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Free Things to Do in NYC

January 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Destinations, Features

Visiting New York City will quickly burn a hole in your wallet. Even budget hotels are extremely expensive in comparison to most cities around the world. Enduring Wanderlust has compiled a multitude of quality activities throughout the city that will allow visitors to have an enjoyable experience without having to shorten their trip because of a lack of funds.

Cultural and educational

There are lots of free museums in the city including the National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of American Folk Art. Several other museums are based on suggested contributions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The latter institutions expect a donation based on your ability to pay. Find a full list of the free museums in city.

Visit Ground Zero and St. Paul’s Chapel for a grim remainder of the events of September 11, 2001.

Two must stops for visitors to the Big Apple are St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Take a self-guided Bob Dylan Tour (Greenwich Village). It covers lots of places connected to the great musician.
brooklyn-bridge-view.jpgBrooklyn Bridge © Gennaro Salamone

Walking the city

Walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge for a beautiful view of the city. Consider having Grimaldi’s pizza on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. Read about the best pizza in NYC.

Times Square is filled with animated neon and LED signs advertising a variety of products. No trip to the city is complete without wandering its streets.

Central Park is an oasis in this concrete jungle. It offers visitors a wide variety of walking tours,
activities, and attractions.


Numerous popular television shows are filmed in the city. These include David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Rachel Ray, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Regis and Kelly Live and many more. Tickets to the shows are gratis for attendees. For free tickets, go to the show websites.

Club Free Time does an excellent job of listing free happenings in the city. These events range from art classes and concerts to site tours and book readings.

Concerts (Mostly Summer) are held throughout out the city. The free shows range from the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera to Jazzfest.

Summer Stage (Central Park) offers several months filled with free performances. Watch for their new schedule about a month before the summer starts.

Seven bars who offer free food to customers. Be sure to check with the bar before arriving to see if their offer remains.
polar-bear-bronx-zoo.jpg Polar Bear, Bronx Zoo © Gennaro Salamone

Fun with the kids

The Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays) is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. It has a wide range of wildlife along with plenty of activities for the whole family. Be sure to watch the feeding of the sea lions.

Free kayaking is available at the NYC Downtown Boathouse. You will be supplied with a kayak, life jacket, paddle, and some tips on paddling.

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is a fun and free place to show off your costumes.

On the move

The Staten Island Ferry provides free rides between Manhattan and Staten Island. From the deck of the ferry passengers have a view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

RightRides provides free rides home for women on Saturday nights within a select area of New York City.


gennaroeditor.jpgGennaro Salamone is the founder and editor of Enduring Wanderlust. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or inquiries with reference to contributing an article or photograph for publication.



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53 Responses to “Free Things to Do in NYC”
  1. Brandy says:

    What a great resource for you to publish!!

  2. Gennaro says:


    Thank you. Welcome aboard. We’re planning to have similar lists for different cities across the U.S. and around the world.

  3. Ashley says:

    That list is going to come in really handy. I’m planning a trip to NYC next month. And the hotels are very expensive!

  4. Liz says:


  5. Sip says:

    Helpful for locals too. I’m always looking for something new to do. The Staten Island ferry is such a nice round-trip. I recommend it to all my friends visiting the city.

  6. Tim says:

    Love New York. One of my favorite cities to visit.

  7. Gennaro says:


    Have a fun trip


    No problem. Welcome aboard


    Agreed about the Staten Island Ferry. I recommend it to friends too

    No doubt

  8. CC says:

    Love the list. The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is a great experience especially with Grimaldi’s 🙂 Not a big fan of the Greenwich Village Halloween parade though. Tried it once. It was blah.

  9. Gennaro says:


    Definately mixed reviews on the parade. Agree about the bridge.

  10. Carla says:

    We LOVE NYC (my fiancée is from there) but its too easy to blow a lot of money. I will keep this list for next time we go back to supplement my clothing shopping sprees.

  11. Gennaro says:


    Welcome aboard. I hope the list lets you shift a few dollars toward that shopping spree 🙂

  12. Nice list! I would also add the free outdoor movies shown during the summer months in Bryant Park and at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO.

  13. Gennaro says:


    Thanks for the additions, Wendy.

  14. Lopar says:

    New York is an amazing city with so much history. There are so many great things to do on this list, great post.

  15. Gennaro says:


    Thanks. Agree about NYC.

  16. Wow – free in NYC? I wish I had read this before our last visit! 🙂

  17. Gennaro says:


    Just another reason to visit again 🙂

  18. Katie Parla says:

    I like strolling in the Lower East Side and visiting the Essex Street Market or going to Chelsea Market. NYC’s Green Markets are a great place to see whats local and seasonal and where lots of great chefs get their produce

  19. Gennaro says:

    @Katie Parla

    Great tips. Love the chefs info. Didn’t realize Green Markets had that on their site.

  20. Dennis Edell says:

    A sincere list of goodies my friend. I’ve lived on Long Island (40 mins to Manhattan by train) at least 35 of my 38 yrs., and haven’t done 3/4 of it!

    Yea I know, those who live the closest usually don’t even know what’s what lol.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog! 🙂

  21. Gennaro says:

    @Dennis Edell

    Thank you. It’s so true about not visiting things in our own area. Nice blog, by the way.

  22. I’ve never been to NYC, but I want to go. Reading your list reminds me that having fun on a vacation is all in your mindset. People who live there are probably used to the sights, sounds, and smells, but I could probably travel there, not spend a dime, and love every second of it… especially with your advice. Thanks a lot!

  23. Sire says:

    You know Genarro, whilst you list a lot of wonderful free things to do whilst in New York, I think if I were to visit I would be handicapped by two women who absolutely love to shop. I remember not long ago when we went to Sydney for a short holiday how the wife and daughter spent the majority of the time shopping and dragging my poor son and I with them. It’s like they had never seen a shop before. Still it was funny seeing all the despondent blokes who were all in the same predicament.

  24. Gennaro says:


    Thanks. It’s important to note that it’s possible to travel for very little. Even to enjoy the things around our own communities.


    Great story. I guess I’ll have to come up with a list of great places in view on hip, yet inexpensive shopping districts 🙂

  25. Lisa says:

    Definately a great city. Definately very expensive. Nice list 🙂

  26. Gennaro says:


    Thanks. And agree about the Big Apple.

  27. kelly says:

    The polar bear’s sooooo beautiful and thank you for a description of the exciting places in New York! I am sure it’s hard to sieve out to just top 10 or 20 places to do in New York. Now the only question is….how to get to New York for free? heee

    Yours truly,
    Your noise-maker!

  28. Gennaro says:


    True, true. Or to find a hotel for a decent price. If you accomplish those, plenty to do for free!

  29. Woooooow this is really cool. You can have your cake and eat it too. You have written some fantastic ideas there and i cant believe all that can be done for free.

  30. Gennaro says:

    @Make Money

    Thanks. It’s amazing how much you can do without spending much. Especially in an expensive city.

  31. jen laceda says:

    Ok, I know the MoMa and AMNH advertise that you can pay what you can, but when we went there, the cashiers don’t even give you the option. They just ring you up. I think my husband and I paid $20 USD per person, but at least our 2-year-old got in for free. So how do we do it? Do we just go up and tell the cashier that we choose to pay a voluntary amount instead?

  32. jen laceda says:

    Sorry…I meant to say the Met on my previous post.

  33. Gennaro says:

    @Jen Laceda

    They aren’t supposed to ring you up. The Met and AMNH are both suggested admission. Most pay the suggested, but it’s definitely not fixed. Students get a lower rate so it is odd for them to just assume and give a full rate. Lots of students, of all ages, go there. The Met does let kids until 12 in for free. AMNH’s suggested is $8.50. At least you didn’t get charged that.

  34. This is great thanks, off to New York next month so this is most useful!

  35. Gennaro says:

    @Benedict Adam

    Enjoy your trip. Fee free to drop me an e-mail if you have any questions about NYC.

  36. trisha says:

    First time i have been here and you have a great site. I love this post because NY IS crazy expensive. This will give me some ideas next time i start to venture that way.


  37. Gennaro says:


    Thanks for the kind words and welcome aboard. NYC is definitely very expensive…all the better reason to try a few free things along the way 🙂

  38. Francisco says:

    I will be on NYC tomorrow and stay until the 6 morning I have one question and one propossal.
    Q. I have heard that there are two museums that once you pay the first you can go to the other for free, so the question is which ones?
    P. I want to know if there is a nice NYer that wants to show me something of this amazing dates, qive me a call, but just on these days!!

    Ciao bella newyork!

  39. Gennaro says:


    The museums that you are aking about are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. Both great. Be warned that they are very far apart though. MET is on the Upper East Side and the Cloisters are way up on the West Side (Fort Tryon Park).

    I’d recommend checking out the couch surfing website if you want to meet up with New Yorkers. There is a search for have a cup of coffee.

  40. Free Things to Do in Chicago says:

    I love this list — there are lots of free things to do in all the major cities — thanks for showing us NYC. I run a similar website in Chicago and the response has been overwhelming…..people are looking for free things to do in Chicago and New York and LA, etc as the economy softens. Keep up the good work!

  41. John H says:

    Thanks for a great list of free things to do in New York City. I was just searching for things to do in NYC today with my kids and this was very helpful. Planning to go to the zoo this week in addition to the museums today.

  42. Carlo Alcos says:

    Nice list. Although I gotta say I like Prospect Park better than Central Park. And the brooklyn botanical gardens are free on Tuesdays and Saturdays (10-noon).

    Here’s one more thing, if you’re a FOTC fan 🙂

    Flight of the Concords

  43. Gennaro says:

    @Carlos Alcos

    I love Prospect Park too. Pair that with the botanical gardens and it makes a nice trip over to Brooklyn for travelers. Or Manhattanites.

  44. RJ says:

    New York is pretty expensive. It can get crazy. These free things to do are a lot of help. Going to try the kayaking next time I’m in town.


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