Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
New York is one of the most famous cities in the world. But it is also the most expensive city in America. Visiting the Big Apple, however, doesn’t have to send you into bankruptcy, as there are plenty of free activities that both New Yorkers and tourists can make use of.
From world-famous attractions like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge to art galleries and ferry rides, here are 14 of the best free activities dotted throughout New York City.
One of the most famous NYC attractions, the Brooklyn Bridge, is also one of the best free attractions. The 1.1-mile bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges, is completely free to walk over and gives you some of the best views of Manhattan.
While you’re there, stop by the free Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy waterfront views and green spaces perfect for picnicking or playing sports.
Carl Schurz Park
Carl Schurz Park is a tranquil green space that offers a sense of serenity for both locals and tourists alike. The park’s carefully curated gardens, sprawling lawns, and meandering pathways make it an excellent free destination to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Chelsea Art Galleries
Chelsea in New York is home to over 300 art galleries making it a haven for art lovers and those in search of free indoor activities in New York City. Some of the most popular galleries, David Zwirner, Luhring Augustine Gallery, Paula Cooper Gallery, and the Chelsea Art Museum, draw in art enthusiasts from all over, offering thought-provoking exhibitions and contemporary artworks.
You can’t visit New York and miss out on Central Park—Central Park is a staple! And, of course, being a park, it is completely free, which makes it even better. Covering 843 acres, Central Park is a popular attraction all year round and has plenty of things to see and do, like the Bow Bridge, The Mall, The Ramble, and the Strawberry Fields.
Coney Island Boardwalk
The Coney Island Boardwalk stretches along the Atlantic shore and has plenty of entertainment options like arcades, carnival rides, and all the amusement park food options you could think of. However, even if you are on a budget, you can still enjoy the atmosphere of Coney Island and the nearby stretch of sand that is ideal for people-watching and an afternoon in the sun.
Grand Central Terminal Station
Usually, visiting a train/subway station isn’t an enjoyable activity. But that can’t be said for the Grand Central Station—one of the prettiest and most famous stations in New York and the world.
The Grand Central Station has been a backdrop in many a movie, and its architecture and ceiling art only adds to the station’s appeal. Grab a coffee, find a bench, and people watch the 750,000 visitors that walk through the station every day. You’re guaranteed to see some characters.
Socrates Sculpture Park
One of New York’s less touristy parks is the Socrates Sculpture Park, which houses dozens of sculptures and art projects that are all free to enjoy. The park even offers amazing views of the Manhattan skyline!
Staten Island Ferry
It’s almost unheard of to find free transportation in New York City, which is why the Staten Island Ferry is a must-do for those looking for free activities in the Big Apple.
The Staten Island Ferry takes you past the Statue of Liberty (for free!) and gives you uninterrupted views of the city’s skyline. For the best views, take a ferry trip around sunset!
The High Line
The High Line is a railway-turned-green space with murals, NYC views, and plenty of photo opportunities. On a sunny day, the High Line gets extremely busy, but it’s still worth a visit as it’s a unique site you won’t see anywhere else.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
You do have to pay to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art—or the Met if you prefer—however, even just gazing upon the outside of the building and the steps leading up to the Met is an attraction all in itself.
The Rockaways offer a unique coastal escape for both New Yorkers and tourists. The beach’s pristine stretches of sand and waters that are ideal for surfing draw in those in need of a break from the urban hustle.
With a boardwalk, eateries, and surf shops to explore, you can spend hours enjoying the Rockaways and all they have to offer.
Times Square is yet another iconic attraction that everyone visiting New York has to see for themselves. Experiencing Times Square’s huge billboards, street performers, and atmosphere is one of the top free things to do in New York City—especially at night!
Union Square Greenmarket
Nestled in the heart of Manhatten is the Union Square Market—a bustling market with a backdrop of New York City’s skyscrapers. Farmers, artisans, and food vendors come together to sell freshly baked goods and locally grown produce, which transform the market into a kaleidoscope of colors. Even if you’re on a budget, just strolling past the stalls in Union Square Market is an enchanting experience. But we highly recommend tasting some of the food the market has to offer!
Washington Square Park
Another great park in New York City is Washington Square Park, which spans almost 10 acres and has plenty of history dating back centuries. During the summer, especially, the park has plenty of free activities to enjoy, but even in the winter, you can sit by the fountain, stroll over to the Washington Square Arch and see the Empire State Building.
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