Spending your vacation in New York City can be expensive. The main attraction in New York City like the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, museums like the Guggenheim or just a simple boat trip on the Hudson charges a lot of money for their tickets.
There are sightseeing passes that will save you some cash, but did you know that there are a lot of best free things to do in New York City? What are the actual free activities in NYC?
10 Best Free Things To Do In New York City
Us locals, we know all the tricks to live cheaper in a city like New York, where a cold brew coffee already costs $4 and up. If you want to find out the best free things to do in NYC, this article is made for you. The good thing is, that I not only have the 10 best free things to do in New York City ready for you. Check out my personal 21 best free things to do in New York City plus all the free stuff to do in NYC.
Visit Governors Island
Escape the hustle and busy city life to an island in the New York harbor that used to be a military site. It’s probably one of the best free things to do in New York City. Ride a bike, play mini-golf, enjoy a picnic and take some photos of the nearby Statue of Liberty.
Feel the magic of the beautiful Grand Central Station
One of the main New York City attraction that doesn’t cost a dime is the beautiful Grand Central Station. So if you are wondering what kind of free activities NYC has to offer, Grand Central is one of the best things to do and see. Walk around inside this magical terminal, watch the commuters rushing to work and soak it all in. There’s a lot of real New York life right inside this train station.
Brooklyn Brewery Tour
Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours of its facility every half hour on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 pm. If you always wanted to find out how beer is made, this is your place to go. After the tour, you can drink the beer for only $5 a pint which is a great deal for New York City. Probably one of the coolest free stuff to do in NYC.
Check out the best galleries
Did you know that you can find one of the best art galleries in New York City? Free galleries are also on my list of free things to do in NYC. When we are getting asked what you can do in New York for free, visiting these amazing galleries in NYC is always on our list of recommendations. If you want to find out which art galleries are the best and worth visiting, check out our article about our favorite galleries in the city.
Get to explore Central Park
Another main attraction for free in NYC is Central Park. I go there to run others come to Central Park for picnics, walks or weddings. Central Park is beautiful and magical wherever you go which is why it’s on our list for the best free things to do in NYC.
The Museum at FIT
Overseen by fashion historian Valerie Steele, the Museum at FIT showcases selections from the institute’s permanent collection. But you will also find temporary exhibitions focusing on individual designers and fashion’s role in society now and then. The museum is free of charge and a perfect choice from all the free activities in NYC.
FIT owns one of the largest and most impressive collections of clothing, textiles, and accessories in the world. Did you know that they present 50,000 costumes and fabrics dating from the 5th century to the present? ( 227 W 27th Street)
Dance at Summerstage
Are you looking for more free stuff do to in NYC? One of my favorite free things to do this summer is Summerstage in different parks across the five boroughs. You get to see big names in rock, indie, hip-hop, jazz, and more performing live on stage.
Just make sure to get there early to claim a spot close to the artists. It’s an amazing event with nearly 100 free and benefit performances from 200 artists in Central Park and 17 neighborhood parks across New York City.
Visit the Vessel at Hudson Yards
Just recently opened but already one of the best free New York things to do is the Vessel at Hudson Yards. The oddly shaped piece of art invites its visitors to climb up the stairs free of charge to enjoy the views of the Hudson Yards territory and the High Line. Tickets should be reserved online in advance for free. More information about the Vessel and how to get the tickets can be found here.
Hop on the Staten Island Ferry
One of my favorite free New York City activities is the Staten Island Ferry. Enjoy the fresh breeze on board of the Staten Island Ferry which takes you in 25 minutes from Manhattan to Staten Island free of charge. It’s one of the best free attractions in NYC and also worth doing if you want to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Our favorite time to ride the Staten Island Ferry is during sunset. There’s probably no better ambiance on the ferry than during that time of the day.
Escape to Eataly
If you’re looking for free things to do when it rains in NYC the Eataly is a really good bet. Either the Flatiron or Downtown location is both indoors and takes you to the delicious and fun world of Italy. Still, don’t have enough stuff to do in NYC for free? Wandering around is completely free and definitely leaves you with the feeling you just visited Italy. I would also recommend either having pizza or gelato at the Eataly. This won’t be free obviously but it’s worth every penny.
Walk along the High Line
When it’s nice out, make sure to check out the High Line in New York City. It’s one of the best free things to do in New York and a place where you can watch the most beautiful sunset as well. The abandoned aboveground railroad track turned into an urban park and is now even connected to the Hudson Yards neighborhood. If you want to avoid the crowds make your way there early in the AM.
Take a break at the Public Library
Free New York City activities? Yes, that works. If you feel like you need a break from all of the sightseeing, city noises and crowds, go check out the New York Public Library. It’s not only where all Sex and the City fans will remember Carries almost wedding, but also a great place to take a quick break from the city.
Visiting the Public Library is free and should be on your list if you want to explore the best free things to do in NYC.
See the Christmas Tree
What to do for free in New York during the holidays? One of the free Christmas things to do is going to Rockefeller Center to check out the Christmas tree. The famous tree attracts thousands of visitors every day when it’s lit up during Christmas time in NYC. It’s very romantic too which is why a lot of men go down on one knee at this location in New York. So if you were wondering what is there in Manhattan to do for free, there you go.
Window shopping on Fifth Avenue
Shopping on 5th Avenue isn’t for everyone. If you want to keep your budget for your New York trip in place and enjoy one of my favorite things to do in New York for free simply enjoy a free walk on New York Cities’ most famous avenue. Window shopping can be just as exciting as real shopping. Most of the stuff we see, we don’t need anyway.
Stay on your budget and enjoy New York for less by just looking at the shopping windows without actually going inside.
Explore Coney Island
Without a doubt, Coney Island is probably the most fun out of all the free New York City activities. There’s an amusement park, the beach, the boardwalk and so much more to explore in Coney Island. It’s a little bit of a hassle to get there but it’s definitely worth going. If you want you can spend an entire day in Coney Island. Don’t forget to try the most famous Hot Dog’s in the city at Nathan’s Famous.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Join the crowd’s rain or shine and walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s not only one of the most beautiful things to do in NYC but also one of the New York things to do that are free. We always recommend walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan (not the other way around) in order to enjoy the stunning views of the New York City skyline.
Go for a run in Prospect Park
They say “the best things in life are free”. Believe it or not, but there are actually tons of best free things to do in NYC. If you’re into running try something different and join the Brooklyn folks running through Prospect Park. I know, running in Central Park seems to be the real deal, but Prospect Park is just as nice, hilly and enjoyable. You will also have fewer tourists, horses, dogs, and cyclists around you.
Free Yoga at Bryant Park
Since we were diving into free New York activities that are outdoors, there is one more thing that I would like to share with all my Yogis who are reading this. Overall one of the best free things to do in New York this summer is the popular Bryant Park yoga classes are offered by Lululemon Athletica and last 1 hour.
Free Yoga in New York? Yes, you read this right. Tuesday morning classes are from 10 am-11 am and Thursday evening classes are from 6 pm-7 pm.
My Personal Top Free Activities In New York City
Let’s be honest, did you expect that there are so many top free things to do in New York City? When I have guests in town, of course, the first question is always what is there to do for free in New York. Out of all the free activities in NYC, there are three that I really enjoy doing the most.
#1 Bronx Zoo on a Wednesday
If you’re interested in visiting the Bronx Zoo, go on a Wednesday, because it’s free all day. We always make a small donation to help support their operating costs and to aid their work in caring for animals here in New York. This totally up to you of course.
The Bronx Zoo on a Wednesday is high up on our list for free things to do in NYC with kids. Especially when you come to NYC with your children, it can get very expensive. Make sure to get there early, because it can get very crowded at the Zoo on a Wednesday.
#2 Enjoy the view from Rosevelt Island Tramway
Technically the Rosevelt Island Tramway isn’t free. They charge you $2.75 to ride it. But most tourists are taking advantage of the unlimited metro card, while they are visiting New York, so you don’t have to pay extra for it in that case. The views are pretty nice and you get the chance to take some really nice photos from up there.
Rosevelt Island itself is free. People actually live on that island and it’s getting more and more popular too. On the island, you can walk around and enjoy the tranquility for a little bit before you’re heading back to the tight sightseeing schedule in Manhattan.
#3 Tour the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
We’re getting asked a lot if you can tour the Federal Reserve? The answer is: YES! Guided tours of the Federal Reserve are offered every weekday (excluding bank holidays). This is the only way to get into the Federal Reserve and see the Vault and other exhibits.
It’s a fantastic free activity to do in NYC. Besides the fact that you get to see a lot of real gold, you will also learn about the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve. Just don’t forget that you have to book 1 month in advance.
I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!