New York City is bustling with activity 24/7 and there is always something exciting to do. Unfortunately, “The Big Apple” is one of the world’s most expensive cities and a trip here can easily leave your wallet in tears.
The Empire State Building, One World Observatory, Broadway shows, the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink, and a bevy of other renowned attractions can quickly eat into your budget.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free things to do in this diverse metropolis that give you an equally fulfilling experience. Here are 25 free things to do in New York City for an unforgettable trip.
1. Wander Around Central Park
Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States and one of New York City’s iconic natural landmarks. The 843-acre park is filled with beautiful statues, radiant gardens, scenic lakes, and jogging trails to bask in the sunshine.
2. Pay Your Respects at the 9/11 Memorial
Located at the site of the original World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial remembers those who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001. The names of every victim can be found along the fountains where the twin towers once stood.
3. Visit the 9/11 Museum
If you’re interested in seeing the 9/11 Museum after walking around the memorial, the museum provides free admission on Tuesdays after 4pm.
4. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
Marvel at one of New York City’s greatest engineering accomplishments and take in the incredible views of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline. First opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time of its creation and thousands of pedestrians make the 1.3-mile commute across the bridge every day.
5. Kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Join the free walk-up kayaking program offered at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and kayak with a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline.
6. Feel the Energy of Times Square
Nowhere else captures the frenetic pace of New York City like Times Square. Gigantic billboards and advertisements illuminate the night sky at this pedestrian thoroughfare that sits at the epicenter of the city’s entertainment district.
7. Free Museums
New York City is home to countless fascinating museums, and lots of them are either always free or waive entry fees certain days of the week. Visit the American Folk Art Museum, Museum of the Moving Image, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and other interesting museums across the five boroughs.
8. Tour the Brooklyn Brewery
Learn the fascinating history of this Williamsburg institution by joining the Brooklyn Brewery’s free tours offered every Saturday between 1 and 5pm. If you’re craving a sample of the brewery’s latest creations, you can purchase beer tokens after the tour.
9. Stroll the Coney Island Boardwalk
With its sandy shores, carnival games, amusement park rides, sports facilities, and eccentric characters, the Coney Island Boardwalk is an exciting sight to behold. The iconic Brooklyn neighborhood hosts the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and fireworks light up the sky each Friday night during the summer.
10. Walk Through Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is an elaborate train station and commuter hub that captures the imagination with its celestial ceiling and iconic clock in the main concourse. If you arrive at this beautiful gathering point, you can leave your bags with a luggage storage service in NY to begin an incredible adventure from this architectural masterpiece.
11. Tour City Hall
Constructed in 1812, New York City Hall is the country’s oldest functioning city hall. The storied landmark still houses the offices of the Mayor and City Council and offers free tours to teach visitors about its noted history.
12. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Cruise the New York Harbor and enjoy the remarkable views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The ride lasts roughly 25 minutes and the ferry operates 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
13. Walk the High Line
Opened to the public in 2009, the High Line is an extensive public space built on the abandoned tracks above Manhattan’s West Side. Check out beautiful artwork, ravishing gardens, or stop by one of the food vendors in the area for a snack.
14. Feel Inspired at the Bushwick Art Collective
Head to the artist enclave in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood and admire creative street murals from artists all over the world.
15. Watch Shakespeare in the Park
If you adore the performing arts, head to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater for free performances of Shakespearean classics.
16. NYC SummerStage
Attend concerts featuring talented artists of all musical genres in various New York City parks from June-October. The outdoor performing arts festival hosts over 100 performances and the majority of them are free of charge.
17. Surf’s Up at Rockaway Beach
Head to Queens and sink your toes into the sand of Rockaway Beach. Go for a swim, grab a bite to eat, or bring your surfboard to ride the waves of New York City’s only legal surfing beaches.
18. Watch Outdoor Movies During Summer
Bring your favorite movie snacks to one of many New York City parks that have free outdoor movie screenings when the weather is nice.
19. Subway Performers
Riding the New York City Subway may cost you a fee, but there’s a good chance you’ll bump into musicians or break-dancers giving rousing performances. Feel free to leave some spare change if you were amazed by the unexpected entertainment.
20. Workout in Prospect Park
Brooklyn’s answer to Manhattan’s iconic urban park, Prospect Park is the borough’s premier outdoor space with its cycling paths, skating rinks, ponds, nature trails, and nature programs.
21. Smell the Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Adjacent to Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers free admission at various times throughout the year. If you’re in town the right time of year, stroll through the 52-acre garden that features Japanese gardens, cherry trees, roses, and thousands of flora species.
22. Have a Laugh at the Knitting Factory
Located in Williamsburg, the Knitting Factory is an intimate live music venue hosts free comedy shows every Sunday night at 9pm.
23. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York City’s most impressive architectural wonders and one of the city’s most beloved places of worship. Although entry is free to the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, it is recommended to leave a donation to help preserve the storied landmark.
24. Watch the Sunset at Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The nearly 2,000-foot long pedestrian walkway enjoys a fabulous location overlooking the Manhattan skyline, New York Harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge.
25. Free Alcohol Tastings
Visit Astor Wine & Spirits for weekly tastings of their latest wines and spirits from around the world.