The 15 Best Free Things To Do In New York This Year

February 14, 2021

Have you been wanting to get away for a few days but have a limited budget? If so you've come to the right place for advice.

When it comes to the great cities of the world, it's hard to think of any place more exciting than New York City. In fact, many people consider the Big Apple to be the greatest city on the planet.

It's no secret that visiting New York City can also be a pricey experience. And yet it doesn't have to break the bank. This article takes a look at things to do in New York that are free.

Keep reading to get the inside scoop on planning a New York vacation that will help keep your expenses to a minimum.

1. Central Park

Central Park

Here is another gorgeous park you can enjoy for free in New York City. And this one, of course, needs no introduction.

In fact, Central Park ranks among the most famous parks in the world. Surrounded by the glamourous and inspiring Manhattan skyline, this is a place where you could happily let yourself get lost for days at a time.

Central Park offers an endless number of activities for any time of the year, from ice skating to spaces for athletic events or enjoying a paddleboat ride, you're only limited by your imagination and the amount of time you have on your hands.

2. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Let's start with one of the great New York attractions. The Brooklyn Bridge is truly a can't-mess destination, whether you're a first-time visitor or have been to New York a thousand times.

This amazing wonder of engineering spans from the South Street Seaport to Brooklyn Heights. Even if you've driven across it, you should definitely take the time to walk from one side to the other and enjoy a very unique view of the city. This is especially fun during the summertime when you'll be able to really soak up everything that's great about the city.

3. Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

When it comes to the stunning architectural wonders of New York City, it's hard to beat Grand Central Terminal.

This location essentially represents the center of the city, as passengers from all across the city arrive by train, coming and going by the millions each and every day. Take the time to stop in the middle, open your eyes, and drink in the exquisite design. And be sure to also enjoy the nearby shops and restaurants before rushing off to check out the next free activity on your list.

4. The High Line

The High Line

The High Line has truly become one the most popular places to visit in the city. A proud example of New York urban renewal, the High Line is built above Manhattan's west side on an abandoned rail line.

Extending from Gansevoort Street to W. 34th Street, there is plenty here to keep you busy for hours, from pop-up restaurants to wine bars. It's a great place to spend the afternoon exploring the city while enjoying a glass of beer or wine as you watch the fabulous sunset.

Another great thing about the High Line is that it allows you to enjoy tremendous views of the city while also escaping the traffic below.

5. Chinatown


Now, let's talk about Chinatown. This is a great part of the city to spend time exploring when you're wanting to keep spending to a minimum.

That's because there's so much to discover and enjoy without spending a dime. This is one of the most vibrant parts of the city, with sites and sounds that will stimulate your sense and blow your mind.

Take your time exploring the street stalls, browsing the endless variety of quirky shops, and indulge in some of the most delicious Chinese food you've ever tasted.

Just make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny of Chinatown, so that you won't miss out on all the hidden mysteries and exotic experiences it has to offer.

6. Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

Here is the best way to get to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty up close for free. The Staten Island Ferry also gives you the chance to view the skyline of Manhattan from a totally different perspective as you travel across New York Harbor.

7. St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Back in the heart of Manhattan, here is a landmark that captured the spirit of the city more than anything else. St. Patrick's Cathedral is a gothic-style church designed by New York architect James Renwick and completed in 1879.

It's truly awe-inspiring and is sure to give you chills as you walk in and observe the towering ceiling and stained glass.

The church seats more than 2,000 people and especially popular during the holidays, but it's a great place to visit during any month of the year.

8. Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

When you're ready to enjoy the sunlight and do a bit of people-watching, make sure to put Washington Square Park at the top of your list.

This is one of the most popular and idyllic locations to spend a few minutes or even an entire day. The park covers nearly 10 acres and is typically filled with families, chess players, musicians, sunbathers, students, and folks just out getting some exercise.

Washington Square Park was obviously named for the first president and offers plenty of historic value. It's located in a vibrant, gorgeous New York City neighborhood and is sure to become one of your favorite spots in Manhattan.

9. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

For the art lovers out there, The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission every Friday from 4-8 p.m. This is the ultimate way to experience some of the most amazing galleries found on the planet.

10. Strand Book Store

Strand Book Store

Next up is Strand Book Store. After all, what could be better than spending hours browsing shelves filled with more than 2.5 million titles?

That's right, this 93-year-old New York City bookstore has more books than you'd ever be able to look at in an entire lifetime. In fact, many people consider it the greatest bookstore anywhere on the planet.

This is a great way to spend a rainy day in the city, just be prepared to become hypnotized and lose track of time. And you'd better bring plenty of cash because you definitely won't want to leave empty-handed with so many amazing titles to choose from.

11. New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Regardless of the size of your travel budget, no trip to New York City would be complete without a visit to the New York Public Library.

Believe it or not, this library system boasts the largest and most comprehensive collection of books, periodicals, musical scores, maps, and videos in the world, with more than 52 million items in physical and electronic formats.

12. Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is another New York landmark that will be instantly recognizable upon arrival.

Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, Rockefeller Center represents the center of New York City's culture. This is the place where you can enjoy some of the best shopping in the world, catch the TODAY show, test your skating abilities on the ice skating rink, visit the Christmas tree, and dine in a world-class restaurant.

And then if you don't mind spending a few dollars, be sure to visit the Top of the Rocks for an unbelievable view of the city.

13. Coney Island

Coney Island

Next on your list of free entertainment should be a stop at Coney Island. This is truly one of the most fun destinations to spend time, especially when it comes to the summer months.

With a reputation as a tourist trap, you might actually be surprised by its charm, and you'll definitely fall in love with the food and fun available around every corner.

Hang out at the beach, spend the day checking out the promenade, or have the time of your life riding the rides, and then relax as you stroll the boardwalk.

14. Times Square

Times Square

Perhaps no other single location in the city is more representative of NYC than Times Square. It's certainly the hardest to ignore.

This the crossroads of the world, with enough splashy lights and sounds to overstimulate your senses like nothing else you've ever experienced. Times Square boasts the brightest lights, biggest parties, and biggest music, hosting the largest New Year's Eve celebration found anywhere in the country.

In fact, more than a half-million people typically gather here to welcome in the New Year every single year, making it the hottest place to be even when it's freezing outside.

15. Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo

Don't forget about the Bronx Zoo!

After all, this is an unforgettable experience for every animal lover. The Bronx Zoo has more than 700 animal species contained on 265 acres of land that's been designed to mimic their natural habitat. This is the ideal way to escape the busy streets of Manhattan for the day and let your imagination run wild.

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