New York City is one of the most famous cities in the entire world. With over 60 million visitors to this major US city every single year, it is a top US tourist destination. It is also one of the most expensive cities in the country. Trying to stay within a certain budget can definitely be tough when visiting the big apple, but it is possible. While there are certain expenses that are harder to cheapen like accommodation and transportation, you can lower your costs by doing free activities in the city instead of paying. Thankfully, there are a lot of great fun free things to do New York City. These 15 free activities in New York City are a great place to start!
15 Fun Free Things to Do New York City-Free Activities in New York City
I have visited New York City multiple times over the course of my 30 years on this Earth. And never once have I had the same experience twice. New York City fulfills all of my dream fantasies about what it’s like to live in a major city, living my best life. I’ve always had a strong love for New York based on my love of classic New York cinema. While there are plenty of ways to spend every last dime you have in this city, it’s nice to know that you can have a fantastic trip while keeping costs somewhat low. While I’m sure you will spend money in other areas of your trip, integrating some of these free activities in New York City could be a great way to lower those costs just a little bit.
Table of Contents
1. Walk in Central Park
Central Park in my opinion is easily the greatest urban green space in the entire country. It is completely free to explore this incredibly famous public park. With over 800 acres of public park, you could easily spend several days of exploring just to see the entire park. There are many different things you can do in the park, such as jogging, biking, having a picnic, taking pictures, and much more. There are beautiful landmarks all throughout the park with fountains and sculptures. Almost everywhere you look, you will recognize something from some movie. The views of the city from the park are so incredible. There are many places in the park where you will forget you are in a city entirely. It truly is one of New York City’s greatest experiences. You can find my entire guide to Central Park here!
2. Explore the High Line
The New York City High Line is one of the most unique city parks I have ever experienced and the best part, it’s completely 100% free. Built on top of an old railway track, this public park expands almost 1.5 miles up the west side of Manhattan. Along with beautiful green spaces, you can expect to see plenty of artwork, sculptures, and more interesting things along this walk. There are beverage and food vendors along the way as well, obviously not free though. I always make sure to make a stop at the High Line when I visit NYC. This makes the High Line one of my favorite fun free things to do in New York City.
3. Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge, connecting the borough of Brooklyn to Manhattan, is one of the most famous bridges in the country. With approximately 1.5 miles of pedestrian walkway, this is a fantastic and affordable option for getting great views of the city. It is completely one of the best fun free activities in New York City to enjoy a walk, run, or cycle across the Brooklyn Bridge. If you can time your walk for sunrise or sunset, you are in for an extra gorgeous walk!
4. Visit Little Island
The newest public park in NYC, Little Island is a beautifully, architectural urban space that is designed to look as though it is floating above the Hudson River. It is completely free to enter year round and is truly a sight to be seen. While the park itself is very beautiful, the most prominent design in this park is the structure itself. Designed to look as to be made from many white cones, this new space certainly has set a new standard for what an modern, urban park can offer.
5. Visit Grand Central Station
While obviously getting on a train at Grand Central Station is not free, there is no charge to see and visit inside of this famous railway station. Built in 1913, this famous hub in midtown Manhattan is one of the worlds most famous train stations. With its high cathedral ceilings and famous classic design, this a great stop on your free tour around Manhattan.
6. Art Gallery Tours in Chelsea
Every Thursday between the hours of approximately 6-8 pm, you can stroll through the many art galleries in Chelsea for free. Many of these local galleries will offer free wines and snacks while you browse through the fabulous art. Come for the wine, stay for the art. I can’t think of anything more fabulously New York than strolling through galleries in the early evening with a glass of wine. And it’s one of many free activities in New York City!
7. Visit Times Square
Times Square is one of the most iconic sights in New York City. Located in Midtown Manhattan, this central hub is home to some of the most touristy sights in the entire city. While I usually try to avoid Times Square when not necessary due to high traffic volumes, you definitely need to see this at least once in your life. If you are visiting around New Years, be sure to come watch the ball drop the ring in the new year. It is one of the most exciting parts of being in the city around that time. But anytime of year, Times Square is definitely worth a visit.
8. Visit the New York City Public Library
Even if you are not a fan of libraries, the New York City Public Library is an iconic building offering free books to the citizens of New York City since 1895. There are few buildings in the city as iconic as this one. It is completely free to enter and browse around this famous city landmark. This library is the second largest library in the United States and the fourth largest in the entire world. If you can’t find something to read here then I don’t what to tell you. Be sure to check this out for one of many fun free things to do in New York City.
9. Explore the many neighborhoods on New York City
One activity not to be missed is simply a walking tour through the city. The city has so many different neighborhoods from Chelsea to Midtown to the Upper East Side to Soho and many more. Each neighborhood offers something completely different than the last. The amount of diversity in this city is incredible. You will never get bored just walking around the city. Every single street you turn down is different than the last. Many people visit New York without ever taking long walks to explore the city around them. I personally try to avoid taking cars and other transportation because not only is walking free, you get to really see the entire city. It is a very large city though so be prepared for that.
10. See a Movie in the Park
During the warmer months of the year, New York City offers free movies playing in several parks all over the city. The location and dates of these movies change but it is always free to enjoy. So bring a big blanket and enjoy a fabulous summer evening in the city watching a movie under the stars and skyscrapers. You can find listings and times for movies on the official website here.
11. Visit a Museum
New York City is home to many world renowned museums representing a multitude of different art mediums. While many of the most popular museums do require an entry fee, there are many museums that are free to enter or “pay as much as you want”. Even some of the most popular museums that typically require payment offer either a weekly or monthly time period where anyone can come for free. Obviously expect for these times to be much busier as many people want to get in for free. But if you are willing to deal with higher crowd volumes, this is a great option to get to see the cities best museums for free! You can find all the corresponding dates on this website.
12. Staten Island Ferry
Seeing the Statue of Liberty is high on the priority list for many first time visitors to New York City but it can get rather expensive to see. The Staten Island Ferry goes right by the Statue of Liberty so you can get a closer look and is thankfully completely free. Obviously this doesn’t get you directly to the Statue of Liberty, but it allows for a closer view of this iconic statue without having to pay.
13. Bryant Park
Located between the New York Public Library and Times Square, Bryant Park is another one of New York City’s many famous parks. Bryant Park is not only free to enjoy as it is a public park, there are often free activities offered that vary by day and time of year. You can expect not only things like free yoga classes but in the summer months they host outdoor movies on the park. This is just another fantastic one of many fun free things to do New York City.
14. Visit the New York Aquarium
Located in Brooklyn, the New York Aquarium is a fantastic way to spend some time. Whether with your kids or your loved ones, this could easily be a whole day activity. On Wednesdays from 3-closing you can get a “pay what you wish” fare. This . At the New York Zoo, you’ll find everything from sharks to rays to tropical fish and more! They even have an outdoor arena for shows. This is a great opportunity to do something for free.
15. Free Walking Tour of the City
New York City is a very large city. With so much to see it is easy to get lost trying to figure it all out. There are countless tours available throughout the city. These tours will show you everything. From where to eat, where to shop, where to hangout, the best art shows, nightclubs and so much more. A lot of these tours can get quite pricey. They sometimes prey on tourists and upsell you on things you don’t need. Thankfully, there are lots of free walking tours available throughout the city. Although a lot of these are free of charge, it is generally good practice to tip your tour guide. A little gratuity based on the quality of your experience is always nice. Although there is no fee, these tour guides do work hard and any tips are greatly appreciated although not required.
Walking tours are a great one of many free activities in New York City. Sometimes it is hard to really know what you are looking at in a new place. Your senses are so overwhelmed with so many new things. I know this happens a lot of places I travel. But it can be definitely overwhelming trying to figure out your way around New York City. I highly recommend trying out a free walking tour of New York City. Here is a list I found of some of the best free walking tours in the city.
Other Ways to Save Money in NYC
Along with the fun free things to do New York City that I have listed in this blog post, there are lots of other ways you can save money when in the city. Life can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. There are certain costs that will always be out of your control like housing costs. A great way to save money on accommodations is to stay either out of Manhattan or at least out of midtown. Midtown is going to be the most expensive area to stay because that is the main tourist destination area. You can save a lot of money by staying in Brooklyn or the Bronx. While obviously you won’t be in the heart of downtown, if you are looking to save money this can be a great solution.
Fun Free Things to Do in New York City Conclusion
In conclusion, there are countless opportunities to enjoy this incredible city for free. Out of this list of free things to do New York City, I hope that at least a few of them will aid you in planning your next trip. In such an expensive city, even just implementing a few free days into your trip can help you save money for the really expensive things like Broadway show, nightclubs, and dinners at nice restaurants. Any number of these free activities in New York City can help lower your overall costs.If you visit the big apple and have any recommendations on free things to do in the city that I may have missed be sure to let me know in the comments section!