Know before you go: Want to visit the places recommended in this article? With local regulations changing frequently, it’s a good idea to check the web site of any attraction or business to make sure it’s open before you go.
New York City may be one of the most expensive cities in America, but there’s also no shortage of free things to do.
Take the ferry to Staten Island
If you want to take a closer look at the Statue of Liberty without paying the $12 ferry tour fee, take the free ferry to Staten Island and you’ll get a look at this iconic symbol of freedom from the water. Once you get to Staten Island,check out the zoo, which is free on Wednesdays from 2:00 – 4:45 p.m.
Visit a museum
One of the most acclaimed museums in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art celebrates contemporary and modern art from the past and the present. Although admission is typically $25, you can get in for free on Fridays from 4:00 -8:00 p.m.
Additionally, the Guggenheim, which is self-described as a vital cultural center, an educational institution, and the heart of an international network of museums, is pay-what-you-wish (donations are optional, but the museum suggests $10 per person) on Saturdays from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., instead of the regular $22 admission.
Attend a TV show taping
Ever wondered how you could be part of the live studio audience for shows like The Daily Show, The Tonight Show, or Saturday Night Live? It’s easy –you just have to request tickets! The farther in advance you can plan, the more likely you are to get tickets to the show of your choice, but some shows allow you to wait in line the day of the taping.
Check out special events
Every week is different in NYC, but there’s always something new and free to be seen or heard. Bryant Park offers free Tai Chi, yoga, craft nights, movies in the summer, and more. And check out nycgo.com for the most complete listing of free special events across all 5 boroughs.
Explore Chelsea’s galleries
Check out fine works of art on a gallery crawl through the Chelsea neighborhood, with no pressure to buy. Located predominately in the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues, all the galleries are free to pop into. Check out Art Cards before you head over to see if there are any special events in store. If you’re lucky, you can time your visit with a free wine and cheese opening event on a Thursday evening.
Visit the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum
With more than 50,000 garments in its collection, the FIT Museum displays pieces dating from the 18th century through the present. You’ll find rotating exhibits, student designs, and the works of famous contemporary designers, such as Chanel, Dior, and Balenciaga. The museum is open Tuesday – Friday from noon – 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Spend a day on Governor’s Island
Although it’s only 800 yards from Manhattan, you’ll feel far, far away on this 172-acre island. You’ll find space to hike, bike, play mini golf, or picnic, as well as enjoy performances, tours, and other activities. The ferry from Manhattan is free on Saturdays and Sundays before noon (you can purchase round-trip tickets for all other ferries for $3).
Tour Brooklyn Brewery
Explore a wide range of local beers at this neighborhood brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. On the weekends, take advantage of free tours every half hour, from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. Williamsburg is a big hangout spot for young New Yorkers, so this makes a great stop before an evening out.
Visit Wave Hill
This 28-acre public garden and cultural center is one of NYC’s true hidden gems. Not only does the Bronx garden boast spectacular views of the city, the Hudson River, and the Palisades, but it also has some of the most beautiful, vibrant landscapes you’ll find in the entire city. Avoid the $10 entry fee all day on Thursdays.
Join a hostel activity
HI New York City hosts a range of free activities at the hostel and around town to help you meet your fellow hostellers and get a taste of life as a New Yorker. There’s something every day of the week, with free events that include comedy nights, pub crawls, a Central Park walking tour, and more.