There are endless things to see and lots of fun things to do in New York City, however, visitors to this city that never sleeps might soon realize that lots of things to do can sometimes take a toll on the wallet. New York City may be a world-class destination on the top of many people’s travel lists, but it is also one of the more expensive places to visit.
For those wanting to visit the Big Apple and to experience all that this vibrant and energetic city has to offer, while stretching their travel budget, fear not. New York City can be affordable if you take advantage of the many fun and free things the city has to offer that will save you from breaking your travel bank. Here are a few of just the many FREE, yes free, things to check out!
Explore Central Park
One of the world’s premier urban green spaces happens to be located New York City. Central Park provides plenty of free and relaxing spots to escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a tranquil wonderland of adventure just waiting to be explored. In fact, visitors can spend almost an entire day meandering through the lush tree-lined paths and trails.
As you stroll through this magnificent park, be sure to check out the Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields, a memorial dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, visit Belvedere Castle (yes, there is a fairy-tale castle in the park), find Cleopatra’s Needle (an ancient obelisk originally from Alexandria, Egypt), see the historic Central Park Carousel, have a picnic on Cherry Hill, explore and take in the beauty of the park’s 40 bridges and arches, and make a wish in the Bethesda Fountain. This park has something for everyone.
Window Shop Along 5th Avenue
5th Avenue, sometimes called “Millionaire’s Row”, is home to luxury retailers and top designers from all around the world. Although it is a shopping mecca for wealthy New Yorkers, visitors on a budget can still enjoy a bit of the posh life by strolling past some of the best window displays in the world. Luxury stores and brands include Bergdorf Goodman, De Beers, Fendi, H. Stern, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue and more.
Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Located in Midtown, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the city’s most famous churches. Constructed in the year 1878, this beautiful Neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic church attracts over 5 million visitors each year. Tours are free, but donations are accepted.
Although going to the Top of The Rock will set you back a pretty penny, visiting the famous fountain and plaza is free. Fans of the Today Show may even have a chance to be a part of the crowd during one of their early morning live broadcasts. If you are visiting during the Holiday season, this is where you will find the world-famous Rockefeller Christmas tree and ice skating rink.
Visit Grand Central Station
This historic train station is breathtakingly beautiful. Located in Midtown, Grand Central Station has been a location featured in many Hollywood movies and television shows. Visitors can grab a bite to eat or find unique items while shopping at the Grand Central Market. Be sure to check out Grand Central’s famous clock.
This is where the crossroads of humanity intersect and where New York City’s biggest celebration takes place each New Year’s Eve. This neon-lit, people watching square may be considered a bit touristy and tacky for some, but this historic landmark area is something that is a must see. Just don’t ask to pose with the costumed characters unless you want to pay for the privilege of doing so.
Hudson Yards/The Vessel
New York’s newest and hottest must-see tourist spot is the new Hudson Yards and the mesmerizing Vessel, a coppery architecturally stunning interactive structure that is now one of NYC’s most Instragrammable spots. Tickets to enter the Vessel are free, however, you must register for a designated time slot in advance. Hudson Yards is a modern luxury shopping mall that is located either at the start or end of the Chelsea High Line, depending on which part of the High Line you start at.
The High Line
What began as an innovative public works project to transform the old elevated train tracks in the former Meat Packing District and the Chelsea area, has given birth to one of New York City’s most unique and spectacular public parks. Walking the path from the Chelsea Market to Hudson Yards, visitors are treated with some of the best public works of art and views of the Hudson River. Read more.
Explore The Sights and Delicious Smells of Chinatown and Little Italy
Chinatown and Little Italy are two historic ethnic neighborhoods that are among the most visited locations in NYC. Located in Lower Manhattan, Canal Street separates these two vibrant neighborhoods. To the north is the home of Little Italy and to the south of Canal Street is the area known as Chinatown. These areas are a haven for foodies as they are filled with some of the best authentic ethnic foods in NYC. Do spend time browsing through the various souvenir shops and marveling at all this compact area has to offer.
The World Trade Center Memorial
The events of 911 have forever changed the lives of so many New Yorkers, as well as the city’s skyline. Where the Twin Towers once stood is now one of the world’s most haunting memorials honoring those who lost their lives on that sad and fateful morning. Although the National September 11 Museum will cost you to enter, the outdoor memorial and grounds are free to explore. This is one place every visitor to NYC should not miss seeing.
Wall Street and The Financial District
This world-famous street is home to the New York Stock Exchange and is considered the epicenter of America’s financial-economic power. As you stroll through this compact area, many of the sights might look familiar as numerous Hollywood movies and television shows have been filmed here. The famous “Bull” statue is also located in this area of lower Manhattan. Tip: If you plan to snap a picture of it, come very early or have lots of patience as this is a popular attraction swarming with long lines of tourists clamoring to pose with it.
This beautiful park situated at the southernmost tip of Manhattan attracts visitors for its views of the Statue of Liberty and the Jersey City skyline. In addition to providing gorgeous views of Miss Liberty, the park also has many fascinating things to discover. Many of the parks monuments and statues pay tribute to the history of New York City as well as honor our military heroes. Most notable are: The Netherlands Memorial which celebrates the colonization of New Amsterdam, the Giovanni da Verrazano Monument, the Immigrants Statue, American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, Korean War Veteran’s Memorial, World War II East Coast Monument, and Castle Clinton, a Fort build in 1811 (Free to enter).
Take the Staten Island Ferry
Instead of splurging for a ticket to take a boat ride to see Miss Liberty, why not hop on the FREE, yes FREE Staten Island Ferry which will take you right pass this famous statute. Once you reach Staten Island, simply exit the ferry and get back on the returning one. This is a relaxing way to take in the views of the famous statue as well as be treated with great views of Lower Manhattan.
Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the world and is on the top of many visitor’s bucket lists. Walking across the bridge from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn is a perfect way to see New York City’s spectacular skyline. The Brooklyn Bridge is an attraction that is open 24 hours a day. There is both a pedestrian lane and a bike lane. Be aware of this when you are walking in order to stay safe. Have your camera ready to take a few iconic pics of this historic landmark.
Enjoy The Street Art of East Lower Manhattan
New York City has no shortage of amazing street art from the worlds best graffiti/street artists, however, the murals located in Lower Manhattan are an incredible collection. The sheer volume of colorful and eclectic art murals housed in the historic section of tenement lined streets is a sight for the artsy soul. While most NYC neighborhoods will have a scattering of murals spread throughout the area, Lower East Manhattan has artistic murals painted just about everywhere. The majority of this area’s street art can be found east of Bowery and south of Delancey, an area that is a mixture of gritty urban life and hip artistic revival.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in the Big Apple that it was hard to choose my favorites for this list. Let me know what your favorite free things are to do in NYC. Drop me a comment and I will check it out on my next trip to New York. As always, be sure to “Like”, “Tweet”, “Pin”, and “Share” this article with your friends.
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used in this article have been photographed and are owned by Paulette Klein. All rights reserved.