Free Things to Do in New York City | Hostelling International USA

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Free For All: New York City

manhattan skyline
Updated June 2019

New York City may be one of the most expensive cities in America, but there’s also no shortage of free things to do.

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 2:00-4:45pm.


One of the more 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.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

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.

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 here for the most complete listing of free special events across all 5 boroughs.

Chelsea Galleries

Check out fine works of art on a gallery crawl through Chelsea, with no pressure to buy. Located predominately in the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues, all the galleries are free. Check out Art Cards before you head over to see what’s in store. If you’re lucky, you can time your visit with a free wine and cheese opening event on a Thursday evening.

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. Designed to educate and entertain, 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, 12:00 -8:00 p.m., and Saturdays 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Governor’s Island

Although 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 is free from Manhattan on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. (you can purchase round-trip tickets for all other ferries for $2).

Brooklyn Brewery Tour

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 1:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Williamsburg is a big hangout spot for young New Yorkers, so this makes a great stop before an evening out.

Wave Hill

One of the hidden gems of NYC is this 28-acre public garden and cultural center. Not only does the Bronx garden boast spectacular views of the city the Hudson River and the Palisades, but has some of the most beautiful, vibrant landscape you’ll find in the entire city. Avoid the $8 entry fee Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-noon.

Hostel activities

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.

Find more free things to across the country with HI USA's Free For All series.

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Responsible Travel Guide: New York City