11 Free Things To Do In New York City

Free Things To Do In New York City

Despite being one of the world’s paramount cities and being notorious for its disgraceful housing prices, the Big Apple knows how to please every type of tourist; indeed, unbeknownst to a lot of neophytes, New York City offers a staggering quantity of things to do that won’t break the bank. From evenings out in world-famous museums to spectacular, unobstructed views of the city that never sleeps, New York has everything.

Free Things To Do In New York City

Time Square

Where to stay in New York City

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to recommending accommodation in the Big Apple – some would rather opt for bustling Midtown, while others would recommend properties in authentic, “real New York” neighbourhoods in the southern part of town. I say – why not do both and opt for a hotel located halfway between, like the splendid yet surprisingly affordable Flatiron Hotel, located just north of the famous eponymous building.

Fashion Institute of Technology Museum (227 West 27th Street)

What better place to learn all about fashion than America’s fashion capital? This museum holds one one of the largest and most impressive collections of clothing in the western world, with items dating back to the 5th century. Entry is completely free of charge at all times.

Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street)

Behold, the famous Friday evenings at the MoMA – one of the many beloved New York traditions, even by New Yorkers! While regular admission to this world-famous museum (which is home to a few of Monet’s, Dali’s, Warhol’s and Munch’s most celebrated works) costs $25, admission is free on Friday evenings between 4PM and 8PM.  Tickets are not available in advance.

High Line (west of 10th Avenue between Gansevoort Street and 10th Street)

Perhaps the best proof of New York’s ingeniousness, what is now referred to as the High Line was actually, up until the 1960s, the elevated section of a major freight railroad running through the Meatpacking District. Instead of tearing it down, local railway and urbanism enthusiasts lobbied for the re-purposing of the railroad, inspired by the flourishing flora of Promenade Plantée in Paris. Today, the evergreen High Line holds a dear place in the heart of New Yorkers, rightfully so – with splendid views of the Hudson River and the nearby bustling streets that are so typical of New York City.

Governor’s Island

Welcome to the birthplace of the State of New York! Home to Castle Williams and exceptional flora (by urban New York standards), Governor’s Island is a U.S. National Historic Landmark and 172-acre island located just 800 yards from the southern tip of Manhattan. It is easily reachable by ferry in summer months  from the Battery Maritime Building, and well worth a visit, if only for the fantastic views of the city.

Bronx Zoo (2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx Park)

As one of the world’s largest metropolitan zoos (with 6,000 animals representing 650 species from various parts of the globe, including gorillas, lions and lemurs), the Bronx Zoo is worth the trip outside Manhattan. General admission to the Bronx Zoo on Wednesdays is by pay-what-you-wish donation – although the suggested donation is $15, it is possible to either pay nothing at all or just a few dollars to get in.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

That’s a classic! The sweeping views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the East River from the luxuriant and tranquil Brooklyn Bridge Park are simply unbeatable – not to mention the legendary ice cream parlor just off the bridge, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It’s also a good opportunity to wander in the picturesque Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood, admire the historic brownstones and imagine life as an upscale, cool New Yorker.

Free Things To Do In New York City

NBC Studios live tapings (30 Rockefeller Plaza)

Are you a Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or Saturday Night Live fan? Make your celebrity dream come true by seeing your favorite NBC shows live! This requires a bit of planning as tickets are either reserved well in advance (The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers) or via stand-by tickets  (SNL) – but the hilarious reward will be well worth the effort.

Staten Island Ferry (South Ferry Whitehall Terminal)

The best way to enjoy the Manhattan skyline is, obviously, to leave Manhattan – and in this case, get on the iconic Staten Island ferry. The trip from the South Ferry terminal to St George Ferry terminal takes just 25 minutes, runs every 30 minutes or so and is completely free of charge; the ferry passes within glancing distance of the Statue of Liberty and the beautiful Hudson River shoreline.

Brooklyn Brewery tours (79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn)

Immerse yourself in authentic New York brewery culture by visiting one of its most famous institutions! The legendary Brooklyn Brewery offers free guided tours of its installations every Saturday at 1PM, 2PM, 3PM, 4PM and 5PM, where visitors will learn more about brewing basics and the company lore, as well as “little to no swearing” according to the owner.

New York Public Library (5th Avenue at 42nd Street)

With nearly 53 million items within its walls, the New York Public Library is the third largest library in the world – and second in the US, behind only the Library of Congress. But more than just a place to store an astounding quantity of books (including a copy of the Gutenberg Bible), the library itself is a splendid work of architecture, with impeccable classical details and ornate woodwork throughout – especially in the entrance portico, the Map Division room and the well-known Rose Main Reading Room.

Free Things To Do In New York City

Coney Island

Coney Island

Very few visitors actually realize that it is possible to go to the beach in New York City! The festive peninsular area of Coney Island lies on the Atlantic Ocean and  is just a long(ish) subway ride away from Manhattan. Celebrated for its abundance of entertainment and leisure activities – including its now iconic amusement park and boardwalks, Coney Island operates roughly between Easter and Halloween. It is also the self-proclaimed birthplace of the hot-dog!

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About Author

Marie-Eve Vallieres

Marie is a native Montrealer trying to balance a deep love for her hometown and an unquenchable thirst for travel and discovery. She has been to more than 20 countries, lived abroad in both France and the U.K., and is always on the lookout for authentic experiences wherever she travels -- especially if it involves chocolate.

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