Art in the world, the MoMA offers free entrance every Friday from 4 - 8pm. Get there early, because the line tends to wrap around the block. If you’re not there on a Friday, adult tickets are 25 dollars.
5. BROOKLYN BREWERY
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this brewery brews craft beer and distributes in 25 states and 20 countries. Take a tour on Saturdays and Sundays to see how this brewery operates.
6. THE SOCRATES SCULPTURE PARK
The site of The Socrates Sculpture Park used to be a landfill until 1987, when the community got together and transformed it into an open exhibition place. Today, it's the only site in the Metropolitan area where opportunities are provided to artists to both create and exhibit large-scale sculpture and multimedia installations in an outdoor environment.
7. GOVENORS ISLAND
Take the free ferry to Govenors Island and roam the 172-acre island to your heart’s content. Nolan Park and Admiral’s House are a couple of military sights that are worth a visit, or you can take a ride along the island’s bike path, enjoy a picnic and play a round of mini golf.
8. BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the eldest suspension bridges in the United States. Take a stroll across the bridge to see each side from a different perspective.
9. TOUR OF GRAND CENTRAL STATION
Grand Central is one of my favorite places in the world. There was just an undefinable feeling when I visited, and I fell in love with it. The shops, the restaurants, the mural on the ceiling, the huge windows, the whispering gallery.. It’s truly special. The Grand Central Partnership now offers free, weekly 90-minute guided walking tours, courtesy of a local historian. Find more information here.
Take a cheesy but adorable picture taking in front of the Love sculpture at 6th Avenue and W. 55th.
11. STATEN ISLAND FERRY
If you’re wanting to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, but don’t want to pay a fee, check out the Staten Island Ferry. It’s designed to take commuters to and from Staten Island and Manhattan, but it’s completely free and you’ll be able to get a good photograph of Lady Liberty. Once you get to Staten Island, you can hop right back on to get back to Manhattan.
12. SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
A fun, free summer event in Central Park at the Delacorte Theatre. You’ll need a little patience while standing in line waiting for tickets but it will be well worth the wait. Find out where you can get free tickets here.
13. CHELSEA MARKET
Located directly below the High Line at 15th Street, I’ve been told this is a must. There are restaurants, bakeries, artists, sample sales, concerts and even a flea market.
14. BRYANT PARK
There’s something magical about parks nestled in NYC and Bryant Park is no exception. See beautiful flowers and gardens and have lunch on the green or at one of the park’s quintessential green cafe tables. See a free concert or catch a film screening in the evenings.
15. LISTEN TO JAZZ
Deep in the Village, you’ll find Arthur’s Tavern where they play live jazz every night, starting at 7pm with no cover charge. If you go on a Monday, you see the same band that been playing there for 35 years.
16. ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL
Over 5 million people visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral each year. It’s neo-gothic architecture and stunning interior inspire all who visit.
17. THE BRONX ZOO
You can enter the Bronx Zoo on Wednesdays without an admission fee (though there is a suggested donation). See a dinosaur safari or maybe the komodo dragons?
Some of the very best students in drama, music and dance from across the globe are taught at the coveted Juilliard School. You can get free theater tickets to performances by calling the box office or checking in on the day of the performance for standby tickets. You can find a list of events by visiting the Juilliard Calendar.
19. ROCKEFELLER CENTER
Mostly famous for their giant Christmas tree in December, Rockefeller Center is also the home of many pieces of art, beautiful gardens and exhibits.
20. FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
Take a guided tour through the Federal Reserve System and learn about the central banking system through an interactive, multimedia exhibit. You can also visit the gold vault and view other interesting aspects of the bank. Keep in mind, this tour books up very, very fast and is usually scheduled up to 4 months in advance. Self-guided tours are also free, but do not include the gold vault.
21. BATTERY PARK
Gardens, plazas, and playgrounds make up Battery Park City and play host to hundreds of events and activities throughout the year. You can enjoy a free tour of the area if you're so inclined. Visit bpcparks.org for hours and times.
22. WINDOW SHOPPING ON FIFTH AVENUE AND BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
Famed 5th Avenue hosts stores to some of the most luxurious brands on the planet and, while not all of us can buy those items, it can be really fun to look at them. Plus, lots of the stores put tons of effort into the window displays, making them exquisitely charming or eccentric (make sure to check out the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor). And don't forget to get a breakfast pretzel on the go and eat it outside of Tiffany's!
23. THEODORE ROOSEVELT BIRTHPLACE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Visit the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt and check out the recreated building, complete with period furniture and personal artifacts.
24. SCANDINAVIA HOUSE
This may only appeal to Scandinavians but I remember when I lived in Paris and craved Swedish food, I'd head straight to the Swedish center. Here you can walk through Scandinavian art galleries, watch classic movies, listen to lectures, live concerts or sign up for language classes in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish.
25. BE IN THE AUDIENCE!
Have you ever wondered how the audience gets chosen for shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Rachael Ray, The Today Show or Saturday Night Live? Turns out, they don't. You can stand in line or register online before these (and many other) talk shows to get your free tickets. Visit NYC Official Guide for a list of all the shows and contact information to be part of the live audiences for free.
What's you're favorite place in NYC?
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