Ultimate 25 free things to do in New York (from a NYC fanatic)
“New York, New York” – the city so good, they named it twice!
It’s a firm favourite amongst travellers and one of my all-time favourite cities too. But with a city so famously rich in diverse things to see and do, can you visit New York without breaking the bank?
Well, fear not friends as the answer is a resounding, “YES!”. Not only is there plenty to do in New York that is epic and affordable but also unforgettable and totally free!
Here are the best 25 free things to do in New York from a bonafide NYC fanatic.
Other New York posts you might like…
- Top 10 New York travel tips for conquering the Big Apple like a pro!
- 25 Totally cool facts about New York (that you never knew!)
- Perfect weekend itinerary for New York with CityPASS
1) Central Park
Central Park has become one of the most famous and beloved urban parks in the world. But it’s not just any old park, it also has a zoo, lake, Shakespearean garden and castle (well, miniature anyway!).
It also boasts year round performances and beautiful statues with my personal favourite being the Alice in Wonderland statue.
2) Times Square
Times Square is a New York City icon. Home to Broadway and some of the best shopping and eateries in town, you don’t even need to spend anything.
Just enjoy the overload to your senses by taking in the sights and sounds of one of the world’s most famous squares.
3) Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace
One of the greatest presidents (and the only one to boast an NYC upbringing), Theodore Roosevelt, became the 26th president of the United States in 1901 and was immortalised on Mount Rushmore for his progressive reforms.
Whilst visiting New York you can have a nosey through Roosevelt’s family home, an exact recreation built on the same site as the original house.
Guided tours are completely free!
4) Flushing Meadows Corona Park
As the city’s second-biggest park it still packs a lot in! It houses culture and sports at the New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citi Field as well as a Zoo, a boating lake, a skate park, a barbecue area, play fields and an aquatic and hockey centre, phew!
5) Flatiron Building
Originally named the ‘Fuller Building’, the Flatiron Building was built in 1902 and was considered to be one of the most groundbreaking skyscrapers in New York at the time.
Although not one of the tallest or oldest of New York’s skyscrapers, it’s unique design and historic significance led to its iconic status and is a quintessential symbol of New York which is truly awe-inspiring in real life.
Fun fact: There’s a wind tunnel near the Flatiron building and at the turn of the century men used to gather outside to watch the ladies skirts fly up. Tut tut chaps!
6) Brooklyn Bridge
Arguably one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 and at the time was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It boasts a wide pedestrian walkway which offers unbelievable views of the city.
Fun fact: Circus entertainer P.T. Barnum took 21 elephants over the bridge in May 1884 to show that it was safe to cross!
7) Bronx Museum of the Arts
The Bronx Museum of the Arts is an internationally recognised cultural institution in the Bronx borough of New York. It focuses on providing innovative contemporary art exhibitions and education programs, helping to make art accessible everyone in New York.
Also totally free to visit!
8) East River State Park
East River State Park is a waterfront park located along the East River in Brooklyn and offers visitors a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline.
As the site of a 19th century shipping dock, you’ll also discover some cool unique historical remains like the old cobblestone streets and abandoned railroad tracks.
9) Be part of the audience at a TV show taping
One of the only opportunities for many of us to have our 15 minutes of fame, granted from the darkness of a packed studio audience, however still exciting to be part of! TV show tapings are free and who knows, you may even get a glimpse of one of your favourite stars.
You can go to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Good Morning America and The Today Show, not to mention all the awesome night tapings such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
10) Coney Island Boardwalk
Coney Island Boardwalk is known for it’s sandy beaches, sunny skies and rolling waves…during the summer anyway!
If you find yourself there on an overcast day and can’t catch any rays there are courts for playing beach volleyball, handball, and basketball as well as playgrounds and amusement rides.
11) Hamilton Grange National Memorial
Hamilton Grange National Memorial is a National Park Service site in St. Nicholas Park that preserves the relocated home of U.S. Founding Father and George Washington’s right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton.
Find out more about the controversial founder and the country home that he built on his Harlem estate at this great historic site.
12) New York Public Library
The scene of Carrie Bradshaw’s ill-fated first wedding and the not-so-busted ghost from 1984’s classic Ghostbusters, the New York Public Library is a character in its own right.
The New York Public Library is an incredible building and houses outstanding research collections in the humanities and social sciences as well as a circulating children’s collection.
13) Chrysler Building
Another essential New York skyscraper, the Chrysler Building is an art deco masterpiece. Representative of the Old New York, it features giant eagles (replicas of ones added to Chrysler automobiles in the 1920s) instead of traditional gargoyles and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars, complete with chrome hubcaps.
14) Grand Central Partnership Walking Tour
Can you believe that Grand Central was going to be knocked down? One of the world’s most famous train stations was going to be replaced with an 80-story building taller than the Empire State Building. What pillock thought that was a good idea?
Luckily the first lady (and native New Yorker) Jackie Kennedy led the campaign to save Grand Central and when you go see it for yourself, you’ll understand why!
There are different walking tours you can take but two historians lead the free 90 minute walking tours at 12:30pm every Friday so try to squeeze it in your itinerary for then.
Fun fact: the constellations on the Main Concourse ceiling are in reverse, as if seen from heaven. Cool!
15) The Hispanic Society of America
The Hispanic Society of America is a museum and library dedicated to Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American culture and art.
The Hispanic Society’s extensive collection is one of the finest outside Spain and features paintings, sculptures, textiles, archaeological finds and other historical relics.
The surrounding neighbourhood is teeming with authentic Spanish and Latin American cuisine so make sure you grab something to eat whilst you’re there!
16) The High Line
A relatively new feature in New York, the High Line is a park built on an abandoned railway track. It’s a genius way of using former industrial space as the pathway takes you above the city while keeping you rooted in urban life.
Where else can you walk through a field of wildflowers whilst cabs fly past underneath you?
17) The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum
If you love fashion, you’ll love the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It’s the only museum in New York which is dedicated solely to the art of fashion, and features innovative and award-winning exhibitions.
The museum’s Fashion Culture special programs run year-round and include talks with leading designers and book signings.
Even better, entry it totally free!
18) National Museum of the American Indian
This museum is a fantastic tribute to the Native American culture and is dedicated to the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native Americans of the Western Hemisphere.
Exhibitions change regularly so check the website to see what’s on if you fancy going.
19) St Patrick’s Cathedral
This famous, turn of the century, neo-gothic Cathedral boasts Presidents, movie stars, and business moguls amongst past and present attendees.
But trust me, you don’t need to go to church on Sunday to be wowed by it’s impressive gothic architecture and stained glass windows – it’s well worth a visit!
20) Rockefeller Center
It’s amazing to think that Rockefeller Center is just someone’s every day office! The ground level alone is home to the tourist-packed ice-skating rink, the bronze Atlas statue and The Today Show plaza.
Higher up, Top of the Rock offers the best panoramic views of the city in my opinion as there are glass walls instead of railings and a more open viewing deck than any other skyscraper in New York.
You have to pay to go to the top but exploring the ground floor is completely free!
21) Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park is one of the few locations in the city specifically designated for artists to create outdoor works.
This fantastic park located in the borough of Queens looks out over the Manhattan skyline and is open all year round to visitors looking to enjoy some alternative artworks.
22) City Hall
Home to New York City’s government since 1812 and the oldest City Hall in the country, it’s a great place to take advantage of a free walking tour.
Take in its opulent marble hall, the governor’s room as well as the spot where Abraham Lincoln’s coffin lay in state briefly in 1865 (morbid much? 😂).
23) Staten Island Ferry
Everyone wants to see the Statue of Liberty. But why bother going on a paid-for tourist ferry when you can go across to Staten Island for free?!
It’s only about a 25 minute journey with great views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.
24) Federal Hall
New York’s Federal Hall was the original inauguration place of George Washington who took the oath here in 1789 back when New York was the first capital.
It overlooks the New York Stock Exchange across Wall Street and has a museum on post-colonial New York inside that’s well worth a visit!
25) American Museum of Natural History
From dinosaurs to outer space and everything in between, this huge museum showcases all of nature’s wonders. The dinosaur exhibit is the best and largest in the world (and my favourite!) so don’t miss it!
The museum is free between 4:45pm and 5:45pm and admission price is ‘suggested’ at all other times.
It also has some great views of Central Park!
Which free things to do in New York are top of your list? Let me know in the comments below! 😊