40 FREE THINGS TO DO IN NYC THAT YOU CAN’T MISS

New York City, otherwise known as the Big Apple, has endless activities and lively streets. Welcome to the city that never sleeps! Whether you’re coming for the culture, the views, the attractions, or some of the best food spots around, NYC has it all. 

However, New York City, New York can be quite expensive, so it’s always nice to squeeze in a few free activities to make your trip a little more affordable. With museums, great walks in fantastic parks, and live shows all around the city, you can enjoy the thrill of New York at a fraction of the cost.

Here are 40 of our favorite free things to do in NYC!

40 FREE THINGS TO DO IN NYC THAT YOU CAN'T MISS
Bryant Park

WALK THE HIGH LINE

Head over to Manhattan’s West Side and walk the NYC High Line. Home to nature, art and design, a walk here offers you a chance to get off of Manhattan’s busy streets and experience 1.45 miles of beauty and fun.

Formerly a historic, elevated railroad, The High Line was going to be demolished, before the community rallied together to save it and help turn in into the public park it is today. If you look through the new walkway, you can see the old train tracks while admiring this hybrid green space.

You’ll find gardens, artwork, and community events here. It’s a beautiful area to visit, and a unique way to experience the city.

Read More: 30 GREAT THINGS TO DO IN MANHATTAN YOU CAN’T MISS

BIKE CENTRAL PARK

Central Park offers lots of free activities to all its many visitors. Walk around and explore, read a good book, play a game of frisbee, people-watch, or ride a bike around the park. Bring a bike from home, or easily rent one from around the park for an hour-long cruise. 

While you may have to rent a bike for this occasion, this is quite an inexpensive activity that allows you to see most of the park. I highly suggest picking up a sandwich and biking to a nice spot in the park for a picnic, before returning your bike and seeing more of the city.

TAKE A SELFIE AT THE FLATIRON BUILDING

Get those selfie sticks ready and start perfecting your angles, as it’s basically a NYC requirement to take a selfie at the Flatiron Building. You’ve probably seen this building a thousand times in movies, photographs, and throughout history, but now it’s your turn to be in front of it. 

The Flatiron Building was considered one of the first skyscrapers, and is easily one of the most recognized buildings in NYC. You’ll find it located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The building’s triangular shape and rounded edge is waiting for its photoshoot with you! 

STATEN ISLAND FERRY

Are you looking for the best free view of the Statue of Liberty? Then it’s time to hop on the Staten Island Ferry. Take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island and enjoy 25 minutes in New York Harbor. 

Jump off the ferry at Staten Island, grab a coffee and walk around, before heading back to the buzzing and vibrant New York City. 

Tip: Be aware of scammers trying to sell you tickets! A ride on the ferry is 100% free.

TRAVERSE THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Walk the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and grab a couple pictures while doing so. This is one of the oldest suspension bridges in America, and its classic design is instantly recognizable.

Take in the amazing views of NYC from the bridge, as a walk on it offers a free mini tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn. This walk can sometimes get very busy, so make sure to stay in the pedestrian lane, because bicyclists will come whizzing by you.

With epic views of the city, this must be at the top of your list of free things to do in NYC!

Read More: 18 THINGS TO DO IN BROOKLYN: A FIRST-TIMER’S GUIDE

EXPLORE LONG ISLAND CITY

Long Island City is often overlooked when compared to the big sites of NYC, however this hidden gem has a lot to offer. From visiting the famous Pepsi sign, and walking the Queensboro Bridge, to biking around the neighborhood, LCI is bustling. 

Go vintage shopping, eat at yummy markets, and take in the creative shops. With a huge arts, music and cultural scene, spend the day popping in shops, visiting museums, and enjoying some fun bars along the way!

QUEENS COUNTY FARM MUSEUM

Head into Queens to experience 47 acres of nature, produce and a whole bunch of fun. The Queens County Farm Museum offers educational programs, events, and plenty of fresh vegetables. The farm offers free activities for all, and allows you to have a bit of peace and quiet away from the busy city. 

Pick up some delicious treats before leaving and enjoy them on your trip back to NYC. From children to adults, this is a great way to spend some time outdoors with a local business. 

The farm is free to visit, except on special admission days.

Read More: 15 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN QUEENS YOU CAN’T MISS

GRAB VIEWS OF THE EAST RIVER FROM DOMINO PARK

Head to a Brooklyn oasis and enjoy views of the East River and NYC from the gorgeous Domino Park. With elevated walkways and lots of green space to enjoy, I highly suggest sitting down and enjoying the bright colors of a New York sunset. 

Whether you’re looking for children to have a safe space to run about in, or you’re a cool kid looking to soak in the vibes of Brooklyn, Domino Park is the spot. Enjoy the views, the vibes and vibrant life! 

SEE THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

Go to a country estate in uptown Manhattan and see where it all began. Hamilton Grange National Memorial is a true beauty amid the chaos of busy New York City. Schedule a guided tour to see inside the home or tour the grounds.

Understand a part of Alexander Hamilton’s life and legacy and uncover the room where it happened. This amazing experience should be seen and understood in all its glory. I highly suggest watching Hamilton before or after your visit to fully grasp the importance of this house and lasting work.

Read More: 30 GREAT THINGS TO DO IN MANHATTAN YOU CAN’T MISS

BRING THE KIDS TO THE BROOKLYN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM    

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is the perfect place to take your kids to spark their curiosity and encourage creative learning. You can book a reservation in advance to take part in their Amazon Free Hours on Thursdays from 2-5 p.m.

With three floors of interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences, this museum is pure fun for kiddos ages 6 months to 10 years old.

Kids will love their permanent exhibits, including Totally Tots, The NEST, Neighborhood Nature, and more. Traveling exhibits are also featured here.

Read More: 18 THINGS TO DO IN BROOKLYN: A FIRST-TIMER’S GUIDE

SPEND THE AFTERNOON AT BRYANT PARK

Spend the day lounging in Bryant Park, relaxing, listening to good music, and people watching in the heart of the city. Open-air movies are free in summer and are a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the city that never sleeps. 

Bring your own skates or rent a pair and perfect the art of ice skating in winter, with a fabulous rink in the middle of the city. From festive markets to catching up with friends, Bryant Park offers free activities and cheap options for all visitors. 

EXPLORE TIMES SQUARE

A trip to NYC is nothing without a visit to the ever-popular Times Square. From its huge billboards, fun shops, and bright lights, the list of free sights is endless. Wander around enjoying the chaos, the street performers, and seeing the many artists. 

Listen to music and tour the epicenter of NYC! Simply people watch, grab a picture with your favorite cartoon character, or tour the sites of this energetic and lively part of New York. With loads of free entertainers, get ready to be amazed!

Read More: 14 REALLY AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN TIMES SQUARE

9/11 MEMORIAL

Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and pay your respects to so many who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. I highly recommend getting tickets for the museum as well, as it shows the impact of attacks on the world, and holds great significance to the United States.

From personal stories, artifacts, and narratives, this cannot be missed while on your NYC trip. 

NOSH A NATHAN’S HOT DOG AT CONEY ISLAND BOARDWALK

Head over to the famous Coney Island Boardwalk and eat your heart out. If you are visiting Coney Island, it is mandatory to eat Nathan’s. From its tasty hot dogs to yummy fries, eat at the original location for a signature dog and good time. 

Walk the boardwalk, enjoy some rides, and step back in time with a visit to the vintage shops. This family friendly spot is buzzing in the summer months, and is ready to see you too!

CHELSEA ART GALLERY STROLL

Understand the art and culture of New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood by exploring the amazing art galleries and artistic institutions found here. On Thursday nights, take to the streets of New York for an Art Gallery Crawl. 

From The Met, to more intimate personal settings, be spoiled for choice and fall in love with the art scenes of New York. Chelsea has close to 100 art galleries and museums waiting to be explored and loved by you! 

WATCH A SHOW AT SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK

The beloved Shakespeare in the Park event is back, and in my eyes, this is one of the best free activities to do in NYC. Every summer, watch as the public theater offers free productions of some of the best shows in town at Delacorte Theater in Central Park. 

Sit outside while watching an amazing show, and take in the beauty of the arts at this amazing and wonderful experience. 

Tip: Sign up for the parks lottery system for a chance to get the free tickets. 

TOUR AMPLE HILLS CREAMERY’S RED HOOK ICE CREAM FACTORY

Are you looking for the inside scoop?! Drop by the largest ice cream production facility in NYC and learn a little more about Ample Hills Creamery’s famous frozen treat. Learn about the practice of making ice cream and get ready for a flavor story at their Red Hook ice cream factory.

Try yummy flavors, expand your palate, and become an ice cream connoisseur during an unbelievable tour. Buy pints to bring home and enjoy later with scoops, upon scoops of tasty perfection. 

SEE THE CITY LIGHTS ON THE BROOKLYN HEIGHTS PROMENADE

Take in some of the best nighttime views of the city with a gorgeous stroll through Brooklyn Heights on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This pedestrian walkway gives the best look at Brooklyn Bridge, and it allows you to have a mosey around Dumbo too. 

Look out on the lower Manhattan Skyline, relax on the many benches and have a relaxing evening with friends and family around you. 

JOIN THE AUDIENCE OF A LIVE TAPING

New York live TV shows offer a list of free tapings to its audience members. Exciting, right?  From Saturday Night Live, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, all shows request an audience, and you can be in it. 

Typically, tickets are released a month in advance, so definitely plan ahead. Filming can begin anywhere from later afternoon to early evening, and I highly suggest arriving early so you can get the best seat! Good Luck!

AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND NATIONAL MEMORIAL

Visit the oldest and largest ever known African burial ground in Lower Manhattan for both free and enslaved Africans at the African Burial Ground National Memorial. This burial ground had over 15,000 skeletal remains from Africans who lived and worked in colonial New York. 

Tours are available to gain a deeper understanding of the grounds or freely walk around this national memorial. Here stories, see artifacts and pay your respects. 

THE MUSEUM AT FIT (FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY)

Are you up to date with the trends? With over 50,000 garments dating from the 18th century to the present, look at the evolution of fashion through history. See innovative exhibits and get inspired with the styles from the past, present and future with a visit to The Museum at FIT

See current exhibitions and seek inspiration and curiosity through your own fashion. Maybe you have a future fashion designer among you. 

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

You will instantly be taken aback by the stunning building that houses The National Museum of the American Indian in NYC.

With amazing art, artifacts, and findings dating back 12,000 years, you will learn and understand more about native cultures and societies after a visit here.

Explore Native Americans strengths, diversities, customers and tenacity from the earliest of times to now. From personal accounts to shared heritage, this is an amazing place to visit. Tickets are not required and admission is free.

WATCH THE STARS

Go star gazing under city lights. From April to October, members of the Amateur Astronomers Association flock to various NYC parks to bring the wonder of the sky to reality through high-powered telescopes. 

All are invited to this amazing phenomenon, where you can ask experts all your space burning questions and freely observe stars, planets and the moon. Keep an eye out for telescopes at Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Lincoln Center, the High Line, and a few more locations for an unbelievable experience. 

WALK GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY

Take a trip to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, which memorializes the dead while focusing on the beauty of living. Grab a free map at any entrance and stroll through the grounds of this amazing cemetery, that brings together art, history, and nature.

This oasis in the middle of Brooklyn offers solitude to many. It’s a gorgeous green space to admire and explore.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW ON A FREE WALKING TOUR

Sometimes the best way to get fully immersed in a new city is to take to the pavement yourself. Come across different neighborhoods, find unique shops, and learn about NYC with pay-what-you-wish guided tours or free self-guided walks.

Free Tours by Foot offers many paths around the city that will take you through trendy neighborhoods and to iconic spots. Sandeman’s New Europe Tours, brings you within the hustle and bustle of the city, seeing landmarks and finding hidden gems across the city. 

Tip: These tours are free, but tips are appreciated. 

KAYAK HUDSON RIVER

Take on the Hudson River and kayak your way through a new passion. Whether you’re an expert or novice, the Manhattan Community Boathouse at Pier 96 offers kayak lessons to the public. 

Put on your life jacket and get paddling on the Hudson with views to see, memories to make, and laughter to be shared. 

ENJOY THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT FLUSHING MEADOWS CORONA PARK

You know spring is here when the cherry blossom trees bloom with their pink flowers. While the trees blossom in multiple parks across the city, I think Flushing Meadows Corona Park has the most vibrant of colors of them all. 

Starting in mid- to late-March, watch as the parks come alive in the spring, bringing joy and warmth to all around. Lasting around two weeks, get out quick and see them before it’s too late. 

SEE THE ICE SKATERS AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER

Watch as ice skaters glide, jump and soar at Rockefeller Center throughout the winter, or participate yourself in this classic NYC activity. (It does cost money to actually skate, but admiring the views is always free!) With a gorgeous backdrop and winter lights, this is an experience you don’t want to forget. 

During the holidays, make sure to see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, too.

Don’t forget to take pics in front of Radio City Music Hall and Saint Petersburg Cathedral!

GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL STATION

One of the greatest free things to do in NYC is seeing all the iconic landmarks the city has to offer. Grand Central Station is one of those amazing landmarks.

Not only is Grand Central a functioning train station, but it’s also a beautiful building that’s worth a visit.

See the stunning ceilings and the architecture of the station during your visit. It’s no wonder it can often be seen in famous movies and TV shows.

WATCH THE ARTISTS AT WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

From skateboarders to artists and performers, Washington Square Park is a creative hub in Greenwich Village that you’re going to love. Watch artists perfect their craft and take inspiration from the scenes around them. 

Pick up food, have a picnic in the park, and feel a part of the fun and crazy life of New Yorkers. This quirky park is waiting to pull you in and spark its own curiosity within you. 

TAKE A MURAL WALK

NYC has some of the best street murals around and lucky for you it’s a completely free activity.  Wander around SoHo and come across plenty of detailed and intricate pieces of art sprawling all over buildings and walls. 

For the most outstanding street and graffiti art, head to the Bushwick Collective. Learn about local and international artists and see close to 100 blocks of fabulous artwork. It’s quite astonishing and beautiful! 

TOUR BROOKLYN BREWERY

On Sundays from 1-6 p.m., the Brooklyn Brewery offers a free tour where you’ll find big brew tanks and uncover the history of brewing. Discover the truth about the Brooklyn Brewery logo, and see the connection between the I Heart NY logo by Milton Glaser. 

Grab some hops to go and taste the latest creations and flights on the tour. Walk the brewhouse and packaging hall, and ask all your crafty questions. 

LITTLE ISLAND NYC

Explore a unique and exceptional island park on the Hudson River with a visit to Little Island. With its sleek and striking design, walk the path and appreciate this urban oasis with amazing views.

While it is free to enter, reservations are required, and you don’t want to miss this. See new views and experience the future of parks at Little Island. 

SEE THE ORIGINAL POOH AT NYC PUBLIC LIBRARY

Visit Winnie the Pooh and Friends and see where it all began with a visit to the New York Public Library. Under the Polonsky exhibit at the New York Public Library, see the OG animal and friends on an adventure of a lifetime!

Free, one-hour tours are also offered at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, sometimes commonly referred to as the “Main Library.” (It’s where you’ll find Winnie.) You can sign up for a free docent-led tour at the information desk in Astor Hall. The tours are held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

THE POLONSKY EXHIBITION AT THE NYPL

The Polonsky Exhibition is a permanent collection of items that highlights the New York Public Library’s research collections. Collected for over 125 years, the collection features some of the items from the 56 million they have.

The exhibition tells the stories of people and places spanning 4,000 years — from the past to present day. This exhibit encourages you to draw on connections and expand your knowledge, of not only people, but the living world. 

Stop by and see artifacts, recordings, and artwork in this impressive and thought-provoking experience. 

BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN

In the heart of Brooklyn sits a lovely oasis of plants at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. From fresh blooms to lush green trees, this garden is beautiful and worth a visit.

On the weekdays during the winter, pay as you wish and see the serene gardens filled with peace and solitude. In the hot summer, take a stroll under shaded trees and step away from the busyness of NYC life!

GOVERNORS ISLAND WINTER VILLAGE

Feel the Governs Island’s spirit with daily attractions, free activities, and lots of joy to be spread at the Governor’s Island Winter Village. From Ice skating to delicious seasonal treats, come with family and friends for a jolly occasion. 

With Free Admission Fridays, come and stroll throughout the day enjoying hot chocolate, winter fun and sled rentals. Feel the winter spirit and make cherished holiday memories. 

ROOSEVELT ISLAND TRAM

You’ve probably seen the Roosevelt Island tram in many movies, but did you know you can go on it yourself? Cross the East River on the first aerial commuter tramway in America, and get great views of the NYC skyline along the way. 

Purchase a metrocard and be on your way! I highly recommend this as a quick and inexpensive touristy activity to do!

ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

This essential and beautiful NYC landmark is stunning, and must be seen to be believed. With its high altar, intricate details, grand aesthetic and neo-gothic architecture, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a NY wonder. 

The cathedral is notorious for its stained-glass windows and beautiful ceilings, and needs to be on your NYC checklist. Take a tour and understand the history of the church.

SEE THE SHIPS AT SOUTH STREET SEAPORT

Welcome to the “Street of Ships”! Look at ships dating back to the 1800’s and admire the true beauty of the ships today at the South Street Seaport. Pop over to Pier 16 and see ships sitting among others in the great harbor. Take a stroll and have a quick overview of these magnificent vessels. 

Tip: To learn more about the ships, look into getting tickets for the South Street Seaport Museum. It’s free!

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