New York City, the home of some of our favorite Marvel characters Peter Parker – Spiderman (Queens), Tony Stark – Iron Man (Manhattan), and even Captain American (Brooklyn). Even the DC Universe has their alternate reality as Batman’s Gotham is actually Manhattan.
New York, known as the city that never sleeps, and quite possibly on most travelers’ wishlist as they’d love to see the ball drop on New Years in Times Square, can be expensive to visit, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of free things to do in the city, including parks and museums, that require no to very little money, especially if you’re on a budget. That’ll leave with you some leftover cash to treat yourself to a meal at a fab restaurant or a Broadway show.
Here is a list of 15 free things to do in NYC when you’re on a budget and to help you plan your vacation.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA and one of the most recognized. You may have seen it in the Spiderman movie where Green Goblin dangles MaryJane from the bridge. Every day thousands of people bike or walk across the 1.3-mile bridge, which takes you from Brooklyn to Manhattan and vice-versa, and the views are magnificent.
While the rides at Coney Island’s Luna Park aren’t free, the boardwalk definitely is. Relax on the 3-mile beach or take a walk while listening to the sounds of music. Enjoy the fireworks every Friday night, beginning in June and ending the Friday just before Labor Day. Coney Island is the perfect place to unwind.
Looking for a quieter alternative to Central Park? Then Prospect Park is it. Did you know that the designers of Central Park also designed Prospect Park? Prospect Park boasts 585 acres and is a great place to relax, people watch, or even enjoy a lovely picnic. It is also close to the Prospect Park Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, so you can visit either one if your budget allows. Although the Botanic Garden does have free hours, so be sure to check that out.
Brooklyn Brewery (Weekends Free)
If you’re visiting with friends and would prefer to relax without the kids, then what better way than visiting a brewery. While only the weekends are free from 12pm, it’s a great way to kick back and relax on the weekend. It’s also a great way to enjoy the bar scene in Brooklyn with friends.
Opened Wednesday thru Sunday, the Bronx Museum of the Arts offers free admission to all ages. This multicultural art museum spotlights artists who are either Bronx-based, African, Latino, or of Asian ancestry in the 20th and 21st century and features more than 800 pieces of artwork. What a great way to embrace art!
Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays Only)
The Bronx Zoo has been touted as one of the best zoos in the USA. The zoo opens at 10 am and closes at 5 pm on Wednesdays, which is the only free day to visit. With more than 650 species available to see, it’s impossible to see them all in one day. There are many activities for the kids and a few paid exhibits, but if you’re on a budget, just visiting will be worth it.
Central Park Heckscher Playground
Quite possibly the most famous park in New York City, Central Park is almost always teeming with visitors. However, it’s a great place to also people-watch or simply sit on the grass and relax. If you have kids, then Heksher Playground is where they belong. Featuring sprinklers for hot summer days, rock climbing, and more, it’s a kid’s wonderland.
One of New York’s most iconic institutions is the New York Public Libary, the second largest library in the US. While you can take photos of the guardian lions, Patience and Fortitude, there are also free guided tours available Monday thru Saturday at 11 am and 2 pm, or Sundays at 2 pm. With 125 miles of shelves, you’ll be in the equivalent of 50 Central Parks.
Your New York vacation isn’t complete until you’ve paid a visit to Times Square, as it’s New York’s most popular tourist destination. While shopping indeed isn’t free, you’ll love the lights that Times Squares is famous for. It does get crowded, but it’s safe to visit. If you visit during the Christmas holidays, you might want to think about seeing the ball drop on New Years’.
Would you like to see where the famous Christmas tree is lit every year? Then Rockefeller Center it is! While there’s also the famous skating rink, there are lots to see and do there. Including the public art pieces located around the plaza, such as Atlas holding up the world. While there are official paid tours, you can wander around for free.
South Street Seaport is the sea lovers paradise and home to the Seaport Museum. While there are usually concerts during the summer, you can delight in the architectural history and peruse the many shops and restaurants in this lower Manhattan district. Here you’ll also get a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
While taking the NYC Subway or MTA buses will cost you $2.75 (or more on express buses), the Staten Island Ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island is absolutely free. The ferry, which runs 24hrs a day, is a great way to visit Staten Island and offers magnificent views of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island along with Governors Island and the Manhattan Skyline on your way there.
Did you know that this is New York City’s second-biggest park? There’s so much to do here, including not one or two, but six playgrounds, a zoo, boating lake, a botanical garden, baseball stadium (Citi Field, home of the Mets), tennis stadium (Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the US Open is played), and much more. No matter what your desire, you can find it here. Before you leave, make sure to snag a photo of the Unisphere, the giant steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair.
While we would visit the Queens County Farm Museum during the fall for pumpkin picking and the corn maze, it’s not the only time to visit. This is a favorite for schools as they also offer a petting zoo. The Queens County Farm Museum is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and is one of the largest undisturbed farmlands in New York City.
If you’re into artwork but of the outdoor variety, then you must pay a visit to Socrates Sculpture Park. It is one of the few locations designed explicitly for artists to create and display their public artwork outdoors; however, exhibitions are temporary, so you may never see the same thing twice at each visit. The park is open 365 days a year, and the location gives spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
While New York City can be expensive to live in or even visit, it’s a tourist paradise with lots of free activities. Enjoy the food, the sites, and listen to free music performed by very talented musicians on the street or in the subway stations. Pay a visit to Governor’s Island and peruse the gift shops, experience art at the Chelsea Galleries, then make a pit stop to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is unusually different from the other parks in the city, and then end it all at Grand Central Terminal where you can visit the “Whisper Wall,” free tours are also available at Grand Central Terminal.
And if you’d like to add a few attractions that do cost money, consider buying a New York City Explorer Pass where you’ll save up to 50% on admission costs and still explore many attractions for one low price.
Enjoy New York City and its boroughs!