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City slickers

Top 12 free things to do in New York

Jess Dante April 1, 2014

Statue of Liberty New York

There’s so much to do, eat and see in New York City that experiencing all that the ‘Big Apple’ has to offer can really add up. Luckily, there’s plenty to do whilst there that won’t cost you a dime. Here are 12 of our favourite free things to do on your holiday:

1. Take a walk along the Highline
The Highline, a refurbished elevated subway line on the west side of Manhattan, is a favourite with both locals and visitors. During the warmer months, the plants and trees that line the pathway are in bloom, making it the perfect place to go for a stroll or to sit and enjoy a takeaway lunch. The views are certainly worth it in the winter too—you’ll come across talented street artists and artisan food carts offering their goods any time of the year.

2. Brooklyn Brewery Tour
Venture off the isle of Manhattan and head to the Brooklyn Brewery. All New Yorkers, regardless of which borough they reside in, are fans of this brewery and what it stands for.  Head to the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border (easily accessible on the L Train) on a Saturday or Sunday for a free tour. Beer tasting isn’t included, but beer tokens are available for purchase (we think you’ll be inclined to try at least ONE...)

3. Explore Central Park
No matter what the weather, a visit to New York isn’t complete without a stroll through Central Park. When temperatures are high enough that they don’t require a coat, the park is host to many free events and exhibitions. Take a look at the park’s official site for upcoming events, and for summertime entertainment, keep an eye on the Summer Stage’s schedule.

4. Visit Governor’s Island
Take the 7-minute ferry over to Governor’s Island (free on Saturday and Sunday mornings) and you’ll feel as if you’re not in New York City anymore. The island’s 172 acres are free to roam and explore at your leisure—ride along the island’s bike path, play mini golf or just enjoy the greenery.

5. Tour the New York Public Library
Whether you’re interested in seeing the stories-tall stacks of books, the building’s intricate marble detail or the spot where Carrie posed for photos in her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, a free tour of the New York Public Library is one not to be missed.

6. Take the Staten Island Ferry
Why pay for a “Statue of Liberty Boat Cruise” when you can take the Staten Island Ferry and pass by Lady Liberty for free? Hop on the ferry, marvel in her glory as you head to Staten Island, then just take the next one back to Manhattan and see her again!

7. Skip the museum entrance fee

The most popular museums in New York are among the most expensive in the world. But there are ways to get around these fees. Head to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on a Friday between 4 and 8pm and you’ll get in for free. Also, many visitors aren’t aware that the admission price of $22 to the American Museum of Natural History is “suggested”—you can actually pay anything you’d like. For a bit of science fun for the kids, head to the New York Hall of Science between 2 and 5pm on Fridays, 10-11am on Sundays, from September to June.

8. Be on TV

TV programmes such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and Good Morning America are all filmed with live audiences—and those lucky viewers didn’t pay a dime to be in the action. Check out’s guide to scoring tickets to live tapings of some of the US’s most popular shows. Ticket availability and ease of booking differ between shows, so plan well in advance of your visit.

9. Hop on a Free Tour

Free Tours by Foot offers name-your-own-price walking tours, so technically, they aren’t free. You pay what you want for your tour—and since Free Tours By Foot are ranked in the top 30 activities in New York on Trip Advisor, you’ll be getting a pretty great deal.

10. See a Juilliard Performance

The world-famous Juilliard School is where the most talented creative arts students in the world go to study and practice their art. The school often hosts performances that you can get free tickets for – take a look at the Juilliard Calendar to see show availability, then call the box office for more information on how to reserve a free ticket.

11. Kayak the Hudson River   

Downtown Boathouse offers free 20-minute kayaking tours in the Hudson River on the weekends. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, go for the three-hour option instead. Check Downtown Boathouse’s calendar for availability.

12. Watch a live jazz show
The historic West Village jazz club hosts two jazz shows an evening, and there’s never a cover charge to watch. With past acts like Charlie Parker and Roy Hargrove, you know you’ll be in for some great music.