The Big Apple’s made a name for itself as the most expensive city in the States. But, fear not, there are still lots of things to do in New York for free.
From ferries to craft beer, we’ve lined up the best of New York’s free activities that won’t cost you a dime…
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is the best way to get up close to the Statue of Liberty - without the hefty price tag. The service has been shuttling budget-savvy tourists from New York to Staten Island for free since 1997. Make sure to secure a spot on the deck for panoramic views of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the legendary Statue of Liberty as you cruise.
Take to the rooftops
Okay, so this one may not be totally
free. You might have to buy a drink, but, it’s still cheaper than the eye-watering entry fees for the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center. If you want views of the city’s skyline, it’s worth hitting up the hotel rooftops instead. The Standard’s rooftop bar, Le Bain, is a popular spot in the Meatpacking District, with views over the Hudson River and Manhattan.
Retreat to a green oasis
New York isn't always a concrete jungle – in fact, one of its number one attractions is green AND free. It won’t cost you a penny – or dime – to stroll around Central Park’s 840 acres of greenery, which include a boating lake, a zoo and, depending on the season, a very famous ice rink. Plus, in summer, you can score free theatre tickets to Shakespeare in the Park at the open-air Delacorte Theatre, via a digital lottery or by waiting in line.
Walk along an abandoned train line
Another of New York’s green spaces is the High Line. Often dubbed the ‘Park in the Sky’, the High Line has transformed the once abandoned tracks of the freight train line into a pleasant, plant-lined avenue. You can wander above the traffic, surrounded by greenery, for just under two miles.
Join a free walking tour
Free walking tours are a great way to get under the skin of a city. And, just like any busy metropolis, there are plenty to choose from in New York. Free Tours by Foot
are a top option. There are classic walking, bike, audio and free self-guided tours – all with a pay-what-you-wish mantra. To give you a little taster, there are tours of Harlem, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and even a foodie tour of the Lower East Side. Obviously, there’s no obligation to pay, but you are encouraged to tip the guide at the end – still, it beats getting lost in Little Italy by yourself…
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
There’s a reason this place gets so crowded at peak times: the epic Manhattan and Brooklyn skyline views. When it was first built in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It might’ve been trumped by some other structures now, but it’s still been designated a National History Landmark. It’s a good idea to take a stroll early to avoid the tourists. And don’t forget to wander all the way down to the Brooklyn end, where you’ll be rewarded with redeveloped parks, piers and a carousel for company.
Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial honours those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Two reflecting pools – each nearly an acre in size – are covered with the names of everyone who died in the attacks. They mark where the Twin Towers once stood, and feature North America’s biggest manmade waterfalls. Seven stories below, there’s the 9/11 Museum, which offers free entry on Monday afternoons from 3.30 to 5pm.
Sample craft beer for free
Beer lovers, step this way. The Brooklyn Brewery – one of the pioneers of the American craft beer movement – runs a free tour on the hour every Sunday from 1-6pm. It’s best to get there early as it’s first come, first served. Plus, be warned – you might be tempted to put your hands in your pockets, as you’re encouraged to grab a drink to take around with you.
Soak up the history at New York Public Library
This place has quite the history. During the Second World War, military intelligence used the library’s Map Division for research. Or, if you’re a Sex and the City fan, you might just know it as the beautiful building where Carrie was meant to marry Mr Big. It houses nearly 53 million items, making it the fourth-biggest library on the planet. The library’s free to visit, and they also run free one-hour tours starting at 11am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. Tickets are released every Sunday for the week ahead, so you can plan your visit in advance.
Get to know New York like a local
One of the best parts of a visit to New York is exploring some of the city’s cool neighbourhoods. The Big Apple’s about much more than the glam hotels and shops of Midtown and the neon lights of Times Square. Stick your trainers on and take yourself for a wander through Greenwich Village. Here, the bohemian streets are packed with markets, quirky cafés and food shops. If high-end is what you’re after, you can hit up the art galleries and boutiques in SoHo. Or, foodies can try some authentic local eats in Chinatown or Little Italy. The options are endless.
Step foot inside Grand Central Terminal
New York’s probably got one of the most famous train stations in the world. And it’s completely free to visit. Once you step inside, you’ll realise why it’s a must-see attraction. The terminal’s blue twinkling ceiling is adorned with zodiac constellations. Plus, it’s got a secret Whispering Gallery, where you’ll find loads of people with their faces pressed up against the corner. Try it out – get someone to go and stand in the opposite corner and you can have a chat as if you were face to face.
Ready to grab yourself a bargain break to the Big Apple? Check out our New York holidays today.