Today (December 15, 2014): Top 10 free things to do in New York City.
New York, New York, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! New York City is undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Big Apple represents the ultimate cosmopolitan destination and defines the urban lifestyle. Here, you can visit some of the world’s best museum collections, shop till you drop, attend world-class performances, and find yourself having to make tough choices when it comes to staying at one of New York’s most luxurious hotels. Unfortunately, there’s no denying that New York City is expensive for visitors. But finding free activities to fill your day in the City That Never Sleeps is easier than you might think. I picked the 10 best attractions in New York that won’t cost you a cent.
There is more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Tell us your favorite free thing to do in New York City in the comments section, or take my poll below!
10. RIDE THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY
The Staten Island Ferry is free and carries over 22 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile, 25 minute run between the St. George Terminal in Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Each day, five boats make more than 100 trips, carrying approximately 70,000 passengers. It is one of the last remaining vestiges of an entire ferry system in New York City that transported people between Manhattan and its future boroughs long before any bridges were built. The free boat ride provides majestic views of the New York Harbor, the Downtown Manhattan skyline, and Statue of Liberty.
9. VISIT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
With nearly 53 million items, the New York public library is the second largest public library in the United States (and third largest in the world), behind only the Library of Congress. It’s main branch in Midtown Manhattan is located in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square, along Bryant Park, and admission is free. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in New York, so a visit should be on your to-do list, particularly its reading room fit for 500 patrons reading with the aid of the library’s original Carre-and-Hastings lamps.
8. ENJOY A FREE CONCERT AT CENTRAL PARK
Central Park’s Summer Stage, an outdoor venue running during the summer months, offer approximately 30 free-of-charge performing events in the world’s greatest urban park with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. Highlights include the New York Philharmic annual concert and the Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital (these concerts are performed in the parks of New York City’s other boroughs as well). Theater buffs may also like to attend the Shakespeare in the Park plays, presented free each summer at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (or the Public Theater in the East Village).
7. BE ARTY AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA)
Founded in 1929 as an educational institution, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) features 125,000 square feet in gallery space that holds extraordinary exhibitions and the world’s finest collection of modern and contemporary art. This six-story midtown gallery building reopened in 2004 after a major renovation and expansion, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, and is a place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration. Admission – normally $25 per adult – is free for all visitors every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tickets are not available in advance, and you need to be prepared for a long queue.
6. ATTEND A FREE – OR HEAVILY DISCOUNTED – MUSICAL
No visit to New York is complete without attending a Broadway musical. While musical tickets are expensive (usually at least $100 per person), you can try your luck at a musical lottery. Rarely, winning the lottery means free Broadway tickets, as most of the time, you get to buy them at a heavily discounted rate, usually around $25. Arrive about five minutes before the drawing takes place at the box office, just enough time to fill out a piece of paper with your name and the number of tickets you need (you are allowed 1 or 2). Lotteries tend to be a bit quieter on midweek days, in the winter, or in bad weather.
5. WATCH THE WORLD GO BY AT GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
While Grand Central Terminal remains the busiest train station in the USA, it is also one of New York City’s most historical landmarks and a living, bustling temple to the city’s illustrious past. Built in 1913, Grand Central was saved from destruction by New York’s landmark laws and vocal New Yorkers, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Brendan Gill, who wanted to see Grand Central restored. Extensive efforts to restore and revive this National Historic Landmark lead to its re-dedication on October 1, 1998 when Grand Central Terminal had been restored to its original glory. If you are hungry, do not forget to visit the food court at the station’s lower level.
4. ENJOY A FREE MOVIE UNDER THE STARS AT BRYANT PARK
From June to August, check out Bryant Park for a free, weekly, outdoor movie screening on Mondays evenings. The movies are generally old classics, but the genre ranges weekly. Be sure to get there early, as the park fills up quickly with avid moviegoers. The grass opens for picnicking at 5 p.m. and the films begin at sunset, typically between 8 and 9 p.m. So, bring a lawn chair, a blanket, and a picnic basket and enjoy a movie under the stars with your loved one(s). Romance guaranteed!
3. GET LOST IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s largest and finest art museums. Its permanent collection includes more than two million works of art spanning five thousand years of world culture, from prehistory to the present and from every part of the globe. But with all those works of art on displayed over two million square feet of exhibition space, it can be difficult to choose which works of art to seek out, so make sure to come prepared. Entry is officially free, but most visitors pay a small donation or the full recommended price. Don’t forget to visit the rooftop to soak in the breathtaking views of the Midtown Manhattan skyline and Central Park.
2. ENJOY SPECTACULAR VIEWS FROM THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
The Brooklyn Bridge, a New York City icon, is one of the oldest hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridges in the USA. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway open to walkers and cyclists in its center above the automobile lanes. While walking from Brooklyn towards Manhattan, you will be overwhelmed by the skyline views unfolding in front of you. Make sure this to make your first outing when visiting the Big Apple!
1. WALK THE HIGH LINE
It doesn’t take brilliant travel minds to tell you that a park is free to visit – most parks are. But most parks aren’t like this one, which has the feel of an attraction. The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) aerial greenway built on an elevated section of a disused railroad spur called the West Side Line. Inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) Promenade Plantée in Paris, it took 10 years for permits and construction to be completed, and transform the area into a unique and stunning oasis with flowers, fountains, benches and stupendous views of the Hudson River, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.