30 Free Things to Do in New York City

By Briana Seftel

The City That Never Sleeps is also the City That Isn't Kind on the Wallet. However, that doesn't mean New York City can't be fun on a budget. Stretch your dollar (and save your money for pizza and Broadway shows) with these 30 free things to do!

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Parks & Gardens

1. Central Park

This 843-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the best-known park in the world and is even being considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With expansive green lawns, pedestrian paths, a zoo, a carousel, reservoir and boat rentals, you could spend an entire day here without spending a buck.

2. Prospect Park

Another Olmsted masterpiece, Prospect Park is a 526-acre park bordering several neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Catch a free concert at the Bandshell, picnic on the lawn or visit the historic Lefferts House built by an 18th-century Dutch family.

3. Washington Square Park

Rub shoulders with NYU students and watch street performers at Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. A prominent feature of the park is the Washington Square Arch, modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

4. High Line

Popular among tourists and locals, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park built on an abandoned railway. Ideal for a leisurely stroll, the park provides perfect vantage points of the city below.

5. Bryant Park

This public park in Midtown Manhattan is an ideal oasis in the bustling city. Popular among the lunch crowd from nearby businesses, the park regularly hosts free movies and events, as well as a holiday market in the winter.

6. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Located on the northeastern edge of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free Friday mornings from March to November and winter weekends from December to February. Plan your visit during late spring to see the blossoming pink cherry trees.

Museums & Galleries

7. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

One of the most famous museums in the world, the Museum of Modern Art is free every Friday from 4pm to 8pm. Plan your visit after 6pm to avoid the initial crowds and admire such masterpieces as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Warhol's Campbell soup cans and Van Gogh's The Starry Night.

8. National Museum of the American Indian

This museum in lower Manhattan, part of the Smithsonian, holds one of the world's most expansive collections of Native artifacts. And it's always free!

9. Chelsea Galleries

NYC's artiest neighborhood is chock full of free galleries to explore. Head to West Chelsea between Tenth and Eleventh avenues and 18th and 28th and pop into galleries that catch your eye.

10. The Museum at FIT

The museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a fashion lover's paradise. The always-free museum holds several exhibitions throughout the year that invite the visitor to gain an understanding of fashion culture.

11. Brooklyn Museum

Plan a visit to the Brooklyn Museum on the first Saturday of the month and enjoy free admission. The museum holds an impressive collection of contemporary works by artists like Mark Rothko and Edward Hopper.

12. Frick Collection

Located in an elegant Upper East Side mansion, the Frick Collection offers free admission every first Friday evening of the month (except September and January), from 6pm to 9pm.

A note about museums: There are a number of museums in NYC that have suggested donation or pay-what-you-wish, meaning you can either pay the full entrance amount or pay what you want (which could be as little as $1).

Best Views & Photo Ops

13. Brooklyn Bridge Park

Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. For excellent views of this impressive bridge, head to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

14. WNYC Transmitter Park

Head to the waterside WNYC Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for stellar views of downtown Manhattan's skyline. The park also hosts free movies in the summer, so check the calendar beforehand.


For an Instagram-worthy shot of the Manhattan Bridge, head to DUMBO (an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass") and take a picture at the intersection of Water and Washington streets.

16. Bushwick Street Art

Troutman Street in Bushwick is a mecca for local and international street artists. Keep your camera ready to snap photos of colorful murals that put this eclectic neighborhood on the map.

Streets for Strolling & Shopping

17. Fifth Avenue

When you think of 5th Avenue, you probably think of shopping. You'll find every store under the sun on this major thoroughfare that stretches from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village to West 143rd Street in Harlem.

18. Arthur Avenue

Arthur Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx is considered the borough's "Little Italy." Find delectable Italian goodies like fresh mozzarella, cured meats and gelato at shops up and down this old-school avenue.

Foodie Finds

19. Chelsea Market

Once home to the National Biscuit Company, Chelsea Market is an indoor food hall offering everything from vegan sushi to whole steamed lobster, as well as shops including a bookstore, cooking supply store and artisan's market.

20. Union Square Greenmarket

Held every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the farmer's market at Union Square bursts with fresh produce and local treats all year round. Even if you just come to sample, it's still worth a visit.

21. Brooklyn Brewery

Take a free tour of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg! Tours are held every Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 6pm and occur every 30 minutes. Get there early as tours are limited to 40 people.

22. Eataly

Modeled after the food hall in Turin, Italy, Eataly was opened in 2010 in the Flatiron district and is a treasure trove of imported Italian products. Peruse the fish, meat bread and cheese stalls and don't be afraid to ask for samples.


23. Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central is so much more than a commuter train station. Built in a stunning Beaux-Arts design, the station is listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is home to a Nordic-inspired food hall, oyster bar, shops and more. Don't miss the Whispering Gallery, where the low ceramic arches allow you to whisper with someone standing on an opposing corner!

24. New York Public Library

The main branch of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park is an architectural marvel. The second largest public library in the United States after the Library of Congress, it was opened in 1911 as a place for New Yorkers to check out a book or quietly read. Don't miss the beautiful Rose Main Reading Room.

25. 9/11 Memorial

Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial below One World Trade Center. Two square reflecting pools in the center mark where the Twin Towers stood and are inscribed with the names of the 2,977 people killed during the 9/11 attacks.

26. Charging Bull

The 7,000-pound bronze Charging Bull sculpture on Wall Street has become an NYC landmark since it was first installed in 1989. A symbol of financial success, many visitors have taken to photographing the bull's, um, virility.

27. Hamilton Grange

If you can't score tickets to Hamilton on Broadway, a visit to Hamilton Grange is the second best thing! Take a free tour of Alexander Hamilton's estate on W. 141st St. in Harlem, renovated in 2011.

Everything else

28. Staten Island Ferry

Hop on the free Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan and enjoy the 25-minute ride offering superb views of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline.

29. Beaches

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, New York City opens its public beaches for all to enjoy. While Coney Island is certainly the most well-known, you can also dig your toes into the sand at Brighton Beach, Rockaway Beach and Fort Tilden.

30. Shakespeare in the Park

Held at Central Park's Delacorte Theater, Shakespeare in the Park is an NYC institution. Each summer the Public Theater presents two shows, with free tickets distributed in the park and other locations around the city. For a good chance at winning tickets, download the TodayTix app and enter the lottery when it becomes available.

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