20 Cool Things To Do for Free in New York

Las 37 mejores ciudades del mundo 2021, según Time Out
Photo: Victor He
Redactora / Travel writer
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Is New York an expensive city? If you know how to manage and know what to spend on, not so much (careful, we said not so much, it’s not that we completely deny it). Accommodation, tickets to Broadway musicals and transportation can take a large part of your travel budget, but… don’t despair! there are tons of things to do for free in New York and in this post we will list the 20 most recommended.

Better to save those extra expenses in the amount of souvenirs that you are going to want to bring on a trip or in a delicious hamburger and take note of the best things to do for free in New York and its wonderful range of possibilities.

What to do for free in New York

1. Free Walking Tour through New York, a must in the big cities

The first hours in a new city can either be part of a very punctual itinerary already set up, or chaos, where one does not know where the metro (or subway) stations are, does not know which place to visit first or where would be the “center” of the city (because I don’t know why we all always look for the “center”).

To get a first glimpse of the city, more and more metropolises in the world are adopting the modality of walking tours, which are also free. Tours led by professional guides full of stories and anecdotes to tell about the main places in the city where, for about 2 or 3 hours, it is possible to know the most touristy of the “center” of the place that is is visiting. New York is no exception and it is possible to take free walking tours through the main places in the city, themed and even separated by districts.

  • Travel information (very important): free walking tours are free, but at the end of the tour, it is important to pay for the guide’s work, with a tip.

2. Or with a New Yorker?

Another modality used today is visiting the city accompanied by a resident, a person who is not a tour guide but who, in his free time, accompanies the travelers and welcomes you to their city (that’s why they are called greeters in English).

It is a very fun, innovative and creative modality where one travels the city as a local would, of course, visiting the most touristic places, but knowing all the “behind the scenes” of how is living in New York.

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Another modality that is used today is visiting the city accompanied by a resident, called, in New York, Big Apple Greeters.
  • The tour is free, but Big Apple Greeters is supported by donations that travelers must make when they sign up for the experience. It is important to book almost a month in advance and you can fill out the form on this page.

3. Visit Central Park

Who has not seen Central Park in a movie or series? The most famous, largest and most cinematic urban park in New York is Central Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world.

Central Park is an oasis in the middle of the city, which can be considered a place to rest and have a picnic, practice sports, ride a bicycle or even one more attraction within the city and enjoy the Infinity of places that there is to visit in its interior. Its entrance is free so it corresponds to one of the best things to do in New York.

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Visit Central Park, one of the classic things to do for free in New York.
  • Central Park is as large as recommended to visit, so we have created an exclusive practical guide to Central Park in New York.

4. Take the best photos of the Statue of Liberty

Let’s tell the truth, the “queen of the Big Apple” is one of the monuments symbols of the city : the Statue of Liberty (it must be one of the most cinematic monuments in the world). world, right?). Contrary to what can be believed, the best photos of the icon of the city are not taken on Liberty Island itself, the perspective only makes it look like a giant and not all its environment, which is as magical as the statue itself.

Traveling clarification: this does not mean that you do not have to go or ascend to the statue, but that we are looking for low cost plans and this that we will tell you, It’s one of the best things to do for free in New York.

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So, taking the best photos of the Statue of Liberty can be done for free, how? Taking the public ferry from Battery Park (near Wall Street) to Staten Island, get off at the harbor and get back up to return to Manhattan. As simple as that? As simple as taking photos from the ferry with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline in the background … a postcard!

5. Speaking of photos… the best New York photo, from Brooklyn

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (which can be done on foot so as not to have to pay the subway), you reach a super hipster and picturesque neighborhood: Dumbo and it is right there where on the corner of Front St and Washington St The Manhattan Bridge seems framed in the middle of the brick buildings.

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The best New York photo is from Brooklyn.
  • Traveler advice : watch out! The same thing that happens in Abbey Road in London, the street is quite busy, by cars and by travelers, of course.

6. Visit a museum on its free days

Free museums in New York? Of course! New York is full of museums, specifically, only on the “small” island of Manhattan there are about 60 museums and along with the rest of the neighborhoods, there are a total of 100 museums in the city and its surroundings.

Such is the importance of museums that many correspond to the most visited museums in the world. world and of course, many of them are so important that their tickets are paid but, don’t worry, we are going to find the “twist” for it. In New York there are free museums and we have created an exclusive post where we list the best free museums in New York and, those that are commonly paid, the days on which it is advisable to visit them so as not to have to pay your entrance fee.

7. Speaking of museums… visit the city’s book mecca: the New York Public Library

Speaking of museums and moviegoers, another of the great plans to do for free in New York is visit the city’s Public Library (yes, the refuge of The Day After Tomorrow ). The Public Library, as its name says, has free admission and guided visits to the most important sectors, being a most emblematic building, both inside and outside.

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The city’s book mecca: the New York Public Library.
  • Traveler Advice: Tour times can be checked regularly at this page.

8. Tour the city “in height” on the High Line

One of the best things to do for free in New York and a great plan to do, especially in the fall in the city, is to visit the High Line. High Line was a green restoration of the old railway lines ren, converted into a public park in height, full of gardens and plant species, with viewpoints to photograph and enjoy of the city from another perspective.

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Tour the city “in height” on the High Line. Photo: Iker Alonso

The High Line begins, in the south, at Gansevoort St and, in the north, at 34th Street, Hudson Yards for a total of 2.3 kilometers across Manhattan.

  • Traveling to New York in the fall? Don’t miss our post where we tell you the 10 best plans to do in the colorful Big Apple during this special season.

9. Free plans “at heights”? Visit New York novelty: Little Island

After the success of the High Line, it is seen that New York City liked the idea of ​​public parks in height and in May 2021 a great work of art, park and recreational space was inaugurated “In height”, where? On the Hudson River itself.

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What to do for free in New York? Visit the novelty: Little Island.

Little Island was built on Pier 54 and 56, located between 13th Street and the Chelsea neighborhood, taking advantage of the abandonment of the docks and the need for more outdoor spaces inside of the city, created with a thousand concrete columns in the shape of tulips (or are they heels?).

  • Traveler fact: is one of the best things to do for free in New York that few tourists even know, its opening hours are 6 in the morning to 1 in the morning and if you want to reserve tickets at noon, it is necessary to do it by doing click here.

10. Visit the bohemian neighborhood of Williamsburg

Just off the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn, is an old factory area, later converted into a residence area for young artists who moved from the beautifully chaotic downtown Manhattan.

Williamsburg is contrasts, it is diversification and two completely different opposites, coexisting in the narrow separation of a street: the hipster neighborhood and one of the largest Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in the entire United States.

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If you visit Williamsburg on foot, one of the best things to do for free in New York that we could even tell you … not to be missed.

  • If you want to know more about Williamsburg and everything that can be done in this curious neighborhood of New York, do not miss our post where we tell you everything.

11. How about a Brooklyn Brewery beer tour

If you are already in the Williamsburg area, a great recommendation to do for free in New York, of course, is to take a tour of the classic Brooklyn Brewery, one of the most famous breweries in New York. This tour invites travelers to visit the most important points of the production, manufacture and history of the brewery, for free or, paying less than 15 dollars, tasting different types.

  • Traveler tip: Generally the free tours of Brooklyn Brewery are offered on Saturdays although there may be changes, so it is always advisable to check their web page.

12. Kayaking through the rivers of the city

Did you ever imagine kayaking on the Hudson River or the East River and seeing the skyscrapers of Manhattan feeling very tiny in the water ? And what if we tell you that it is another of the things to do for free in New York? Although it seems incredible, just like that, it is.

Kayaking in New York is an incredible experience that can be enjoyed between May and October (corresponding to summer and spring in the city). To be able to carry out this incredible activity, it is only necessary to access Piers 26, 96, 2 or Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park (East River), sign an authorization, put on the life jacket, listen to the instructions and… go to the water! The duration of the navigation is around 20 minutes.

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Photo: Stanley Zimny
  • Don’t miss our post about kayaking in New York and the best things to do in New York in summer.

13. Sing, dance and discover the Harlem Gospel Masses

Surely many have seen how funny the Gospel Masses seem where music, dancing and singing flood the room where the religious celebration takes place.

Regardless of the religion of each traveler, participating in a gospel mass in Harlem is definitely a great way to get to know the culture of the residents of North Central Park, through the celebration of the Sunday mornings.

  • Travel advice: despite having free admission, donations are requested at all Masses and doing so is more than advisable.

There are companies that organize tours and guided visits to gospel masses and their rehearsals.

14. Discover the Big Apple in Times Square

The center of the lights, the super screens, the New Year’s epicenter and where everything that begins to happen in New York is centered, is in Times Square. Of course, it is not an activity in itself but (from my own experience) sitting on a bench, in a chair or on the stairs of Times Square to simply watch people pass, it’s one of the best things to do for free in New York.

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Discover the Big Apple at Times Square.

Although it may seem strange, New York never ceases to amaze and in Times Square one can find everything cosmopolitan that is the Big Apple : tourists taking photos, office workers walking fast with their glass coffee, costumed characters waiting for a tip and of course, much more that is discovered at all times.

15. You visit the most incredible stores (without buying anything, right?)

Probably one of the most difficult things to do in New York is not to buy souvenirs, merchandising or whatever has a mini Statue of Liberty, a taxi or a little Apple. And to make it even more difficult, one of the best things to do for free in New York is to visit its themed shops, some located in Times Square, others on 5th Avenue.

Theme shops? In New York you will find Disney Store (everything related to Mickey in New York) where the store itself attracts a lot of attention (be careful, you will even want to buy a Minnie dressed as the Statue of Liberty), Hersey’s (from the classic chocolate), the Lego store, with giant characters made up of the bricks, M & amp; M and all the merchandising related to chocolates and even Hard Rock Café and its classic “rock museum” in each of its stores.

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You visit the most incredible stores, one of the best things to do for free in New York. Photo: Ken Lund

16. Visit the most cinematic scenes in the city

As we told you before, New York is a cinephile city, a city that has been a presentation, a filming set and even the protagonist of countless series and films of all time. Walking through the streets of the Big Apple is to find Hollywood scenes on every corner and we are going to recommend some unmissable areas:

  • Visiting the Friends sets: although the series was not filmed in the city (but at Warner Studios in Los Angeles), there are many buildings that appear in the series. Do not miss our post where we tell you what they are.
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Photo: Tony Hisgett
  • The New York Public Library: as we told you before, shelter, on the Day After Tomorrow.
  • The Grand Central Station: setting for hundreds of love movies, Gossip Girl and even the funny animated film Madagascar.
  • The Natural History Museum: A Night at the Museum? A great guide to the place.
  • The Plaza Hotel: the place where Mi Pobre Angelito 2 is filmed.

17. Enjoy urban art, a great free plan in New York

Urban art is a great form of expression and, in many cities around the world, it never ceases to amaze. New York is one of those cities where seeing urban art is seeing the city from another perspective : creativity, art and the dedication of each of its artists.

Several streets of the city are part of the canvases of urban art but, particularly in Bushwick, one of the neighborhoods that make up Brooklyn, Street art takes center stage much higher than elsewhere in the Big Apple.

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Enjoy urban art, a great free plan in New York.
  • Do you consider yourself a fan of urban art? You can check our post about the best places in the world to see urban art.

18. Walk the bridges of New York

The bridges of the city are references of New York and crossing them, photographing them or simply observing the postcard that they make up with the skyscrapers, is one of the best things to do for free in New York.

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The most photographed bridges in New York:

  • The Brooklyn Bridge: ideal to cross it and photograph it all.
  • The Manhattan Bridge
  • The Williamsburg Bridge
  • The Bow Bridge, in Central Park
  • George Washington Bridge: connecting New York with New Jersey.

19. Get to know the “thematic” neighborhoods of the city

The cosmopolitan city of New York is also made up of a great combination of cultures. Just as there is an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Williamsburg, in Manhattan different neighborhoods have also been formed, representing different cultures: Little Italy (or Little Italy, in Spanish) and Chinatown (the neighborhood representing Chinese culture) are the most visited. Both are among the most representative and surely on more than one occasion, travelers forget that they are traveling the streets of the United States.

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Photo: Pom’

Did you know that there is a much more authentic Little Italy than Manhattan, but in The Bronx? It is located in the Belmont neighborhood, beginning at the intersection of Arthur Avenue and 187th streets.

20. Enjoy the events of spring and summer in New York

We always say that in New York there is always something to do and for free… of course it is! Many of the events in the city are part of a tradition, that is, they are presented every year, generally on the same dates, where one can organize to be able to attend. Most of the free events are outdoors, either in Central Park or on the very avenues of the city such as the Thanksgiving Day parades.

It is always advisable to check what are the events that will take place in the month you visit the city, although in our posts from best things to do in New York in spring or in summer, we also tell you about them.

New York is a city that never ceases to amaze, full of activities, things to do, places to discover that, despite visiting it thousands of times, there is always something new for see.

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