Start spreading the news: 10 things you can do for free in NYC

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The most visited city in the entire nation for both international and domestic tourists is New York City. Everyone loves New York and for a good reason. As the social, economic and artistic capital of The United States and some might argue the world, NYC has something for everyone. But all that prestige doesn’t come cheap.  If you’re on a limited budget, how do you enjoy the big apple without it taking a bite out of you? Well, here are 10 things you can do in one of the world’s most expensive cities absolutely free.                                                                                                                         pexels-photo-416053.jpeg

Look I know there are some things you definitely want to splurge on while visiting NYC. The view from the Empire State building, a lovely meal in a world-class restaurant, a Broadway show. It’s understandable, these are all things are quintessentially New York.  Doing some free stuff helps you balance out the expenses and gives you a chance to interact with the people who live here.

Times Square: It’s like they took the entire Las Vegas Strip put it into a blender and poured it out in a four-block pancake

10) Times Square                                                                                                                       Not everyone’s fancy, but at least they aren’t charging admission yet.  A cacophony of sounds, lights noise, and mayhem, Times Square is like a ferret on a double espresso. The hyperventilating heart of Manhattan could be just the adrenaline you need after your long flight into town.

9) Free Kayaking                                                                                                                              If visiting Times Square left you with too much energy, you can work some of that off with free kayaking. You can Kayak on the Hudson River or Long Island Sound. Both locations even offer free lessons for beginners. You need to sign a waiver, and you can only go out for a twenty-minute session when they’re busy.  If it’s a slow day, you can stay out much longer.

8) New York Public Library                                                                                                           Guarded by the twin marble lions named “Patience” and “Fortitude” this classic Beaux Arts building is one of NYC’s most filmed landmarks. The building has been featured in countless films including the original “Ghostbusters” and the recent reboot. More than just a library, the NYPL has exhibits, free movies, and lectures.  You can see an original copy of the Declaration of Independence as well as the Gutenberg Bible. A word of caution if you see a ghost reading a book there, don’t talk to her, she gets very upset.

7)  The Highline                                                                                                                                The Highline is located on an abandoned elevated spur of the New York Central Railway. The tracks were converted into an urban walkway. The 1.45-mile track has been replaced and turned in to a green sidewalk. The walk is elevated about twenty feet off the street level and affords picture worthy vistas of the Hudson docks and the lower Manhattan skyline. The Highline is accessible for those with disabilities.

6) Governors Island                                                                                                                        With free ferry service to take you there, Governor’s island offers a little something for everyone. There are over five miles of walking and biking trails many which provide a clear view of the skyline and the statue of liberty. The island has long served as a military garrison with buildings from the revolutionary period and the civil war still standing. Many are now abandoned creating a ghost town effect. The island also has a three-acre urban garden staffed by children from local high schools.

5) Date-specific freebies

Many of the museums that usually charge admission have a day where the entry is either free or donation based.  There are several I’ve researched so I will include most of them here:                                                                                                   Brooklyn Botanical Gardens 10-noon Saturdays free (also free every weekday in winter)                                                                                                                                              Brooklyn Museum First Saturday of month free                                                                      Bronx Zoo  Free on Wednesday                                                                                                  Museum of the moving image (Covers history of film. Very interesting museum)  Free 4-8 on Fridays                                                                                                                          9/11 Museum 5-8 on Wednesdays Free                                                                                      New York Botanical Garden 9-10am Wednesdays free                                                         The Upright Citizens Brigade (home of alumnus Amy Poehler  and Tina Fey) Free Open Mic on Thursday

4) Attend a live taping. It’s not just Colbert, Seth Myers, The Daily Show and SNL. In total over 25 network and syndicated shows tape in NYC. Some tickets are easier to come by than others. For all the major players will have to request your tickets in advance. There are some cases where you’ll need to require more than a year out (SNL). The upside is every one of these venues has standby. No one really thinks of doing that so you may have a shot.

brooklyn bridge
The Globetrotting Grandpa just drinking tea and walking the bridge

3) Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.                                                                                             The Brooklyn bridge could very well be one of the most famous bridges in the world. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway that is safely located above traffic and is so popular with the locals, you can’t really tell who’s new and who’s a regular. According to the city over seven thousand walks or bike across the bridge daily. The design of the bridge is a real feast for the eyes and has justifiably been featured in almost every movie that has been set in New York City.

2)The Staten Island Ferry                                                                                                              You don’t need a car to ride the Ferry. Many people ride it just for the view. Moving up from lower Manhattan the ferry provides some of the best photo-ops in the city. The boat has a passenger lounge and a concession area to keep you refreshed, and journey across New York harbor takes you right next to the statue of liberty and Ellis Island. Many people enjoy the ride so much they will disembark on Staten Island only to turn around and re-board.

cen park
Beatles’ fans remember John Lennon at Central Park’s Strawberry fields section
  1. Central Park                                                                                                                            Much like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry,  Central Park is equally popular with tourists and locals alike. The park has so much to offer: an obelisk from ancient Egypt, an actual castle, a Shakespeare garden, free concerts, lakes and infinite people watching.  There are parts where the woods are so thick in the summer you could forget you were in a city of eight million people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For the budget minded, New York City could appear to be out of range. Hopefully, these tips will give the Big Apple appeal.  (sorry for the pun) So what are your tips for NYC freebies?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.












4 Replies to “Start spreading the news: 10 things you can do for free in NYC”

  1. Wonderful. if you need any assistance on more places in the Big Apple, I may have a few more ideas, as I lived there for a while in the 70’s –
    But the freebies are still free as far as I know. I think I probably could come up with a list of about 99 things.
    It used to be my specialty when I roamed there.

  2. I’d like to add the NPS units located in Manhattan: Federal Hall (GW was inaugurated here, excellent tour offered), African Burial Ground and a couple of others are no fee.
    There was, however, a small fee for the Governor’s Island ferry last time I checked….but that may just be in summer when the NPS tours are operating.
    For those into train stations or architecture: The Oculus and Fulton Station downtown, Grand Central in midtown.
    I liver here and didn’t know about the kayaking lol

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