New York is one of those cities that’s forever changing… and always calling! From its bustling streets, world-renowned sights and a foodie scene that can rival most countries, New York City is a place that is as diverse as it is unique. As with most global cities, New York can have the reputation of costing lots of money, particularly when you want to see and do everything whilst you’re visiting.
Of course, NYC has shed loads of glitzy restraints and speak-easy bars (see some of NYC’s best new restaurants in our post, here) where you can wine and dine the night away – but if you’re looking to experience more of the city without the $$$ flying out of your pocket, then take a gander at some of the city’s amazing free things to see and do – all without spending a dime……and don’t forget to check out New York City’s Secret Spots that you must explore.
Take a look at these 15 free things to do in New York City
1.) Discover MoMA’s Sculpture Garden And Free Fridays!
You might have heard of MoMA- especially if you’re an art buff! The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is one of the best art museums in the entire world (*yep, I’m slightly biased), and on Friday afternoons, it’s totally FREE – it won’t cost you a single cent!
From 4:00-8:00pm every Friday, MoMA is free to every visitor but beware of long lines that can take up a big portion of your time. Thankfully, queues disappear quite fast after 6pm though, this will mean you’ve got less time inside.
If you’re not in NYC on Friday afternoon, don’t worry; MoMA has an outdoor space free to the public every day from 9:00-10:15am. It’s called the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, and features art and sculptures for viewing that most visitors don’t even know about.
2.) See ALL The Fish And A Sea-Lion Or Two…
Fridays are popular for freebies in NYC it seems….
Seals, sea lions, and walruses—oh my! For free, you say? If you can manage to get there on time, then yes, the Aquarium is free. There is a little-known time slot that happens every Friday, from 3:00-3:30pm in the fall, winter, and spring, and from 4:00-5:00pm during the summer months… making every visit to the city absolutely free!
3.) Discover The American Folk Art Museum
For a museum visit that’s free every day of the year (no specific slots or times to worry about), dive straight into the American Folk Art Museum -which is a great way to learn more about folk art and its place in the USA.
Admission is always free here, rather than at certain hours on certain days so take your time getting there and really enjoy the beautiful art inside – just remember that weekends can get especially busy.
4.) Visit the Castle and promenades Of Central Park
What could be more free than walking around one of the most famous urban parks in all the world? One thing that you’ll notice straight away is how vast the park actually is…and although you can’t get too lost, you may well lose your way (if you’re anything like me) when navigating the hundreds of walkways and promenades.
Each and every day, there are totally free walking guides that you can download online and take with you to the Park and discover at your own pace. Make sure to take a spot at Bethesda Fountain and even enjoy a gander around Belvedere Castle.
If you want, you can even spend a small amount renting a boat across the lake – see more in our blog post, here.
5.) Gain a Local’s Perspective Of The Big Apple
Have you always wanted a personalised tour of New York City from a local’s perspective, but never wanted to dish out a hefty sum for it? Look no further than Big Apple Greeter, a volunteer-based visitor service for tourists heading to the city.
All of the volunteers are native New Yorkers, and many of them are multilingual – so you’re likely to find a volunteer that can speak your local language. 🙂 Make sure you Sign up and request which parts of New York City you’d most like to see, whether it’s a specific neighbourhood, or maybe the most secret spots in the city.
As long as there is an available volunteer willing to take you on, your tour is all for free though a little pit-stop for a coffee and a nice cake will always be appreciated! 🙂
6.) Explore the Bohemian Culture of Greenwich Village
Those wanting to discover the bohemian streets of Greenwich Village can do so for free in two different ways.
The Village Alliance has a website section for self-guided tours, and even categorises the tours into interest area groups: art and architecture, cultural heritage, film, food and drink and many more.
The Village Alliance also has free tour guides that walk you through Greenwich Village. The free tours are available every Saturday from June through September. Tours meet rain or shine (so pack an umbrella) at 11:30am outside 130 Second Avenue and last for about 90 minutes.
You might even spot some of these cuties too…
And you can even discover some of New York’s most unusual dining experiences. Check them out, here.
7.) Catch Some Comedy with Seth Meyers
If you’re a lover of comedy and a fan of Seth Meyers you’ll be happy to know that you can attend live recordings of his show for FREE!
Formally on “Saturday Night Live”, Meyers now hosts NBC’s “Late Night”, which visitors to New York City can get free tickets to. The only catch is that you have to book four to six weeks in advance to make sure you get the tickets. Viewers must be at least 16 years old, and only groups of four people or less are allowed.
8.) Enjoy A Daytime TV Filming…
If you’re stuck for plans and want to keep things economical, then celebrity chef Rachael Ray has a daytime talk show, and visitors can sign up to receive free audience tickets!
As with other live show tickets, you’ll have to request in advance, and the wait can be a little long. Just go to the show’s website to fill in their online form and request tickets for you and your friends!
9.) Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Every summer, HBO sets up a free film festival in Bryant Park that anyone can take part in.
Film viewings are from June through August at 5:00 pm every Monday. Be sure to arrive early as spaces fill up very fast. The movies tend to nostalgic and have particular meaning as to why it’s shown (all of which will be made known to you at the time).
10.) Central Park Conservancy Festival
Lovers of films, rejoice…the Central Park Conservancy Film Festival is located in—you guessed it—Central Park in the summer.
Classic films are typically screened near the Sheep Meadow (minus the sheep), and there is a live DJ performance before every show. Gates open at 6:30 pm, and the film starts at 8:00 pm.
11.) Spot the NYC Parakeets at Green-Wood Cemetery
This sounds much more creepy than it actually is but Green-Wood Cemetery is one of NYC’s National Historic Landmarks that sprawls a whopping 478 acres of hills and valleys in Brooklyn.
Beyond the fact that you’ll be visiting a cemetery, it’s actually one of the city’s best places to go bird-watching. Over the last few decades, parakeets have come to call this place home. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled!
Only have one day in NYC? Then make sure to check out our action-packed one day itinerary for a city visit.
12.) Walk The High Line
One of New York’s most famous walkways, the High Line stands 30 feet above ground (on a disused metro line), connecting the Meatpacking District to the Javits Convention Center.
Built on an abandoned railroad track, this 1.45 mile (2.3km) long plant-covered path offers awesome views as it takes you through Manhattan’s West Side. If you want to hear the story behind the park, free public tours are also available and you’ll no doubt see many public art displays that are commissioned along the route.
If you want to hear the story behind the park, free public tours are also available and you’ll no doubt see many public art displays that are commissioned along the route.
See more on the High Line, right here.
13.) Staten Island Ferry
While normal ferry tours to Staten Island are about $12, the Staten Island Ferry is completely free! The ferry is mainly for commuters but that doesn’t mean everyone else can’t ride it as well. The ferry has been operating since 1905, and its route cuts across the New York Harbour.
Whenever you’re done exploring Staten Island, feel free to hop on another free ferry ride back to Manhattan, where you’ll also get a great view of the Statue of Liberty too!
14.) Chrysler Building
One of the most iconic skyscrapers in New York is the Chrysler Building and one of my favourites too! Located in the area of the city known as Midtown East, the building is a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture.
What’s really great about it is that you can actually discover the lobby for free. The lobby is the only area of the building open to the public and a great place to see an insight into the period decor of the building. Featuring stunning red Moroccan marble walls and Art Deco light fixtures, the lobby is open to the public from Monday through Friday, 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
15.) Coney Island Boardwalk
Located south of Brooklyn, right next to the New York Aquarium is Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk. With nearly 3 miles (4.8km) of sandy beaches to walk along, visitors can fully enjoy their stroll for free as they take in the sights and sounds of Coney Island (whilst enjoying some salt water taffy).
Be sure to plan your visit during the summer, as the beach is generally closed during the winter months.