New York for free — is it even possible? Although I can’t help you with free accommodations, I can help you in the attractions department. You see, there are plenty of free things to do in New York City that won’t cost you a single cent. Museums, activities, attractions, churches, and parks are numerous in this city and although many cost a pretty penny, many do not: take a trip to the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library, visit Governors Island, take a boat ride to check out the Statue of Liberty and visit the most fashionable museum in the world — all for free!
Believe it or not, this list of free things to do in New York was not a hard one to put together. There are many, many free things to do in the city, you just have to look for them. Bookmark this page for the next time you visit, or print out a list of the attractions mentioned here before your next trip to the Big Apple. You’ll save money and discover new and exciting places at the same time. Check it out:
1. Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library
In north Manhattan you’ll find America’s largest collection of Spanish art and over 600,000 rare books and manuscripts at the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library. It’s hard to believe that admission is free!
2. New York Public Library
The famed New York City Library is one of my favorite places to visit in the city. The adventure begins outside the library as the sidewalks leading up to the building feature quotes about literature. The library is the largest marble structure ever built in the US and the Rose Main Reading Room is a highlight that must be seen, thanks to its incredible coffered ceiling.
3. Governors Island
You can take a ferry to Governors Island for free and roam the 172-acre island to your heart’s content. Nolan Park and Admiral’s House are a couple of military sights that are worth a visit, or you can take a ride along the island’s bike path, enjoy a picnic, and play a round of mini golf.
4. Rockefeller Center Public Art
Famously known for their giant Christmas tree in December, the 22-acre Rockefeller Center is also home to many pieces of art, beautiful gardens, and ever-hanging exhibits.
5. Socrates Sculpture Park
The Socrates Sculpture Park is the only site in the New York Metropolitan area where opportunities are provided to artists to both create and exhibit large-scale sculpture and multimedia installations in an outdoor environment. The site used to be an abandoned landfill until 1986, when the community got together and transformed it into an open studio and exhibition place.
6. Federal Reserve Bank of New York
The most fashionable museum in the world! Learn about fashions from the 18th century to the present day and check out designers such as Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, and more. The FIT museum FIT museum consists of three galleries consisting of various exhibits and miniature galleries. They change them completely every six months, but regardless of when you do visit, you’re always sure to find over 250 years of fashion history.
8. Central Park
Located in the center of Manhattan is the famed Central Park. It originally opened in 1857, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and covers over 840 acres in the city. It is one of the most famous spots in New York and offers beautiful natural landscapes, trails, and playgrounds. Numerous festivals and events are held here year-round and there are a few indoor attractions located in the park including the Belvedere Castle, Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the famed Carousel.
9. African Burial Ground
Between the 16th and 17th century, over 15,000 free and enslaved Africans were buried in an area in Manhattan. After rediscovering an area from this site in 1991, historians now preserve the grounds that hold over 400 Africans that were buried. The African Burial Grounds National Monument is a National Historic Landmark.
10. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Over 5 million people visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral each and every year. It’s neo-gothic architecture and stunning interior wows and inspires all who visit.
11. Brooklyn Brewery Tours
Founded in 1988, the Brooklyn Brewery has been concocting the most delicious beers in the state. Take a tour through the brewery for free from 1-5 PM on Saturdays and 1-4 PM on Sundays.
12. National Museum of the American Indian
You’ll find some of the best collections of Native American art at the National Museum of the American Indian. The museum is focused on culture as opposed to history, so you’ll find all sorts of beautiful pieces and extraordinary artifacts.
13. Museum of Biblical Art
The MOBIA is dedicated to showcasing biblically-inspired art both ancient and contemporary. Rare bibles, stained glass windows, paintings, drawings, and other priceless pieces are just some of the art you’ll find exhibited.
14. Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America
Walk through Scandinavian art galleries, watch classic movies, listen to lectures, enjoy live concerts, or sign up for language classes in Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish at the Scandinavia House.
15. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
Visit the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt and check out the recreated building, complete with period furniture, personal artifacts, and his trophy room. The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site is a fun, free option!
16. The Bronx Museum
Contemporary art from cultures around the world is showcased at the Bronx Museum. Admission is always free.
17. TV Show Tapings
Have you ever wondered how the audience gets chosen for shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon or Late Show with David Letterman? Turns out, they don’t. You can stand in line or register online before these (and many other) talk shows to get your free tickets. Visit NYC Official Guide for a list of all the shows and contact information.
18. Free Juilliard Performances
Some of the very best students in drama, music and dance from across the globe are taught at the coveted Juilliard School. You can get free theater tickets to performances by calling the box office or checking in on the day of the performance for standby tickets. You can find a list of events by visiting the Juilliard Calendar.
19. Battery Park City Parks Conservancy
Gardens, plazas, and playgrounds make up Battery Park City and play host to hundreds of events and activities throughout the year. You can enjoy a free tour of the area if you’re so inclined. Visit bpcparks.org for hours and times.
20. The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
You can tour the gardens of The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine or take a peek inside for free, however the tours you need to book in advance and tickets are available to purchase through their website.
21. Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park
The Brooklyn Bridge Park is huge and you’ll find hundreds of free activities and events here each and every year, however Pier 6 is a great spot for kids thanks to its many attractions. Slide Mountain, several jungle gyms, Swing Valley featuring Tarzan ropes, a Sandbox Village, sand volleyball courts and even a full Water Lab are all available for free.
22. Japan Society
The Japan Society holds many cultural exhibits, an art gallery, language center, 262-seat theater, and more. Admission is always free.
You can go kayaking for free at the Downtown Boathouse. They offer free 20-minute kayaking tours in the Hudson river during the weekend.
24. Grand Central Partnership Walking Tours
Enjoy a 90-minute guided walking tour courtesy of a local historian and enjoy highlights including learning about the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal, visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the Chrysler Building. These tours are free and run every week (no reservation required.)