The best free things to do in New York 2023

New York City, famously known as the “Big Apple,” is a bustling metropolis with a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors. However, exploring this iconic city doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many free things to do in New York City that are just as enjoyable and memorable. From iconic landmarks to cultural events, here are some of the best free attractions, museums, events, and views in NYC.

Central Park: Spanning over 840 acres, Central Park is a must-visit for anyone in New York City. Enjoy a picnic, take a stroll, or rent a bike and explore the park’s beautiful landscapes, lakes, and bridges.

Brooklyn Bridge: One of the most famous landmarks in NYC, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge offers stunning views of the city’s skyline and the East River.

Grand Central Terminal: This iconic train station is not just a transportation hub, but also an architectural gem. Admire the beautiful design, intricate details, and grab a bite to eat at the famous Grand Central Market.

High Line Park: This elevated park built on an old railroad track offers a unique perspective on the city and features beautiful gardens, art installations, and outdoor activities.

Staten Island Ferry: Take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry and enjoy stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

New York City is also home to some of the world’s most renowned museums, and many of them offer free admission on certain days or during specific hours.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): This famous museum showcases modern and contemporary art and offers free admission every Friday from 4-8 pm.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum: Honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks, this museum offers free admission every Tuesday from 5-8 pm.

American Museum of Natural History: Learn about the natural world and the universe at this museum, which offers a suggested admission fee, but visitors can pay what they can afford.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: This iconic museum offers free admission for New York residents and students from the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, and CT).

New York City also hosts many free events throughout the year, including:

  • Shakespeare in the Park: Enjoy free performances of Shakespeare’s plays in Central Park during the summer.
  • SummerStage: This outdoor music festival features free concerts and performances throughout the city.
  • Bryant Park Movie Nights: Watch classic movies under the stars in Bryant Park during the summer.
  • Governors Island Art Fair: This annual art fair features free exhibitions and performances on Governors Island.

Finally, for some of the best views of NYC, head to these free observation decks and viewpoints:

  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck: Enjoy breathtaking views of the city from the top of the Rockefeller Center.
  • Brooklyn Heights Promenade: Walk along this scenic promenade in Brooklyn and take in the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
  • The Vessel at Hudson Yards: This unique structure offers 360-degree views of the city from different levels and is free to visit.
  • Staten Island Ferry: Enjoy more views of the city and the Statue of Liberty from this free ferry ride.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore the iconic landmarks of New York City for free, including Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, and Grand Central Terminal.
  • Immerse yourself in the rich cultural scene of NYC by visiting free museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History.
  • Experience the vibrant energy of the city through free events like Shakespeare in the Park and Bryant Park Movie Nights.

Free Attractions in New York City

As one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world, New York offers endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. And the best part? You don’t have to spend a fortune to experience the city’s top attractions. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at five free attractions that should be at the top of your list when visiting the Big Apple. From the lush greenery of Central Park to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, there’s something for everyone to enjoy without breaking the bank.

1. Central Park

  • Explore the iconic Central Park, covering 843 acres.
  • Visit the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain.
  • Walk through the literary walk, a tribute to famous writers.
  • Discover the Central Park Zoo and its diverse wildlife.
  • Enjoy a boat ride on the Central Park Lake.

When visiting Central Park, don’t miss the breathtaking blooms of the Conservatory Garden and the Strawberry Fields memorial dedicated to John Lennon.

2. Brooklyn Bridge

  • Learn about the rich history and significance of the Brooklyn Bridge in the development of New York.
  • Take a leisurely walk or bike ride across the bridge to enjoy the iconic skyline views.
  • Discover the trendy neighborhood of DUMBO, located near the Brooklyn Bridge, for great dining and shopping options.
  • Don’t miss out on visiting the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you can partake in recreational activities and enjoy beautiful waterfront views.

Pro-tip: For stunning photo opportunities of the Manhattan skyline, be sure to visit during sunrise or sunset.

3. Grand Central Terminal

  1. Explore the iconic Beaux-Arts architecture.
  2. Visit the whispering gallery at the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
  3. Enjoy diverse dining options, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants.
  4. Discover the celestial ceiling painted with constellations.
  5. Experience a bustling transportation hub and unique shopping venues.

Did you know? Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station, is a popular destination with over 750,000 visitors passing through each day.

4. High Line Park

The High Line Park, situated in New York City, offers a one-of-a-kind elevated linear park experience. Stretching over a mile, it boasts greenery, art installations, and breathtaking views of the city. This former railway line turned park is a beloved destination for leisurely walks, picnics, and cultural events.

Pro-tip: For stunning skyline views, be sure to visit during sunset.

5. Staten Island Ferry

  • Arrive at the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan.
  • Board the Staten Island Ferry, which operates 24/7.
  • Enjoy a scenic, 25-minute ride across New York Harbor, passing by the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.
  • Admire the stunning views and take plenty of photos with your camera.
  • Disembark at St. George Terminal on Staten Island.

Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the beautiful skyline and Statue of Liberty!

Free Museums in New York City

New York City is known for its vibrant culture and endless things to do. One of the best ways to experience the city without breaking the bank is by visiting its many free museums. In this section, we will highlight some of the top free museums in New York City that offer a diverse range of exhibits and experiences. From contemporary art at the Museum of Modern Art to historical artifacts at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, there is something for everyone to enjoy without spending a dime.

1. Museum of Modern Art

  1. Start by researching current exhibits and events at the renowned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
  2. Check the museum’s website for any free admission days or special discounts.
  3. Plan your visit during quieter times to fully appreciate the artwork without large crowds.
  4. Consider joining a guided tour or downloading the museum app for a more immersive experience.
  5. Don’t miss iconic pieces like Vincent van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ and Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’ while exploring the collection.

If you’re an art enthusiast, exploring the Museum of Modern Art can be an enriching and inspiring experience. Take your time to absorb the diverse art forms and immerse yourself in the world of contemporary creativity. If you’re interested in finding more free things to do in New York, check out Things to do in New York for free.

2. National September 11 Memorial & Museum

  1. Visit the official website to plan your trip and reserve tickets.
  2. Prepare emotionally as the museum offers a poignant experience.
  3. Explore the outdoor memorial and the reflecting pools.
  4. Visit the historical exhibitions and artifacts inside the museum.

The 2. National September 11 Memorial & Museum commemorates the tragic events of 9/11 and honors the lives lost, ensuring their memory lives on.

3. American Museum of Natural History

  • Plan your visit to the American Museum of Natural History by checking their official website for opening hours and any special exhibitions.
  • Explore the numerous exhibitions, including the impressive dinosaur fossils, human origins, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
  • Participate in guided tours or educational programs offered by the museum to enrich your experience.
  • Don’t forget to stop by the museum shop to discover unique souvenirs and educational materials related to the exhibits.

4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as The Met, is a renowned art museum located in New York City. With a collection of over 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years, The Met is considered one of the most prominent museums in the world.

Visitors can discover a wide range of art forms, including paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts, making it an essential destination for art enthusiasts.

Free Events in New York City

New York City is known for its vibrant culture and endless entertainment options, but these experiences often come with a hefty price tag. However, there are plenty of free events happening throughout the city that offer just as much excitement and fun. In this section, we will explore the various free events in New York City, including the beloved Shakespeare in the Park, the diverse performances at SummerStage, the outdoor movie screenings at Bryant Park, and the unique art fair on Governors Island. Get ready to fill your calendar with free and unforgettable experiences in the city that never sleeps.

1. Shakespeare in the Park

  1. Check the schedule for upcoming performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
  2. Arrive early to secure free tickets, which are distributed on the day of the show.
  3. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the performance begins.
  4. Be prepared for outdoor conditions and potential weather changes.

Pro-tip: Keep in mind that tickets are limited, so plan to arrive early for the best chance of securing a seat.

2. SummerStage

  • Check the official SummerStage website for the schedule of free music, dance, and theater performances across NYC parks.
  • Arrive early to secure a good spot and bring a blanket or low chair for comfort.
  • Consider bringing snacks and drinks, as some venues allow outside refreshments.

Pro-tip: Keep an eye on social media for surprise performances and last-minute schedule changes.

3. Bryant Park Movie Nights

  • Check the schedule for Bryant Park Movie Nights online or on location.
  • Arrive early to secure a good spot and enjoy pre-movie activities.
  • Bring blankets, snacks, and refreshments for a cozy experience.
  • Respect park rules and etiquette during the movie screening.
  • Dispose of trash responsibly after the event.

Bryant Park Movie Nights, a beloved tradition in New York City since 1995, offers a magical outdoor movie experience against the bustling city backdrop.

4. Governors Island Art Fair

The Governors Island Art Fair is a yearly event that features a variety of art forms, including painting, sculpture, and photography. Attendees have the chance to explore the island’s rich history while admiring pieces from over 100 independent artists. This fair offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to engage with modern art in a stunning location, making it a must-see for art lovers and those looking for a culturally enriching experience. Don’t pass up the chance to immerse yourself in creativity at the Governors Island Art Fair!

Free Views of New York City

The bustling city of New York offers countless activities for all types of travelers, but sometimes the best experiences can come at no cost. In this section, we will discover some of the best free views of the city that never sleeps. From the iconic Top of the Rock Observation Deck to the charming Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we will explore the different vantage points that offer stunning views of the Big Apple. And don’t miss out on the unique architectural masterpiece, The Vessel at Hudson Yards, which offers a one-of-a-kind perspective of the city skyline.

1. Top of the Rock Observation Deck

  • Experience the breathtaking views of New York City by visiting the Top of the Rock Observation Deck during sunset.
  • Secure the best viewing times and avoid long lines by booking tickets in advance.
  • Take in iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Central Park while exploring the various observation decks.
  • Capture the stunning cityscape from different vantage points with your camera.
  • For a unique experience, stay updated on any special events or exhibitions happening at the observation deck.

Don’t forget to check out the gift shop for souvenirs and grab a snack at the on-site cafes while enjoying the panoramic scenery.

2. Brooklyn Heights Promenade

When visiting the 2. Brooklyn Heights Promenade, follow these steps to make the most of your experience:

  1. Start at the north end to enjoy the view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
  2. Take a leisurely walk along the promenade, admiring the scenic Manhattan skyline.
  3. Explore the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park for recreational activities.

Fact: The Brooklyn Heights Promenade offers one of the most stunning views of the New York City skyline, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

3. The Vessel at Hudson Yards

  • For current information on visiting hours and any entry requirements, be sure to check the official website of Hudson Yards when planning your visit to The Vessel.
  • Take into consideration the weather when planning your trip, as The Vessel is an outdoor structure.
  • To avoid long waiting times, especially during peak tourist seasons, it is recommended to arrive early.
  • Make the most of your visit to Hudson Yards by exploring the surrounding shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

Did you know? The unique honeycomb-like structure of The Vessel comprises 154 flights of stairs, 80 landings, and 2,500 steps.

For more information on free things to do in New York City, check out Things to do in New York for free.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are some free activities to do in New York City?

There are many free activities to do in NYC, such as visiting the Hudson River for pristine river views, exploring hidden corners in the city, taking a literary walking tour, or attending outdoor movie nights at the Public Theater. You can also enjoy the latest art exhibits at the many complimentary galleries in the downtown neighborhood.

What are some popular museums in NYC that offer free days or cheap admission?

Some of the best museums in NYC, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Guggenheim, offer pay-what-you-wish admission or designated free days. Other popular museums with free or cheap admission options include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art.

What is the best way to experience New York City’s cultural institutions without financial stress?

One of the best ways to experience NYC’s cultural institutions without breaking the bank is to take advantage of free museum days and cheap admission options. You can also save money by attending special events or exhibitions that offer free or discounted admission, and by taking advantage of discounted admission for certain groups such as students, seniors, and military personnel.

What are some must-see places in New York City that won’t cost a dime?

There are many must-see places in NYC that are completely free, such as the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, the Vanderbuilt Gate in Prospect Park, and Poets Walk in Central Park. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful summer perennials and crabapple trees at the New York Botanical Garden, or take a stroll through the Alice in Wonderland statue in the northeast corner of Central Park.

Are there any free events or activities in New York City that are worth waking up early for?

Yes, there are several free events and activities in NYC that are worth waking up for. One example is Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater, where you can see famous actors like Al Pacino and Anne Hathaway perform for free. You can also rise and shine for a free outdoor yoga class or a visit to the beautiful Northern end of Central Park.

Where can I find a comprehensive guide to all the free and cheap activities in New York City?

You can find a comprehensive guide to all the free and cheap activities in NYC by checking out websites such as Timeout New York and CN Traveler. These guides provide information on everything from free museum days and cheap admission options to outdoor parks and events. You can also find information on lesser-known activities, such as the public’s Shakespeare in the Park and the best spots for a picnic in the city.