The Big Apple has a lot to offer, so it’s no wonder some say it’s the best city in the world. With so much to do and see, it’s at the top of our list for places to visit this year. Ready to add NYC to your bucket list? We’ve got you covered with this list of free things to do in New York City!
1. Walk along the High Line
Want to skip the taxi and get around NYC a different way? Grab your sneakers and take a walk along a 1.5 mile-long elevated park. The greenway was built on an old New York Central Railroad. While you’re there, keep an eye out for artwork, as well as plants and flowers that border the old railroad. It’s also a great place to go stargazing at night!
2. Snap pictures in front of the Friends apartment
Ever wanted to feel like you’re hanging out at Central Perk with Monica and Rachel? Take a walk to 90 Bedford Street and you’ll find yourself right in front of the apartment from the famous television series. Sure, you might get some funny looks from the locals, but they’re used to people taking pics in front of this iconic apartment by now. Do it for the ‘gram.
3. Visit the MoMA on Friday evening
Want to see some famous art for free? It’s easy with the Museum of Modern Art’s free admission on Fridays from 4 – 8 pm. Despite the name, the museum is home to both classic and modern art pieces. Drop by to see oil and enamel paintings by Jackson Polluck and even Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Find the MoMA in Long Island City, NY across the East River.
4. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
If you’ve always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, one of the best ways to do it is by taking a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. You’ll also get a stunning view of the New York City Skyline. Pro tip: go in the evening so you can catch the sunset! The ferry runs 5.2 miles through New York Harbor every 25 minutes. The best part? It’s completely free.
5. Watch a movie at a park around the city
Ready to sit back, relax and watch your favorite movie? NYC holds free movies in parks around the city throughout the summer. One of our favorites is Hudson RiverFlicks shown at various piers along the Hudson River Park. Catch iconic movies here several times each week starting at 8:30 pm. Get there early to snag the best seats!
6. See the incredible lights in Times Square
If there’s one place you really can’t miss in NYC, it’s Times Square. People literally come from around the world to see all the lights on the big screens. Walking around here and taking in all the energy and buzz is a great way to end your day. Heads up: If you’re looking to find some cheap food, this is not the place to find it. A lot of the restaurants in this area increase their prices for the tourists. Might as well grab a slice of classic NYC pizza—you won’t regret it!
7. Join a group doing yoga at Bryant Park
Central Park may get a lot of hype, but many people overlook the beautiful Bryant Park. Easily located between Fifth and Sixth Ave, it’s a great place to enjoy some nature amidst the city. The park also hosts over 1,000 free activities and events every year! Start your morning off right with a free yoga session every Tuesday at 10am.
8. Watch a taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Ever dreamed of sitting in the audience at the Tonight Show? Now’s your chance. Free tickets are released a month in advance for tapings that are open to the public. If you’re looking to see Jimmy Fallon last minute, you can also try getting standby tickets the night of the show. Don’t want to miss your chance to be on TV!
9. Read a book at the New York Public Library
Grab a book (and some air conditioning) at the New York Public Library. If you need a break from walking around the city, head over to the library and take in this architectural beauty. It’s the third largest library in the world with over 53 million items and 92 locations. If you’re planning to stay in the city for awhile, you can always apply for a temporary card which is valid for three months.
10. Go on a run through Central Park
Ready to squeeze in a quick workout? Why not go for a run in one of the most famous parks in the U.S? Head right in between the Upper East Side and Upper West Side to experience a bit of peace and quiet, while still being surrounded by skyscrapers. It’s a great place for a morning run or an afternoon picnic. There’s definitely plenty to see around the park while you’re there. And yes, that includes views of the city.
11. Stop by Grand Central Station
Whether you’re traveling through Grand Central Station or not, it’s definitely worth taking a walk through this iconic train station. Located at 42nd street and Park Avenue, it’s right in the heart of Manhattan. Grand Central also has places to eat and shop throughout the terminal. The classic architecture and ceiling are just two of the amazing things to see while you’re there!
12. Window shop on Fifth Avenue
Although Fifth Ave is one of the most expensive streets in the world, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it! Fifth Avenue is known for it’s luxury stores and elegant fashion and is definitely worth the visit. Fashion designers from all over the world come here to have their items featured in stores along the street. Even if you don’t want to splurge on a new outfit, window shopping is always free. Try going Thursday night to see some local artists set up their work along the street.
13. Kayak along the Hudson River
If you’re looking to experience the Hudson River while you’re in NYC, one of the best ways to do so is by kayaking down it! The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking to visitors from May to October. They’re open every day except Mondays. It’s a great way to spend time away from the busy city while still offering a great view of the skyline.
14. Visit the 9/11 Memorial
This stunning memorial pays tribute to the lives lost on 9/11. The museum inside is only free for survivors and their family members, but the outdoor exhibit is free for the public to pay their respects. The memorial has a an outer wall around each fountain where the two buildings once stood with the names of those who lost their lives in the attack.
15. Tour the Federal Bank of New York
This may not seem like the most fascinating thing to do while you’re in NYC, but there’s more to the bank than meets the eye. Inside, there is a gold vault that holds more than 6,500 tons of gold and there is a lot of interesting history about the bank that’s happened over the years. History buffs will enjoy the free guided tours. Tours are held Monday to Friday from 10am to 11am. Spots fill up quickly, so it might be a good idea to reserve your spot about a month before you plan on visiting.
16. Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge
This iconic bridge is a staple of the NYC skyline and connects Manhattan and Brooklyn over the East River. The perfect place for a photo shoot, this bridge has been known for being one of the most Instagramable spots in the city. The bridge is just over a mile long and has plenty of place to pause and enjoy the views.
17. Eat your way through a free food tour
If you want to eat the best NYC food without having to spend a lot, there are free guided food tours that take you to classic spots all around the city. There are different tours offered in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side. The company Free Tours by Foot are pay-what-you-want and are offered throughout the week. Best taken on an empty stomach, these tours will not leave you hungry.
18. Take a trip to the New York Aquarium
If you have some time, head over to the New York Aquarium located in Brooklyn right next to Coney Island. It’s the oldest continually operating aquarium in the US and has over 350 species of aquatic wildlife. If you’re looking for a free visit, head to the aquarium on Wednesday afternoons from 3pm to 5pm. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re trying to escape the heat and see the animals!
19. Head over to the New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, this botanical garden is another great escape from city life. Spend the day in this gorgeous 250-acre botanical garden. There are over one million plants here! Take advantage of grounds-only free admission all day on Wednesdays and from 9am to 10am on Saturdays.
20. See the animals at the Bronx Zoo
Lucky for you, the Bronx Zoo is located right next to the New York Botanical Garden, which makes it easy to check both of these NYC attractions off your bucket list. It is one of the largest zoos in the United States and has over 2 million visitors each year. General admission is free all day on Wednesdays but donations are appreciated.
New York City is a massive city and definitely requires some walking shoes while you’re traveling the streets of this concrete jungle. The walking is worth it though for all the experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Can’t wait to book your trip to NYC? Head to our site to book your flight and add our list of free things to do to your bucket list!