New York City aka The Big Apple aka The City That Never Sleeps- whatever you want to call it- it’s one-of-a-kind. I lived there for eight months, and I can genuinely say it’s the most magnificent city I’ve ever been to. From the parks to the history, to the beaches, everyone can find something they love.
NYC gets a bad reputation for being crazy expensive, and it can be, but the city is laden with free things to do as well. My favorite things I did there on the regular were all free (being broke may have played a role in that.)
I wanted to share with you the top 10 free things you can do in the city. It’s more like 37 because each category has multiple different places you can visit. If you’re planning a trip to NYC this list can fill your entire itinerary!
A Walk in the Park
New York City has some of the most amazing parks in the world, and it’s not just the uber-famous Central Park. It is included as well since it’s a must-see attraction, but I’ve also sprinkled in some lesser known parks that will blow you away with their views.
- Fort Wadsworth
This is a park I stumbled upon by accident. I was driving around one day and saw a sign for a viewpoint up ahead, so I pulled in. It ended up being one of my first major views of the city, and it did not disappoint. It’s located on Staten Island, so you get a great view of the other boroughs.
- Central Park
There’s not much that needs to be said about this park other than you have to go. It’s basically a giant forest in the middle of this huge city. It’s impossible to explain how beautiful it is. Since it’s so large, there is always something to do. It encompasses a giant concert venue and an entire zoo.
- Domino Park
This one is my personal favorite, and it’s one of the lesser known parks. It’s in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and it has the best views of the city. You can even see the Statue of Liberty from Domino Park! The park itself is very clean and has nice restrooms which are always a plus.
- Washington Square Park
This is one I would always stop whenever I was in the area. It always has something going on- music, art, events, etc. It’s an amazing place for people (and dog) watching. There is usually a man that brings his giant grand piano and plays right in front of the arch.
- Bryant Park
This park is amazing for kids. I used to nanny in NYC, and the children loved going here. They have an adorable carousel and lots of other fun things to play on. During the winter, they have an ice skating rinks and a big market. It’s right in the middle of the city, so it’s surrounded by big buildings. It doesn’t have as great a view as the others, but there is a ton to do there which makes it worthy of this list.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
This is an absolute staple. Every time anyone visited me in NYC, I’d take them here. You have an amazing view of the Brooklyn bridge and all of Manhattan- pictures can’t do it justice. You have to see it to believe it.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Most people think of New York and only think of the giant, industrial buildings, but it actually has a lot to offer in the ways of nature. They have beautiful gardens, and the best part about them is they’re free if you plan it correctly!
- Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
This famous garden is free on Tuesdays. It’s 52 acres, and can easily be reached by many different subway lines. They’re known for their incredible cherry trees of which they have over 200.
- New York Botanical Gardens
Free on Wednesdays, the New York Botanical Gardens are huge at over 250 acres. There are over one million different plant species, and they’re commonly know for their orchid show.
- Wave Hill
This garden is free from 8am to noon on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s. It’s a 28 acre estate in the Bronx. There are tons of opportunities to hike, picnic, and sight-see the beautiful Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades. It’s often overlooked, but it’s one of the most beautiful areas in New York!
Enjoy the View
In my opinion, every view of New York City is beautiful, but this spot has the best (free) one. If you want to see a ton of the city at once, this is the perfect place to stop.
- The High Line
This is an elevated platform built on a freight rail line. Since it’s build above the street, the views of the city from it are amazing. They have public art that is also free to view. Check online the dates you plan to visit- they’re constantly having different events surrounding art, nature, and design.
Ride the Ferry
- Staten Island Ferry
This ferry is always free and takes you to- you guessed it- Staten Island. It operates 24 hours a day, so it’s great for a late-night adventure. It’s the best way to get to and explore Staten Island.
- City Island Land Ferry
Free on the first Friday of every month (from 5:30-9:30pm), this “ferry” is actually a bus. It takes you through City Island in the Bronx. There is a lot to do at the different stops the ferry makes including live music, open art galleries, and dining options. You also get a card that allots you different discounts throughout the evening.
Museums and Art
- Museum of Modern Art
This museum is known for being one of the most influential art museums. It is free on Friday’s from 4:00-8:00p.m.- I highly suggest taking advantage of this if you love modernist art because it’s normally $25.
- FIT Museum
Admission to this museum is always free! This is a museum for the fashion love filled with different garments and accessories.
- National Museum of the American Indian
With free admission every single day, this museum is perfect for people interested in the Native cultures of the West.
- Chelsea Galleries
A series of different art exhibits and art museums.
- Rockefeller Center
There is a ton of free, public art in the Rockefeller Center Plaza that you can walk around and see. There is new art being put up constantly.
- Socrates Sculpture Park
This sculpture park was actually built on what was previously a landfill! It’s a huge park with tons of different sculptures and multimedia installations.
- American Museum of Natural History
They have completely free days, but the admissions price is always suggested anyways. It’s one of the biggest natural museums in the world.
- Brooklyn Museum
This museum hold over one million works of art, and is currently housing a Frida Kahlo collection.
Get to the Beach
- Brighton Beach
A each completely surrounded in tall residential buildings. It has a boardwalk and many different ethnic restaurants native to the Eastern European and Russian communities that surround Brighton Beach
- Fort Tilden
This beautiful beach was formerly an Army installation and has a ton of military history behind it. It has recently become a favorite spot frequented by millennials.
- 9/11 Memorial
This incredible memorial was made to commemorate the 2,977 lives lost during the September 11th attacks.
- Grant’s Tomb
The grave of former president of Ulysses S. Grant and his wide Julia Dent Grant.
- African Burial Ground
A monument containing the remains of over 420 Africans. It’s the biggest grave site for people of African descent.
- Greenwood Cemetery
Named a National Historic Landmark in 2006, this cemetery has a ton of history beneath the ground. It is the final resting place of many notable people including founders, mobsters, congressman, and even murderers.
Be on TV
- Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
You can get tickets for his show on his website. You get to watch Jimmy Fallon film his famous TV and even get the opportunity to participate in different games and activities he plays with his audience.
- Today Show
If you watch the Today show you’ll know they love having visitors on the Rockefeller Center Plaza, and most of them end up being shown on TV!
- Late Night with Seth Meyers
You can find tickets at 1iota.com for this and many other shows in New York City. See his celebrity guests live and in person along with Seth Meyers himself!
Take a Tour
You can tour all of the following places completely free! There is a ton to be seen and learned from every single one.
- Brooklyn Breweries
Tour and taste on the largest breweries in New York.
- Grand Central Partnership
Tour the Grand Central Neighborhood and all of its most famous buildings like the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal.
- City Hall
This tour is free to take, but you do need to make a reservation. It is one of the United States oldest city halls and encapsulates a plethora of history.
- Federal Reserve Bank
One of only twelve federal reserve banks in the country.
- Hamilton Grange
This stop is perfect for the Hamilton fan! This is one of the few homes of Alexander Hamilton.
- Gracie Mansion
This house holds the mayors of New York City and looks over the East River.
Read Some Books
- New York Public Library
Not only is the library free to visit, but they often provide free books and events. It’s been in place for over 100 years and is a must-visit when you’re in the city.
- Brooklyn Public Library
The fifth biggest public library in the United States.
I hope this list has provided you with some insight on what to visit on your next trip to New York City- without breaking the bank!
Where will you go first?