What isn’t expensive in New York City? Rent is through the roof, cocktails are twice the price of other cities, and cigarettes are pricey enough to finally get you to quit. But while the city is known for its high cost of living, it’s also full of many amazing free activities you won’t find in any other city across the country. Sure there’s always a stroll through Central Park or embracing your inner-tourist in Times Square, but New York City is also home to a variety of amazingly free things. We hope you consider these ten options the next time you find yourself wandering around the Big Apple.
The High Line
In a classic “rails-to-trails” conversion, this 1.45 mile stretch of the New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line was redeveloped into a beautiful greenway. Elevated above the Lower West Side’s Meat Packing District and Chelsea neighborhoods, the High Line Park is now one of Manhattan’s most popular public parks and walking destination, attracting around 5 million visitors a year.
Attend a taping of The Tonight Show, The Late Show or The Daily Show
A number of America’s most popular late night and day time talk shows are filmed in New York City. The chance to sit in the audience of one of these culturally iconic shows is actually easier than you’d think. While you can always go the classic route of standing in line for hours, many shows also offer ways on their website to apply or reserve tickets in advance. Do your research though, as each show has differing policies.
Tour the Brooklyn Brewery and The Shanty
Converted from a matzo factory into a functional brewery, Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery stands as New York City’s favorite beer attraction, offering free tours from 1-5 PM on Saturdays and 1-4 PM on Sundays. Not too far from the Brooklyn Brewery you’ll find another great alcoholic beverage-related hotspot worth your while. The Shanty is a full-service bar connected to the New York Distilling Company. Open 7 nights a week as a bar, on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 PM they offer complimentary distillery tours.
Chelsea's Art Galleries
The amount of art galleries in Chelsea is a bit overwhelming. For those interested in visiting, but unsure where to start, here are a few recommendations to help you break into the scene. And yes, they’re all free to view. Greene Naftali Gallery highlights a number of conceptual artists, both big as well as emerging, spanning a variety of mediums, while a couple of larger galleries worth checking out include David Zwirner Gallery and Gladstone Gallery. However, if you’re looking to avoid the whole New York art scene but still interested in perusing some work, wander into Karma — a small bookstore/gallery that sells artist publications, posters, records and books, in addition to its gallery’s artwork.
Comedy at the Knitting Factory on Sundays
Originally hosted by Hannibal Buress, Comedy at the Knitting Factory has been continuously voted one of the best free weekly comedy shows in NYC. Beginning at 9PM (although you’ll want to show up early), this Sunday night stand-up comedy show is known to bring out some huge surprise guests. In addition to it’s now famous former-host, big name comedians that have graced the Sunday nights at the Knitting Factory stage include Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Dave Chapelle. Seriously, this might be the coolest free thing you can go to in the entire city. Don’t sleep on it.
Kayaking on the Hudson River
Interested in taking a ride across the city’s surrounding water while also getting a workout? Then kayaking on the Hudson River is for you. And guess what! That’s right… it’s free! If you head over to the Downtown Boathouse on the weekend, guests will receive a free 20-minute kayaking tour along the Hudson.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn Bridge Park
Always an oldie, but a goodie — take a walk down one of the oldest cable-stayed/suspension bridges in the United States, the 132-year-old Brooklyn Bridge. Also around the historic bridge you can visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where various free events are held each year. And for those with younger children, definitely check out Pier 6 and its multitude of free attractions including jungle gyms, Slide Mountain, Swing Valley, Sandbox Village, sand volleyball courts, and the Water Lab.
New York Public Library
Recognizable by the iconic “Library Lions” sculptures outside and ranking behind the Library Congress as the second largest library in the United States, Manhattan’s New York Public Library is the fourth largest library in the entire world. Filled with around 53 million items, this is one place in NYC you’ll never run out of things to see or read. Read the quotes that lead you into the building of books, which stands as the largest marble structure ever built in the U.S.
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden on Tuesdays & Saturdays
Originally founded in 1910 in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a 52-acre garden that houses over 10,000 plant species. Free to the public on Saturdays between 10AM and noon, all day on Tuesdays, and weekdays throughout December, January, and February — you will always leave this Botanical Garden wanting to come back for more. And with that many complimentary days, you can!
Take the Staten Island Ferry to the Statue of Liberty
In case you’ve already visited Central Park, Times Square, and the Freedom Tower — it doesn’t get much more New York than taking the Staten Island Ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Standing 305 feet tall (ground to torch) above Liberty Island, for the uninformed, this “colossal neoclassical sculpture” was designed by the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and gifted from France to the United States in 1886. If you’ve never been to New York City, the Statue of Liberty is an absolute must-visit.