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New York City

What are the best free things NYC has to offer?

A group of friends and I will be in New York City and we will all be on a tight budget. We're looking for free to almost free (low cost) attractions to see, things to do and places to eat in the city. Would love your best recommendations to explore and take in the city for free!

17 Answers

top answer by
jami from New York City

Believe it or not there are quite a few great things to do for next to nothing or free! American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art  are both pay what you can, I've paid as little as a dollar! Its not a well known fact because they would prefer you to pay the recommended $20 but the key word there is recommended. Just place your money on the counter and say "1 please." :)

Also MoMa (Museum of Modern Art) is free after 5pm on Fridays!!! Here's the dealio with that though (cause there is always a catch) its a little crazy with A LOT of people. I suggest taking a good look at their website and decide on specific pieces you might want to see because they will close at 8pm or so, you won't have time to see everything. Also I recommend waiting till closer to 6pm as the line will have died down (before 5 it will be around the block) and you can usually just walk right in.

Bryant Park also has a lot of really great events that are free and if you can stand the line ice skating (in season) is also free with a nominal skate rental fee. The Public Library which sits behind Bryant Park also has loads of free events. Take a look at both of their websites to see the calendar!

Now this next one does cost money, but at a fraction of the price that it would normally. Yes, I'm talking Broadway Theatre! There are a handful of shows that conduct what is called a Lottery. You show up 2 hours before the show starts and you enter your name for up to two tickets. The most expensive ticket is around $36  and they are always for either the front row or box seats, these seats can sometimes run $500 or more!!!!! Most of the time you have to have cash on hand and you pay for them immediately after winning. I have personally won the lottery for "Book of Mormon," "Kinky Boots," and I have won "Wicked" three times!!!!! There are also other options for saving lots of money.....

An easy way to catch some great views is to head downtown and catch the Staten Island Ferry which is free!!!!!! Is going to give you some views of The Statue Of Liberty and of the skyline and Brooklyn

And always remember NYC is a beautiful city, the architecture is fantastic, the bridges are wonderful and the parks gorgeous, make sure to get out and see it!!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. American Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  3. Museum of Modern Art (attraction)
  4. Bryant Park (attraction)
  5. Broadway Theatre (attraction)
  6. Staten Island Ferry (attraction)
  7. Brooklyn (neighborhood)
18 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Emily from Chicago

Hi Sarah-

While NYC can definitely be expensive, there are plenty of things to do that are free or inexpensive especially when the weather is nice and even more people are outside. First and foremost is people watching! I could spend the better part of a day just wandering around the city and watching NYers go about their day. Some great places to do so are Central ParkWashington Square Park or High Line Park. All of these are also great places to take a break or enjoy a cup of coffee. Another option in Central Park is to rent bikes. It's a great way to see the entire park!

I also vote for walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Take the subway to Brooklyn and then walk back into the city, beautiful views and lots of photo ops along the way! If your schedule allows doing so on a weekday I recommend it as the bridge can get really crowded on the weekends. 

As for food, you can't go wrong with a dirty water hotdog from a street vendor or a dog from the iconic Papaya King. There are also a lot of great places selling slices of pizza.

Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Central Park (attraction)
  2. Washington Square Park (attraction)
  3. High Line Park (attraction)
  4. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
  5. Papaya King (restaurant)
4 thanks

answered by
Ava from New York City

Several New York City museums have free parties and activities. My all time favorite is Brooklyn Museum's Target First Saturdays.  An open rotunda space in the museum turns into a dance floor and there is live entertainment often accompanied by a dj while the rest of the museum is bustling with activities. Warning this drives a huge crowd.  

El Museo del Barrio

Museum of Arts & Design

Museum of Modern Art

Museum Mile

How about a free dance and drumming class at Djoniba Dance & Drum Center, free trial class.

There are a several publications where visitors can find a variety of activities such as AM New York, L Magazine, Village Voice and Time Out New York.

It is also worth checking out New York City public parks and libraries for performances and free activities: Welcome to The New York Public Library

You can join, although temporarily, with a meet up group, sharing your interests.

Sign up with couch surfing and hook up with a host. 

There are churches, buddhist temples, synagogues, pay what you can yoga with Yoga for the People. 

Upright Citizens Brigade- Named one of the best comedy shows in NYC by The New York Times, Whiplash — presented by the Upright Citizens Brigade a renowned sketch and improv group — is worthy of a hefty price of admission. Miraculously, however, there is no cost to take in one of the best sketch comedy shows in the city. Every performance brings new and unexpected antics from members of the UCB. Reserve your tickets here and enjoy an incredible display of comedic talent and some potential surprise celebrity guest appearances here in the comedy capitol that is New York City.

Attend a talk show- If the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon are on your NYC bucket list, plan to score tickets at least a month in advance of your trip to NYC. 

Go to for reviews of bars, clubs and eateries. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Brooklyn Museum (attraction)
  2. El Museo del Barrio (attraction)
  3. Museum of Arts & Design (attraction)
  4. Museum of Modern Art (attraction)
  5. Museum Mile (attraction)
  6. Djoniba Dance & Drum Center (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Kathy from New York City

I always recommend Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry first as "must sees." 

As for food, there are many wonderful ethnic foods to choose from: chinatown, pizza, bagels, indian food....  The National Museum of the American Indian is free (it's part of the Smithsonian Institution), and the The Metropolitan Museum of Art is "suggested donations." The Jewish Museum is free on Saturdays, and many museums have free nights.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
  2. Staten Island Ferry (attraction)
  3. National Museum of the American Indian (attraction)
  4. Smithsonian Institution (attraction)
  5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  6. Jewish Museum (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Heather Ann from Stamford, Connecticut

Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and walk the High Line Park

and all the galleries are free - it is since to walk around the galleries in Chelsea (New York) -  some galleries Gagosian GalleryDavid Zwirner Gallery and then the museums The Metropolitan Museum of Art Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and then Central Park

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
  2. High Line Park (attraction)
  3. Chelsea (New York) (neighborhood)
  4. Gagosian Gallery (attraction)
  5. David Zwirner Gallery (attraction)
  6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  7. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (attraction)
  8. Central Park (attraction)
4 thanks

answered first by
Joyce from Tiel

We did a nice walk with a lot of free sightseeing! 

Started The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (visited also the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, but isn't free) and then walked to Trinity Church and then walked down Wall St with the Federal Hall National Memorial, The New York Stock Exchange (Wall Street) and a Tiffany's to East River Promenade E River Promenade with an amazing view to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Standing with your face to Brooklyn we walked to the right towards Pier 15, East River EsplanadeSouth Street Seaport Museum and then to Fulton St, visited Titanic Memorial Park, walked towards a little, tiny park at your right and just before that park there's a supermarket where we bought a lunch for almost nothing and ate it at that tiny little park! A lot to see in a little walk! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (attraction)
  2. Tribute WTC Visitor Center (attraction)
  3. Trinity Church (attraction)
  4. Wall St (attraction)
  5. Federal Hall National Memorial (attraction)
  6. Wall Street (attraction)
  7. E River Promenade (attraction)
  8. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
  9. Pier 15, East River Esplanade (attraction)
  10. South Street Seaport Museum (attraction)
  11. Fulton St (attraction)
  12. Titanic Memorial Park (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

My favorite almost-free thing to do in NYC is catch an open rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic. For about $20 you can get a ticket that might usually cost upwards of $100. I've seen everyone from Andre Previn to Yo-Yo Ma there. 

Carnegie Hall also often offers last-minute tickets so check them out as well. 

The The Museum at FIT is always free and has great exhibits. 

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is often free (last time I was there they let me in for free because it was so cold--go figure) and is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen no matter what season. 

New York Public Library - I get that this sounds like a snooze fest but I can promise you, it ain't. This place has amazing talks and exhibits but aside from that the building itself is just incredible. Do NOT miss going up to the reading room. They still have the original pneumatic tube system. 

Check out the WPA Murals all over town. You can find a lot of them in the city's post offices, but here's a link to a site that will tell you where they are:

NYC also has some of the most amazing department store windows you will ever see in your life (and not just at Christmas). The two best are Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, Madison

I'm not a big church gal, but whenever I'm around St. Patricks Cathedral on a Saturday I always go in because not only can you see the church you can sit and watch weddings, which, for some reason I find fascinating. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. New York Philharmonic (restaurant)
  2. Carnegie Hall (attraction)
  3. The Museum at FIT (neighborhood)
  4. Brooklyn Botanic Garden (attraction)
  5. New York Public Library (attraction)
  6. Bergdorf Goodman (attraction)
  7. Barneys New York, Madison (attraction)
  8. St. Patricks Cathedral (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
amery from Chinatown New York

There are diverse things to enjoy freely in NYC. Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, Bryant Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and much more fab spots where you could feel the great charm of the city. Being a nature lover, I mostly want to spend some relaxing hours in parks or have a road to walk for exploring local parts. I would say New York makes a remarkable journey without paying much....

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Central Park (attraction)
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  3. American Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  4. Bryant Park (attraction)
  5. Flushing Meadows Corona Park (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Jeff from Brooklyn, New York

Central Park is free, as is the High Line Park (which is really Nuyawk!).  There are many places to hear all kinds of music that typically don't charge cover charges weekdays.  Google the type of music and nyc.  Websites will indicate if covers apply.  And one of our best free things is simply walking around neighborhoods like the Village, SoHo, Chinatown New York (where you can eat well cheaply too.)

Please do enjoy our wonderful city.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Central Park (attraction)
  2. High Line Park (attraction)
  3. SoHo (neighborhood)
  4. Chinatown New York (neighborhood)
2 thanks

answered by
terry from New York City

New Yorkers love to walk - and it's free: 

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge(gorgeous views, gorgeous bridge) or walk across the Williamsburg Bridge Pathand then stroll through hipster Williamsburg and have lunch or dinner there.

Walk through Central Park. Take the always nearby M5 bus for a tour of Manhattan (not free but very cheap).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has suggested payments but you can pay as donation whatever amount you choose.

Walk along Nelson A. Rockefeller Park beside the Hudson River and then take Staten Island Ferry (not free but really cheap) for views of the Manhattan skyline and a sail past the Statue of Liberty. Return to Manhattan and walk up to Chinatown New York for lunch or dinner.

And there's the High Line Park (not one of my personal favorites) but from 14th Street to Midtown Manhattan you can walk it with fabulous views of the Hudson River to the West and the pre and post gritty waterfront on both sides.

New York (mostly Manhattan), like most great city centers, is a walker's paradise.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
  2. Williamsburg Bridge Path (attraction)
  3. Williamsburg (neighborhood)
  4. Central Park (attraction)
  5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  6. Nelson A. Rockefeller Park (attraction)
  7. Staten Island Ferry (attraction)
  8. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  9. Chinatown New York (neighborhood)
  10. High Line Park (attraction)
  11. Midtown Manhattan (neighborhood)
  12. Manhattan (region)
2 thanks

answered by
Melody from New York, New York

Visit the Chelsea (New York)High Line for a stroll.  After, hit up Chelsea Market for great food at a reasonable price.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chelsea (New York) (neighborhood)
  2. Chelsea Market (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Brian from St. Louis

I would go to Eataly and just stroll around.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Eataly (restaurant)
2 thanks

answered by
amanda from Dublin

We really enjoyed a visit to Bryant Park, so different thanwhat you expect of this big city that never sleeps...... a beautiful calm oasis only a few blocks away from Times Square. It has a wonderful seasonal event program on there too! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bryant Park (attraction)
  2. Times Square (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Chris Lee from Malta

They won't tell you this but most you can go into museums with just a donation (anything you'd like to offer). The admission fee is just a recommended amount. 

Just go to the counter and tell them. I'd like to make a donation of $x, and they'll let you in.

I know because I've did this myself when I was in NY 2 years ago. 

2 thanks

answered by
Adam from New Jersey

Start with the The Metropolitan Museum of Art

and it's uptown location The Cloisters.  Keep in mind that both will ask for a suggested donation, but you can give what you want.  You should also consider the Brooklyn Museum for it's first Saturday night free admission with lots of programming to boot. 

The summertime brings lots of outdoor concerts.  Although they haven't been posted yet, consider Central Park - SummerStage, Prospect Park Bandshell concerts, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors which takes place throughout the summer. 

Lastly, Union Square has a great farmers market and from there you can hit StrandBook Store.  Enjoy!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  2. The Cloisters (attraction)
  3. Brooklyn Museum (attraction)
  4. Central Park - SummerStage (attraction)
  5. Prospect Park Bandshell (attraction)
  6. Lincoln Center (attraction)
  7. Union Square (neighborhood)
  8. Strand (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Michael from Virginia Beach, Virginia

Central Park!! You can spend a whole day in there and not even scratch the surface. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Central Park (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Bonnie from United States

A lot of museums have free hours so if you're into museums I would check that out. 

If you're into comedy there are also a ton of free shows. There is a great one at the Postmark Cafe called the Living Room Show every Friday and there is one at DUMBO KITCHEN called dumbo comedy on the first Tuesday of the month.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5 is a great place to check out and see amazing views of Manhattan. 

You can take the Staten Island Ferry and get a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Postmark Cafe (restaurant)
  2. DUMBO KITCHEN (attraction)
  3. Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5 (attraction)
  4. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
1 thanks

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