I love New York City! I had the opportunity to live in the big apple after college and I worked in the big apple every summer until I had kids. I love the smell, the people, the action, the food, the shopping, the walking, I love it all. New York City has so much to offer! Plan a trip to New York City, and use this list of mostly free things to do in NYC as your NYC guide!
29 Free Things To Do in New York City
To do everything on this list would take a good month! I divided the list up categories to make choosing free things to do as easy as possible. I recommend picking 1-3 things to do in a day, and take time to explore your surroundings. Oh and if you like cupcakes, be sure to checkout my lower Manhattan battle of the cupcake and 10 fun, free things to do with kids in downtown Manhattan.
Unique Photo Ops in NYC
1. Brooklyn Bridge
Walk, jog, skip or ride a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. You will absolutely want to take pictures of the Manhattan skyline or the bridge!
2. Take the free Staten Island ferry
Enjoy a free ride around the New York Harbor and lots of fun photo opportunities, including the Stature of Liberty. Ferries run every 3o minutes except during rush hours they run every 15 minutes. The ferry ride is one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty. Pro tip: You can reserve ferry tickets from Manhattan to Ellis Island for $25.50 that include access to the Statue of Liberty.
Pro Tip: Try to avoid the rush hour ferries from 7-8:45am and from 5-6:45pm because they will be packed.
3. Visit the Hello Deli from David Letterman
If you’re lucky, you can take a picture with Rupert. The sandwiches are yummy too.
4. Love sculpture
5. Naked Cowboy
The Naked Cowboy can typically be spotted on the corner of 45th and Broadway in Time Square right before lunchtime!
Get free tickets to live tapings of TV shows
6. Be a part of these live New York City audiences for free
- The Daily Show
- The Dr. Oz Show
- The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
- The Voice
- Saturday night live ticket lottery: Send an email to: [email protected]
- Late Night with Seth Myers
- The Rachel Ray Show
- Live with Kelly and Ryan
Kid Friendly Activities in NYC
Most activities on this list can be done with kids in tow, but the following 5 things are my very favorite free kid activities.
7. Sony Wonder Technology Lab
The Sony Wonder Lab is permanently closed.
Free Admission! This is a kid must do. Call (212) 833-8100 to reserve tickets at least 7 seven days in advance. You can reserve tickets Tuesday- Friday 9-2pm. The address is 550 Madison Ave. at 56th St.
8. Bronx Zoo
9. Roosevelt Island Tram
10. Hudson River Park
This is one of our go to spots in the Manhattan, it’s a huge 550 acre park, with 400 acres of river front property! We like to grab a few slices of pizza and hang out on the grass. The views are beautiful and Maxwell loves smelling the flowers and making new friends. Oh and the people watching is great too. There is a lot more to do than picnic on the grass. I wrote another post with 10 free things to do with kids in downtown Manhattan with more details about the Hudson River Park!
11. Downtown Boathouse
Free Museums in NYC
12. One World Trade Center
Visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and and Museum. Memorial Plaza is free to visit, but you can also take a guided tour from a staff member for $15. The 9/11 Museum is free on Tuesday evenings from 5-8, the last entry is at 6pm. Below is a picture from 2008 that I took of the 9/11 site when it was still being built.
13. St. Paul’s Chapel
Not only is it Manhattan’s oldest building in use, it also withstood September 11th, and played a huge role in hosting recovery workers after the attacks. St. Paul’s Chapel sit directly across the street from One World Trade Center. Inside, there is a 9/11 Chapel of Remembrance that reflects on the role the church played in the aftermath of the attacks.
Admission is free every Friday from 4-8pm. Get there early because the line can wrap around the block! If you are not there on a Friday evening, adults tickets are $25, but kids 16 and under always get in free. MoMa hours and admissions info here.
15. Whitney Museum of American Art
Adults tickets are $25, and kids under 18 are always free.
16. Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Pay what you wish on Thursdays from 2-5pm. Closed on Monday through Wednesday. Kids under 1 year old are always free.
17. Federal Reserves Bank
Take a free 60 minute tour to learn about the role of the Federal Reserve System and money. Tours take place Monday through Friday from 1-2pm. Pro tip: No strollers are allowed.
Free Things To Do in Central Park
Central Park is 843 acres, and was established in 1857. It is 2.5 miles long between 59th Street and 110th Street, and is 0.5 mile wide between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. Central Park is also a great place to walk and explore with kids.
18. Explore 21 Playgrounds
Central Park has 21 playgrounds for kids! Here is an awesome list with descriptions of all 21. Don’t miss the Heckscher Playground oringially built in 1926, but recently updated in 2006. The playground has separate play structures for preschoolers and older kids, a climbing boulder, a giant sandbox, and in the summertime, awesome sprinklers.
19. Camp For Free
That’s right, with the Urban Park Rangers you can camp for free with your family in parks across New York City. S’more’s included!
20. Hans Christian Anderson Storytelling Center
Since 1956, children have gathered around Hans Christian Andersen’s statue at the Conservatory Pond in Central Park to hear fairytales from around the world. Storytelling happens every Saturday at 11am June, July, August and September.
21. Shakespeare in the Park
22. Central Park Tours
Get an insiders look at the world’s greatest urban park with free tours from the Central Park Conservancy. The tours cover many parts of the park including a welcome tour, hound hikes, and even a birding tour.
23. Rent Bikes
This isn’t free, but it is one of my favorite things to do in Manhattan, and it provides hours of fun! There are 3 parts to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway: We like to ride on the Hudson River greenway because it is the longest, and the entire path follows the river and is separated from traffic. Check Groupon for a good deals on bike rentals, we typically get bikes for $20- $30 for the day.
Awesome Parks and Free Gardens in NYC
25. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens offers free admission on Friday mornings before noon from March through November. There is also free entry on weekdays December through February! Not able to go on a free day? Adult tickets are $12, and kids aged 12 and under are always free.
25. Prospect Park
A 585 acre park in the heart of Brooklyn! There are lots of free, fun things to do with kids including playgrounds, basketball courts, nature walks, paddle boats, and picnics! There is a also a historic carousel that costs $2.50 per ride.
26. Socrates Sculpture Park
27. The High Line Park
Manhattan Landmarks You Have to See
28. Grand Central Station
29. Fifth Avenue
30. Chelsea Market
Note: Did you know that we’ve got 50+ guides with 10+ fun, free family friendly things to do in cities all over the world! Check out the complete list here. I like to call it Creating Really Awesome Free Trips!
Comments & Reviews
Were going the day they light up the tree! Can’t wait! Thank you for listing these!!
This is a great list. My daughter is spending a month in NYC studying over the summer and will enjoy a bunch of these things.
Rhian Purches says
Some great ideas here.
Thank you! We are planning a Thanksgiving trip and are planning to hit a good number of these on your list. I have only 1 question.. for the tram to Roosevelt Island.. did you do anything when you got there or did you just ride the tram there and back (staying on it), which I assume you pay for a ride there and back, so roughly $5 a person? I have been trying to look up things to do in RI, but cannot find too much other than maybe a lighthouse and garden areas..
Jamie Dorobek says
We just wandered around, and had a little picnic on the grassy area!
Wow, this is a great list! It’s been a long time since I visited NY and I definitely want to go again. Totally saving this list for future reference. 😉 Thanks for sharing and linking up with us at the #HomeMattersParty! Hope you’ll join in again!
Great list. Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for bringing this to our party and we hope to see you on Monday at 7 pm. Lou Lou Girls
What an amazing list of NYC freebies! These could fill up a while trip! Thank you so much for sharing these with us at the #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup!
Melanie Redd says
What a great post about free things to do in NYC. I love all of your creative ideas and pictures. I hope to get back to the city in the future, and I’m going to keep your suggestions handy~
Came over on the Live, Laugh, Linky. Glad to find your site! I also followed you on Pinterest~
Hope you enjoy the long weekend.
Kelly Deal says
I really want to visit NY sometime in the future. Thanks for listing all of the fun things to do!