20+ Things To Do In New York City That Won’t Cost You A Penny

For one of the most expensive cities in the world, both to live in and to visit, New York has a surprisingly high amount of free things to do – not unlike London. If you are on a budget but still want to tick off the big-ticket items off of your New York bucket list, look no further!

free things to do in new york city

Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Discover how they set monetary policy and more. Mandatory advance registration here. Make sure to book a guided tour to access the famous vault.

Fashion Institute of Technology Museum: holds one of the largest and most impressive collection of clothing, with items dating back to the 5th century.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: for all things technology, geek and modern science.

Museum of Modern Art (free on Fridays 4PM-8PM): perhaps the most important museum of the city, with works by Monet, Dali, Warhol and Munch.

Guggenheim Museum (pay-what-you-wish on Saturdays between 5:45PM and 7:15PM): Definitely worth a go, as the building is just as popular as what’s inside – namely Manet, Picasso and Chagal, for example.

Governor’s Island: Birthplace of the State of New York and home to Castle Williams. Easily reachable by ferry.

High Line: A 1.6 km long linear, urban park on an elevated railroad in the heart of the Meatpacking District.

free things to do in new york city free things to do in new york city

Brooklyn Botanic Garden (free on weekdays between December and February; also Tuesdays and Saturday mornings the rest of the year): 52 acres of green goodness with a strong love for flora.

Bronx Zoo (free on Wednesdays): more than 5000 species and Wild Asia monorail.

Brooklyn Bridge Park: for the best views of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge, and the best ice cream on the planet.

Central Park: obviously!

NBC Studios live tapings: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live are free if you manage to get your hands on tickets.

free things to do in new york city

Staten Island Ferry: Hop on the free ferry from Whitehall Terminal in Battery Park and admire the view of Lower Manhattan.

Brooklyn Brewery Tours (free tours on Saturdays): Visit the iconic brewery and taste some authentic ales and lagers.

Grand Central Terminal: the largest train station in the world, and the most fascinating.

free things to do in new york city

Shakespeare in the Park: a tradition since 1954. Get to Delacorte Theater early or visit the online version to get tickets for the same night event.

St Patrick’s Cathedral: one of the oldest cathedrals in the city.

Public Library: the second largest library in the US, with more than 53 millions of books.

Rockefeller Center: pick up a free map in the main lobby for a self-guided tour through the Art Deco skyscraper.

Coney Island: easily reachable by subway for a day trip to the oceanside.

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34 Comments on 20+ Things To Do In New York City That Won’t Cost You A Penny

  1. Puerto de Mogan Apartments
    December 3, 2012 at 6:41 am (6 years ago)

    Woah! I never knew so many museums in NYC had free entries. I hope now I can plan my NYC itinerary in budget! :)

    • Marie
      December 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm (6 years ago)

      If you time your visits right, you can do SO many things for free in NYC!

  2. Ayngelina
    December 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm (6 years ago)

    I wish I had known all of this when I was there this summer!

  3. The Educational Tourist
    July 31, 2014 at 8:06 am (5 years ago)

    What a great post! When we take the kids to NYC we count cabs while walking between destinations. The kids had never seen so many! When we reached triple digits, we began to discuss if we had seen any twice? Sure passed the time while walking.

  4. christy
    August 10, 2014 at 11:37 pm (5 years ago)

    Many museums have a suggested price but you can really pay any amount you wish. The MET & the Natural History in NYC will ask you at the register if that amount is ok. I say “no, I’d like to pay ___$ amount. ” I’ve had friends pay as little as a quarter.
    Just a tip I’ve learned from others while living here. Also Bank of America customers can get into many for free the first full weekend of the month.

    • Marie
      August 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm (5 years ago)

      Good to know, thanks Christy!

    • Lori B
      October 1, 2017 at 8:43 pm (1 year ago)

      Good to know!

  5. Michel Tanguay
    August 26, 2014 at 1:50 am (5 years ago)

    Un autre truc gratuit: traverser le pont de Brooklyn à pied. Le Williamsburg se fait à pied aussi . À Brooklyn je recommande le Transit Museum . Un musée du métro dans une station désaffectée ! Ça vaut le coup d’oeil !

  6. Michel Tanguay
    August 26, 2014 at 2:09 am (5 years ago)

    Also , head for Bedford métro station. Trendy Greenpoint neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough. That is where the girls in the tv show GIRLS live. They shot the Kiesza Hideway video as well. then walk north and jump back in the métro at Greenpoint station.

  7. Michel Tanguay
    August 26, 2014 at 2:49 am (5 years ago)

    It is worth noting that Coney Island oceanside means an actual beach ! August /september being best time to jump in ! Personal favorite, Manhattan Beach ( in spite of its name this one is in Brooklyn)

  8. Ana Bernier
    September 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm (4 years ago)

    Do you know where to stay withing a low budget?

  9. Taryne Gaddi
    January 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm (3 years ago)

    Do the free entry times to the Museums still apply? Lovely blog and post! :) x

    • Marie-Eve
      January 30, 2016 at 9:35 pm (3 years ago)

      Better to check on each website individually, but I can’t see why it would’ve changed! :-)

  10. Claire
    March 10, 2016 at 2:17 am (3 years ago)

    Great recommendations! Hope you had a fab trip in my hometown.

    Also wanted to note that you can drink on the Staten Island Ferry, so BYO bottle of wine or buy some cheap beer on board the next time you want to peek the Statue of Liberty at sunset.

    xo Claire at Nifty NYC

    • Marie-Eve
      March 11, 2016 at 11:08 am (3 years ago)

      Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  11. Kati (Ms B Travels)
    May 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm (3 years ago)

    I am going to NY soon. I really enjoyed this post and will be heading to some of these sites. I love free places! Thank you!
    PS – If you’re ever in the US again soon, head to the South (GA/SC/VA, especially). There’s so much to see there!
    *I am unsure if you’ve been there or not, so if you have disregard my PS. :)

    • Marie-Eve
      May 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm (3 years ago)

      Happy to help Kati!
      (I haven’t and I’m dying to!)

  12. Robi Mcfarland
    January 17, 2017 at 11:02 pm (2 years ago)

    I will be visiting in May and would love to map out a route to Chelsea market and China town. Can you suggest how to accomplish this when we will be dropped off in time square?

    • Marie-Eve
      January 24, 2017 at 12:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Just walk and explore the streets that look appealing to you! Part of the fun of exploring NYC is getting a little bit lost :-)

  13. April
    July 19, 2017 at 11:18 am (2 years ago)

    Great tips – true that NYC can be one of the most expensive cities to visit but there are really lots of free or nearly free things to do in the city. The Met is pay what you want and I’ve known people who pay only $0.25 for their entry ticket. One of my favorite museums, The Frick Collection, on the upper east side, has free hours each month, as well as the Morgan Library. And walking around Lincoln Center is always fun, too.

  14. stephanie
    March 3, 2018 at 10:43 am (1 year ago)

    Im planning a trip to New York so this article was very helpful!
    Just came across your blog and i love it!

    • Marie-Eve
      April 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm (12 months ago)

      Thanks Stephanie!

  15. David
    January 6, 2019 at 5:25 am (2 months ago)

    Great suggestions. I’m a NY resident but many of these places are unknown to me. Thanks for writing this article, going to explore ’em all.


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