Although it is one of the most expensive cities in the world, New York also offers things to do 100% for free.
The best part is that most of these options involve top tourist attractions, places you can discover without taking a dime out of your pocket.
Of course, the panorama of New York seen from the Empire State Building is worth all the money, but if you’re in The Big Apple on a budget, you should know that you don’t have to sacrifice your savings to spend quality time in The City.
So, no matter how small is your travel budget for a few days here, your vacation can be as successful as possible with these top 10 free things to do in New York.
top 10 free things to do in New York
1. Take a walk through Central Park
It’s not the only park in the world with this name, but it is for sure the most famous one. Central Park is located right in the heart of Manhattan and covers an impressive surface.
The 341 hectares, which makes it bigger than Monaco, hide a lot of fascinating places that are worth discovering. The lungs of Manhattan, as it is artistically named, is 4 km long and almost 1 km wide.
Its expanse includes lakes, forests, meadows, wider or narrower alleys, shrubs, secular trees, animals and birds, boats, cliffs, and fabulous views of the city’s skyline.
No wonder it’s on the 1st place in the top of the most used filming locations in the world. I even assure you that, going through it, you will have a lot of deja-vus. Every corner is going to remind you of an American movie you’ve seen.
The park looks spectacular in any season, but its beauty seems to reach maximum levels in autumn. This is because the leaves of the trees become copper, reddish, yellow, and their derivatives. The alleys are an explosion of color!
The oasis in the center of the urban jungle is also very beautiful in winter, especially if New York has heavy snow. Then, Central Park is dressed in white and decorated with lights of all kinds. Home Alone vibes 🙂
Visiting the park is a free activity and can mean a simple walk through the alleys with old elms, but it can also mean checking the main attractions of the park. They are not few at all.
Add to the list The Pond (the lake at the main entrance), the zoo, The Mall, Sheep Meadow, Bethesda Terrace, Belvedere Castle, Bow Bridge, and the list goes on.
READ ALSO: The best of Central Park in 20 photos
2. See the city on the High Line
The 2km long alleys are perfect for observing the city from several angles and a height of 10 meters. It is one of the favorite activities on the list of free things to do in New York.
Built over an old railway line, the High Line is a real innovation. Here you can take the most Instagrammable photos of New York City.
The main sights you can admire from the High Line are the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building.
3. Go to Times Square
As I said in other articles about New York, I feel that Times Square doesn’t need any more presentations, because it’s probably the first place you will go to when you choose to visit the city. And a place you have to put on the list of free places to visit in New York.
It’s definitely the busiest spot in Manhattan, especially after dark, when you don’t even have space to throw a needle. The intersection of Seventh Avenue, 42nd Street, and Broadway becomes even brighter in the dark of night when all electronic billboards display hundreds of advertisements.
Also in Times Square takes place the event that celebrates New Year’s Eve. This moment is watched by millions of people, both on the spot and in front of small or large screens.
If you’re wondering where the name Times Square came from, well that’s no mystery. The famous American publication of the New York Times is based there.
READ ALSO: One day in New York City
4. Take the ferry to Staten Island
In general, in most metropolises that are surrounded by water, you can take the ferry to admire the city from the water. It is a costly activity, but not in New York.
You can board the ferry to Staten Island every day for free and enjoy some impressive views. Besides, the ferry passes a short distance away from the Statue of Liberty. You may not be able to admire it in detail, but you will be close enough to be happy that you managed to see it for free.
The ferry ride takes about 25 minutes and departs every half hour from Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. It arrives at St. George Terminal on Staten Island.
If you’re riding a bike on the streets of New York, you should know that you can take it with you on the ferry. These boats are huge and can accommodate up to 6,000 passengers.
5. Go on a free walking tour of New York
In The Big Apple, you can go on a lot of free tours around the city. Simply search on Google “New York free walking tours” and you will find countless options.
For example, you can choose a 2.5-hour tour that includes the most important tourist attractions. The major difference is that on these tours you will also find information about them. Things you should normally look for yourself if you are going to see the city on your own.
There are tours both in English and in other languages of international circulation, such as Spanish, French, etc. Although these tours are completely free of charge, you can leave a tip for the guide, as a sign of gratitude for this effort and time. Generally, a tip of $ 10 / person would be highly appreciated.
In general, free tours in New York include the Charging Bull statue in the Financial Center, the 9/11 Memorial, the impressive One World Trade Center, St Paul’s Chapel, SOHO, Little Italy., Chinatown, Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo, etc.
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6. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
One of my favorite activities in New York is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. You certainly know it because it represents a typical image of the city.
The bridge was completed in 1883 and, at that time, it was the first suspended bridge made of steel and the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was also the first bridge connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan, and this led to the accelerated growth of Brooklyn’s population.
Crossing the bridge can be done both by car and on foot or by bicycle. The ride takes about 60 minutes and offers one of the most famous and beautiful panoramas of New York.
It is best to go on Brooklyn Bridge very early in the morning or the evening for a panoramic view of the illuminated skyline of Manhattan. Visiting the Brooklyn Bridge is an activity not to be missed, especially since it is one of the free things to do in New York.
ALSO READ: The best of New York City in 20 photos
7. Go to Rockefeller Center and window shopping on 5th Avenue
Rockefeller Center is an ensemble of 19 buildings located in the center of Manhattan. Also here, every year is the famous Christmas tree. You must get here around the winter holidays and admire the lights of the Christmas tree, which are around 50,000 in number.
There is also an ice rink next to the Christmas tree, but this is not part of the free activities you can do in New York because you will have to buy a ticket to be able to ice skate near Rockefeller Center.
I also included 5th Avenue at this point because it is located nearby. Millionaire’s Row, as it is also known, runs all over Manhattan from north to south.
5th Avenue is said to be the most expensive street in New York and the best place to shop in the world. Shopping may not be one of the free things to do in New York, but window shopping costs nothing.
On 5th Avenue, in addition to luxury stores, are some of the most famous buildings in New York: Empire State, MOMA, and Flatiron Building.
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8. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Opened in 1879 and built-in Gothic style, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick is overwhelmingly beautiful, especially in contrast to the ultra-modern skyscrapers.
It is made of brick and white marble, the construction took 21 years. It is the largest Gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States.
The cathedral boasts 21 altars, 19 bells, and over 2,800 stained glass windows. 8 archbishops of New York are buried here.
In general, you must buy a ticket to visit a religious place of such size. St. Patrick’s Cathedral makes a discordant note, meaning that you can visit it for free and it is worth admiring its interiors.
9. Go to Grand Central
Another place, almost as used as Central Park, when it comes to filming locations in New York, is the Grand Central Terminal.
Opened in February 1913 and visited daily by nearly a million people, Grand Central is a real attraction that you can visit for free in New York.
It is the largest train station in the world, according to the number of platforms. Its surface covers 49 acres. The main room is the one with the blue ceiling, which we can admire the 12 zodiacal constellations.
Here, we can also see a clock estimated at $ 20 million. The phrase “Meet me at the clock” refers to it and is understood by every New Yorker.
Apart from trains and hustle and bustle, at Grand Central, you can find just about anything, from take away food to Michelin stars restaurants, entertainment areas, and much more.
10. Visit the 9/11 Memorial
Although many years passed since the tragic event, 9/11 is still an unforgettable day in the history of the United States. In the memory of the victims and the two twin towers that collapsed, we can now visit and bring our tribute at the two reflecting pools.
On the walls of these pools, we can read the names of all the almost 3000 victims who have lost their lives at that moment.
It’s a very dramatic and emotional scene, especially since the pools are located right in the footprints of the two towers. The pools are made of black granite and each has a waterfall, 9 meters deep, in the middle.
The two monuments are part of the free things to do in New York; you only need to pay for the ticket if you wish to visit the Memorial Museum.