See The Statue Of Liberty For Free
If your budget is tight, skip the Statue of Liberty tour altogether. Instead, take the Staten Island Ferry and brings you right past the statue. Just check out the picture above to see the sweet view youll get right next to the sightseeing cruises!
Insider Tip: Be sure to grab a spot on the upper deck on the right side of the vessel as you leave Manhattan.
You can either get right back on the return ferry once you arrive in Staten Island, or wander around a bit and grab lunch at one of the affordable Sri Lankan restaurants in the area. The ferries depart every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour and are 100% free.
And even if your budget isnt super tight, this is a good, less-touristy option.
Dazzle At Times Square
Locals and some hardcore anti-capitalists might despise this place but undeniably its a landmark in New York. Yes, its packed with tourists and wacky characters, but dazzling at all the lights, absorbing the incredible atmosphere and doing a fair share of people-watching is FREE.
Being here is such a movie-like moment I came back here twice in different moments of the day . Dont miss it.
What To Do In New York City For Free
This post lists hundreds of free things to do in NYC, including nighttime activities, things to do with kids, and museums and attractions.
Due to the ever-changing restrictions, entry times, etc. resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not updated each location or activity.
And before we get started, consider joining our NYC Travel Tips + Hacks Facebook group and get ideas from our guides and travelers who have visited NYC.
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Week Getting Around Nyc
If youre staying for a week in New York City, your best option is the subway. I mean, the 27 subway lines are sure to take you anywhere in Manhattan!
For this, I suggest the 7-day Unlimited Metrocard + $1 card itself. It gives you unlimited rides on the subway and city buses . There arent any zone limits either, so its a fantastic deal that saves you time and money. FREEDOM!
MTA says its worth if you ride the subway more than 13 times/week. It seems like a lot, but in a week, trust me, you WILL easily surpass this number.
Watch An Outdoor Movie
Our absolute highlight in the Summer in NYC is to catch a free outdoor movie at one of the many parks that are hosting the free outdoor movie series. Most of the parks have their last showing in late or early September. Some of the option to enjoy one of the fun inexpensive things to do in NYC are Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Rockaway Beach, and more.
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Night 3 For New York City Itinerary: Continue In Brooklyn
If you are visiting New York in the winter, why not get cozy and catch a movie at the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg? They screen new indie flicks with full-on meals and drinks .
If you dont feel like watching a movie, there are plenty of cool breweries, happy hour joints, speakeasies, and eclectic bars, like Barcade in Williamsburg, a retro arcade game bar with a great beer selection.
Theres also Bar Lunatico in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which hosts live music nearly every night. You can even play life-size shuffleboard at Royal Palms Shuffleboard. Theyre redefining a retire-person game with their 21+ bar, DJs, food trucks, and games.
Finally, if you feel like dancing into the wee hours of the morning, get a little weird at House of Yes, an establishment all about artistic expression and creativity, or head to The Bell House for themed-dance parties and music.
Get Cultured At The Museum Of Modern Art
Of all the museums, MoMA is my absolute favorite.
I like to arrive early, before the crowds. I think art is best viewed in solitude, and the MoMA is a testament to this. Early in the morning, it is nice and quiet and the experience always revelatory even after countless visits.
This is a fantastic old-school donut shop located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My pick for best donuts in New York, and more than likely the cheapest too. I recommend the maple donut.
Pro Tip: Skip the admission fee on Friday nights from 4-8pm.
MoMA, 11 West 53 Street, New York 708-9400
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Walking Is Free In New York City
I never get tired of walking in New York City or, rather, I get tired, but not bored. Theres something new around every corner! Here are some ideas of great places to walk in the city:
Places to stroll: Central Park, of course! Walk around the Battery in Lower Manhattan, or South Street Seaport or the Hudson River Greenway or across the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge .
view of the Manhattan Bridge from underneath in a neighborhood called DUMBO: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
If youre in NYC in November or December, make sure to walk along Fifth Avenue to admire the ornate windows of the high-end shops. When I was a kid, a trip to the city to see the windows was a yearly ritual.
Rockefeller Center: Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s and is certainly worth a look, especially if youre interested in the art and buildings of that period. Great people-watching too, especially at Christmastime. Between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, around 49th and 50th St, Midtown .
Figure above the entrance to Rockefeller Center
Art Deco: And speaking of Art Deco, even if you cant afford to take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building , the art deco style of the lobby is definitely worth seeing, if you can talk the guards into letting you in.
the Empire State Building
High Line: Gansevoort Street to West 34th between 10th and 12th Avenues, Chelsea.
The Manhattan skyline as seen from Governors Island.Smallpox Hospital, opened in 1856 on Roosevelt Island.
Visit The Museum Of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is home to some beautiful modern art. Personally, I dislike that style , but the MoMA also has Van Goghs Starry Night as well as other impressionist and post-impressionist art. So, even if youre not a modern-art fan, its still worth a visit.
And if you do love contemporary and modern art, this is one of the best places in the world to experience it. To keep your budget afloat, on Fridays after 4pm, the museum is free!
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Seasonal Activities For Kids
Summer in NYC keeps the kids busy with water activities, outdoor movies, playgrounds, and theatrical performances.
The fall has the Halloween Parade, Thanksgiving Parade, and pumpkin-related events galore, like the Great Pumpkin Flotilla in Central Park.
In winter, they can go ice-skating and see the holiday lights, including the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Spring has Easter egg hunts, Governors Island opens for the season, and baby animals abound at the Bronx Zoo.
See the Seasonal/Monthly section below for more information.
Be sure to look at the monthly posts for the time you are visiting, as they have a section dedicated to things to do with kids, including some free events
Attend Events & Excursions At A Discount
Download the Goldstar app or visit the website to purchase last-minute unsold event tickets at a deep discount.
Some discounted events Im seeing on the site right now include a graffiti workshop for $35 , a Bear Mountain cruise for $32.50 , and a speakeasy Halloween cruise for $12.50 .
Of course, you can also purchase a NYC sightseeing pass to save big bucks on local attractions. Some passes include:
- New York CityPASS. Get admission to NYCs six top attractions over nine days!
- The New York Pass. Snag admission to 100+ New York City attractions for up to 10 days!
- New York City Explorer Pass. Choose your own adventure as you customize your pass to include between 2-10 attractions!
Finally, you can search the Tiqets website for great deals on tours and attractions.
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What Should I Pack For A Weekend In New York
New York follows the seasons like a champ so pack for the weather youre going to get. In winter, youll be needing a super warm coat and shoes, as well as enough clothes to layer for the weekend. In summer, it gets exceedingly warm so dress lightly and have enough clothes to change if you need to, and dont forget to pack your sunglasses! Its also a great idea to bring a blanket or towel with you for any picnics you might have. In general, youll always need a pair of excellent walking shoes and an umbrella on the off chance you get caught in the rain!
Things To See And Do In New York City
: 7/12/21 | July 12th, 2021
New York City. Its one of my favorite cities in the world and one of the most popular destinations in the US. Sprawling, busy, exciting theres a reason people call it the city that never sleeps!
It has something for everyone including lots of budget-friendly activities for travelers looking to stretch their pocketbook. I lived in the city for years and still return often. Whether youre looking for history, nightlife, food, or art, this city wont disappoint.
Since Ive written a guidebook to this city, lived there for over five years, run tours there, and explored as much as I could in pursuit of knowing the best things to do in NYC, I want to share my favorite activities to do in New York City.
New York is impossible to see in one visit. This city is home to thousands of restaurants, hundreds of museums, attractions, plays, and quirky things to do but here are the best things to see and do in New York City no matter your budget! Theyll give you the essence of the city!
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Watch A Famous Broadway Show
Broadway is the bright beating heart of NYCs performing arts scene. Watching a Broadway show is an experience like no other, fun guaranteed. There is no better place in the world to watch worldwide famous musicals, such as Aladdin, The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys, and many more!
Take Advantage Of Museum Deals
Lots of frequently asked questions about NYC concern its museums. Which ones are the best? Whats absolutely worth seeing? Do I have to go to the Met and the MoMA? Are they expensive?
Heres the truth: in New York, no one pays the full price at museums. Thats because most museums in NYC have free days as well as pay-as-you-wish daysso do a bit of research and youll have no trouble staying under budget! Psstthe Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History are always pay-as-you-wish. And theyre both awesome!
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Pick Up Some Street Art
The sidewalks of Manhattan are peppered with vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry and hats to just-painted city skylines and custom sketches. Its always fun to pick up a piece as a souvenir and you never knowyou might just get an original, maybe even a Banksy. A few summers back, the elusive UK street artist was set up near Central Park selling original works and no one knew until he was gone and everything was sold!
Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery | Photo by Compass + Twine
Watch Some Live Music
Aside from one of the hundreds of live concert venues around the city, be on the lookout for current events and free outdoor concerts.
You can also catch some classical music, like at the New York Philharmonic. They offer tickets to open rehearsals for $18, and Carnegie Hall has same-day tickets for only $10.
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Go On A Nyc Architecture Tour
The architecture in New York is truly something to write home about, with everything from designer skyscrapers to historic landmarks waiting to be discovered.
Your camera will be working hard as you visit sights like Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Chrysler Building. Watch as the light enhances your perspective and listen as the guide shares insider secrets about this beguiling city.
Cheap New York Attractions Under $25
Thank goodness for cheap New York attractions like museums and parks that offer plenty to do without emptying your wallet
Consider this list of cheap New York attractions under $25 your guide to exploring NYC on a budget. Remaining thrifty while visiting NYC isnt as difficult as you might think. Many of the iconic landmarks we think of when we think of Gotham dont cost a thing to visit and all NYC parks are blessedly free. You can also often find cheap ways to get into art museums, even if you arent around for any of the free museum days in NYC. Skip the pricey bus tours and stick to these cheap New York attractions! Your wallet will thank you.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of cheap things to do in NYC
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Walk The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the worlds most iconic sights. It offers an easy 25-minute stroll into Brooklyn, though expect to spend closer to 40 minutes if you stop to snap photos. Youll get a wonderful panorama of Manhattan as you make your way across especially if you go at night when the skyline is all lit up.
Free & Cheap Things To Do In New York City
New York City is as expensive as you make it. The top attractions are amazing but there are more affordable options for those traveling on a strictly low budget.
Many of the most popular and iconic things you can do in NYC are actually free.
So lets move onto the best free and cheap things to do in New York City!
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Do I Need A Passport Or Visa To Fly To New York
Canadian citizens travelling to New York do need a valid passport but do not require a visa as long as their visit is for tourism or business purposes and is for under 90 days.
New Yorks climate is best described as humid and continental. Summers are hot and famously humid with temperatures hitting the 32 degree Celsius mark . Winters are cold and snowy. Most rainfall occurs in April, May and November.
Its easy to get around New York City. The subway is simple and youll always be able to find a bus or taxi. Cabs can be called or hailed anywhere. Subways run 24 hours a day and are easy to figure out. Some hotels offer shuttle service from the airport, so be sure to check when your booking your New York flight and hotel.
Meet Your Heroes At Madame Tussauds
Rub shoulders with the Hulk and snap photos with George Washington as you explore this mind-boggling waxwork world. Nowhere else would politicians and popstars stand side by side with Spiderman and the Kardashians.
Stroll down the runway at fashion week and take center stage in a Broadway show just all in a days work at Madame Tussauds.
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Know Where To Go For Architecture
For those wanting cheap things to do in NYC, you can simply stroll great New York streets and photograph or admire their beauty, which costs nothing.
A few recommendations for architecture nerds:
- The SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District
- The Cobble Hill Historic District
- The West Village . for a scenic walk itinerary.
- Ridgewood is home to the Onderdonk House, touted as NYCs oldest Dutch Colonial stone home, dating back to 1661. You can simply look at it from the outside for free, or visit on a Saturday from 1pm-5pm or Wednesday from 3pm-7pm to go inside . Its one of my favorite budget-friendly things to do in NYC!
Best New York City Hotel Rooftops
NYC Hotel Rooftops offer some of the best skyline views in the whole City, along with cocktails and food, views, pools, cabanas, sundecks and retractable roofs. Our top picks for the most surreal views and cocktails include:
- Ink48 Hotel – right next to the Intrepid Museum and my ALL time favorite rooftop!
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Hop On The Staten Island Ferry
Absolutely FREE since 1997, the Staten Island ferry is a great way to have a whole new perspective of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Also look into the IKEA ferry that runs from Wall St. to the Swedish furniture store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Its $5 on weekdays, but free at weekends.