free things to do in new york city

New York City is a global power city known for being the financial, cultural and media capital of the world. Its importance on the world stage made it one of the most expensive cities in the world to live to and even to visit.

But visiting New York doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several free things to do in New York City.

So if it’s your first time in New York and doesn’t know where to start yet? This list of things to do in New York for free can be a great addition to your itinerary in the city. A proof that you can still enjoy an expensive city like New York on a budget. 

12 Free Things To Do In New York City 

1. Admire the incredible view of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

free things to do in new york city

The Big Apple is home to arguably the most iconic skyline in the world. Nowhere is that skyline more impressive than from Brooklyn Bridge Park, next to the equally iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

On a bright and sunny day, the view of Manhattan’s skyscrapers across the East River is as American as apple pie. But it’s at night, when the lights go on, that New York City is at its most spectacular.  

Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park and sit in awe of the breath-taking view of one of the world’s greatest cities. If you are traveling in New York with a partner, it is one of the romantic things to do in New York as a couple

How to get to Brooklyn Bridge Park

To get to Brooklyn Bridge Park take the F Line to York Street Subway Station. When exiting the station follow York Street beneath Manhattan Bridge before turning right onto Washington Street.

At the end of Washington Street, you’ll be in between Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge Park is the other side of Brooklyn Bridge, just a short walk away.

Source: James Davies of Where You’re Between

2. Explore Queensbridge Park in NYC

If you are looking to spend some quiet time in New York City’s lesser explored places, you need to spend a morning at Queensbridge Park. Located in the borough of Queens, this public park is free for all and surprisingly underutilized.
You can watch the imposing Queensboro Bridge from below or gaze at the beautiful East River that flows along the riverside edge of this park. The park is great for joggers and parents who wish to walk with their babies in strollers. So if you are traveling with your kids, Queensbridge park is one of the best things to do in New York with toddlers.
Pet owners can plan a neat picnic with their family here as there’s plenty of space for a barbecue. Sports enthusiasts will be happy to know that there are volleyball courts and open turfs to practice with their pals.

How To Get To Queensbridge Park

Queensbridge Park is situated between Vernon Boulevard and the East River and spans the Queens Plaza and 41st Avenue. The best way to get to this park is to begin walking on the Queensbridge Park Greenway.
You can also take your bicycle along if you feel like riding. This park is among those places in New York that you can access car-free.
Source: Oindrila De of Oindrila Goes Footloose

3. Relax at High Line Park

High Line Park is one of our favorite free things to do in New York City. It is also a super interesting park because it was built on an old elevated rail on top of abandoned tracks.

The park is located high above the city streets providing a uniquely relaxing stroll; you’re able to see NYC streets, but you’re removed from the hustle and bustle of being on the sidewalks.

You can also take in some amazing views from the park, you can see across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

How To Get To The High Line Park

The park starts at Gansevoort Street, stretching through Chelsea and ending at 34th Street and 12th Avenue.

You can climb up to the park via various access points which are located on the following streets 17th Street, 20th Street, 26th Street, 28th Street, at 10th Avenue and at 30th Street and 11th Avenue.

For wheelchair accessible entry, take the elevators located at the following streets Gansevoort and Washington Streets, 16th Street (and 10th Ave.), 23rd Street (and 10th Ave.), and 30th Street (and 10th Ave.).

There is also a ramp entrance at 34th Street and 12th Avenue.

Source: Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear

4. Learn the LGBT History in Stonewall Inn

Free Things To Do In New York City

On June 28, 1969, the modern LGBT movement began at a place called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. Police raided the bar – a dehumanizing indignity that was common at the time. This day though, the patrons decided they weren’t’ going to take it anymore.

On June 24, 2016, President Obama officially designated the park near the Inn as a United States National Monument. The Inn itself is a National Historic Site. This designation made the Stonewall Inn the country’s first national LGBT monument.

The monument is still a park in progress, and services will be added as funds are gathered. The Stonewall Inn remains a private establishment, where you can still drop in, have a drink, and remember what happened there that changed history.

We celebrate Pride around the world in June. It started here at a small bar in New York City – when drag queens, transgendered people, and others who’d been marginalized decided they’d had enough!

How To Get To The Stonewall Inn

Today, you take the subway to the Christopher Street stop. When you walk out, you’ll find a small, triangular plaza just east of the 7th Avenue intersection. You’ll find the statues there. The Stonewall Inn is across the street.

Source: Halef of The Round The World Guys

5. Watch the New York Philharmonic performance

One of the most romantic things you can do for free in New York City in the summer is to go see the New York Philharmonic perform in Central Park.

Each year for either one or two nights in June, the orchestra sets up a stage and speakers on the Great Lawn and performs their timeless tunes. You may even get lucky and hear some new composers which in the past have been around the age of 11 years old! Pack a picnic basket, blankets or chairs and get there early.

The orchestra starts at 8 pm but if you want a seat up close, arrive around 6 pm to set up your area.

How to get to the Great Lawn in Central Park?

From the West Side of New York, take the 1,2,3, B, D or C train to the 86st street station. From the East Side, take the 4,5, or 6 train to the 86th street station.

Walk towards the park and follow the other people with picnic items heading down the 86thstreet transverse.

Source: Gina of Jet Set And Forget

6. Check out one of the world’s best museums

New York City has a reputation for being expensive but what a lot of first-time visitors to New York don’t know is that there are museums that you can visit for free in New York City.

The Museum of Modern Art is one of New York’s most famous museums, as it is home to a lot of famous paintings, in particular Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night among countless others.

It is one of the best places to see modernist and impressionist art in the world so if you’re an art lover you can’t miss MoMA. If you’re on a budget, though, you’ll want to save your visit for Free Fridays, where you can get free admission to the MoMA between the hours of 4 PM and 8 PM. 

You don’t have to do anything in advance to reserve a ticket – just show up and wait in the quickly-moving line to get in. It will be a bit more crowded on Friday nights but it’s worth it if you’re on a budget but love art.

How to get to MoMA

To get to MoMA, you’ll want to use the NYC subway, as traffic in Midtown Manhattan is usually awful so taxis and buses are a bad idea. The closest train station is the E/M train at 5th Avenue and 53rd Street, dropping you just a block or two away.

The Rockefeller Center D/F/M and the 49th Street N/Q/R/W are both walking distance as well, meaning that the MoMA is connected with nearly every major train line in the city.

Source: Allison of Travel Eternal

7. Hang out in Times Square

Times Square is the world’s most visited location with about 360,000 pedestrian visitors daily and over 130 million visitors each year.  Excluding residents, Times Square the second most popular tourist attraction behind the Las Vegas Strip with almost 40 million annual tourists. 

Times Square is home to the Broadway Theater District and especially known for its billboards. The development of digital screens has transformed Times Squares billboards.  The largest billboard spans an entire block and includes almost 24 million LED pixels.  

Also, a new pedestrian plaza offers visitors tiered viewing of the Square.  Times Square is a visual overload experience at day, but the neon lights and giant billboards and even more enlightening at night. (Speaking of which, there’s so many awesome things to do in New York at Night!). 

Times Square has been hosting the New Year’s Eve ball drop since 1907, and the energy-efficient LED ball that was installed for the centennial celebration is now a permanent fixture in the Square.

How to get to Times Square

Times Square is located in Manhattan between 42nd and 47th Streets and between Broadway and 7th Avenue and easily reachable from the Times Square-42nd Street subway station and bus terminal.

Source: Catherine D’Cruz of We Go With Kids

8. Ride the Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry offers the most incredible views of Manhattan – or rather, hundreds of different ones. The southern tip of Manhattan, the port of New York City, Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, and all the skyscrapers of Wall Street and Lower Manhattan historic sites.

The view changes almost every meter. The best thing about the Staten Island Ferry is it’s completely free! Taking advantage of the free ferry is one of the best ways to save money in New York.

How to take the Staten Island Ferry

The best way get on the ferry in Manhattan is from the Lower Manhattan Terminal at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. You can not miss it. Just follow all the other passengers that stand in line at nearly any time of the day.
Every day there are 60,000 passengers, so just imagine how crowded it can get. My recommendation: Don’t stay inside the ferry, unless the weather is too bad. Go directly to the left or right and straight to the railing.
Source: Clemens of Travellers Archive

9. Check out world-class art for free in Bushwick


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Street art is growing around the world and New York City has one of the most extensive and interesting street art galleries in the world. The Bushwick Collective in Bushwick, Brooklyn is an outdoor gallery with dozens of murals.

Some of the most famous street artists in world can be found on the walls of Bushwick, including: Banksy (UK), Kobra (Brazil), Reka (Australia), Olek (Poland), Dasic Fernandez (Chile), Pixel Pancho (Italy), Blek the Rat (France), Spiros (Brazil), Owen Dippie (NewZealand) and Lmnopi (Brooklyn, NY).

Local artists are represented as well. Take a walk down any of these streets and you will see street art and tags. Troutman Street and St. Nicholas is the center of the Bushwick Collective artwork (about 5 blocks from the subway stop).

How to get to Bushwick, Brooklyn

Take the L subway to Jefferson (the 9th stop from Manhattan). Sometime in 2019, the MTA is shutting down the L Train between Bedford and 8th Avenue for 2 years for repairs. The train will be replaced by shuttle buses in Manhattan.

Source: Susan of Travel For Life Now 

More on Bushwick

bushwick brooklyn free things to do in new york

One of my favorite free things to do in New York is checking out all the cool street art. You can spot art murals all over NewYork,  but the largest selection and the most beautiful art pieces you’ll find in Brooklyn.

It’s a fun activity to go street art hunting and you get some good exercise at the same time. There are so many beautiful and wacky urban art pieces in Brooklyn, so you can easily spend 1-2 days just going through them all.

Bushwick Collective is one of the most famous places for street art in New York. It’s like an outdoor street art gallery of artists from all around the world. Here you’ll find some of the best murals in New York. It’s so much fun to take pictures here,  so make sure to bring your camera, extra batteries, and memory cards!

Source: Christine of Christine Abroad

10. Unwind at Prospect Park

Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood is named after the famous Prospect Park, and it is a great free thing to do in the city when you’ve already hit up Central Park and want something more off-beat.
Special events in the park include history walks, roller skating discos, and youth tennis, while the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the carousel, the dog beach, and the concert pavilion are utilized year-round.
Visit the farmer’s market at the adjacent Grand Army Plaza for a taste of New York City’s famous market culture and also try some of the best eats in New York City

How to Get to Prospect Park?

Prospect Park is accessible from multiple metro stations, including 15 Street – Prospect Park station, Parkside Avenue station, and Prospect Park Subway station, the Botanic Garden station, and the Grand Army Plaza station.
Since the park is large before you determine the train route you should decide which points in the park you want to visit. There are also city buses that stop nearby, and of course taxis and Uber are always available.
Source: Stephanie of History Fangirl

11. Learn at New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has been a landmark of the city for more than 100 years. With over 50 million items, it is one of the biggest libraries in the United States, and in the world.
The main branch is located in the center of Manhattan and worth a visit, even if you don’t plan on actually using the library’s facilities.

The architecture is absolutely stunning and the number of details to marvel at are never-ending.  At the library, you can also find a wonderful shop with beautiful editions of famous books, and unique souvenirs of the city of New York.

How to get to the New York Public Library?

The Main Building of the New York Public Library, officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is located in Midtown Manhattan, so access is very easy using public transportation, with plenty of metro stations nearby.

The closest is the 5th Avenue – Bryant Park Station. Near this location, you can find many other New York staples, such as the Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building.

Source: Maria and Rui of Two Find A Way

12. Escape Manhattan by going to Coney Island

Coney Island is a great place to go to spend some time without having to spend money in NYC. Of course, if you want to go on a Luna Park ride you’ll have to pay, but it’s not all that Coney Island has to offer.

Once you step out of the subway or park your car, walk by the shops and enjoy the beach town feel. This place is completely different from Manhattan and it’s why I love it so much.

When we went, there was a huge display of street artworks and navigating around the maze of the canvas was a delight in its own – there’s always something going on in Coney Island.

Go a bit further, and you’ll get to the boardwalk, where you can stroll and do some people watching. You can also put down your towel and sunbathe by the water unless you’re ready to take a swim!

There are free toilets and water to clean yourself if you went in the water or don’t like the feeling of sand sticking on your body.

Coney Island has pretty amazing colors at sunset so I would really recommend going there in the afternoon to enjoy the pretty view. If you’re there during the season, know that they are fireworks every Friday night at 9:30 pm!

How To Get To Coney Island

Take the yellow Q line or orange F or D line to Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue from central Manhattan or anywhere in NYC area.

Source: Alice of Take Your Bag

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