Free things to do in NYC
We all know how expensive cities can be and when you are gonna plan your budget to visit you have to count on many expenses. But, the good thing about big cities is all the free stuff that you can do.
Cool free stuff!
It’s been estimated that Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction. Tourists from all over the globe come to marvel at the neon billboards, see a famous musical, go shopping in the area and soak up the unique vibe.
To see this is for free but you will probably end up spending some money in all the attractions that you can find around.
The city has plenty of museums to offer and some of them are totally free, others are free sometimes and others give you the option to pay what you wish.
Some of the most famous:
The Guggenheim offers a free entrance on Saturdays from 5 to 8pm.
The Met used to offer some free days until recently, when they changed their policy, giving you the option to pay what you wish but only applies for residents of New Jersey, Connecticut or New York.
The MOMA offers free visits every Friday from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
The 9/11 Museum is free on Tuesdays from 5pm to closing time.
For more museums check out this page.
Grand Central Terminal
If you want to feel a taste of New York fast life and see a wonderful architecture, this is the place.
The Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal is something you’ve seen over and over in films, but seeing it in person feels so special.
My advice, go to the middle and look up, and stare at the constellations, which by the way are wrong. Not a long ago a traveler discovered they were reversed.
There is always something new in New York City and this is one of the things that I mostly love about this city. The Vessel is part of the largest private real estate development in US history since Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards. Located in the west side of Manhattan, it has both residential and commercial buildings.
One of the cool things about the Vessel is the free access. To enter, you need to book tickets online – for free – through the Hudson Yards website and select a day and time. Sometimes it can be hard to get a ticket. however, even if you do not get the tickets, it’s worth seeing from the outside.
The Vessel is currently closed after 3 suicides in less than a year. Visit the page for more info.
Do not miss The Shops at Hudson Yards, a mall with nothing less than 7 floors and more than 100 stores. Check it out during Christmas time, the decorations are insane!
Recently they opened The Edge, the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere with a 360-degree view.
This is not for free but I will definitely visit it soon!
The Brooklyn bridge
There’s no doubt about it – walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most quintessentially New York things to do, and most anyone who visits this city will eventually make the 1.3-mile trek.
I have crossed many times and I have to say that sometimes there are too many people. I was able to walk it during last summer during the COVID lockdown and it was almost empty. A mix of feelings were inside me that day, excitement to be able to enjoy the bridge and sad because that is not the essence of this city.
Do you know why is this bridge so famous?
Crossing the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge. In the 19th century, immigration, innovation and skycraper architecture began to shape New York city's future and the construction of this bridge was a fundamental factor added to the city.
The bridge represents the past and the present of this marvelous city.
This is the neighborhood you are gonna see when you cross the bridge.
It is one of New York City’s hippest, historic neighborhoods with the best views and the city’s best pizza!
My favorite pizza is from Grimaldi's
Main street Park offers spectacular views of the East River and Manhattan. Prepare a picnic and enjoy one of the best sunsets in the city.
A great way to see the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty is to hop on the Staten Island Ferry, which is free!
In case you want to visit the Statue and Ellis island, there is a ferry included in the NEW YORK CITYPASS. I made my way to the back of the ferry and got these spectacular views!
The East river Ferry only costs $2.75, the same as the city’s subway fare connecting lower and midtown Manhattan, and makes stops in Brooklyn and Queens. This tour gives you views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Freedom Tower, Brooklyn Bridge and more.
The High line
photo by Mike Tschappat
The High Line is a public park on the West Side of Manhattan. Built on a historic, elevated rail line. You can walk through gardens, view art, experience a performance, savor delicious food, or connect with friends while enjoying a unique perspective of New York City.
I love visiting this place during summer time.
What should I say about Central Park? This iconic part of New York is a free must-see. I have seen the park in every season and all of them are beautiful.
In winter the snow covers the place and you can ice-skate. In fall the foliage gives all these colors to the city and spring and summer are perfect for picnics and walks.
The Seaport District is New York's original commercial hub, located on the East River in Lower Manhattan with unparalleled views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.
It is the perfect place to spend the afternoon and watch the sunset.
Do not miss my post ROMANTIC PLANS IN NYC and have one of the most romantic dinners in the area, and in the city.
Movies with a view
Movies With A View takes place Thursday evenings in July and August on Pier 1’s Harbor View Lawn, Brooklyn. The perfect place to bring your own picnic and watch a classic film with the Manhattan skyline before you.
Unfortunately, we went last year but could not make it on time, we got the view and the picnic though. I hope we can get to watch one this summer.
Liberty State Park
It is the perfect place for a walk -it is very big- with amazing views to the city, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
We grabbed a pizza and some beers and enjoyed a perfect summer day.
Built in the footprints where the twin towers once stood at the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial is made up of two large pools with man made waterfalls in their sides. The design, referred to as “Reflecting Absence,” symbolizes the loss of life that day as well as the physical void left by the leveling of the massive pair of buildings that once stood in its place.
Around the top of each pool bronze plates form a commemorative rim listing the names of the 2,983 souls killed in New York City, Arlington, Virginia and Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania as well as the six victims who lost their lives in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Get lost in the city
This is my top list of free things to do in New York City, but there are so many more! I will keep exploring and sharing all of it with you and please feel free to share yours with me.
For more about NYC get to my guide where you can find must-visit places for first time visitors and romantic plans.