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32 Free Things To Do In NYC

August 20, 2015

New York City ranks #1 for America’s most expensive city in the country, but just because the average home costs over 1 million dollars, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of things to do that won’t cost you a dime. In the city that never sleeps, you can easily find ways to enjoy NYC for free around the clock.

Planning on visiting the city of New York? Make sure to check out this cool list of free things to do in NYC!

1. Central Park

Central Park is iconic in NYC’s cityscape, and offers plenty of free, outdoor entertainment for those who wish to soak up some nature after being surrounded by dense metropolis. The park is filled with iconic places to see and places of importance, from John Lennon’s death site to Wollman Rink. The park usually has tons of free events and activities going on as well, although simply walking through the park can be just as enjoyable.

2. Catch Up at the NYC Public Library

Read the newspaper, grab an old book, use the Wifi, and admire one of NYC’s iconic buildings, all for free, at the New York City Public Library. The library also houses a rotating collection of galleries and exhibits, and offers several classes and programs free of charge as well. Even if you don’t venture inside, you still won’t want to miss catching a glimpse of this famous city landmark.

3. Sample Wines For Free

Located in Brooklyn, Big Nose Full Body offers free wine tastings on Saturdays to the public. Each weekend has a different theme, and you can choose from over 300 different kinds of wines. Even if you’re not a wine lover, you still can enjoy the experience. They often offer educational teachings on wine and the winemaking process at the tastings as well.

4. Spend the Day at Wave Hills

Wave Hills has something to offer everyone, from the historic home of Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt to art workshops and outdoor exhibits. There are also plenty of lush garden areas to enjoy and walk around in for free. The park has over 28 acres to explore, and is completely free to visit on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

5. Tour a Brewery

Be warned: almost everyone who visits the Brooklyn Brewery will immediately want to go into the craft brew business themselves. The Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours on the weekend afternoons, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm on Saturdays, and again from 1:00 to 4:00 pm on Sundays. Each tour lasts about an hour, and is a great way to learn for free about the brewing process.

6. Ride the Ferry to Governor’s Island

While you might not be able to afford a yacht in the city’s harbor, you can still enjoy the Big Apple from the water. NYC’s Governor’s Island has over 170 acres, with great biking trails, military sites, and outdoor activities to enjoy. Best of all, you can catch the ferry and ride over without spending a dime.

7. Soak up Artwork at the Museum of Modern Art

Viewing priceless works of art from around the globe doesn’t have an admission price ticket to match. On Friday night, visitors can visit NYC’s Museum of Modern Art with free admission anytime in the evening, between 4:00 to 800 pm. The Museum holds a great collection of modern art pieces from artists around the world, and has several rotating exhibits as well. Kids ages 16 & under can visit for free anytime of the week.

8. Walk the Waterfront at Battery Park

Located in Manhattan, Battery Park has over 25 acres of waterfront land, filled with plenty of trails to walk. Hike among gardens, memorials, and statues that line the park’s walk. If you’re in the mood for introspection, follow the stone path through the park to walk in meditation.

9. Go Kayaking

Feeling adventurous? Located in Queens, several public boathouses rent out kayaks for free to visitors who wish to explore NYC from the water. The Downtown Boathouse and the Long Island Community Outhouse both rent out single and double kayaks, so you can enjoy the water solo style or with a friend.

10. Visit a Park in the Air

That’s right- NYC’s High Line is a park built 30 feet in the air, giving you the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of New York without having to run into traffic. The High Line was built on an abandoned railroad track, and offers great views of the Hudson River as well as the pedestrian traffic on the street below.

11. Explore the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Visiting lush gardens may feel like a luxury, but the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens has a few times throughout the week when admission is waived and visitors can enjoy the fauna for free! The garden has wonderful walking paths, including several water features with bridges and other attractions. Saturdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm are often free, and every Tuesday is free admission day as well.

12. Jam out at the Rockwood Music Hall

The Rockwood Music Hall has long been offering nightly concerts at its venue for free. You can catch a great variety of music here, including everything from blues to hip hop to folk. The hall is located on the Lower East Side of NYC, and is a must for music lovers on the lookout for a thrift.

13. Hire a Private Tour of NYC

Feeling intimidated by visiting a city home to over 8 million people? Not to worry; you can hire your own private tour guide and native New Yorker to help you figure out the subway, learn about the basics of the different neighborhoods, and show you the best places to eat, all for free, and thanks to the Big Apple Greeter program. Before long, you’ll have be walking the streets of New York like a local.

14. Laugh at a Comedy Club

The Upright Citizens Brigade is one of NYC’s landmarks in comedy clubs; its alumni include the famous Jerry Seinfeld, who’s show based in NYC defined the city for a decade. Several of the shows are free of charge; check out their website to see a schedule of upcoming freebie performances.

15. Catch a Free Outdoor Concert

NYC is one of the best places to listen to music for free. All summer long the city hosts summer concerts in outdoor venues in nearly every neighborhood and every night of the week. Whatever your music tastes and sensibilities, you’ll be able to find at least a few bands that play your favorite tunes.

16. Sip Wine and Talk Art

Embrace your posh side and sip wine for free while enjoying some of NYC’s most modern artwork. Most of the city’s Chelsea galleries offer free admission, and offer wine to potential clients as well. While the price range of the pieces may be slightly out of reach, viewing is free, and who passes up free wine?

17. See the Statue of Liberty

While most of the ferry tours to the Statue of Liberty will cost you, you can simply hop on the Staten Island Ferry for free and enjoy the same water views of Lady Liberty and the NYC skyline without the hefty price tag. The ferry has been transporting passengers from Staten Island to Manhattan for over a century, and is a great way to enjoy an iconic NYC experience without opening your wallet.

18. Visit the National Museum of the American Indian

If you can’t afford a trip to the Smithsonian, this museum is a great alternative, with an incredibly extensive collection of Native American cultural artifacts from a number of different tribes. The focus of the museum is mostly on the culture of Native Americans, and the museum offers plenty of chances for all age groups to learn and experience more about Native American life. Best of all, admission is always free, every day of the week.

19. Worship at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

If you have never seen a true European cathedral in person, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC isn’t a place you should miss. The church looks straight out of an ancient European fairy tale, with detailed neo-gothic architecture and seriously impressive interior vistas. You can visit for free throughout the week, so feel free to sit back in the pews and imagine yourself in an ancient time long before NYC was on the map.

20. See the Vaults at the Federal Reserve Bank of America

Ever wonder what makes a dollar bill hold its value? See for yourself at the Federal Reserve Bank of America. Located in NYC and home to more than 10,000 tons of gold, the vaults in the bank are located nearly 80 feet below ground, and are the financial cornerstone of the American economy. The only way to get near the building is to join one of the bank’s tours, which are offered for free throughout the week.

21. Be on The Tonight Show

Ok, so you probably won’t be the celebrity up on stage with Jimmy Fallon, but you can watch the show taped live (and if you’re lucky, get a cameo in the background) for free by getting a free ticket for admission a month or so before the show’s taping. The tickets are released ahead of time, and you can get one by registering online or standing in an actual line.

22. Tour City Hall

The home of government in one of America’s most influential cities is bound to be full of history, and NYC’s City Hall isn’t lacking in historical importance or intriguing artifacts. Best of all, you can tour the place for free and get the low down on the history of the city, as well as see places of historical importance, like the room where Abraham Lincoln’s coffin rested for several days on the trip back to Springfield, Illinois.

23. Get Fit at Shape Up NYC

If an expensive elite NYC gym is out of your budget, don’t worry, as you can still get in shape by exercising at Shape Up NYC. The program offers free fitness classes every single day of the week at five different locations around the city, all for completely free. The classes offer a variety of exercise activities, including kickboxing, yoga, pilates, and boot camps.  Now you really have no excuse for not getting in shape.

24. See the World at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park

This NYC park is the second largest park in the city, and houses the entire world for you to enjoy. The Unisphere was created for the World’s Fair back in the 1960s, and is a wonderful way to see the world without leaving the city. The metal structure is over 12 stories high, and is a huge fantastic monument to global interdependence.

25. Drink For Free at Bierkraft

Who doesn’t accept a free beer on a weeknight? Every Tuesday night, patrons can get their drink on for free at Bierkraft. You can sample up to seven different craft brews from around the country for free after 7:00 pm at their Tuesday Tastings.

26. Visit Coney Island

Located right on the Atlantic Ocean, Coney Island is filled with attractions and ways to spend your money. You can still enjoy the attractions without spending a dime by walking the boardwalk and taking advantage of the plethora of free entertainment, from impromptu dance parties to people watching along the boardwalk.

27. Browse an Auction House

Christie’s Auction House in NYC isn’t an ordinary auction house; the pieces that come through are often rare and more suited to a museum than to a house. Even if you can’t afford the museum admission prices, you can still enjoy some classic antiques by visiting the auction’s salesrooms, where pieces are displayed several days before the auction begins.

28. Listen to Live Music at Arthur’s Tavern

You’ll never find a cover charge at Arthur’s Tavern, one of the best and cheapest places to listen to live blues and jazz music from some of NYC’s best musicians every night of the week. The place has been around since 1957, and is a great way to enjoy a city tradition without breaking the bank on a night out.

29. Visit the New York Aquarium

One of the biggest cities in America is bound to have an aquarium to match, and sea life lovers will not be disappointed by the Big Apple’s offering at the NYC Aquarium. There are plenty of things to see and learn for crowds of all ages. Best of all, admission is completely free after 3:00 pm on Fridays.

30. Spend an Afternoon at the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim is one of NYC’s most iconic architectural landmarks, and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1950s. Even more impressive than the exterior is what awaits visitors on the inside. There are plenty of exhibits and art displays to enjoy for hours, but if you’re on a tight budget, admission waived from 5:45 to 7:15 pm on Saturday evenings. Visitors are encouraged to pay what they wish to, but no minimum is required.

31. See the Wildlife at the Bronx Zoo

There are over 4,000 animals at the Bronx Zoo, making it NYC’s largest zoo, and one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world. With almost 300 acres to explore a host of wildlife, there is plenty to see and do. Lucky for you, such variety is free of charge every Wednesday, and visitors are welcome to enjoy exploring the zoo for free all day long.

32. Catch an Outdoor Movie At Socrates Sculpture Park

Throughout the summer months, NYC’s Socrates Sculpture Park shows movies every Wednesday night at their outdoor cinema. The five acre park is located right on the waterfront, and offers free admission to the park and the international film festival nights. During the day, the park also offers plenty of exploring opportunities; visitors can walk along the park’s paths to experiance larger than life sculptures and installations that scatter the park’s grounds. Best of all, a free shuttle service is provided through the summer months as well!

There is plenty of free entertainment waiting for you to explore in NYC. The only part you might need to budget for are some groceries and a place to crash. Trekeffect has all the information you need to find budget friendly accommodations, restaurants, and other cheap activities in NYC, so what are you waiting for?

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Bryn Wied
Bryn Wied is an outdoor enthusiast and serious travelaholic. She explores every inch of the globe in her Sanuk flip flops with her favorite travel buddy/hubby Matt. Matt and Bryn live in California where they blog, surf, snowboard and raise kids in between road trips and camping adventures.