Free Things to Do in New York CIty

It might come as a surprise to some that there are so many free things to do in New York City. “Free” is certainly not a word used in conjunction with the city very often, so you’d be forgiven if you expect that any trip here would cost an arm and a leg. But, with so much going on, the thrifty can root out quite a few free or extremely cheap things in New York City to occupy their time.

Central Park

One of the signature New York City tourist attractions, the park goes on forever – you can lose the better part of a day exploring the grounds here, and still miss out on half the park. Beatles’ fans pay homage to Lennon over at Strawberry Fields, those for a taste of architectural history head over to Belvedere Castle, and nearly everyone makes at least a cursory walk through the Great Lawn or a stop at Cleopatra’s Needle – this obelisk was a gift from the King of Egypt in the late 19th century.

Museum of Modern Art

Already one of the cheap things in New York City, thanks to Target Stores, anyone can get into MOMA free on Fridays after 4 pm. The line might be a bit longer than usual, but it’s certainly worth it: though the Met and Guggenheim Museum are better known, MOMA has a wealth of significant pieces that more than justify the trip down to 53rd street. As far as free things to do in New York City, this is the best deal you’ll find.

Times Square

Another of the city’s most renowned landmarks, it should be at the head of any list of free things to do in New York City. Sure, there are hundreds of little places to spend your money, but the real beauty of Times Square is outdoors, and until they figure out how to charge for it, you are free to wander around and gaze up at the technological and architectural wonders contained here. And if you can be there for New Year’s, well, you’ve really hit the jackpot.

Television Tapings

Whether it’s national stalwarts like David Letterman, Saturday Night Live or the Daily Show, a large percentage of TV’s highest rated shows tape right in downtown Manhattan. Make sure to show up to the ticket booths early though. These free tickets don’t often last long.

Concerts in the Park

Every year, New York puts on a series of free shows throughout the city, at parks in all five boroughs. From legends like Simon and Garfunkel to the New York Philharmonic, the Great Lawn in Central Park is home to the biggest and most popular show, but the smaller performances in the city’s less traveled areas are often the best.

Washington Square

All the squares in New York are free, but few encapsulate the bohemian flair as well as this one. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, you can see the Washington Arch, sit at the charming fountain and think of all the famed artists, singers and writers that have called upon Washington Square for inspiration. There’s usually some kind of performance going on here too, whether it’s street performers, buskers or artists, wandering around Washington Square is one of the best activities New York has to offer.

Art Galleries in Chelsea

New York City is always on the cutting edge of the art scene, and nowhere is this fact more pronounced than in Chelsea. Some of these galleries, numbering over 300, are hidden in small corners of the neighborhood, but most can be found on West 24th Street. If there is an entrance fee it’s usually minimal, and as far as cheap things in New York City, the galleries are well worth your time.

Lincoln Center Outdoors

Every August, over 100 shows make there way into the New York sun to perform for free. From ballet to music to spoken word, there are daily performances are often geared for families with young children.

Downtown Boathouse

Located in TriBeCa on Canal Street, the Downtown Boathouse has free kayaking every weeknight and on most weekends. If you want to get away from Manhattan for a little while, this is a unique way to see what the city looks like from the swirling waters outside New York City. The Downtown Boathouse also has a second location in Chelsea, on Pier 64.

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