45+ Free Things to do in NYC From a Local New Yorker: Best Free NYC Attractions

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The Top 45+ Free and Totally Awesome Things to do in NYC from a Local!

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!

First time in NYC? Check out these Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting NYC

Central Park in NYC is a great free things to do
Strolling around Central Park is one of the best free things to do in NYC

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links where I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

1. The Vessel

Starting with one NYC’s newest attractions, The Vessel! 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 with 154 flights of stairs, make your way to the top around sunset for some epic views! It is located in the Hudson Yards, which has a whole upscale shopping mall, food, the famous Edge Sky Deck, and a connection to the High Line.

Update: Unfortunately, you can no longer climb the Vessel, for free, however, you can still enjoy it from the ground for free. 

Address: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001

Vessel NYC free things to do

Inside hudson yards christmas decorations. Giant hot air balloon decoration

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 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!

One of the best things to do in NYC is walking the Highline
View of the Empire State Building from the Highline

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 awesome 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

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 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.

Bow Bridge in Central Park, NYC during the Fall
Central Parks Bow Bridge

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 60th anniversary this year in 2022! 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 the Empire State Building.

Grand Central Terminal NYC

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.

NYC Travel Tip: I would recommend heading around here during the day and evening so you can see the city all lit up.

Most instagrammable places in NYC includes Time Square
Times Square

8. Washington Square Park

Located in the charming Greenwich Village neighborhood, Washington Square Park is another one of my favorite places to hang 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 marsh land 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!

Fun fact: The Washington Square Fountain was originally a park of Central Park’s 

Address: Washington Square N, New York, NY 10012

One of the best free things to do in NYC is hanging out at Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park from the fountain

9. The Oculus

The Oculus is a part of the new World Trade Center Transportation hub that acts as both 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 a part of a larger shopping hub with tons of stores.

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 Tuesdays from 5 PM – 8 PM – UPDATE: This has been paused. Call to confirm. 

Address: Church St, New York, NY 10006

The Oculus in the World Trade Center Park
View inside the Oculus

10. The Brooklyn Bridge

Make your way to the famous Brooklyn Bridge and cross over to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn. The bridge spans 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 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.

most instagrammable places in NYC include photographing the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

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.

Bonus: 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!

Dumbo NYC Instagram spot
Statue of Liberty on the top left side!
Views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge Park
Views from Brooklyn Bridge Park

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

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade views of the skyline and brookyln bridge

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 Highline! 

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

New York Travel Skyline

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

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!

The Staten Island Ferry is located at 4 Whitehall Street New York NY 10004

A great free activity in NYC is taking the staten island ferry to see the statue of liberty.

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

Flatiron Building Photography
Flatiron Building

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 on 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. 

Visit the murals in Soho for the best free things to do in NYC
Bowery New York Mural
Visit the Soho Murals in NYC
Flowers mural

18. Bryant Park

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 movie screenings, 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.

Bryant Park shops in NYC
Bryant Park Shops during the holidays
Visiting New York City in December? Make sure to visit the Bryant Park Winter Village!
Bryant Park during their Winter Village

19. NYC Public Library

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. 

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! 

Address: 135 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

NYC Public Library is free to visit and a must-see

20. Chrysler Building

One of the coolest Sky Scrappers, IMO goes to the Chrysler Building. This gem of a building stands at 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!

Address: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174

Walking down New York Street
View of the Chrysler Building from Long Island City

Chrysler Building up Close

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 Patricks 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 fun free activities happening. This is also where you will catch some of the free live tappings in NYC. More on that is below.

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!

Rockefeller Center in December with holiday decorations! One of the top places to visit in NYC for the Holidays!
One of the top things to do in New York City in December is visit Rockefeller Center

22. NYC Museums

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 Tuesday from 5 PM – 8 PM – Currently not offering this
  • 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 2022, 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. 


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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 Wold 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

NYC Corona Flushing Park. Walking through Cherry Blossoms in NYC

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.

Address: 1000 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Coney Island Brooklyn at night NYC

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


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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. 

The 9/11 Memorial is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM.

Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007


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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. 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash - Roosevelt Island view of NYC skyline views from the tram
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

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


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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

St. Patricks Cathedral during Christmas time in NYC

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 2022/2023 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


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34. Stroll Through 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


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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 to 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. to 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!

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.

skyline view of New York City

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

Seasonal Free Things to do in NYC

If you didn’t have enough things to do, here are some additional free seasonal things to do in New York City for free! 

39. 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. You can get reservations on the Manhattan Community Boathouse website to hold your spot up to 2 weeks in advance. All skill levels are welcome as long as you know how to swim! Additionally, they offer changing rooms and lockers!

40. See the XO World Project Sculpture

Consider checking out the XO World Project Sculpture located at the World Trade Center Campus. Designed by Daniel Anderson, the sculpture is a part of the “Share Love” movement to activate positivity, hope, and inclusiveness among people. The sculpture is made from 20,000 lbs of stainless steel and stands 12 ft. high by 24 ft. wide! It will be here for 2 years, so enjoy it while you can. 

XO World Project Sculpture in NYC
Photo Credit: XO World Project

41. 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!

Cartier NYC Christmas decorations. Woman in red dress in front of building in street

42. 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 
  • 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.

Overlook at Central Park in NYC

43. 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 require an 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

44. 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.

45. 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, China Town, 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 are NYC Sightseeing Pass (which gives most attractions) or the City Pass (Gives 6).

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. 

Best Places to Stay in NYC Empire State Building Skyline

Free Thing to Do in NYC Review

This concludes the best things to do in NYC that are all free! 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!

Additional New York Guides You Will Find Useful: Massive 4 Day NYC Itinerary | New York Food You Must Try, and Words New Yorkers Say!

Where to Stay in NY: This is a very DETAILED breakdown of the Best Neighborhoods and Hotels in NYC.

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!

Love this Free Things to do in NYC Guide? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Free Things to do in NYC from a Local New Yorker

39 thoughts on “45+ Free Things to do in NYC From a Local New Yorker: Best Free NYC Attractions”

    • Great post ! I’d also add DUMBO, Washington street, where you could see Empire State Building aligned right under Manhattan bridge arch . Iconic !

    • You’re right! Plus many of these places will have you swiping your metrocard anyways! I’ve added Roosevelt Island – Thank you for your input!

  1. Thank you so much for this. Visiting NYC (from Scotland) in June. We haven’t been for 25 years – so there have been some changes. This has been so helpful 🙌

  2. Going to the city with the whole family, I Used to live in NYC and reading through this just put me back on track on the places I need to take my family! Thanks great resume of the city

  3. Much thanks; Fun reading and viewing. Perhaps when my 80-yr body allows, finances, time, and fate permits I might return to try a smattering more of your suggestions. For now, I’ll wallow in memory of previous infrequent NYC visits and those treasures tried!

  4. #11 spelling error, charGing us locals, add the G. then, While on the ferry…something missing in that sentence. Otherwise great post.

  5. I am a New Yorker transplanted from The Dominican Republic, currently living in Barcelona and, after checking out your free things to do in NYC, I cannot wait for this pandemic to be over so I can do/visit everything on your list!!!!!
    Thanks! Your list was spot on!

  6. Such great ideas here. The Vessel is so cool, I’d love to visit. I’m a big fan of any street art so would really enjoy looking for the murals

  7. So many great places to visit, and them being free is the best part! I have been to many of them, but I am embarrassed to say that despite the number of times I have been to NYC I have yet to visit Central Park. I now have some great new things to add to my list for my next visit!

  8. I love New York more each time I ago and I still havent checked off some of the attractions you mentioned, will def do them next time!

  9. I’m all about free things to do! I lived about an hour from NYC for the past couple years but recently moved back to the SF bay area. I never got to check out The Vessel or the Chelsea Art Galleries! These are gorgeous photos! <3 (I miss the Met so much!)

  10. This is such a great list!! And love all the places especially bc they would be great for IG shots! Thank you for sharing!


  11. What a great and complete article, thanks for sharing it. NYC is still one of my favorite places in US…I get to go every year for work and I never get tired, I always take some days off to just explore this no stop destination.

  12. I didn’t realize there were so many free things to do in NYC! I would loooove to visit the Vessel, it looks like such an amazing piece of architecture that I want to photograph so bad! Also love the little fun fact about the bridge haha!

  13. Great list! We have 3 days in New York this summer, so will totally be checking some of these out. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Amazing post! NYC is one of my favourite cities in North America, and I love that there are so many free things to do! Helps keep the budget in check a little bit. The Vessel looks amazing, and I can’t wait to check it out next time I’m there.

  15. Love this list! I only just visited NYC for the first time 2 years ago, and I can’t get enough. I have a feeling you could live in NYC for a lifetime and still not explore it all!


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