Top 12 FREE Things to do in New York City

by Jules on May 14, 2013

Entry fees at New York City’s top attractions can really ramp up the cost of your city break so it makes sense to look for a free activities and things to do to balance the travel budget;

Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The famous Staten Island Ferry has plied her trade since 1905, running from Battery Park in Manhattan over to Staten Island. And the commuter hop over New York Harbor is FREE running up to every thirty minutes. Over 19 million people use the ferry ever year which offers awesome views of the Statue of Liberty in one of the biggest cities in the world. For the best photos, get to the front of the queue and ride the ferry both ways. Note; the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty is chargeable although Ellis Island is currently closed until further notice after sustaining 59 million GBP worth of damage in Hurricane Sandy. Check before travelling.

Catch Shakespeare in the Park
If you’re in NYC in the summertime, try to get tickets to the FREE annual “Shakespeare in the Park” which is held at the Public Theatre.  If you’re lucky enough to bag tickets you’re in for a teal treat, as movie megastars Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman have performed here before! Prepare to queue at one of the box offices early and long. Perseverance wins!

Wander Central Park
Walk the most famous urban park in the world; Central Park. Spanning 38 acres and made famous by countless TV series and films, there’s always something going on. Created in the 1860s, this Manhattan super park has statues, mosaics and free events and festivals both day and night.

Walk the High Line
Have you heard of the High Line Park in New York? A disused elevated railway line has been turned into a 1 mile (1.6kkm) urban green space. You can walk the wildflower meadows, crisp lawns and unique monuments as daily life carries on beneath you. The walkway runs across Manhattan Lower West Side and was inspired by a similar project in Paris in 1993. The final section will be completed next year.

Hit the Beach
Yes New York has its fair share of beaches too and the Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk is a great place to hang out. Spanning some 170 acres of sand, Rockaway is popular with local families who come to fish, skate, swim, play volleyball and use the 7 playgrounds. This is also the only place to catch some surf in New York.

Admire Grand Central Terminal
You cannot fail to be wowed by the beautiful Main Concourse at the Grand Central terminal. With exquisite Beaux Arts detailing, this is one station you won’t mind be delayed at! And this year marks the 100th anniversary, so there are plenty of special themed events and festivals taking place.

Tour the City Hall
Enjoy a free tour of the City Hall which has housed the city’s government since 1812. The tours take in the highly decorative marble hall and the opulent governor’s room. You can also see the site where the coffin of former president Abraham Lincoln lay in state following his death in 1865. Located facing the Brooklyn Bridge, it is imperative to reserve a place on the tour in advance.

Hang out in Battery Park
Spanning 25 acres of lush green parkland is Battery Park which has superb waterfront views over Governors Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Filled with monuments, sculptures and memorials as well as careful planting, this is a more chilled alternative to Central Park.

Discover fine ecclesiastical architecture
New York City has a good assortment of gothic-style churches and cathedrals that won’t fail to impress. Check out the handsome Riverside Church on Riverside Drive that opened in 1930 and wows with its elaborate Neo-Gothic architecture. This is also the tallest church in the US at 392 feet (119 meters) tall. The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Devine was built in 1892 and sports exquisite Gothic Revival architecture. And finally there is the Roman Catholic St Patricks Cathedral on the east side of Fifth Avenue which is built in Neo-Gothic-style and is currently undergoing a comprehensive $ 175 million renovation programme.

Tour the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Prepare to be in awe of the Federal Reserve Bank’s vault which contains 10,000 tons of gold! Security is high (as you’d expect) and you’ll need to book in advance. The museum has exhibits displaying counterfeit currency and various coins of the world.

Explore the Botanical Gardens
There are two main botanic gardens that offer free entry. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a large orchid garden that offers respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. And the greenhouse is free to explore all day every Tuesday and from 10-12 each Saturday morning. The Bronx Botanic Garden features 50 separate gardens and is free to enter on Wednesdays and on Saturday mornings from 10-12.

Soak up the culture at the museums
Whilst the Metropolitan Museum of Art costs 25 USD and the Guggenheim Museum costs 22 USD to enter, there are some free museums in NYC. Such as the 1970’s designed Bronx Museum of the Arts which has over 800 multicultural works on display. The museum predominantly features modern art from local, African, Asian and Latino artists. See 50,000 fashions garments on display at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum. And in Lower Manhattan check out the National Museum of the American Indian, which has the finest collection in the US. In fact there are over 1 million cultural items on display.

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