The Top 45+ Free and Totally Awesome Things to Do in NYC from Attractions to Events!
As a college kid in NYC, it was my goal to do as much as I could for free. Over 12 years later, I can still say many of these free NYC attractions are my favorite places to visit! In this New York guide, I am covering over 45 totally awesome and free things to do NYC, especially for New York first-timers! Below, you will discover New York’s top attractions, museums, events, and activities to enjoy for FREE!
First time in NYC? Check out these Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting NYC
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Top 45+ Free and Totally Awesome Things to Do in NYC from Attractions to Events!
- 1. The Vessel & Hudson Yards
- 2. The High Line in Chelsea
- 3. Chelsea NYC Art Galleries
- 4. Central Park – A Top Free NYC Thing To Do
- 5. Shakespeare in the Park
- 6. Grand Central Terminal Station
- 7. Times Square
- 8. Washington Square Park
- 9. The Oculus
- 10. The Brooklyn Bridge – Overall One of the Best Free NYC Attractions
- 11. Brooklyn Bridge Park
- 12. The Brooklyn Promanade
- 13. Hang out at Domino Park
- 14. Brooklyn Brewery
- 15. Staten Island Ferry (Best Free NYC Boat Ride)
- 16. The Flatiron Building
- 17. Soho NYC Murals
- 18. Bryant Park – One of the Best Parks for Free Activities
- 19. NYC Public Library (NYPL)
- 20. Chrysler Building
- 21. Rockefeller Center
- 22. NYC Museums FREE Days (A Top FREE NYC Activity)
- 23. Little Island NYC
- 24. Gantry Plaza State Park
- 25. Visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens
- 26. Explore the Coney Island Boardwalk
- 27. Free Fridays at the Intrepid Museum
- 28. 9/11 Memorial Pools
- 29. Roosevelt Island
- 30. Pier 57 Rooftop Park
- 31. Saint Patricks Cathedral
- 32. Attend a Live Taping
- 33. Visit the Green-Wood Cemetery
- 34. Stroll Through The Battery Park
- 35. Explore Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City
- 36. African Burial Ground National Monument
- 37. Check out a Free Lincoln Center Performance
- 38. Queens County Farm Museum
- 39. Head to Governors Island
- Seasonal Free Things to Do in NYC
- 44. NYC Free Parades
- 45. Visit the Hamilton Grange National Memorial
- 46. See NYC’s Bean
- 47. NYC Neighborhoods – Bonus Free Activities
- 48. Free NYC Walking Tour (Bonus)
- NYC Budget Tips
- Best Free Thing to Do in NYC Wrap-up
1. The Vessel & Hudson Yards
Starting with one NYC’s newest attractions, The Vessel & Hudson Yards! Located in the Hudson Yards, the Vessel is easily one of the best free things to do during your visit to NYC.
Standing at 150 ft high, this is one of the most unique structures to find in New York City. While you can no longer climb to the top of the Vessel, you can still enjoy visiting this attraction for free at the ground-level base with no reservation.
The Vessel is also a really fun place to take pictures as well! For free ground access, head there between Monday through Saturday from 10 AM- 8 PM and Sunday from 11 AM – 7 PM.
The Hudson Yards is known as an upscale shopping mall where you can get food, visit the famous Edge Sky Deck, and have a connection to the High Line. Currently, Hudson Yards is also offering FREE movie nights on Friday at 6 PM!
- 9/15 Miss Congeniality
- 9/22 Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
- 9/29 Crazy Stupid Love
- 10/6 What a Girl Wants
- 10/13 Practical Magic
- 10/20 The Witches
- 10/27 Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Address: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
2. The High Line in Chelsea
From Hudson Yards, make your way to the Chelsea High Line. This iconic railway turned greenway is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, especially on a nice sunny day!
On either side, find murals, greenery, and views of NYC through the Chelsea neighborhood (where I used to live)! The Highline is 1.45 miles long and ends at Gansevoort St.
FYI: If the weather is nice, be prepared for lots of other visitors unless you go early in the morning. There are also a lot of cute photo spots on the High Line you can take advantage of.
NY Insider tip: If you’re feeling hungry, you can walk the Highline all the way down to Chelsea Market, where you can eat and explore like a local! Even if you don’t decide to eat at Chelsea Market, it is still cool to explore – especially during the holidays!
3. Chelsea NYC Art Galleries
Speaking of Chelsea, if you happen to be in NYC on a Thursday night and love art, make your way down to the Chelsea Galleries! This was one of my favorite things to do as a broke fashion college student!
Enjoy free wine, bites, and fantastic art around/after 6:30 PM! You can find the Chelsea Galleries between 10th and 11th Ave from 19th to 26th Street. You’re welcome for this very local NY’er gem of a spot!
4. Central Park – A Top Free NYC Thing To Do
Central Park is a staple for NYC, and luckily for all of us, it’s among one of the many free things to do!
On top of that, Central Park is great to visit all year round. Whether it’s Spring Cherry Blossom Blooms, Epic Summer picnics, Fall foilage, or covered in a blanket of snow, you won’t be disappointed with what Central Park has to offer!
Some of my favorite places to visit in Central Park include Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain, The Mall (especially in Fall), The Ramble, Strawberry Fields, Gapstow Bridge, The Central Park Conservancy (a great place to see tulips in NYC and Cherry Blossoms in NYC), and Belvedere Castle.
The park is located between the Upper West and East Side and covers 843 acres! If your budget is not too tight, I would even consider taking a walking tour through the park! There is a lot of history.
Please do not take a horse and carriage ride. The horses are treated poorly.
5. Shakespeare in the Park
Visiting New York City in the summer? Then you might want to catch the totally free public theater event, Shakespeare in the Park! It will be their 61st anniversary this year in 2023! Also located in Central Park at The Delacorte Theater.
Additionally, they have other shows going on around the city. Check their schedule here!
Address: 81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
6. Grand Central Terminal Station
Grand Central Station is probably one of the prettiest subway stations in NYC. Who knew a train station could be NYC must-do on your itinerary?!
Besides being the backdrop of more movies than I can count, the ceiling art is stunning, and it’s a great place to people watch. While inside, you will find restaurants, a farmers market, the whispering walls, and shopping. After hanging out at Grand Central, you can take the S line right into Times Square, win, win!
Did you know Grand Central has around 750,000 visitors a day? Second to Times Square! If you love learning about history, this NYC landmark has a lot of it! You might even want to consider taking a tour.
NYC Insider travel tip: If you plan to shoot with a Tripod, supposedly, you are not allowed to use it at Grand Central Station.
If you did decide you wanted to do a paid attraction, the Summit One Vanderbilt is also right here. The observation deck offers some of the best views of NYC, and the closest view of the Empire State Building.
7. Times Square
Did you even visit NYC without walking through Times Square? This is easily one of the top things to do in NYC, especially for first-timers, which of course, is also free.
With huge billboards, the M&M store (yum), the naked cowboy, and street performers, it’s definitely an interesting place to experience, to say the least! It is also one of the best free things to do at night in NYC!
While most local New Yorkers avoid Times Square, it’s nice to feel the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps – especially if this is your first time in NYC. Just don’t eat in Times Square. The food is usually over-priced, and the quality is not as good.
NYC Travel Tip: I would recommend heading around here during the day and evening so you can see the city all lit up.
8. Washington Square Park
Located in the charming Greenwich Village neighborhood, Washington Square Park is another one of my favorite places to hang out in the city, especially on a Spring or Summer day.
The park is almost 10 acres and has a ton of history. Going as far back as being marshland for Native Americans and a burial ground for those who fell from Yellow Fever, the green space has become one of the most coveted places to visit in New York.
Head here to hang around the fountain, people-watch, eat a snack, and view the Washington Square Arch. During the Summer, they also hold different free activities you can check for!
If you love photography, you can see either the Empire State Building or the Freedom Tower through the Arch from either side.
If you are visiting New York City during the holidays, you have the opportunity to visit their lovely Christmas tree!
Address: Washington Square N, New York, NY 10012
9. The Oculus
The Oculus is part of the new World Trade Center Transportation hub, which acts as a mall and subway station. This architectural gem was designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Make sure to check out the Oculus from both the inside and outside since both are very picturesque! They often have a farmers market inside the Oculus, along with a Christmas Market during the holidays. It is also part of a larger shopping hub with tons of stores.
New York Insider tip: While at the Oculus, you can also view the 9/11 memorial for free. If you also plan on visiting the 9/11 museum, it’s free on Mondays from 5:30 PM – 7 PM – reserve tickets online.
Address: Church St, New York, NY 10006
10. The Brooklyn Bridge – Overall One of the Best Free NYC Attractions
Make your way to the famous Brooklyn Bridge and cross over to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn. The bridge is 1.1 miles and was once the largest suspension bridge.
When the bridge originally opened, it actually wasn’t a free NYC activity to do. It cost a penny to cross by foot, and 5 cents by horse and carriage.
Thankfully, we can add crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to one of the many awesome free things to do in NYC now! When crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, you will also be treated to fantastic views of Manhattan!
Fun NYC Travel fact: After a mass panic happened about safety during the first week of the bridge being open, they ensured safety by letting 21 elephants cross into lower Manhattan.
11. Brooklyn Bridge Park
After crossing the bridge, hang out in Dumbo around Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park/pier is especially nice during the Spring/ Summer, where you will find people out picnicking on the lawns, and further down roller skating, enjoying Jane’s Carousel, playing basketball, and more.
From the walkway, you can even see the Statue of Liberty from a “very” far. Additionally, if you are visiting NYC during the Summer, feel like a local New Yorker and watch Movies with a view at Brooklyn Bridge Park! You can find showings here.
NYC Free Bonus Photo Spot: While in DUMBO, Brooklyn, you might want to check out the iconic photography spot with the Manhattan Bridge nearby. You have likely seen this photo all over Instagram, and it is located on Waters Street and Washington Street. Check my NYC Instagram guide for more photo spots!
12. The Brooklyn Promanade
Another epic and free view of New York City is from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (Esplanade). Stretching 1,826 ft long, this pedestrian walkway is a favorite among locals! Even my mom always talks about her days hanging there! From the Dumbo, Brooklyn side facing Manhattan, it is to the left by Pier 4 beach. It is open until 1 AM if you want to see the city all lit up!
Address: Montague St &, Pierrepont Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11201
13. Hang out at Domino Park
Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a great way to have a nice day with great views of Manhattan across the East River. The park offers 5 acres and was designed by James Corner Field Operations, who also designed The High Line!
Enjoy an elevated walk, lawn areas, dog run, volleyball, a playground, and more! It is a great non-touristy, and free thing to do in NYC! During the summer, you can also head over to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg! Located by Charlotte Beach, you will find dozens of amazing food vendors!
Address: 15 River St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
14. Brooklyn Brewery
Since we are talking about Williamsburg, it would be doing you a disservice not to check out the free tours at the Brooklyn Brewery! Brooklyn Brewery and even tour their distillery! On Sundays from 1 PM – 6 PM, you can tour the microbrewery for free, although I can’t promise you won’t grab yourself a Brooklyn Lager by the time you leave!
Address: 79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
15. Staten Island Ferry (Best Free NYC Boat Ride)
Did you say free transportation in NYC?! I know, shocking right! I guess they had to make it up somewhere for charging us locals over $15 USD to cross into Staten Island over the Verrazano Bridge.
Anyways, so why would you even want to take a ride on this ferry, you ask? Well, because it’s the closest you will get to the Statue of Liberty for free!
While on the ferry, you can stand in the front and back of the boat while in motion to get a really nice view of the Statue of Liberty and that stunning NYC Skyline.
For epic views of the NYC skyline, head around sunset!
Address: The Staten Island Ferry is located at 4 Whitehall Street, New York, NY 10004
16. The Flatiron Building
If architecture fascinates you, pay a visit to one of NYC’s most photographed buildings for its unique triangular shape splitting the streets. This 22-story building, originally known as the Fuller Building, opened in 1902.
While you can’t officially go inside, you can snap a couple of photos, hang out in Madison Square Park, or even hit up Eataly for food heaven!
Update: The Flatiron currently has scaffolding up. It is still a great area to check out.
Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
17. Soho NYC Murals
Soho happens to be one of my top 3 favorite neighborhoods in all of New York City! I worked in Soho for 2 years, and the cute cobblestone streets, art, and shopping make it the perfect place to explore.
If you are a Nespresso lover like me, they have a flagship store on Spring and Prince Street, which is where I worked during my college days. They offer “complementary tastings” if you are interested in learning about getting a machine.
While the art is always changing, some noteworthy places to check out are:
- Bowery New York Mural on 76 E Houston St.
- Flowers mural by Jet Martinez is located at 250 Mulberry St., New York, NY 10012
- Yumi Kim trash can mural 105 Staton St #1, New York, 10002
- Color Factory Wall 251 Spring St 251 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
- Tristan Eaton – “Audrey Hepburn” located on 176 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
If you don’t mind leaving Manhattan, you can also check out the large collection of Bushwick Collective Murals. Additionally, you can find some of the best Pizza in NYC located around SoHo as well!
18. Bryant Park – One of the Best Parks for Free Activities
If you love parks in urban spaces, make sure to add Bryant Park to your list! This green square is 9.6 acres and regularly holds free events during the Summer, including free movie screenings, performances, exercise classes, and more!
Oh, and during the holidays, Bryant Park hosts the Bank of America Winter Village! This Winter Village offers free Ice skating in NYC (bring your own skates), a pop-up Christmas Market, tons of food vendors, and even Cozy Winter Igloos!
Bryant Park is also right next to the iconic New York Public Library.
19. NYC Public Library (NYPL)
I’ve never been inside the NYC Public Library, but as a kid, I did once sit on the lion statues outside… and then prompted to get down immediately! I do have a library card, though!
But if you love books and awesome architecture, the NYC Public Library should definitely be on your list of free things to do in NYC! It is still on my bucket list to visit inside.
Furthermore, they have just opened The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures as the library’s first permanent collection, which is also free to enjoy at the e Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
Did you know the NYC Public Library is the second-largest library in the United States, with 55 million books? The building was also declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and considered a New York Landmark in 1967!
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10 AM – 6 PM; Tuesdays & Wednesdays is open until 8 PM
Address: 135 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017
20. Chrysler Building
One of the coolest Sky Scrappers, IMO goes to the Chrysler Building. This gem of a building stands 1,046 ft high from the antenna spire and is the world’s tallest brick building with steelwork! The building was completed in a little less than 2 years, opening up in 1930.
The Chrysler Building is the 11th tallest skyscraper in NYC, and it can be found on lists of favorite architecture due to its unique Art Deco style. So why should you care? Because besides seeing it in the famous NYC skyline, you can also visit the lobby for free.
It’s open 8 AM – 6 PM Monday – Friday for your viewing pleasure!
Insider NYC Tip: Although it won’t be free, the Chrysler Building is working on getting an observation deck!
Address: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174
21. Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is one of my all-time favorite places to visit in NYC during the holidays. This is where you will find the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree, decorations, and the Saks 5th Ave light show, which usually goes up at the very end of November. If you are not visiting during the holidays, don’t worry because Rockefeller Center is still great all season long.
You will find over 40 food spots, Radio City Music Hall, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and a stroll down Fifth Avenue to all the high-end designer stores. If you love Art Deco (the 1930s) architecture and art, this is also the place for you.
If your budget does allow it, I would recommend getting tickets for visiting the Top of the Rock. This is easily one of the best observation decks in NYC and is located at Rockefeller Plaza. If you do plan on doing a lot of paid attractions, your best bet will probably be an NYC Sightseeing Pass – which will cover below!
Throughout the year, Rockefeller Center does have a ton of fun free activities happening. Currently, they have Space 776 Gallary at Rockefeller Center, which is free to visit! Check it out before November 5th! They also just installed the famous LOVE sign.
This is also where you will catch some of the free live tappings in NYC. More on that is below.
NYC Fun Fact: Did you know the first Rockefeller Christmas Tree was put up in 1931? It was 20 ft tall.
FREE NYC Bonus: Want a free audio tour around Rockefeller Center? Rockefeller Center teamed up with local Gesso to create an immersive free audio walking tour through the Gesso App. Learn more here!
22. NYC Museums FREE Days (A Top FREE NYC Activity)
NYC is full of amazing museums, and while not all museums are not free every day, they should still be on your list as one of the top things to do during your visit to New York!
- The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art): Free for New York Residents on the first Friday of the month from 4 PM – 8 PM.
- American Museum of Natural History: Has suggested prices but is pay what you wish only in person at the ticket counter. (NY, NJ, and CT Residents)
- The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) If you happen to be a New Jersey, Connecticut, or NY State resident, it’s pay as you wish.
- Date Night at the MET: A really cool event the Met has is free Date Night every Friday and Saturday night. Bring someone or even yourself from 5 PM – 9 PM for live music, drinks, and 5,000 years of art. Learn more!
- New Museum of Contemporary Art: Another great free NYC museum offers “pay what you wish” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Thursday. Timed tickets are required.
- 9/11 Museum: The museum is free every Monday from 5:30 PM – 7 PM – Online reservation needed.
- Morgan Library and Museum: On Fridays, they offer free admission from 5 PM until 7 PM – reservation required.
- The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum (FIT Museum): Free for all visitors. I think I took this museum for granted since I went to college here at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology).
- Whitney Museum of American Art: On Fridays, it is “pay as you wish” from 7 PM – 10 PM!
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Pay as you wish on Saturdays from 4 PM – 6 PM and select Saturdays (free all day).
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Pay as you wish in the winter on weekdays – Call ahead. After you can enjoy Prospect Park.
- New York Botanical Garden: The grounds admission is free to all Wednesdays from 10 AM to 11 AM. NYC residents, it is free all day on Wednesdays.
- International Museum of Photography Museum: On Thursdays, it is “Pay as you wish” from 6 PM – 9 PM. Timed tickets are required.
- Brooklyn Museum: Starting this spring, they will begin first Saturdays again where the museum will not close until 11 PM, and it is free.
- The Jewish Museum: Free on Shabat – Saturdays.
- National Museum of the American Indian: As a part of the Smithsonian Museums, this one is always free! They also have one in Washington DC.
First time riding the Subway? Use this guide to learn How to Navigate the NYC Subway
23. Little Island NYC
All the hype has been around the new New York City Public Park, Little Island! This is a really unique and free public park because it is actually built on 132 pillars, making it an artificial island. The park is 2.4 acres and is located at Pier 55 on the Hudson.
Furthermore, this summer, Little Island has a ton of free programming to enjoy. You can find a list of free events happening at Little Island here.
24. Gantry Plaza State Park
Not to be mistaken for Long Island, NY, I feel like Long Island City, which is in Queens, is often forgotten. Quite frankly, it is a shame because Long Island City (LIC) offers great restaurants, museums, and one of my favorite parks, The Gantry Plaza State Park.
This epic and free NYC park offers 12 acres of riverside views, green spaces, recreational spaces, and an incredible backdrop of Midtown Manhattan! Make sure to see the giant Long Island sign and the Pepsi-Cola sign while you are there!
Address: 4-09 47th Rd, Queens, NY 10007
25. Visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens
Another excellent and free park to visit in NYC is the Flushing Medows Park! You might remember this park from the Movie Men and Black with the two observation towers! Located in Flushing, Queens, it is also the 4th largest park in NYC!
The park is also widely known as the home of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs! Additionally, if you visit during the spring, you will have the opportunity to see some really beautiful cherry blossoms!
Address: Between Grand Central Pkwy and, Van Wyck Expy, 11354
26. Explore the Coney Island Boardwalk
This can’t be a full list of free things to do in NYC without adding the famed Coney Island Boardwalk. It is especially nice to visit during the spring/summer when the weather is nice. You can enjoy getting some sun at the beach, and people watch some really interesting characters! If this is your first time in New York and you are pressed for time, I would leave this one out.
However, if you do make it out this way and you are feeling a bit hungry, check out Nathan’s Hotdogs and get fries with cheese, Pizza at Totonno’s Pizza (famous and usually has a line), and all your candy delights at Williams Candy Shop.
If you want to relive my teenage years, hit up Rollin Roasters for a roast beef sandwich with cheese and fries.
Address: 1000 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
27. Free Fridays at the Intrepid Museum
Looking for something free to do on a Friday night in NYC? Well, if astronomy or movies are of any interest to you, then head over to the Intrepid Museum!
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum displays exhibitions and interpretations of science, history, and service, although you will likely have to pay to do this. But the astronomy meetups and movies are totally free programs through the museum!
Get more information on Free Friday nights at the Intrepid Museum here.
Address: Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
28. 9/11 Memorial Pools
The 9/11 Museum might not participate in the free Tuesdays anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit the 2 stunning 9/11 Memorial Pools that were designed to honor those who lost their lives during the attack at the Twin Towers. The memorial pools are about 1 acre in size and contain the largest man-made waterfall in North America.
Additionally, there are 400 swamp white oak trees that fill the Memorial plaza around the pools.
Hours: The 9/11 Memorial is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM.
Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
29. Roosevelt Island
Since I am always listening to my readers in the comments, I had to add Roosevelt Island to my list of free things to do in NYC. While taking the tram to Roosevelt Island technically isn’t “free,” the cost is literally the same as your MetroCard, $2.75.
Not only do you get to see some of the best NYC views from the Roosevelt Island Tram, but those views continue once you cross over the East River. This New York island actually has quite a bit of history. This is where they used to keep smallpox patients, had asylums, and prisoners. Now, the island is frequented by those looking to relax on the benches along the river and take in the views. The Roosevelt Tramway runs every 7-15 minutes.
30. Pier 57 Rooftop Park
The very brand new Rooftop Park at Pier 57 will surely be all the rage this year. This awesome and free park has been built right next to Little Island and has pretty epic views of the skyline. The space in total is 80,000 square feet, 2 acres of which is a public park from the Google Campus. I am sure you will find tons of locals enjoying this new free park space this year!
Address: 57 Hudson River Greenway, New York, NY 10011
31. Saint Patricks Cathedral
We kind of brushed by the St. Patrick’s Cathedral while talking about Rockefeller Center, but I feel like it deserved its own line. This stunning Cathedral is known as one of the largest Gothic Revival Catholic cathedrals in North America! Enjoy a free peek inside the church or even attend a mass.
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
32. Attend a Live Taping
One of the most popular free things to do in NYC for first-timers is to attend a live taping. Tons of big shows, including Good Morning America, Saturday Night Life, the Daily Show, and more, offer free tickets. Some shows are harder than others, so it does take a little bit of planning.
Most of the shows require you to go to 1iota to get tickets. SNL is based on a lottery that will reopen for 2023/2024 in August. Additionally, you can get more details on getting tickets, check NBC here.
33. Visit the Green-Wood Cemetery
A more unique free thing to do in NYC is to visit the Green-Wood Cemetery. This iconic National Historic Landmark opened in 1838 and is known for its 19th-century architecture, famous residents, and skyline views.
The Cemetery covers 478-acres of winding roads, green spaces, and ponds. Additionally, they often hold additional events and tours. This more off-the-beaten-path free attraction is considered a gem of New York City!
Address: 500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
34. Stroll Through The Battery Park
Located in Lower Manhattan, right by the Staten Island Ferry is Battery Park. This 25-acre public park is a great place to wander around, explore, hang out on a park bench or even have a picnic. You may even recognize the park from the SeaGlass Carousel.
During the summer, you can enjoy the free 195 sq foot garden of perennials or even cool off by the Bosque Fountain’s 35 jets to run and jump through.
Moreover, similar to Bryant Park and Washington Square Park, Battery Park also holds free events, including Yoga in the Park. Learn about the free events at Battery Park here.
35. Explore Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City
If you want to visit a New York park that is less touristy, then head down to the Socrates Sculpture Park. This New York park’s admission to the grounds, exhibitions, and programs are all FREE. Enjoy cool and ever-changing art projects throughout the park, gardens, and events. The park also offers lovely views of the Manhattan skyline!
Address: 32-01 Vernon Boulevard / Long Island City, NY 11106
36. African Burial Ground National Monument
Did you know the oldest and largest known North America excavated burial ground for African Americans can be found in NYC? for both free and enslaved Africans? It was originally founded when preliminary archeologists were checking the area before the construction of a building. 30 ft below, they found over 15,000 skeletons dating back to the 1630s to 1795.
The African Burial Ground became a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and shares the historic role slavery played in New York. You can visit both the indoor visitor center and outdoor memorial for free while in NYC.
Update: Ancestral Chamber temporarily closed
Address: 290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
37. Check out a Free Lincoln Center Performance
If you have a thing for the arts and just happen to be in New York on a Thursday, you are in luck. Lincoln Center offers weekly free performances in the David Rubenstein Atrium.
Enjoy live music, theater, and workshops. Won’t be in NYC on Thursday? You may still have an opportunity to see a free show since they sometimes have additional free shows throughout the week along with “pay as you wish,” which is great if you’re on a budget!
Seating and entry are on a first-come, first-served basis, so make sure to get there a little early. Find free Lincoln Center performances here.
The line will generally form at the Atrium’s entrance on Broadway, between 62nd and 63rd Street.
38. Queens County Farm Museum
Looking for a free NYC activity that can be fun with the kids? The Queens County Farm has been in operation for 325 years and is a National Register of Historic Places. The farm stretches for 47 acres and offers a lot of educational programs throughout the year, along with additional fun seasonal events (especially during the fall).
The farm usually does a lot of fun activities during the different seasons. A crowd favorite is visiting the Queens County Farm in the fall. They often have hayrides, photo props, and a corn maze. Additionally, the Queens County Farm Museum is a New York City Landmark.
Address: 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy, Queens, NY 11004
39. Head to Governors Island
This car-free island is another free place to enjoy your time in New York City! You can take the ferry on Saturdays and Sundays for free before 12 PM, and after that, it is $4 USD, so even if you don’t catch the ferry during the free rides, it is still very cheap!
Governors Island offers tons of green spaces, and free activities throughout the year. You can enjoy nature trails, see stunning views of New York City from the island, and even enjoy their lavender farm during the summer!
Seasonal Free Things to Do in NYC
If you didn’t have enough things to do, here are some additional seasonal things to do in New York City for free!
40. Go Kayaking
Did you know you could go kayaking down the Hudson River for free with Manhattan Community Boathouse at Pier 96. They are a non-profit, run entirely by volunteers and funded through donations from the public.
Kayaking starts in Spring and closes around October 10th. The kayaking is first-come-first-served, so it is recommended to get to the dock early. If there is a long wait, your time on the water is usually around 15 minutes, but this is still a fun, free, and unique way to enjoy NYC! All skill levels are welcome as long as you know how to swim! Additionally, they offer lockers!
For more information, check the Manhattan Community Boathouse website.
Address: Pier 96 Boathouse – 56th Street in Hudson River Park
41. SummerStage Concert Series
If you’re visiting NYC during the summer, one of the best free things you can enjoy is the SummerStage Concert series. This event hosts around 80 free music concerts to enjoy from June through October and is spread out through all 5 boroughs!
This year is the 37th season, and will happen across 13 different parks. You can enjoy music across many different genres, including Salsa, Hip-Hop, Country, Indie-Rock, and more! This year, the event is hosted by Capital One, and you can find more information and the lineup for SummerStage here!
42. Free Summer Events in Times Square
If free music concerts throughout New York City’s parks were not enough, you can also enjoy music concerts right in the heart of NYC at Times Square for FREE with TSQ LIVE!
They have invited DJs, artists, and Performers to host 80 free events for the summer. You can find a whole list of events and scheduled timing here, and these free and awesome New York City events will be running until the end of September!
43. Free New York Christmas Decorations
During the Holidays, there are a lot of Free Christmas decorations to see all around NYC. Some of the best places to see Christmas decorations in New York include the holiday windows in Manhattan, Dyker Heights, and more! You can see a list of the Best NYC Christmas decorations here!
44. NYC Free Parades
Additionally, there are seasonal festivals and Parades in NYC that are free to attend. Some of these free NYC events and Parades include:
- The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade (March)
- Halloween Parade (October)
- Thanksgiving Parade (November)
- Santacon (December) Like Christmas Santa
- West Indian Day Parade (Caribbean Carnival) Labor Day (September)
- Feast of San Gennaro (September) Italian Festival
- New Years’ Eve Ball Drop – personally wouldn’t recommend it – but hey, clearly some people like it lol.
- Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival (February)
- New York Tartan Day Parade (April)
45. Visit the Hamilton Grange National Memorial
If you want to do something that is free to do and more off the beaten path in NYC, consider visiting the Alexander Hamilton National Memorial estate. The home was completed in 1802 and sits on 3 acres inside of St. Nicholas Park.
Indoor access is open Friday – Sunday, and requires a guide, which is free. The 25 minute tour will show you the historically furnished floor of The Grange by a park ranger since the estate is run by the National Park service. You do have to get a ticketed timeslot, however, and those are first come, first served. You can find more information on getting tickets here.
The outdoor grounds have access throughout the year.
Address: 414 w 141st St, New York, NY 10031
46. See NYC’s Bean
You may be familiar with the famous Chicago Bean landmark, but did you know NYC just got its very own version of the bean that is completely free to visit? Although not as spectacular as the Chicago bean in my opinion, this 40 ton shining ball is located in Tribeca in front of the “Jenga Building.”
If you find yourself around the Tribeca neighborhood, give this new piece of art a look!
Address: 56 Leonard St.
47. NYC Neighborhoods – Bonus Free Activities
Another free NYC activity that you will enjoy without even realizing it is just walking through the various NYC neighborhoods! Some of my favorite areas to visit include Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the financial district/ Wall Street (Charging Bull).
Additionally, while this New York City travel guide is full of tons of fun activities you can enjoy for free in NYC, if you do plan on seeing a lot of the top attractions, one of the most affordable ways is through one of the NYC passes.
The most popular Passes are:
They include the top NYC attractions at a better rate since it’s all bundled together. I’d highly consider looking into it if you want to do things like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, The Edge at the Hudson Yards, and the Ferry to Ellis Island.
All the passes work great, so when deciding which pass is best for you, just choose the pass that offers the most attractions you would like to see and do!
48. Free NYC Walking Tour (Bonus)
If this list of free things to do in New York City can’t get any longer, here is another bonus! The reason I am adding free walking tours at the end is because they are really “pay as you wish,” which includes giving your guide a tip based on your experience.
This is a great way to learn more about Manhattan and a more budget-friendly option to do it! You can easily Google “free NYC walking tours,” and dozens will pop up. Just look for a neighborhood/topic that interests you!
NYC Budget Tips
As I am sure you have already established, NYC can be an expensive place, especially when it comes to food. So, if you’re looking for some budget options in the food department, food carts, pizza, and delis will be your best friend! Thankfully, you can find them all over the city.
The food carts are famous for warm pretzels, hot dogs, Halal, and roasted nuts. These are a NYC staple. You will also find pizzerias with a slice (pizza is sold by the slice) specials. Additionally, grabbing bagels and sandwiches are something to grab and go so you can see all that New York has to offer!
Best Free Thing to Do in NYC Wrap-up
This concludes the best things to do in NYC that are all free! As you can see, NYC has tons of fun and free activities to do that can help anyone experience New York on a budget. I hope you have the most amazing time in the Big Apple and you are able to cross a ton of NYC staples off your bucket list on a budget!
Did I miss any of your favorite free things to do in New York City? Or do you have any NYC questions? Let me know in the comments below!