Free Things to Do in New York City

Heading to the Big Apple this summer? Check out all the cool things you can do without spending a dime.

Written by Kristen Kuchar / June 8, 2022

Quick Bites

  • New York is full of interesting sights and activities that are free to attend.
  • If you’re a museum junkie, you can take advantage of ones with free admission, “pay as you wish” policies or go during certain dates and time when admission is waived.
  • Your hotel may offer free bikes for you to explore the city, saving you even more money.

With travel restrictions subsiding and the idea of taking a trip becoming more of a reality, everyone’s excited about summer vacation. In fact, surveys show that the majority of U.S. adults (85 percent) are planning to travel this summer.[1]

And New York City is one of the top travel destinations this summer, according to Expedia. It’s exciting to be in the Big Apple, but it can be expensive, too. The balancing act for many is booking a summer vacation to remember while being mindful of the costs. Sure, finding the best hotel deals and airfare is key. But what about all the other costs, such as for events and attractions, when you get to your destination?

Fortunately, there are many fun, free things to do no matter where you go. Christie Hudson, senior publish relations manager for Expedia, recommends searching for free community events and activities happening while you’re in town. You can find event calendars on tourism websites, with local newspapers and the destination’s public facilities (such as their parks and libraries).

We’ve rounded up the top free things to do in New Your City, so you can relax without worrying too much about going over budget.

Take in the classic sites

Catch a glimpse of America’s most iconic site–the Statue of Liberty. While you can pay to see the statue, you can also view it from Battery Park, Greenwood Cemetery, The Brooklyn Bridge and more for free.

It’s hard not to picture New York City without envisioning the beautiful Central Park. The 843-acre park offers an opportunity for enjoying the city without paying a dime. To get the most out of your visit, download one of the many free self-guided tours offered, learn more about birding opportunities and for the kids, borrow a free Discovery Kit.

Cruise on the Staten Island Ferry for free, which travels to and from Manhattan. Besides the transportation, the 25-minute, 5-mile ride can provide great views.

While some of the attractions at the famous Rockefeller Center are ticketed, at no charge you can explore public art and partake in various free events.

In addition to the shops and the restaurants, Grand Central Terminal offers things to see for free, including many of the historical parts of the building.

Stroll one of NYC’s museums

While New York museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art, may be on the top of travelers’ lists, there are several unique museums that don’t charge any admission whatsoever. These include:

These following museums have a “pay as you wish” policy:

If there is a museum you’ve been wanting to check out that’s not on the list, check out if they offer free days during certain time periods or for specific professions or students. For example, the Brooklyn Museum is free on the first Saturdays of each month after 5 p.m. as well as always for those 19-years-old and under and all healthcare workers and active-duty military and their families.

Get outside

Located on the scenic waterfront, Socrates Sculpture Park is dedicated to public art and supporting artists. Not only is access to the ground and exhibitions free, but so are various events, such as yoga and meditation.

Shape Up NYC hosts free dance and fitness classes, including Caribbean Dance Fitness, Cardio Dance, Meditation Through Movement and Music and T’ai Chi.

The High Line is a 1.45-mile elevated park where you can find art, gardens and catch a performance. There are also no-cost tours offered at various times.

Check out the various bridges throughout New York City ­– Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, Bow Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation provides suggestions on where to check these bridges out.

Tip: Some hotels in New York City offer complimentary bikes to explore, such as The Bowery Hotel, Element and The Jane Hotel.

Take advantage of everything New York Public Parks offers for free, from 800 public pieces of art to enjoy to summer outdoor movies.

Take in a show

NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park gives people a chance to watch live performances at no cost.

The Juilliard Music School Performances offers a calendar listing all of their performances, many of which are totally free.

Summerstage has 90 completely free concerts taking place in Central Park and throughout other local NYC parks. Contemporary dance, Afrobeat, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and salsa are just a handful of the genres you’ll find.

New York Public Library hosts free exhibitions, meet-the-author events, concerts and other events.

Tip: Check out local breweries and wineries, which may offer free tours or samples. Brooklyn Brewery, for example, has a free hourly tour on Sundays.
Article Sources
  1. “85% OF AMERICANS ARE PLANNING SUMMER TRAVEL,” April 2022, PR Newswire, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/85-of-americans-are-planning-summer-travel-with-personal-cars-as-top-pick-for-transportation-according-to-new-survey-from-oaaa--the-harris-poll-301500009.html

About the Author

Kristen Kuchar

Kristen Kuchar

Kristen Kuchar is a journalist, covering money, travel and the beverage industry. Kristen has previously contributed personal finance and business content to Money.com, Money Under 30, The Simple Dollar, Saving for College, Credible, The Brad’s Deals Blog, Outdoor Business Magazine and more.

Full bio

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