10 Free Things To Do In NEW YORK

New York is one of the most amazing cities to visit in the world. But many people are under the assumption that is has to be expensive, well, that isn’t true at all. In fact there are plenty of things to do in NYC that won’t cost you a cent!

Brooklyn bridge, 2013, walking, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Firstly, as well as the things listed on this post there are plenty of bargains to be had from sightseeing to airfares, accommodation and food, I will be covering those in another post.

Also, one essential thing everyone needs when they come to NYC, it’s not free, but it is cheap and great value and will enable you to do everything on the list below. That is a subway pass or Metro Card, a 7 day pass is only $30 and gets you everywhere on the map! If you are unsure go to a station with a counter and also make sure and ask for a map. Further information is available on the MTA website here:

subway, mta, chamber street, underground, metro, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Here are my favourite things to do for free in NYC:

Staten Island Ferry

This is a classic, the Staten island ferry is an amazing service provided by the city of New York for free. The crossing takes around 30 mins and you will get amazing views of downtown New York, the Statue Of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. What is also great is that it is full of locals too meaning you get the chance to chat and also just see a part of everyday NY life.

LOCATION: Southern most tip of Manhattan near Battery Park
SUBWAY: In Manhattan, J/Z to Broad Street; 1 to South Ferry; 4/5 to Bowling Green. In Staten Island, Staten Island Railway to St. George.
WEBSITE: www.siferry.com

staten island ferry, view from staten island ferry, downtown manhattan, downtown new york, world trade center, freedom tower, new york skyline, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Parks

New York is full of amazing parks all offering something different. Of course central park is the main one and it is massive, lots of things to see and do in here for free, make sure you don’t miss Bethesda fountain and the lake.

LOCATION: Runs through the centre of Manhattan (Pretty hard to miss!!)
SUBWAY: Subway covers all sides of the park well with the West being the closest so it depends where in the park you want to go, but 72nd is a good place to start as it is near the John Lennon memorial and a short walk to the fountain and lake.
WEBSITE: www.centralparknyc.org

central park, lake, boating, plaza hotel, sunny day, summer, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Highline:

Over in Chelsea this converted railway line is a really unique park, complete with natural flora, existing train lines and amazing views as it cuts through the city, across intersections, past old factories and apartment buildings.

LOCATION: Meatpacking Dist/ Chelsea/ Lower West Side

SUBWAY: 14th Street & 8th Avenue, 23rd Street & 8th Avenue, 14th Street & 7th Avenue, 18th Street & 7th Avenue, 23rd Street & 7th Avenue
WEBSITE: www.thehighline.org

highline park, empire state building, train tracks, chelsea, fauna, natural plants, hipster, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Washington Square Park:

Famous for the Washington arch and street performers this park is always a centre of activity, culture and creativity.

LOCATION: Greenwich Village
SUBWAY: W4 Wash. Sq, 8th St. NYU, Astor Pl.
WEBSITE: www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washingtonsquarepark

washington square park, culture, hipster, arch, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists, nyu

New York is full of parks, to have a look at what else is available have a look on the NYC Parks website here: www.nycgovparks.org

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is a brilliant way to see the city and one of it’s most famous landmarks. The walk is about a mile long but well worth it. I would recommend getting the subway over to the Brooklyn side of the bridge and then walking back over to Manhattan.

LOCATION: Downtown Manhattan/ City hall
SUBWAY: Manhattan: Brooklyn Bridge/ City Hall, Chamber Street
Brooklyn: High Street, Borough Hall.
WEBSITE: How to walk the Brooklyn Bridge

brooklyn bridge, walking, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

9/11 Memorial

Obviously this is a very moving thing to see but in my opinion is something no one should miss. Although this is free you will have to book a time slot online at least a day before you go for which there is a small admin fee. The time slot isn’t strictly enforced but you may be required to bring ID.

LOCATION: Downtown Manhattan/ Financial District
SUBWAY: Fulton Street, Park Place, World Trade Center, Rector Street, Cortlandt Street.
WEBSITE: www.911memorial.org

9/11 memorial, ground zero, fountains, holes, squares, names, twin towers, world trade center, centre, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Wall Street/ Federal Hall

Wall street is the centre of world finance and depending on your point of view the home of all that is wrong or great about capitalist society. Either way it is somewhere not to miss, along Wall Street there is also Federal Hall which is the site where Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the USA. (Inside is closed on weekends)

LOCATION: Downtown Manhattan/ Financial District
SUBWAY: Wall St, Broad St, Fulton St.
WEBSITE: www.nps.gov/feha/index.htm

wall street, capitalism, money, new york stock exchange, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists, federal hall, george washington

Grand Central Terminal/ Station

This beautiful and historic station with it’s famous main hall is an amazing site and a must do. There are plenty of shops, markets, restaurants and details to see and make sure to step outside to see the main entrance too.

LOCATION: Midtown Manhattan
SUBWAY: Grand Central – 42st.
WEBSITE: www.grandcentralterminal.com

grand central, station, terminal, train, main hall, windows, light, wedding, art deco, 1920s, twenties, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
This is us on our wedding day in Grand Central, Credit to Jang Photograph

New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)

This building is probably most famous for being in the blockbuster “The Day After Tomorrow” but not only that this beautiful and historic building is the second largest public library in the world (behind the Library of Congress). There are lots of historic artefacts and texts in here but the building itself and specifically the rose main reading room will take your breath away.

LOCATION: MidTown/ 5th & 42nd
SUBWAY: 42nd Street and Broadway, 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Grand Central Station
WEBSITE: www.nypl.org

new york public library, rose, day after tomorrow, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Times Square

What is a trip to NYC without going to Times Square, granted it is full of shops and restaurants to spend your money on but it is also an experience in itself. The flashing lights and sea of people, the buzz and hive of activity, it’s great just to sit on the red steps and take it all in. Toy’s ‘r’ us and other shops are also great to just walk around.

LOCATION: Midtown, Broadway & 7th.
SUBWAY: Times Square.
WEBSITE: www.timessquarenyc.org

times square, theatre, theater, crossing, yellow cab, wedding, wide angle, fun, jumping, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Flatiron Building/ District.

Built in 1902 the Flatiron was New York’s first skyscraper and this unusual building has become an icon of the city. Madison square park is also across the road and is a great place to relax and admire the building and surrounding area from.

LOCATION: 5th & Broadway, Midtown.
SUBWAY: 23rd St (N, R, 6)
WEBSITE: www.nycgo.com

flatiron, building, district, lights, angle, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Walking/ Subway/ City Hall

Ok, so bear with me on this one was it might seem obvious but I truly think the best way to see and experience any city is by walking. The great thing about New York and many other cities in this respect is that with the subway covering almost everywhere you can wander to your hearts content and know once you are ready to head back a subway stop with usually be within a block or two.

chelsea peir, chelsea, river, new jersey, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

Walking is when you come across the little unexpected things which make you feel that much more connected to a place, things that would not usually be mentioned on lists like this too, those little details which make a place unique.  Soho, Chelsea and Greenwich village have to be some of my favourite walking locations but the whole of the city is out there for you.

chelsea, old building, faded signs, industrial, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you should have your subway ticket already, and just like walking the subway opens up the whole city for you. This kind of depends on the type of person you are but I know the first time I came to NYC I wanted to see every side to it. So with my metro card in hand I travelled to all 5 boroughs, got off at random stops and really felt I got under the skin of the real New York and not just Manhattan.

coney island, shoot the freak, brooklyn, wonder wheel, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Coney Island, Brooklyn
citi field, mets, flushing, queens, shea, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Citi Field, Home of the Mets, Flushing, Queens
queens, graffiti, factory, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
The old 5Pointz building in Queens
brooklyn, subway, overpass, under the tracks, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Brooklyn
staten island, suburbia, suburbs, burbs, wooden house, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Staten Island houses

 

queens, subway, water tower, graffiti, train, sunset, NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Subway and water tower in Queens

 

bronx, gun hill road, subway,NYC, New York, 10 free things to do, free things to do in NYC, travel, New York, explore, adventures, photography, usa, tourism, tourists,
Gun Hill Road, at the time the last stop in the Bronx

Check out for my Trip report from my latest trip to NYC : NYC June 2013
Have a look at our “Budget NYC Trip” ideas

Have you anything to add to this list? If so just comment below!

If you found this useful please share too.

See more photos on our Facebook here:

See more from this country:

USA

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.