The city that never sleeps is also one of the most expensive cities in the world, but don’t despair, there are still plenty of free things to do in New York. If you’re a on a budget, or need to balance out those delicious fancy meals, there are numerous free things you can do to save some money.
New York City is a top USA bucket list destination for many, and while staying and eating in the city can get expensive, knowing that there is a bevy of free things to do awaiting eases that.
Hands down the BEST free things to do in New York
Explore New York neighborhoods
One of the simplest free things to do in New York, is to explore the variety of neighborhoods the city has to offer. Every borough has its own style and vibe.
Visit the Bronx Museum of Arts
While in the neighborhood, visit the Bronx Museum of Arts and explore the multitude of contemporary pieces.
Experience the art of graffiti in Brooklyn where you’ll find street art from local artists at temporary “exhibits.” This is all legal, too!
Go to a Comedy Show
If you like a good laugh, you’ll appreciate that one of the best fun and free things to do in New York is a comedy show. Check out Pete’s Candy Shop or Knitting Factory in Williamsburg.
Visit one of the oldest City Halls in the United States in lower Manhattan.
Pay your respects to those that lost their lives in one of the greatest American tragedies at the 9/11 Memorial.
African Burial Ground
Construction workers in the 90s discovered over 400 caskets of African Slaves dating as far back as the 17th century. Take a tour of the African Burial Ground National Monument and learn about a lesser known part of history in New York.
Visit the American Folk Art Museum
American Folk Artists cover a breadth of mediums and topics. Visit the American Folk Art Museum and appreciate the expression of American artists at this free museum in the Upper West Side.
This cemetery was founded in the 1800s and contains Brooklyn’s highest point. It’s free to enter and take a walk through this historical site.
Jazz at Barbès
Operating on a donation basis, checkout this Brooklyn haunt with a suggested donation.
Socrates Sculpture Park
One person’s trash, is another’s treasure. Socrates Sculpture Park used to be a landfill and is now a public park and museum with various art installations, musical performances, and cultural theatre. Check it out in Astoria.
American Museum of Natural History
Chances are you’ve seen a movie filmed in the American Museum of Natural History – check out the iconic T-Rex Skeleton in this must-see museum!
Stroll through Central Park
Central Park is an iconic green space located in the middle of the hustle of New York City. This one of the most enjoyable environmentally friendly free things to do in New York. Even within the park, there are lots of free things going on. Bonus: the people and/or dog watching is spectacular!
Take a Brewery Tour
Brooklyn Brewery Tours take place on the weekend every half hour. Enjoy the free tour, and then buy a drink afterwards!
View the New York Skyline
New York City has one of the most iconic and romantic skylines in the world. Charge your cameras and check the weather to get great photographs of the skyline. Try out the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the views.
BRIC House Concerts
This Brooklyn based center provides free admission to performances in the summer and an art gallery.
If you’re looking for free things to do in New York for kids, check out Bryant Park. Central Park may be the most famous park in New York, but Bryant Park can hold its own with programs for children, a puppet show, and a reading room.
Shakespeare at Sunset
While not usually free, there is a digital lottery and standby line where you can win free tickets if you’re lucky!
New York Earth Room
Perhaps one of the most ‘off the beaten path’ type of free things to do in New York would be to take a visit to the art installation, Earth Room. This modern art is a combination of dirt, office space, and a wet forest fragrance. Intrigued? So are we.
Watch an outdoor movie
When the weather is warm in the summer, you can picnic and enjoy an outdoor movie at Pier 63, Coney Island, or Bridge Park.
Check out the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum
Be inspired by rotating student exhibits dating back to the 18th century to the present in the Garment District. You don’t need an invite to New York Fashion Week to experience the creativity of the designers that attended this famous school.
Chelsea Art Gallery Crawl
If you love art, you will no doubt end up in Chelsea. With streets lined with galleries, you can pop in and out for free.
High Line Project
This park provides stunning views of the Hudson River and connects different areas of NYC. You can visit the park from the Chelsea area. Enjoy the views and stop for a chat and coffee with a friend.
Grand Central Walking Tours
Another one of the great free things to do in New York is to enjoy a free walking tour every Friday covering Grand Central Terminal and the larger than life Chrysler Building.
In the summertime, Central and Prospect Park (along with some smaller neighborhood parks) host free music festivals from May to October.
Yoga in Prospect Park
If you happen to be in the city on a Thursday, there is free yoga at 7pm from June to August in the Long Meadow area of the park.
Be a book worm at the New York Public Library
Enjoy reading a book in the Rose Main Reading Room at the second largest public library in United States. There are also free tours at 11am and 2pm every day, except Sunday.
While the ferry costs 3 bucks, access to this island is indeed free. You can play mini golf with the kids and go for a bike ride in the summer months when the island is open.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Parks are one of the best free things to do in New York. Another great one for children is the Brooklyn Bridge Park which contains free admission to SPARK Children’s museum and free kayaking during the summer time.
History aficionados might appreciate Federal Hall, where George Washington took his oath in 1789 when New York was originally the capital of the United States.
Museum of Modern Art
MoMA has a fee most days, except Fridays between 4pm and 8pm! Save yourself $25 and plan your visit.
Take a photo in Times Square
The center of it all…Times Square! Your trip isn’t complete until you capture the yellow cabs going by, shops, and huge screen in bustle of it all.
Visit the National Museum of the American Indian
This museum has over a million Native American items.
Secret Science Club
Make a visit to Bell House for lectures and experiments by actual scientists. This is a 21+ club.
Be part of the audience in a Talk Show
It doesn’t cost anything be in the studio audience of shows like Good Morning America, and Late Night with Seth Meyers. You can request tickets here. https://1iota.com/ This is one of the coolest free things to do in New York that you can have memory of when you watch the show. Who knows, you might even see yourself on TV.
Take the Staten Island Ferry
For classic New York views, take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island.
Visit Hamilton Grange
Few of us have the funds to see the actual Hamilton musical, but if you found yourself curious about this founding father of America, then checkout the home of Alexander Hamilton in a self-guided tour.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910, this botanic garden is free on Friday from 8am-12pm and weekdays during the winter.
Listen to jazz on Sundays from 8pm-11pm, or enjoy the regular poetry readings.
Battery Dance Festival
Be transported while viewing beautiful international dances from all over the world with the New York Harbor as the backdrop. This free dance festival takes place in August.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
Take a break from the noise and relax with free group mediation on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.
Walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and get some Instagram worthy shots.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Opening in 1879, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral is across from Rockefeller center. You can take a free history themed tour, but a $5 donation is suggested.
Free things to do in NYC at Christmas
Christmas is a great time to visit and also offers guests a bevy of free things to do in NYC.
Rockefeller Plaza Tree Lighting
If you’re visiting New York City around the holidays, visit Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree-lighting ceremony with musical performances.
See the Macy’s window
When the unveiling of this iconic window is done, you will want to be there!
See the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Take yourself on a self guided tour through these magical lights.
Truly, there is something for everyone in New York. If you love jazz, you don’t need to spend your money on expensive tickets. If you’re traveling with a big group and want to see the Museum of Modern Art, plan to go there Friday Evening.
A group of four can easily spend $100 just on the entrance to MoMA. Bookmark this page of free things to do in New York and plan the trip you’ve always wanted.
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