New York is the most populous city in the United States and is home to numerous tourist attractions. It is known as the Empire State and is home to almost 8 million people. Did you know that in 1789, it was declared the first capital of the United States of America? Today, it is the most linguistically diverse city with over 800 languages spoken by the people. Every year, it hosts millions of tourists from all over the world. So, if you are traveling to this amazing city, and looking for exciting and pocket-friendly sites to fit in your itinerary, then check out this list of free things to do in New York City:
New York Public Library
As the second-largest public library in the United States and the fourth-largest in the world, it has branches in multiple locations like Manhattan, boroughs of the Bronx, and Staten Island. The four research libraries are open to the general public.
On the third floor of the main branch is the grand Rose Main Reading Room — the favorite section of bibliophiles. Various scholars, Nobel laureates, and historians are known to have spent time in this library. If you’re looking for free activities in NYC and enjoy reading, then definitely drop by to dive into the pool of books.
Address: Public Library, 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018, United States | Timing: Sunday: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Tuesday and Wednesday: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; Monday, Thursday to Saturday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm | Google Map Location https://goo.gl/maps/icZn4L9ykAhiS8wr6 | Phone: +1 917-275-6975
Visit the peaceful Strawberry Fields at Central Park
The Strawberry Fields at Central Park is designed by Bruce Kelly and has small meadows lined up with trees and shrubs along a path that takes you through a wooded area. Built-in memory of music legend and peace activist John Lennon, it is different from any other traditional memorial. The place consists of a five-acre landscape close to the entrance of West 72nd Street and includes the Imagine mosaic — the site for Lenon’s tribute. It refers to the 1967 song he wrote and performed with the Beatles — Strawberry Fields Forever.
Address: West 72nd St, New York, NY 10019, United States | Timing: 6:00 am to 1:00 am | Google Map Location: https://g.page/strawberry-fields-central-park?share | Phone: +1 212-639-9675
The Brooklyn Brewery at Williamsburg will give you the taste of one of New York’s best beers. Their drinks are popular within the country and have also ventured beyond the United States. From the classic style to the experimental ones, this brewery collaborates with fellow artistes and brewers from all over the globe. The shop sells a range of seasonal drinks like the Summer Ale as well as the Bel Air Sour.
There are free tours on weekend afternoons, every half an hour. You may have to face a long queue at times, but this place in Brooklyn truly gives an insight into the art of brewing and is one of the most entertaining options when it comes to free activities in NYC.
Address: 79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249, United States | Timing: Saturday & Sunday: 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/GjsUJkf3MccTqEH26 | Phone: +1 718-486-7422
Walk on the 1.45-mile-long High Line Park
Opened in 2009, this elevated linear park showcases art, food vendors, gardens, and stunning performances. A 1.45-mile (2.33 km)-long walk can give you a different perspective of New York City beyond skyscrapers and heavy traffic. It stretches from Gansevoort Street through Chelsea and to West 34th Street and is known for stargazing events during summers.
Some of the top attractions present in the park include the naturalized plantings inspired by plants and views, the Hudson River, and the pebble-dash concrete walkways. As a collaborative piece designed by well-known architects and designers, this park is an icon in contemporary design and architecture.
Address: New York, NY 10011, United States | Timing: Monday to Friday: 7:00 am to 9:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 9 am to 9 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/4NfKEmJw4pCf3j1z7 | Phone: +1 212-500-6035
Travel to Staten Island with the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry takes you from the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan to the St George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. This ferry ride offers a scenic view, especially of the Statue of Liberty. The best part is that this ferry has no price attached to it and comes free of cost!
The ferry provides transportation to almost 22 million people a year. Free wi-fi service is provided at each terminal as well as on the ferry. When you get such interesting free things to do in New York City, why would you miss it?
Address: 4 Whitehall Street New York, NY 10004, United States | Timings: 24/7 | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/xQyqcPvPp8FkH8769 | Phone: +1 212-839-3061
Saturday Night Live
SNL is a live comedy and entertainment show. If you seemed to be tired of a mundane and boring routine and have been looking for laughs, this is your place to be. It is a late-night show that airs at 11:30 pm on Saturdays.
Since it is extremely popular, tickets are given out once a year on a lottery basis, or you may catch hold of the stand-by tickets after waiting outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza before 7 am. This show includes comedy sketches showcasing their take on contemporary politics and modern issues, giving you a much-awaited dose of laughter.
Address: Studio 8H, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112, United States | Google Map Location: https://g.page/nbcstudiotour?share | Phone Number: +1 212-664-3700
Visit House of Art: The Whitney Museum
Known as the ‘Whitney’, this is a popular art museum located in Manhattan. Founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, this site is home to American art pieces, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, films, and videos created by more than 3,500 artists.
A hallmark element of this site is the Whitney Biennial, the longest-running survey of American art, since 1932. You can find details of the museum hours and book tickets online. Their website also has regular updates on recent events and exhibitions. The annual and biennial exhibitions held here are known to be the venue for showcasing works of lesser-known artists.
Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014, United States | Timings: Sunday: 11:30 am to 6:00 pm, Monday: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday: 10:30 am to 6:00 pm, Friday: 10:30 am to 10:00 pm, Saturday: 11:30 am to 7:00 pm, Tuesday & Wednesday: Closed, | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/Ga5w8dQ6QLPaFP796 | Phone: +1 212-570-3600
A 172-acre land situated in the heart of New York Harbor, this island is known for the amazing views it offers. The hills are 70 feet above sea level and give breath-taking views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor. It also offers several recreational events that take place all year round.
Once here, you need not bother about your food, thanks to the various lip-smacking delicacies prepared by restaurants and food trucks on the island. Although it is closer to Brooklyn, you can take a ferry from Manhattan to reach the island.
Address: New York, NY 11231, USA | Timing: Monday to Thursday: 10:00 am to 6:15 pm, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, Sunday: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/61EHH5JyXVudPETX6 | Phone: +1 212-440-2200
New York’s first city hall is located on Wall Street and is the first Supreme Court, Congress, and Executive Branch offices of the United States of America. When the nation was declared a federal one in 1789, the original site was renamed ‘Federal Hall’ and is the place where George Washington was sworn in as the first president. It was later demolished in 1812.
Today, the current structure comprises two buildings — one built-in federal style and the other in Greek-revival style. If you are looking for free stuff to do in NYC and have a serious interest in photography and architecture, this is the place for you.
Address: 26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005, United States | Timing: 09:00 am to 05:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/za69ztSUFEzhAsZx7 | Phone: +1 212-825-6990
If you’re looking for the busiest street, you’ve arrived at the destination. Chinatown is home to Asian immigrants and is filled with streets of surprise. The place is famous for its restaurants that are known for serving quick and spicy Chinese. The most popular one being Wo Hop, which has been there since 1938.
If you are looking to buy Chinese ingredients or China-made products, there is no better place to go shopping. Shopping here allows you to bargain for your purchases and discover products you may have never heard of.
Address: Canal Street to Bayard Street, New York City, NY (Chinatown), United States | Timing: 24/7 | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/tn4vAoR4G3RWojkt8
New York Earth Room
This is an interior structure made by New York-based artist and musician Walter de Maria in 1977. Currently maintained by the Dia Art Foundation, it is a 3,500-square-foot space filled with soil up to 22 inches and is a surreal piece of work.
With 280 thousand pounds (127 kg) of soil, this is not a piece to be experienced from a distance. Rather, it demands to be smelt and sense the olfactory experience it offers. Although it is on the second floor of the building, you can smell it well before you see it.
Address: 141 Wooster St, New York, NY 10012, United States | Timings: The timings may have changed due to the pandemic. Please visit https://diaart.org/visit/visit-our-locations-sites/walter-de-maria-the-new-york-earth-room-new-york-united-states for more information | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/BczArw32Tb2KeXN38 | Phone: +1 212-989-5566
Being home to people coming from diverse cultures and traditions, NYC gives you the chance to experience a little bit of everything. The Japan Society is an organization that connects Japanese art and culture with the people of New York and the world.
It hosts various exhibitions, events, and premier films to bring out a side of Japan to the public. It was founded on May 19th, 1907, and currently operates as a non-profit organization. For years, this group has been successfully bridging the American and Japanese cultures and promoting friendly relations.
Address: 333 E 47th St, New York, NY 10017, United States | Timing: Thursday to Sunday: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/A5WNvAZjX97g5o3x5 | Phone: +1 212-832-1155
Green-Wood is one of the first rural cemeteries in the United States and is said to be among the most-visited tourist attractions. Spread across 478 acres in Brooklyn, it is a favorite place for history enthusiasts and bird-watchers. There are regular events planned for tourists visiting Brooklyn, and the place takes you a step closer to the history of New York City.
With tall trees more than a century old, this site is said to be Brooklyn’s highest natural point. Begin your visit by taking any of the four entrances — Main Entrance (Fifth Avenue and 25th Street), Sunset Park Entrance (Fourth Avenue and 35th Street), Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance (Fort Hamilton Parkway and Micieli Place), and the Prospect Park West Entrance (9th Avenue and 20th Street).
Address: 500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232, United States | Timing: 7:00 am to 7:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://g.page/historicgreenwood?share | Phone: +1 718-768-7300
Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum
Founded in 1969, this museum is dedicated to fashion and is known for the exhibitions it hosts. The collection includes about 50,000 garments, clothing, fabrics, and fashion accessories from the 18th century to the current times.
Renowned designers such as Balenciaga, Dior, and Chanel are also part of the collection. The venue has three galleries that speak of separate cults and hosts exhibitions. A tour here takes you along the route that fashion has taken over the years and lets you get a closer look at its history.
Address: 227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001, United States | Timings: Wednesday to Friday: 12 pm to 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm, Monday & Tuesday: Closed | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/HeZjqtfxinjtbtre6 | Phone: +1 212-217-4558
Rockefeller Center Tree Light
This is one of the most popular sites and sights in the US during the holiday season. The iconic Christmas tree tower is lit up, all white and bright, making it a scene worth cherishing forever. This ceremony takes place post-Thanksgiving and is celebrated with musical and ice-skating performances.
Every holiday season, lighting up the Rockefeller Christmas tree becomes an event to look forward to, both by locals and tourists. All the events are free of cost for viewers, and the tree remains lit up till the day post new year.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, United States | Timing: 5:30 am to 11:30 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/uVK4jLgpHUJ9k8Q59 | Phone: +1 212-588-8601
Watch the Shakespeare in the Park
The members of the Public Theater perform the plays of William Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Although it is performed in an open-air setting and is free to watch, getting tickets may seem like a task. People queue up from the dawn to get tickets for the show in the afternoon. Much Ado About Nothing, one of the boldest interpretations of Shakespeare’s comic masterpiece, is a popular play performed here.
Address: 81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, United States | Timing: 6:00 am to dusk | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/qP6hrkS4YscnqaER6 | Phone: +1 212-967-7555
Being a flagship park of the Wildlife Conservation Society, it is an escape into nature for all leading busy lives in New York City. It was opened on November 8th, 1899, and is home to over 700 species of animals.
Tickets for children below two years are free; however, beyond that, there is a price attached as per various age groups. Wednesdays are considered a free day as limited admission is free. But you will still need a reserved ticket to enter.
Address: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460, United States | Timings: Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am to 5:30 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/4pqdxhK4yjj4kH2h7 | Phone: +17183671010
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The garden is situated next to the Brooklyn Museum and is known for the annual cherry blossom festival called Sakura-Matsuri that takes place during spring. A visit here brings you closer to plants and flowers.
Spread across 52 acres (21 hectares) with an array of flowers and pastoral lawns, the garden is a popular venue for events, photoshoots, and weddings. You can stop by during the winter weekdays of December to February and catch a glimpse of the flowers smiling back at you!
Address: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225, United States | Timing: Wednesday to Saturday: 10:00 am to 8:30 pm, Sunday and Tuesday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday: Closed | Google Map Location: https://g.page/BrooklynBotanic?share | Phone: +1 718-623-7200
Socrates Sculpture Park
This museum cum public park is known for the array of multimedia installations and variety of sculptures. It aims to support artists in making art accessible to the public. A riverside landfill and illegal dumpsite were left abandoned until a group of artists came together under Mark di Suvero in 1986 and transformed it into an open studio for artists.
It is also a popular exhibition space and hosts unique events throughout for free. If you enjoy art and culture, you would love a visit to this park.
Address: 32-01 Vernon Blvd, Queens, NY 11106, United States | Timings: 9:00 am to 7:45 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/DuvyGSJZvoD5RLgz6 | Phone: +1 718-956-1819
St Patrick’s Cathedral
This Catholic Cathedral is the largest Gothic Revival Catholic cathedral in North America. It was designed by James Renwick Jr., one of America’s most successful architects from the 19th century. The grandeur the site beholds also makes it a prime location for weddings.
With several colored glass windows and marble all around, this site was opened on May 25th, 1879. A free tour of this prominent symbol of Roman Catholic history will leave you fascinated with the building’s structure and architecture style.
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022, United States | Timing: 7:00 am to 8:30 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/KQS7TSK65FW6eMtPA | Phone: +1 212-753-2261
If you’ve looked up on Instagram about free places to visit, you must have come across this art collective. With over 125,000 followers on the app, this outdoor street art gallery is located in the Bushwick neighborhood near Brooklyn. It features murals by international as well as local artists consisting of almost 100 blocks of art.
You can spend a day looking at and appreciating these pieces of art and still wish to see more! If you enjoy art or call yourself an art lover while also looking for the best free things to do in NYC, then definitely check out this place.
Address: 427 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY 11237, United States | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/nqNKLnRXbXJKCLTT8
Grand Central Station
If you’re a crowd-friendly person and don’t mind being around people, this is the place to be. The massive building takes you through New York’s architecture and history. Also known as the Grand Central Terminal, the station is the place to discover stories of people, passing trains and, age-old buildings. Do not forget to look up the celestial painting on the ceiling.
Fun fact: It is believed that at the Whispering Gallery, near the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, beneath the arches, two people standing at diagonal ends can whisper messages to one another.
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, United States | Timing: 5:15 am to 2:00 am | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/CMR8vZ28G7fHNGzD6 | Phone: +1212-340-2583
Jazz at Barbès
This buzzing bar in New York is known for its live music. If you are into ethnic blues and jazz music, the vibe this place radiates will make it your instant favorite. Entry to this place is free of cost; however, drinks and food are priced.
It is more of a live performance space in the Brooklyn neighborhood with a classic French-style bar. This is the place to visit if you are looking for a cozy setting and great music, accompanied by a tipple or two.
Address: 376 9th St, Brooklyn, NY 11215, United States | Timing: Monday to Friday: 5:00 pm to 2:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 2:00 pm to 2:00 am | Google Map Location: https://g.page/BarbesBottleShop?share | Phone: +1 347-422-0248
One of New York’s favorite culinary destinations, the Chelsea Market is among the world’s greatest indoor food and retail marketplaces. It is located in the meatpacking district of New York and is the go-to place to get the meat you want. From fresh fish to well-cut meat, and imported goods from Italy, you will find it all here.
It goes beyond just a retail store and has numerous restaurants offering everything from pizzas to tacos and donuts to chocolates, making it a major attraction for locals as well as tourists.
Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, United States | Timing: Monday to Saturday: 7:00 am to 2:00 am, Sunday: 8:00 am to 10:00 pm | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/dB14M7j3dYWnPnzHA | Phone: +1 212-652-2111
Ice Cream Museum
With creative installations to provoke your imaginative side instantly, this place is as exciting as the name sounds. As you walk through the galleries, you can also enjoy the tasty treats on offer. Be it individually or with family, your experience at this place will be a memorable one, considering how unique the installations are.
With sports like a huge sprinkler pool and multiple exhibitions for children to discover their love for ice cream, this becomes their best entry into a creative and interactive world.
Address: 558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, United States | Timing: Monday, Wednesday& Thursday: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm; Sunday: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm, Tuesday: Closed | Google Map Location: https://goo.gl/maps/jE6AUoowqjwSUWDS8
New York brings you closer to a diverse range of art, culture, and history while also giving you a taste of the fast-driven and tightly packed lifestyle. New York City greets you with treats from parks to markets to unique museums as per your liking. Despite being known as an expensive city, there are quite a few free things to do in New York City. If you are visiting New York City, then refer to this list to make your trip memorable.