It’s not a secret that New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Touring some of the well-known attractions like the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock can cost more than what you budget for. But luckily, there are plenty of sights, events and activities that won’t cost you a dime that you can still take in. Following, you’ll find a helpful guide to several of NYC’s best free things to do and see.
There are dozens of art galleries located in the borough of Chelsea, Manhattan. These galleries offer the best in painting, sculptures and everything in-between. Whether you have an eye for art or just want to stroll around a gallery, the Chelsea exhibits provide a great place to do it. During open hours, they are always free to visit and (bonus) during opening nights, some even offer free wine and other beverages to art lovers.
Central Park (Central Park stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West)
Central Park is vast, welcoming, always free, open to the public and is one of NYC’s most beloved attractions for these reasons. With street performers, food stands, art displays and more to enjoy here, you’re sure to find something will catch your eye in the park. Visitors will also discover a selection of free tours and walks open to anyone who is interested. These tours range from the East Side Evening Stroll to the Stroll to Strawberry Fields, with many more seasonal options offered throughout the year. Take full advantage of Central Park and enjoy a day beneath the trees without spending a dime.
One of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1870 and stretches 1.3 miles across the East River. The bridge provides open access 24 hours a day and offers spectacular views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and even the Statue of Liberty. The bridge is bustling with commuters, tourists, and New Yorkers alike at all hours of the day, but the best time to capture the essence of the city is around sunset. Be sure not to miss this iconic New York City staple.
Kayaking is available to the public and free of charge at the Manhattan Community Boathouse. Kayaks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be there early to ensure that you can snag one. Hitting the water offers a great way to experience the city, but rides do tend to get a little wet, so bring an extra change of clothes – the views will be something to remember.
One of the most innovative parks in the city, the High Line was created from an unused railroad track. Elevated above the city, this attraction offers views of Chelsea, the West Village and the Hudson River. The High Line features seasonal plants and flowers that are always in bloom, public art installations, and unique drawings on several of the buildings along the walkway. There are also ice cream and water trucks at the uptown entrance. The High Line offers an excellent to enjoy views of the city from 30 feet above while not costing you anything.
Jimmy Fallon fans can watch a free taping of the Tonight Show at Rockefeller Center! Tickets are available each month online or, if you get there early enough, standby tickets are also available. This is an exciting and different way to get the most out of the city for an affordable evening out. As an added bonus, you might even catch a couple glimpses of other nightly hosts and celebrities inside of 30 Rock.
Standing where the World Trade Center once stood, the 9/11 outdoor memorial offers a beautiful and moving way to remember those who were killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. The Memorial Plaza takes up 8 of the 16 acres where the two buildings were prior to the attacks. The names of every person who was lost in the terror attacks of February 26th, 1993 and September 11th, 2001 are written beautifully in bronze along the memorial. This is a historic and touching site that every person visiting NYC should take the time to visit and pay their respects to.
The TODAY Show offers free summer concerts to those who are interested. Viewing is based on a first-come, first-serve basis, and to get the best view, most fans arrive at 5AM to reserve their spot. You’ll find a great variety of artists performing all summer long and – if you’re a diehard enthusiast – can also snag Fan Passes, which are available by advanced registration via a digital lottery system. A cup of coffee and your new favorite band makes this activity perfect for any summer day.
Want to get great views of the Statue of Liberty but not have to pay for the pricey ferry ticket? Hop on the Staten Island ferry! Free to all passengers, it provides a great way to view both Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. The ferry departs from Manhattan every 30 minutes and tends to fill up pretty quick, so get there early if you want to get a seat. It also offers a great chance to get those photo ops you wanted with the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline in full view!
You can visit some of the best museums in the city without having to shell out any money at all. Certain museums are either always free or free on special occasions. There are also a handful of “pay-what-you-wish” days to be enjoyed at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Be sure to check beforehand to make sure deals are still available.
Lauren Harano is a sun-kissed Californian living in New York City. The Editorial and Marketing Assistant for VINAZINE, she's also written for Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines. In her free time, she enjoys finding the best Mexican restaurants in the city and reading in Central Park. Most importantly, she believes that every day is a good day to have a good day.