25 Totally Free Things to Do in New York City
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25 Totally Free Things to Do in New York City

Getaway Staff

New York, New York. It’s a city loved by many -- but it can cost a pretty penny if you want to spend any time there. Most visitors suffer from some degree of sticker shock soon after arrival. Guess what -- there are plenty of spectacular sights to see and things to do in New York without spending a dime. Stop waiting in long lines to buy tickets for overpriced tours, and seek out the hidden gems this world-class city has to offer, without opening your wallet!


01 Explore Central Park

Central Park Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Okay, we know city parks are free to explore anyway, and New York is dotted with almost two thousand of them, both big and small. The iconic Central Park in Manhattan is the most famous, and it’s certainly no exception. But did you know that New York’s largest park is chock full of free events, statues to take selfies with, and sites like Strawberry Fields, with tributes to John Lennon near the hotel where he was assassinated? Not only that, but the Central Park Conservancy gives free guided tours of the park, including an introductory glimpse of the North Woods, a rustic retreat which will make you forget you’re smack dab in the middle of a major city.


02 Hop on the Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry kasto80 / Getty Images

Want to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, but flinch at the thought of paying $20 a head for a ferry tour? The Staten Island Ferry, which has been in service since 1905, cuts straight across New York Harbor and offers magnificent views of Lady Liberty from the comforts of the boat. The ferry, which operates during the summer months, carries 19 million passengers across the harbor each year. Is there really such thing as a free ride in New York? In this case, definitely!


03 Marvel at the MoMA

Woman in art gallery 4FR / Getty Images

Is it Friday? Get your high-brow fix for free at the New York’s world-renowned Museum of Modern Art. Admission is normally $25, but you can get into the museum free of charge every Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm. Yes, it gets busy, but seeing a Picasso in person without spending a penny is well worth the hustle and bustle.

Are sculptures more your scene? The museum’s sculpture garden also offers free admission from 9:30 am - 10 am every day! We’d say it’s worth carving out half an hour of your morning for that experience.


04 Stop and smell the flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden lightphoto / Getty Images

Sick of the city scene? Need a breath of fresh air? Heed the call of Mother Nature, and visit The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, located in Prospect Park. The bucolic garden has free admission on Tuesdays, from 10 am to noon. If you find yourself in New York during the winter months, even better -- admission is free every weekday! Talk about a great way to chase away those winter blues. When you leave the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, don’t forget to enjoy Prospect Park itself, which has its own zoo!


05 Catch a film al-fresco

Movie Night Under Brooklyn Bridge Terraxplorer / Getty Images

If you’re in the mood for a movie during your visit to New York, there’s no need to cloister yourself in a chilly cinema. Plenty of parks in the city offer free outdoor movie nights all summer long, some with landmarks, like the Brooklyn Bridge, just casually providing a striking backdrop behind the projector screen. Check online to see where and when the next showing is, and head to one of these parks early to save yourself a spot -- the movies start at sunset!


06 Share a secret at the Whispering Gallery

Grand Central sunny_008 / Getty Images

The Grand Central Terminal is a sight to see, whether or not you are hoping to actually catch a train. But the century-old train station has an alluring secret -- when two people put their ears up against the domed intersection of walkways and whisper, they can hear each other over the din of the crowds. This acoustic oddity is something that New Yorkers like to keep hush-hush about lest tourists overrun the spot, but it’s cool and entirely free to experience.


07 Go for gold at the Gold Vault

Gold bars farakos / Getty Images

Want an experience that’s worth its weight in gold, without spending any gold of your own? Visit the Gold Vault at the Federal Bank of New York, where you can ogle over 6,500 tons of glistening gold, stacked up like bricks. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being in the same room as a big pile of riches like Scrooge McDuck, you can sign up for a free tour any weekday.


08 Hop on the High Line

High Line at Twilight francois-roux / Getty Images

Want to get High for free in New York? Well, you can! High Line Park, New York’s world-famous elevated park, stands 30 feet in the air on the abandoned stretch of an elevated rail track. It offers a unique view of the city from above and is free to explore. But come nightfall every Tuesday, the elevated park offers something even more stellar -- the opportunity to stargaze for free! Once the sun sets, telescopes are lined up between West 15th and West 16th Streets by the Amateur Astronomers Association to be used by anyone, free of charge.


09 Browse the New York Public Library

New York Public Library tzahiV / Getty Images

Birthplace of the Dewey Decimal System and home to countless national treasures, this marble marvel near Times Square is easily overlooked by tourists in favor of flashier distractions. Easily recognizable with its two lion statues, named Patience and Fortitude, guarding the entrance, the library houses countless priceless artifacts, such as copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible. You can visit this stately architectural gem free of charge, with free tours running from 11 am to 2 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 2 pm Sunday. Bear in mind that the museum closes on Sundays in the summer!


10 Sample some spirits

Whiskey tasting kellyvandellen / Getty Images

Planning a perfect way to end your day during your weekend in New York? Consider a free tour of New York Distilling Company, one of Brooklyn’s best craft distilleries, where you can sample their potent wares on Saturdays and Sundays between 2 pm and 5 pm. And while you’re at it, why not stop by the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, with free tours every half hour both Saturday and Sunday! Needless to say, these tours are tremendously popular and tend to fill up fast, so make sure you get there early.


11 Attend the SummerStage concert series

2023 Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage - Grandmaster Flash & Friends "Birth Of A Culture: The 4 Elements Block Party" Richard Bord / Getty Images

New York City comes alive with the sound of music during the SummerStage concert series. Spread across Central Park and various neighborhood parks, this free concert series showcases a diverse array of musical talents. From hip-hop's 50th-anniversary celebration to local artists returning to their roots, the SummerStage offers something for every music lover. Whether you're a fan of jazz, rock, or classical music, the SummerStage concert series is a must-visit. Don't miss the chance to groove to the rhythm of the city under the open sky.


12 Visit the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park

2023 BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn - Alex G + Alvvays Roy Rochlin / Getty Images

The annual BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is a reliable source of awesomeness. Unlike other festivals that spread across the city, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! focuses on the beautiful bandshell in Prospect Park. With most shows being free, it's a haven for music enthusiasts. This year's performers include renowned names like Corinne Bailey Rae, Taj Mahal, and The Wallflowers. The festival's ambiance, combined with the natural beauty of Prospect Park, creates an unforgettable experience for all attendees.


13 Enjoy free programming at Little Island

Aerial shot of the little Island park in New York over water with buildings in the background Wirestock / Getty Images

Little Island is more than just a park; it's a hub of creativity and entertainment. Floating at Pier 55 off the west side's Hudson River Park, Little Island offers a fresh slate of free events. From DJ sets to drag bingo, dance parties to intimate performances like stand-up comedy and live jazz, there's something for everyone. The scenic stage, The Glade, hosts a variety of talents, making Little Island a vibrant destination for culture enthusiasts.


14 Explore NYC's outdoor art

NYC, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Mural Barry Winiker / Getty Images

New York City's streets are a canvas for creativity. The city is filled with free outdoor art that you can explore without stepping into a museum. From massive sculptures to eye-popping murals and graffiti, the art is scattered across parks, sidewalks, and buildings. Locations like the High Line, Central Park, and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens are home to artistic masterpieces that reflect the city's dynamic spirit. Take a leisurely stroll and discover the artistic soul of New York City.


15 Visit Little Island, a "floating" greenspace in Manhattan

Little Island in Big New York Matt Johnson / Getty Images

Little Island is New York City's hottest attraction, greeting visitors with its gorgeous "floating" greenspace. Open from 6 am daily; the park is filled with open lawns, colorful foliage, cool installations, and even a secret garden. It's a place where nature meets art, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city. Plus, there are plenty of free performances to check out during the summer. Little Island is a magical spot that promises a unique and refreshing experience.


16 Participate in the Summer on Broadway programming in the Garment District

Summer on Broadway brings the heart of Midtown to life with free weekly community events. Located on Broadway between 39th and 40th Street, the programming promises art, music, and even fresh lemonade. From live performances to interactive art installations, Summer on Broadway offers a delightful blend of culture and fun. It's a celebration of community and creativity that adds a touch of joy to the Garment District.


17 Visit the Intrepid Museum on Free Fridays

The Intrepid Museum opens its doors for free on select Friday nights from June through September. Visitors can explore the Museum and enjoy free after-hours programming. Located at Pier 86, the Intrepid Museum offers a glimpse into history, science, and innovation. Free Fridays provide an opportunity to explore the massive aircraft carrier and learn about its legacy. It's a journey through time that educates and inspires.


18 Watch movies at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum's Summer Movie Series

Shocked girl with popcorn watching thriller movie in cinema hall at theater Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

The Intrepid's Summer Movie Series is a celebration of cinema under the stars. With movies played on a huge inflatable screen, it's an outdoor experience like no other. The series includes classics like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Top Gun: Maverick." Doors open at 7 pm, and the movie starts at sunset. Bring blankets, lawn chairs, and your favorite snacks for a memorable movie night on the historic aircraft carrier.


19 Attend free events at Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park Spring - NYC sangaku / Getty Images

Hudson River Park is a scenic waterfront green space that turns into a hub of activity during the summer. Celebrating its 25th year, the park is hosting more than 400 free events from May through November. From dance classes to wildlife walking tours, yoga to jazz festivals, there's an event for everyone. The park's diverse programming reflects the vibrant community and offers a chance to engage, learn, and have fun.


20 Watch free performances in Times Square as part of the TSQ Live program

Saxophone Player on Broadway Siegfried Layda / Getty Images

Times Square, the iconic heart of New York City, hosts TSQ Live, the city’s biggest free performance series. From May through September, the public plazas of Times Square are filled with music, dance, and theater performances. It's a celebration of the city's cultural diversity and resilience. Whether you're a local or a tourist, TSQ Live offers a chance to experience the city's vibrant performing arts scene in the world's most famous square.


21 Attend free picnic performances in Bryant Park

Bryant park near the Library in NYC crowded with people in the afternoon Drazen_ / Getty Images

Bryant Park is a beloved oasis in the heart of Manhattan, and its free Picnic Performances are a summer staple. These events bring world-class performances to the park's lawn, offering a unique cultural experience. From classical music to contemporary dance, the performances are as diverse as the city itself. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic, and enjoy a magical evening of live performances under the stars.


22 Visit the Polonsky Exhibition at the New York Public Library

New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, New York City Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

The New York Public Library is more than just a place to borrow books. It's a treasure trove of history and culture. The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library's Treasures is a must-visit. This permanent exhibition showcases a rotating selection of the Library's vast collections. From ancient artifacts to rare books, the exhibition offers a fascinating journey through history. Admission is free, making it a perfect destination for history buffs and curious minds.


23 Join the Flatiron-Nomad walking tour every Sunday

Flatiron Brooklyn Michael Man Photography / Getty Images

The Flatiron-Nomad district is one of New York City's most iconic neighborhoods. Every Sunday, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership offers free walking tours of the district. Led by professional guides, these tours offer a deep dive into the area's rich history. From the iconic Flatiron Building to the lesser-known architectural gems, the tour is a delightful exploration of the city's past and present. It's a great way to discover the hidden stories of New York City.


24 Take a self-guided literary walking tour of the Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Brooklyn has a rich literary history, and the Brooklyn Public Library's self-guided walking tour offers a unique way to explore it. The tour takes you through the streets that inspired some of the world's greatest writers. With an audio guide narrating the literary significance of each stop, you'll walk in the footsteps of literary giants. It's a delightful journey for book lovers and those curious about the borough's cultural heritage.


25 Visit Governors Island, a park, adult playground, and outdoor art space

Governors Island New York ferrantraite / Getty Images

Governors Island is a hidden gem in New York Harbor. A short ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn, the island is a vibrant mix of parkland, playground, and art space. With miles of biking trails, picnic spots, and stunning views of the city skyline, it's a perfect escape from the city's hustle and bustle. The island also hosts a variety of free events, from art exhibitions to music festivals. A visit to Governors Island is a day of adventure and discovery.


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