Free Things to Do in New York

Whether you live here in New York or are planning your next trip, here are free things to do in NewYork for families and couples.

When traveling on a budget, what could be better than free attractions and activities?

Central Park

  • 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 Central Park, Manhattan’s famed claim to thinking ahead (even if it was designed in the 1860s to boost real-estate value uptown).
  • It’s filled with free events, statues, people-watching and sites like Strawberry Fields, an ‘Imagine’ mosaic near the Dakota, where John Lennon was killed in 1980.
  • Another site is ‘the Pond,’ at the southeastern corner, where Holden Caulfield kept turning to in ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ wondering where those ducks go when it’s cold.

Chelsea galleries

  • New York’s most concentrated area for a gallery crawl is in Chelsea, mostly in the 20s streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. Check Gallery Guide for listings.
  • All galleries are free entry, with no pressure to buy. And try timing your visit for wine-and-cheese openings on Thursday evenings.

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum

  • It’s always Fashion Week in the FIT Museum, which features rotating exhibits by students and a surprisingly interesting and detailed collection of the country’s first gallery of fashion, picked from a collection of 50,000 garments dating from the 18th century to present. Seventh Ave & 27th St, Garment District, Midtown West.
  • General Ulysses S Grant National Memorial (aka ‘Grant’s Tomb’), also called ‘Grant’s Tomb’, the $600,000 granite structure that holds the remains of the Civil War hero and 18th president (and his wife Julia) is the largest mausoleum in the US, and is patterned after Mausolus’ tomb at Halicarnassus, making it a plagiarized version of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Riverside Dr at 122nd St, Morningside Heights.

Governor’s Island

  • The ferry to Governors Island is $2 round trip, but access to the 172-acre island – which is open May through September – is free.
  • There’s a 2.2-mile bike path, mini golf, a picnic area, plus military sites such as Admiral’s House and a ‘ghost town’ of sorts at Nolan Park. Ferries leave from Battery Maritime Bldg, Slip 7, Lower Manhattan.

Grand Central Partnership Walking Tours

  • Two historians lead free 90-minute walking tours at 12:30pm every Friday, hitting places like Grand Central Terminal’s ‘whispering gallery’ and the Chrysler Building. 120 Park Ave, at 42nd St, Midtown East.
  • New York Earth Room.  Now for something completely different: the Earth Room, Walter De Maria’s 1977 art installation, a single room filled with 280,000 pounds of dirt, combines the framework of an ordinary office with the scent of a wet forest. 141 Wooster St, SoHo

New York Public Library

  • Remember the Dewey Decimal System? The New York Public Library, New York’s most famous library (aka the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square.
  • It’s fronted by marble lions named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude,’ and is a jaw-dropper to walk through – particularly the reading room fit for 500 patrons poring over tomes under the library’s original Carrère and Hastings lamps.
  • There are exhibits too, including a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, plus 431,000 old maps.
  • Free tours take place at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday (closed Sunday in summer). Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East.

New York Public Library

  • Remember the Dewey Decimal System? The New York Public Library, New York’s most famous library (aka the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square.
  • It’s fronted by marble lions named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude,’ and is a jaw-dropper to walk through – particularly the reading room fit for 500 patrons poring over tomes under the library’s original Carrère and Hastings lamps.
  • There are exhibits too, including a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, plus 431,000 old maps.
  • Free tours take place at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday (closed Sunday in summer). Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East.

Staten Island Ferry

  • Everyone wants to see the Statue of Liberty, but the ferry tours there start at $18.50 for adults.
  • Fortunately, the Staten Island Ferry, which cuts across the New York Harbor and offers a great view of Lady Liberty, is absolutely free.
  • Having been in service since 1905, the ferry carries 19 million people across the harbor each year. East end of Battery Park, Lower Manhattan.