Wait, There are Free things to do in New York City?
I know it’s hard to believe that there are really 30 free things to do in New York City. But there are actually way more than 30 free things to do in New York City. I just didn’t want to turn this post into something that rivaled War and Peace (talk about coma inducing)., in terms of length. Besides, if I referenced every park in the City that never sleeps, you would fall asleep faster than a tenth grader in an algebra class (This never applied to me because I’m a weirdo who always liked math).
So while I know you guys need your beauty sleep, I would prefer if my posts didn’t become an instantaneous cure for insomnia. Therefore, I have narrowed this list down to top 30 free things to do in New York City. Yes, some of the offerings on this list are pretty obvious (Spoiler Alert: Who doesn’t know about Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge?). However, I hope there are some pleasant surprises here too; attractions that you might not have considered before. But enough chit chat. Onwards and upwards, to the epic awesomeness that is this list (Wishful thinking on my part. Just don’t fall asleep. Pretty please with a cherry on top?).
1. The Staten Island Ferry
This ferry is the frugal man’s solution to getting an up close and personal view of Lady Liberty herself. It not only connects the boroughs of Staten Island and lower Manhattan but also operates 24 hours day. Throughout the ride, you can capture stunning views of Governor’s Island, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline itself. Just do yourself a favor and have your camera handy so that you can capture some of these fantastic shots (or a selfie stick. whatever floats your boat).
2. Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is one of the finest animal research and conservation institutions in the entire world. Plus, they have some really cute gorillas and elephants too. But the price tag can get a bit steep, especially when you add on a series of special exhibits that are not included in the price of general admission. Well, I have the answer! Visit on a Wednesday and the price of admission is “pay what you wish”. Just brace yourself for the hordes of campers that take over this facility throughout the summer months (they show no mercy and take no prisoners).
3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Perhaps one of the most iconic art institutes in the world, this sprawling facility houses an enormous diversity of antiquities from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Africa (just to name a few), as well as medieval armor displays and European painting galleries that will charm even the most unenthusiastic museum goers. Due to the sheer size of the building, a full day trip is a must so budget your time accordingly. Admission is pay what you wish, but suggested donations are $25.
4. Central Park
Not shockingly, many parks are on this list because, let’s face it, most parks are free. But Central Park stands above the rest. This Park is unique because of its stellar events, statues, and its culturally significant sites like Strawberry Fields, the ‘Imagine’ mosaic (where John Lennon was killed in 1980), and the Pond at the southeastern corner. Plus, this park is enormous so whether you spend an hour or a day here, you will always find something new to explore.
5. Battery Park
This 25 acre park stretches along the tip of Manhattan, and overlooks the shining beauty of the one and only, Statue of Liberty. An assortment of monuments, memorials, gardens, and sculptures are spread throughout this green space, creating an atmosphere of enchantment and delight. If you prefer a more serene stroll, head to the meditative, stone labyrinth that weaves throughout the park’s lawns.. Also check out the Nautilus Shell shaped, SeaGlass Carousel that will have you feeling like a total kid again.
6. Bronx Museum of the Arts
I know, the Bronx isn’t typically on anyone’s New York City “Must See List”, but this museum is worth a visit, and not just for the reasonable price tag. Founded in 1971, the Bronx Museum of Arts features 800 works of multicultural art, with an emphasis on 20th- and 21st-century artists who are either Bronx-based or of African, Asian or Latino descent. Plus, it’s a good excuse to head over to Arthur Avenue and indulge in some of the best Italian food that the city has to offer.
7. Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Promenade
Opened in 1950, this walkway will make you forget that you are walking atop a major expressway. Add in some incredible river views and a stunning view of the New York City skyline and you may have to fight the urge to camp out (it’s even better at night).
8. Coney Island Boardwalk
Coney Island is a world-famous amusement park. But you don’t have to enjoy rides to appreciate this impressively beautiful, historic location. Take some time to relax on the beach and walk along the boardwalk where vendors can still be found hawking their Nathan’s hot dogs to anyone willing to listen.
While you’re here, you could also visit one of the best family beaches on the east coast.
9. Chrysler Building
This shinning example of art deco architecture is probably one of my favorite buildings in all of New York City. Stroll along the streets of New York and marvel at the top of this building where triangular windows converge to create a metallic crown that shimmers in the night. Somehow, this building oozes a Mad Men level of sophistication that leaves you nostalgic for days long past.
10. Grand Central Terminal Walking Tours
Two historians embark on walking tours throughout Grand Central Terminal every Friday at 12:30pm. Follow their lead and marvel at the star studded constellations of the Grand Central Terminal ceiling. Also check out other building highlights such as the ‘whispering gallery’ and the Chrysler Building (120 Park Ave, at 42nd St, Midtown East).
11. The High Line
While the High Line is a only park, this word doesn’t capture the real impact of this exhibit on its visitors. Created from an abandoned railroad track, this park sits 30 feet in the air and mimics the industrial architecture of the surrounding Meatpacking District and Javits Center. However, the High Line is insanely popular so you can feel like you’re walking amongst a rather large herd of cattle. But the views of the Hudson River are totally worth it. Just keep an eye out for rotating public-art installations and special events that frequent the area.
12. The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library sits adjacent to Bryant Park and is a convenient stop when visiting either Grand Central Terminal or Times Square. Guarding the building entrance are two tall and proud, marble lions named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude’. But the real magic is inside, where there is an enormous reading room that is built for more than 500 patrons. Plus, the library contains such stunning and historically significant exhibits as the original Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible. Free tours start at 11am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. There are also tours at 2pm on Sunday,except in the summer (Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East).
13. Rockefeller Center
If you’ve ever seen the Today Show, then you have witnessed the enormity of this iconic, multi block, city center. Whether you’re drawn to the ice-skating rink, the bronze Atlas statue or the Today show plaza, there is something for everyone here. If you have some money to spend, marvel at the panoramic city views from the Top of the Rock. Or better yet, catch a free view of the city from the eight-floor of Saks Fifth Avenue.
14. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Probably one of the most famous Cathedral’s in the world, this Catholic church serves everyone from locals to presidents to movie stars to business moguls. Before heading inside to marvel at the Louis Tiffany altar and rose window, take some time to appreciate the Gothic Revival architecture of the marble towers of the exterior. This place is truly a masterpiece of spiritual and architectural inspiration.
15. Roosevelt Island
This is probably the only time when you will actually enjoy using public transportation in New York City. Hop on one of the shiny, red, Roosevelt Island sky cars and glide effortlessly above the East River, Once on the island itself, explore the tennis courts, ball fields and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park for a beautiful stroll on a warm summer day.
16. South Street Seaport
This historic harbor district showcases a series of buildings that encapsulate a quaint, historic feel. Add in the Seaport Museum and the country’s largest privately owned fleet of historic ships, and you begin to feel like you are walking through a picturesque fishing village in New England. But once you stumble across the gigantic shopping mall, with retail stores and restaurants, you remember exactly where you are again. If you’re visiting in the summer, check out the assortment of outdoor concerts, lectures, and public programs that are hosted here (so feel free to get your nerd on).
17. Times Square
The flashing lights, scrolling television commercials, Broadway play advertisements, and shouting food vendors all combine to create a frantic and fast paced environment that can lead to a bit of sensory overload. But this is the heart of New York and worth a gander if you are visiting from out of town. But just add hordes of tourists and salesmen hawking discount comedy club shows, and you may want to take your pictures and, like they do on Broadway, exit stage left.
18. Washington Square Park
While the hippies of the 1960s may be long gone, they live on within the NYU college students that call this park home. This is perhaps one of the best people-watching spots in the city as musicians, street artists, and skateboarders converge here in the summer, near the base of the iconic 1895 Washington Arch. Just a quirky and vivacious spot to hang out and experience the pulse of the City.
19. Chelsea Market
I am such a food monger that I had no idea that Chelsea Market sold clothes too. But apparently this market is for food-lovers and fashion-addicts alike. Spend several hours exploring the various speciality shops that are housed in this former Nabisco factory. Be sure to swing by Ninth Street Espresso for a coffee and check out the fresh seafood at Lobster Place. Also pick up some Italian cooking necessities at Buon Italia.
20. African Burial Ground
Perhaps one of Lower Manhattan’s most fascinating and controversial monument sites, this burial site was excavated when a 1991 contraction project unearthed a burial ground of more than 400 slaves . Part of the site is now littered with buildings, but be sure to explore the cozy visitors center, which does a great job of narrating the history of African-Americans living in this city (290 Broadway between Duane & Elk Sts, Lower Manhattan).
21. Brooklyn Brewery Tours
Take a free tour of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery. Tours start every hour, on the hour, from 1-5pm on Saturday and from 1-4pm on Sunday (79 N 11th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn).
22. Chelsea Galleries
If you’re an art enthusiast then try pursuing New York’s most concentrated collection of art galleries. Head through the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues in Chelsea and stand in awe of a multitude of modern day creations. Try and visit on Thursday nights when gallery openings offer wine-and-cheese openings.The best part though is that you can explore at your leisure without feeling any pressure to buy.
23. Fashion Institute of Technology Museum
Learn about the history of fashion at this FIT Museum. This gallery is home to the county’s first gallery of fashion and features a series of continually rotating exhibits of over 50,000 garments that date all the way back to the 18th century.
24. Forbes Collection
Check out the Forbes Magazine’s unique collection of historical items, which include early versions of the now famous, game of Monopoly (62 Fifth Ave at 12th St, Greenwich Village).
25. General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial
Also known as ‘Grant’s Tomb’, this $600,000 granite structure holds the remains of the Civil War hero (and his wife Julia) within the largest mausoleum in the entire United States (Riverside Dr at 122nd
St, Morningside Heights).
26. Green-Wood Cemetery
This beautiful Cemetery was founded in 1838 and stretches out over 530 miles, with over 600, 000 souls permanently resting here. The grounds offer a tranquil respite from the city on a clear, sunny day. This facility is also home to Brooklyn’s highest point at Battle Hill, a site from the Revolutionary War that is marked by a seven-foot statue of the Roman goddess, Minerva. Also watch out for a flock of green parakeets that inhabit the cemetery’s Gothic entry (500 25th St, Sunset Park, Brooklyn).
27. National Museum of the American Indian
This museum sits right near Bowling Green and Battery Park, in the former US Customs House. Housed here are over a million artifacts that showcase the unique identity of American Indian culture, not history. As a result, this museum is one of the best collections of Native American art in the entire country (1 Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan).
28. New York Earth Room
For a truly unique experience, visit Walter De Maria’s 1977 art installation. This exhibit consists of a single room that is filled with 280,000 pounds of dirt. Here, the structure of an ordinary office is combined with the natural scent of a wet forest (141 Wooster St, SoHo).
29. Public Boathouse Kayaking
This one is for all the water enthusiasts who want to get away from it all. Grab a kayak and cruise the waters of New York for free from such public boathouses as the Downtown Boathouse and the Long Island Community Boathouse is Queens.
30, Walk Along the Brooklyn Bridge
Take a walk along the world’s first suspension bridge, as you leave Manhattan and enter into Brooklyn. Gawk at the stunning views of the East River and marvel at the bridge’s immortal suspension towers, which have captivated the hearts and souls of many generation of artists.
YOU MADE IT TO THE END!! CONGRATS!! I promise, there is no more. Unless I make a part II. Muhaha (Yup. That was a Dr. Evil level laugh)! To be continued…