8 Free things To Do in New York City
Featured destinations: New York
Published 22 June 2016
It’s just a couple of days into your New York trip and you’ve spent all your money on Broadway tickets and a scenic helicopter flight. Your jaw hits the floor as your realise you’ll still have to fork out US$32 to go up the Empire State Building and US$25 for Guggenheim Museum admission. Immediately you regret that spur of the moment trip to Tiffany & Co. But fear not, there’s plenty to do in the Big Apple that won’t cost you a dime.
The fabulous Museum of Modern Art normally costs US$25 to go inside, but if you go on a Friday afternoon between 4pm and 8pm it’s completely free. Hurrah! Modern art fan or otherwise, come to marvel at the masterpieces, including works by Matisse, Van Gogh and Picasso, and browse your way through over 200,000 examples of drawings, photographs, sculptures and paintings. Don’t miss Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans or Roy Lichtenstein’s Girl with Ball.
Staten Island Ferry
To see the Statue of Liberty up close, you’ll need to hop on a boat. Of course this will cost you, and more still if you want to disembark and walk up the pedestal or climb to the sculpture’s crown. But if you’re happy to forgo walking on Liberty Island (after all, the statue is best appreciated from afar) then the Staten Island Ferry is your best bet. Completely free, the ferry sails every 20 minutes or so, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. From the ferry, you can enjoy uninterrupted views of Liberty standing proudly, torch held aloft. Once you reach Staten Island, tour the museums, grab some lunch or simply hop on the next ferry back to Manhattan.
National Museum of the American Indian
Open every day except Christmas Day, this Smithsonian museum is found inside the historic US Customs House, a beaux-arts construction built in 1907, which is worth a look in its own right. The exhibits tell the history of the Native American people and showcase an impressive collection of arts, textiles and photographs.
You can catch some incredible gospel performances in New York City and, best of all, they’re free as part of church services. The Times Square Church is a convenient place to try, plus they hold services on Tuesday and Friday evenings in case you’re not in town (or indeed not awake) on Sunday morning. To find out more check out our Guide to the Best Gospel Choirs in NYC.
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across this iconic bridge takes about half an hour, depending on how often you stop for photos. You’ll no doubt share the pedestrian walkway with just about the entire population of New York, but don’t let that stop you – the views of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn side are fantastic. Plus, you can take the opportunity to explore a bit of Brooklyn (pizza, anyone?) before you come back again.
The High Line
Talking of walking, the High Line is a 1.45-mile long section of reclaimed railway line, raised up above street level, forming a pretty and surprisingly leafy park from which to gaze over the hordes of yellow taxis below. To stroll from end to end takes about half an hour, but it’s best to take your time, and walk in both directions to make the most of the views.
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is crammed full of 53 million books and items including 431,000 maps, 16,000 atlases, plus a copy of the Declaration of Independence. From Monday to Saturday you can take a guided tour at 11am and 2pm for free, or just wander in and take a look around. The library’s crowning glory is the magnificently ornate ceiling of the Rose Main Reading Room (unfortunately closed until 2017), but even if you don’t go inside, the building is impressive enough from the outside, with its lion sculptures Patience and Fortitude standing guard.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
The square pools of the National September 11 Memorial sit in the positions once held by the twin towers of the World Trade Center before their shocking destruction in 2001. The attached museum displays photographs, possessions and voice recordings of those killed on that fateful day, and tells the story of the event and its impact in (sometimes graphic) detail. Tickets usually cost US$24 per person but if you show up on a Tuesday afternoon at 4pm, you can nab free tickets valid from 5pm until closing time at 8pm.
See the sights of New York with our Cities & Paradise Journey, which takes you on an awe-inspiring helicopter ride over the Big Apple and includes free entry to three top NYC attractions.