Everyone knows time in New York comes with a hefty price tag, or at least, that's what the city would like you to believe. A little inside knowledge along with some planning, and you can get a long way in the Big Apple without forking over your wallet in the process. Here are some free ways to enjoy the city.
Free Things to Do in New York: 26 Things
1. Walk the Train Line: The High Line
Gardens, art, and shops line this repurposed subway track. Once considered a decommissioned eyesore, the High Line has become a favorite for tourists and locals alike looking for a unique stroll through Chelsea (hint: If you're coming by on a Tuesday night, don't forget to go stargazing!).
2. Get a Wine and Cheese (and Art) Night Free: Chelsea Galleries
Once you're done walking on the High Line, don't forget to check out the hundreds of art galleries lining Chelsea. While you can look online for free times for individual galleries, you're guaranteed to get into one of the free gallery openings that happen each Thursday night, almost all of which will include complimentary wine, cheese, or something else to leave you with a favorable impression.
3. See the Real Zoo: Bronx Zoo
While tickets here will usually run you a steep $30 for kids and $40 for adults, come by Wednesday and the admission becomes pay-what-you-wish. Not a bad deal for seeing one of the largest zoos in the U.S.
4. Find the Station: Grand Central Station
Grand Central doesn't need much of an introduction. You've probably already seen it in plenty of movies already, so why not take the chance to see the massive space in person and soak in the history and bustle of New York stored within its walls.
5. Look Around the Bazaar: Brooklyn Night Bazaar
Going to Brooklyn Night Bazaar can be a little disorienting. The multi-story club has live music, comedy, karaoke, arcades, bars, restaurants and more. What it also has is a pretty steady rotation of free events to dabble in while you explore the space. Come by to check one out and see if you like anything else along the way.
6. Check Out Medieval Times (Not That One): The Cloisters
This lesser-known branch of the Met sits far up north in Manhattan along the scenic Fort Tryon Park. Getting inside its walls only takes a suggested donation for New York State residents. Once there, you'll find an extensive and somber collection of Medieval art housed within the building's beautiful recreation of the period's architecture.
7. Get on TV: TV Taping
New York's the center of media in America (sorry L.A.), so you might as well enjoy it. Shows like "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night with Stephen Colbert," "Last Week Tonight," and "The Daily Show" all have live tapings that need studio audiences. If you look on their websites well in advance, you can snag tickets to get into some star-studded rooms for nothing more than a bit of your time.
8. Escape the City on a Kayak
From May to October, you can kayak out of Tribeca for absolutely nothing. Prior training not required, you get a life vest and a brief tutorial before getting sent out to paddle your way out of New York (at least for a bit).
9. See a Historic Cemetery: Greenwood Cemetery
This historic cemetery overlooking the Manhattan skyline also doubles as a Revolutionary War battle site. Come to find all sorts of monuments and celebrities occupying its grounds, including the likes of Leonard Bernstein, William Poole, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
10. See Some Smart Art: Pioneer Works
A little more off the beaten path, this is a museum that strives to fuse art with science. What that means is some truly bizarre and unique spaces along the lines of what might happen if the MoMA crashed into a tech conference. Admission is always free and you can find several free programs throughout the year on their calendar.
11. Get Out in the Sun: Beaches
It may take you some time to get there, but New York has some lovely beaches in the summer months. Come by Coney Island to get a peak at the historic boardwalk, maybe even give the Cyclone a whirl if you're feeling lucky. Check out Rockaway for the waves, or hit up some of the less popular spots like Brighton Beach and Fort Tilden.
12. A Jazz Show That a Jazz Musician Can Afford: Jazz at Barbes
While New York may not be the birthplace of jazz, the two certainly left a mark on each other. Most of the jazz clubs in the city won't come cheap, but Barbes only requires a suggested donation to come check out their steady lineup of jazz artists every night of the week.
13. Head to Pete's for Anything Other Than Candy: Pete's Candy Store
If you're not in the mood for jazz, give Pete's a try. Nearly all events are free at this live music venue, which has hosted the likes of artists Norah Jones, Will Oldham, and Devendra Banhart in their up-and-coming days. Don't like the music? You can also give their comedy, readings, or trivia a try.
14. African Burial Ground National Monument
One of the more recent additions to New York's monuments, the rediscovery and commemoration of the African Burial Ground in New York created with it a dialogue about the role of slavery in the city. It holds the bodies of 419 both free and enslaved Africans from the 17th and 18th centuries and is dedicated to their memory as well as that of all other Africans in early New York. Both the indoor and outdoor memorial are free Tuesday through Saturday for you to come by and pay respects.
15. Cross Your Fingers for Tickets: Shakespeare in the Park
A New York staple, Shakespeare in the Park may be free, but it does take some commitment. Tickets go on sale day-of at noon and the lines in Central Park usually stack long enough to require an entire morning of your time to guarantee your spot at the show. Still, if you do make it, you'll have the chance to see some of the finest actors and directors in New York put on Shakespeare's classics.
16. See Fish by the Beach: New York Aquarium
Right next to Coney Island sits the New York Aquarium. It's the oldest continually-operating aquarium in the U.S., and on Wednesday, admission is on a pay-what-you-want basis. It's a great spot to bring kids enthusiastic for a bit of wildlife.
17. Get a Boat Tour Without the Monologue: Staten Island Ferry
Who needs a cruise when you've got the ferry? For about 25 minutes, you can enjoy your time on the big orange ship as it transports Staten Island locals and tourists alike, offering great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline along the way.
18. Look at the City From the Air: Roosevelt Island Tram
Sea not your style? Give the air a try! While this technically will set you back $2.75, it won't cost a thing for anyone with an unlimited subway pass. The brilliant views from the tram car are well worth the transport fair you'd usually spend speeding through dark, underground tunnels.
19. Let Out Some Stress: Outdoor Yoga
Those looking to stay active in the city should have no trouble finding like-minded fitness enthusiasts outside of the Equinox and Soulcycle circuit. Yoga to the People in particular offers popular donation-based classes. Just remember that the classes often get crowded and, unless you want to rent a mat for $2, are BYOM.
20. Spend an Evening With Fine Art: MoMA
Courtesy of Uniqlo,
opens its door to the public for free admission every Friday evening between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. You can come by to check out their extensive collection of bonafide classics as well as the recent hits of today's art world.
21. Check Out a Comedy Institution: Upright Citizens Brigade
Every Sunday night, the UCB Improv Theater (whose ranks include such names as Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, and Donald Glover) hosts the free show ASSSSCATT. The show does form around audience suggestions, so don't come if you're afraid of being called out. But if you're willing to brave it, you also get to see who the week's special guest performer is, some of which include those big-name alumni.
22. Cross the Bridge: Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is an icon of New York, and while it's one thing to see it plastered on movies and TV shows, it's another to walk on it in person. You can run, bike, or walk over the 1.1-mile architectural marvel while soaking in the beautiful views of the city.
23. Brace Yourself for a Not-so-Average Stroll Through the Park: Socrates Sculpture Park
One of New York's more provocative public spaces, this former landfill turned waterfront park hosts a rotating collection of modern sculptures. Come by anytime from 9 a.m. to sunset and check out its large-scale works the likes of which have included massive goat heads, the submerged face of the Statue of Liberty, and an inflatable plastic Buddha.
24. Catch an Underground Venue Cracking up: Knitting Factory Sunday Comedy
The Knitting Factory holds a storied place in the experimental music scene of New York. But outside of genre-breaking artists, the venue also hosts a free comedy night every Sunday at 9 p.m. Comedy stars like Hannibal Buress stop in from time to time. Maybe you should too.
25. Know Your Beer: Brooklyn Brewery Tour
Since its opening in 1994, the Brooklyn Brewery has been making waves in the world of suds. Every half hour between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, you have a chance to take a tour of where the magic happens. If you're feeling up to it, you can even get one reasonably priced $5 pint to drink with the free tour.
26. Picnic in the Heart of the City: Central Park
This one's a classic. All you need is a blanket, nice weather, and maybe some food and drinks for a beautiful day in the city's park. While you're bound to come across somewhere nice, the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, and Belvedere Castles are some particularly pleasant spots to rest your head in between the busy hours of life in the city.
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