Winter Villages And Holiday Markets
Whether shopping for the holidays or eyeing new years sales, New York can make the experience festive and fun. At the Bank of America Bryant Park Winter Village, merchants set up shop in temporary glass structures around a massive ice rink. In the Hudson Valley riverfront village of Nyack, Winter Wanderland features festively lit tree-lined streets, pop-up shops, fire pits, and more holiday spirit. Theres great shopping with cozy winter vibes at Main Streets around New York State, in villages like Northport on Long Island, Clayton in Thousand Islands-Seaway, and Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes.
Holiday Pop Up Lower East Side
Lower East Side bar and lounge The Skinny is now the most extra holiday bar in town. The Naughty or Nice Holiday Pop Up Bar at The Skinny is open to the public through the end of January 2022. The space is decked in floor-to-ceiling over-the-top Christmas decor and boasts interactive games like a Wheel of Misfortune and a calendar full of surprises. Events that might place you on the naughty list include burlesque, Christmas caroling, and karaoke, with live music nightly and visits from Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a drag queen Grinch. Holiday bites include a turducken burger, a holiday leftovers sandwich , and a Monte Kris Kringle. On the drinks side, look for a series of “Coping Mechanism” cocktails.
Eight Free Things To Do In New York City For 2021
Were not saying NYC is a budget destination, but if youre planning a visit to the big apple, weve got plenty of ways to make your dollar go further in 2021. Here are 8 fun and free to enjoy experiences to have in New York City.
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See The Broadway Performances At Hudson Yards
Similar to Broadway Under The Stars, Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards is a free event where you can see the cast of many famous Broadway shows perform live. There are several dates throughout November and December, starting at 5 p.m.
For one hour, you can experience a true Broadway feeling in the area called The Stage on the 4th floor. Because the free tickets are limited, you should book them as soon as possible. After all, the Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards are only available during the Holiday Season!
Free Things To Do In New York
BY Andrea WienNew York Local Expert
Sure, you coulddrop a bunch of coin to go to the top of the Empire State Building, eat at the fanciest restaurants or walk around on the grounds of the Statue of Liberty. But what if we told you that you could take a boat ride right past Lady Liberty without spending a dime? It’s a possibility and thousands of New Yorkers who ride the Staten Island Ferry do it every day.
New York is chock full of free gems like these ones, but to find them, the secret is connecting with a local who knows all the tricks. Luckily for you, we’re spilling our beans and dishing up the best free spots to enjoy in New York City.
From long, luxurious walks through the city’s parks, including the elevated High Line, to the weird, wacky and wonderful sights at Coney Island, this list curates the best of New York’s offerings into a tidy little package.
So, no matter how small – or non-existent- your budget is, you’re still capable of having a great time in the Big Apple. Now, without further ado, allow us to present to you the 10Best list of New York City’s free things to do.
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Eat Real New York Food
There are plenty of great places to eat in New York City and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on some of the world’s tastiest foods.
We offer suggestions of where to find the best versions of iconic New York foods, such as pizza, bagels, pastrami, or knishes, as well as restaurants that will suit your mood, budget, and location.
You might also consider taking one of our pay-what-you-like food tours in NYC.
There are also some more specific food tours that focus on snacks like pizza and gelato in Greenwich Village.
Go Stargazing On The High Line
Have you ever looked up at the stars and had no idea what you were looking at? Join the Amateur Astronomers Association on the High Line to look through high-powered telescopes and take in just how big our solar system is. The stargazing is completely free and doesnt require a reservation- just show up on the High Line at 14th Street at dusk every Tuesday between April and October.
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Bronx Museum Of The Arts
One of NYC’s many free-entry museums, the Bronx Museum of the Arts‘ mission is to promote cross-cultural dialogue and make art accessible for diverse urban audiences. Founded in 1971, its thousands of pieces of contemporary and 20th-century art span all mediums. A universal free admission policy was implemented to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Big Apple Small Price Tag
New York City is among the most expensive places in the world to live or to visit, but it’s also among the richest in free or inexpensive things to do and cheap places to eat. If you’re planning a visit to the Big Apple this year, look past the citys skyscrapers and try some of these down-to-earth diversions. Don’t worry you’ll still get to take in some of the city’s most iconic sites while discovering some hidden gems only the locals know. And if you’re leery of riding the subway, don’t be: They’re cleaner than ever, but still relatively uncrowded, as The New York Times recently noted.
Note: Be sure to check COVID-19 rules and restrictions in advance before visiting any destinations.
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Stroll Through The Museum Of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History has a suggested ticket price of $23 but allows visitors who live in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to pay what they want at the ticket counters. Permanent exhibits at the family-friendly spot include giant dinosaur skeletons and the Hall of Biodiversity. Don’t miss the planetarium!
Nyc Museums Free Days Calendar
Most New York City Museums are non-profit organizations. Their goal is to make art and culture affordable to everyone. As non-profits, they ask for a suggested donation or contribution to access the museum, rather than an admission price. Know the difference and the best times to visit all NYC Museums at NYC Museums and on our NYC Museums and Tours cheat sheet in the NYC Print Guide and free Mini Guide.
Back to Topof Free Things to Do in New York City
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Visit The American Museum Of Natural History
TripSavvy / Brakethrough Media
Among New York’s gargantuan museums, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the best sights in New York. The museum’s 45 exhibition halls span four city blocks and hold more than 30 million artifacts. One of the museum’s best-known treasures is a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound fiberglass model of a giant blue whale.
Walk Around The Socrates Sculpture Park
New York City is known for its thriving art communities, and this sculpture park is the byproduct of that vibrant love for art. The Socrates Sculpture Park is free to the public every day of the year and is open from mornings at 9am until sunset. You can walk through the park and take in the regularly changing sculpture and art setups that make this park a unique experience. This art feature allows many artists to display their works and allows visitors to enjoy it in an immersive way that allows you to feel like you are walking inside the minds of these artists.
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Visit The Bronx Museum Of Art
Another great family activity is to visit the Bronx Museum of Art, which is free to all visitors, any time. This museum is home to many different mediums of art such as painting, drawing, performance, and sculpture. This museum focuses on social constructs and contains many pieces that tell a story about injustices and the effects they have on certain populations. This is an eye-opening experience that the whole family can include themselves in to learn about the local culture and social issues overall in an artistic form. This museum also hosts live performance art, which is free with your registration to the event of your choice.
Lighting The World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorahs
In Manhattan and Brooklyn, there is a small competition for the worlds largest Hanukkah Menorah. On 22nd, the Jewish Festival of Lights begins and this starts with the lighting of the largest Menorah in the world. The gold, 400-pound, 32-foot steel structure can be admired both in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.
The lighting of the Menorah is one of the great events in NYC in December. Music is played and food is offered as well. In Manhattan, the event begins at 5:30 pm, on Fridays at 3:30 pm and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. In Brooklyn, the lights will be on at 6:00 pm, on Friday at 3:30 pm and on Saturday at 7:00 pm.
As you probably already know, one of the best things in New York for me all year round are the rooftops of NYC! Even in winter the season is not over yet, because with radiant heaters, free blankets and warm rooftop lounges you can make yourself comfortable there even in icy temperatures. The great view will warm your heart.
At 230 Fifth near the Flatiron building, you can even sit in a heated igloo while enjoying a breathtaking view of the skyline how cool is that!
For more tips, check out our article on the best fall & winter rooftop bars in New York.
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The National Museum Of The American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.
This totally free museum in lower Manhattan is actually associated with the Smithsonian Museum of the same name in Washington DC.
Sure, its a hell of a lot smaller. But, it sits inside NYCs former customs house from 1907, which features stunning beaux-srt style architecture that is pretty impressive all on its own.
A building that is flanked by four exquisite female sculptures that were created by artist Daniel Chester French in the early 20th century and that represent the continents of Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa.
However. to fully appreciate the complexity and beauty of traditional Native American culture, step inside the buildings central rotunda and explore a wealth of modern galleries with exhibits on Native American culture, art, lifestyles, and traditions.
If you have time, you can also explore the museums incredible permanent collection, which displays a multitude of Native American technologies in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center and a ton of different decorative arts, textiles, and ceremonial objects throughout the remainder of the building.
You can also enjoy live dance and musical performances here, as well as various childrens book readings, craft seminars, film showings, and educational workshops.
Address: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Thursdays until 8:00 pm.
See The New Whitney Museum Of American Art
Set in one of the most exciting new buildings in Manhattan in decades, the Whitney’s Renzo Piano-designed building opened in 2015 to many accolades. The museum’s collect spans six floors and 50,000 square feet of indoor gallery space, all dedicated to American artists across centuries. In addition to the expansive galleries, outdoor space showcases more art as well as offering views of the Hudson River, lower Manhattan, and the surrounding Meatpacking District.
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Join Movie Nights At Bryant Park
A fun summer nightly activity in New York City are the movies at the park, hosted by Bryant Park. These showings begin around sunset anywhere from 6:30 to 7:30pm and movie nights are free with events being posted regularly on the Bryant Park website. Typically occurring on Monday and Tuesday nights, these movie nights are a great way to spend your evening while enjoying the company of the local community. Just remember you cannot bring pets, chairs, tables, or tarps to the Lawn, and it opens at 5pm, so you should definitely arrive early to get a good spot for the films.
Take A Bus Tour Or Boat Ride
Bus tours are great when traveling with kids because it gives the little ones a chance to rest up a bit during a day of sightseeing.
Since Hop-on, hop-off bus tours generally stop at the popular attraction locations, you can use the bus to move from destination to destination and it is a lot more interesting for your child to look out a bus window than stand in a crowded subway.
Our post The Best Hop-On, Hop-Off NYC Bus Tours can help you decide which is best for you and your child.
If you are traveling with tweens or teens, they will probably enjoy a ride on one of the three popular speedboats, The Shark, The Beast, and The Sea Wolf.
If you were planning on getting tourist passes for the family, the good news is that The Shark and The Beast are included in all tourist passes except the City Pass.
If you are concerned that the cost of tickets for an entire family, try the Staten Island Ferry which is free, passes by the Statue of Liberty and runs 24 hours a day!
To find out about the many options available see our post Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?
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Free Music And Theatrical Productions
Though many of the free musical and theatrical performances for kids take place outdoors in the warmer months, you can find some that take place year-round.
You can also find theatrical for kids that is very inexpensive such as the Theater for Children with tickets approximately $6.
If you can spend a bit more, check out the New Victory Theater in Times Square with quality productions just for kids year-round.
Another show that is great for kids and adults is There are multiple ways to get good deals on tickets. See our post on getting discount tickets for Blue Man Group.
Lastly, if you are here in February, you can catch Kids Night on Broadway, an annual event where children 18 years old and under can attend a Broadway show for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult.
Watch The Commuter Rush At Grand Central Station
TripSavvy / Kelsea Watkins
The world’s largest railway station serves nearly a million commuter daily. And while it’s utilitarian in purpose, it’s also among the city’s most beautiful public spaces. The 12-story main concourse is modeled after a Roman public bath, albeit with shimmering chandeliers and a map of constellations painted on the ceiling. Befitting of such a grand station, Grand Central is home to many shops and dining options, too.
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Hamilton Grange National Memorial
You know you’ve made it when you own a “grange” country manor . Hamilton Grange is the Federal-style country retreat where Alexander Hamilton spent quieter, pre-death-by-duel New York days. Youre able to walk through on your own, but a guided tour is necessary to see the historically furnished rooms. Theyre offered three times daily.
African Burial Ground National Monument
In 1991, construction workers uncovered a burial ground filled more than 400 caskets containing the bodies of enslaved Africans from the 17th and 18th century an age when New York had more slaves than any American city outside Charleston, South Carolina. Today, visitors can tour the African Burial Ground National Monument site and visit the compact visitors center to learn about African-American history in the city.
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The Highline In Chelsea
From Hudson Yards, make your way to the Chelsea Highline. This iconic railway turned greenway is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, especially on a nice sunny day!
On either side find murals, greenery, and views of NYC through the Chelsea neighborhood ! The Highline is 1.45 miles and ends at Gansevoort St.
FYI: If the weather is nice, be prepared for lots of other visitors unless you go early in the morning. There are also a lot of cute photo spots on the Highline you can take advantage of.
Insider tip: If youre feeling hungry, you can walk the Highline all the way down to Chelsea Market where you can eat and explore like a local!
The Museum At Eldridge Street
Shining lights, sumptuous decoration, and a time capsule of Old New Yorkthe Museum at Eldridge Street is the perfect place to visit for the holiday season. Step inside the landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue and step back in time, as you learn about the Jewish immigrants who found religious freedom in their new country, the opulent sacred space they built in 1887, and the 20th-century restoration that saved this decaying masterpiece. Experience the magic with a docent-led or self-guided tour. Learn more at eldridgestreet.org.
This Sunday, join historian Scott Brevda on a walking tour exploration of what life was like for Jewish immigrants a century ago, employing traces of the era that remain in the neighborhood. Youll see where children played, where people shopped and ate, how they got the news, and where they banked.
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