Author Topic: Things to do for Free in NYC  (Read 2239 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Things to do for Free in NYC
« on: June 14, 2016, 01:31:23 PM »
Fellow Mustachians, living in New York and it being summer, our apartment is booked up like a hotel with friends and family coming to visit from out of town.  Tourists to NY always want to do the same things -- go to Times Square, and go up to the top of Empire State Building / Top of the Rock / One World.  While Times Square is free (if you don't take pics of the 'performers') most other tourist traps are incredibly over priced.  Most other activities -- eating at fancy restaurants, broadway shows, shopping, are all obviously expensive. 

To that end, I've tried to come up with a list of free activities in the city, and would appreciate any additional suggestions!

MOMA is free after 4 pm on Fridays
Guggenheim is free after 5:45 pm on Saturdays
Art galleries in Chelsea can be free, and sometimes will even serve wine/beer (cannot verify myself but from research)

Parks and Recreation
Picnic in Central Park  (BYOB but keep it low key because it is prohibited.  Pour wine in a water bottle and voila!)
New York Public Library (but the famed reading room in the library is currently closed down due to asbestos) - famous in many films including The Day After Tomorrow. 
Bryant Park has free movies in the summer (very crowded though) and free yoga
NY State and Federal Court houses downtown - from every episode of Law & Order, although I believe the stairs are off-limits due to security.  You could probably go in and watch any number of trials that are open to the public. 
Brooklyn Botanical Garden Free on Tuesday
Socrates Sculpture Park - Free Yoga and Tai Chi
Highline is free to walk
9/11 Memorial is free to visit, but the museum and tickets to the top of the observatory are pricey (and not tasteful in the case of the museum)
Bronx Zoo is Free on Wednesday
There is only 1 free tennis court I know of - on the west side highway in Chelsea, generally with a wait of +1hr.  Other tennis courts such as Central park are $20/hr.

Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon / Late Show with Stephen Colbert tickets are both free if you go at the right time and wait in line.  It's also free to go to the recordings of GMA and all that crap. 
Brooklyn Brewery has free tours (the beers are not free, however)
Brooklyn Bridge is free to walk
Harlem Gospel Churches - lots of out of town friends have gone to the churches in Harlem as a form of entertainment, despite not being Baptists.  I assume this is OK, but I would think a donation should be made.
Staten Island Ferry - is free compared to the tour boats that leave from Chelsea, and goes right by the statue of liberty. 
NY Federal Reserve Bank gives free tours, has some vault full of tons of gold
The campuses of NYU (near 14th street) and Columbia (near 116th street) are both free to visit
There are dozens of famous churches and cathedrals

NB - Broadway tickets can be had for cheaper by going to the TKTS booth in times square and waiting for discounted tickets.  Drawbacks are that not all shows are available, and you must pay for the best available seats (although at a steep ~40% discount).  You can also go to the individual theatre that has the show you want to see and do a lottery in the AM of the day of the show. 
« Last Edit: June 14, 2016, 01:35:04 PM by zombiehunter »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2016, 02:08:07 PM »
The Met Museum and the Cloisters is pay-what-you-wish; I generally pay a dollar. The Frick is currently running a pay-what-you-wish Sunday AM thing (people ...ten and over, I think? Twelve and over? No kids, is my point.). The Museum at FIT is free.

Pick up a copy of Time Out New York and look at the free listings. The Village Voice might have them too, but I can't remember if the Voice is free this year (they keep switching back and forth between ad-supported and newsstand).


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2016, 02:29:59 PM »
Walking and people watching are both free.  Aren't those some of the best things to do in New York?


  • Stubble
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2016, 03:49:43 PM »
If you don't want to stand in line for last minute Broadway tickets, there's now an app called TodayTix.
Governors Island isn't totally free but the ferry is cheap and the new landscape architecture is supposed to be amazing.
AMNH is also pay what you want but I feel bad taking full advantage. YMMV.
Chinatown is worth exploring for folks who don't come from diverse places. It's also great for cheap meals: dim sum, noodles etc.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
With kids: lots of free and cheap at Prospect Park, including splash pad, carousel, historic house
In summer, free yoga 7pm Thursday's in Prospect Park
New York Library for the Performing Arts has free concerts
High Line Park is not to be missed
Sometimes there are amazing performers at the Union Sq and 34th St subway stations. They appreciate a couple of dollars in tip

Ron Scott

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2016, 07:09:32 AM »
The path from Battery Park (bike, jog, walk, skateboard, whatever) runs up to the George Washington Bridge! I bike. A couple blocks from there I ride over the bridge and into Jersey, heading north. Can't be beat.

Living in Manhattan is not exactly a MMM kind of thing, mind you. If luxury is a weakness we're feeble beyond compare. But if you can get over the general living expenses, it's one of the most exciting places just to BE. And BEING is free.


  • Stubble
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2016, 08:55:32 AM »
Openings at lots of little art galleries downtown are free. You can plan to go from one to the other, enjoy some complimentary wine, and be a part of the contemporary art scene for the night.  Time Out New York lists some of these.  It's a non-touristy experience -- you'll be mingling in a crowd of artists, students, curators, dealers, critics, collectors, etc.  And then afterward you can all talk about what was awesome and what was just kind of "???"  It's fun!

The American Museum of Natural History has a "suggested admission" fee, but it is technically free or pay-what-you-will.  You'll have to be prepared to insist on this when you pay for your ticket.

Many museums have free evening admissions on one day of the week or month -- like First Fridays at the Rubin and Morgan.  Or free Tuesday evenings at the 9/11 Museum.  If you Google I'm sure you can find whole lists of these.
"Time flies pursue it Man. For why? thy days are but a Span."


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2016, 04:34:25 PM »
The Earth Room in the Village.  Open Sept-midJune, W-Sun, 12-6p.

I tried to go once, but it was off-season.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2016, 09:26:02 AM »


  • Bristles
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2016, 10:29:30 AM »
The Roosevelt Island Tram is not 100% free, but it does count as a free transfer from the subway, which you'd probably need to take to get there anyway, so it's basically free.


  • Bristles
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2016, 09:14:52 PM »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Things to do for Free in NYC
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2016, 09:01:34 AM »
idNYC won't be good for tourists but if you live here it's a must have. Free memberships to all sorts of cultural institutions, lots of other perks (Gov Island ferry is FREE with the idNYC)