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25 Best FREE Things to do in New York City (2024 Guide!)

25 Best FREE Things to do in New York City (2024 Guide!)

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New York City is famously cool, famously beautiful, and famously expensive! But one of the things that we love about it is that there are actually lots of free things to do in the city – if you know where to look. 

We’ve been to NYC multiple times, and while we have saved up to enjoy experiences like private tours and the Bateaux Dinner Cruise, we’ve always managed to discover new activities to enjoy that don’t require a loan. By taking advantage of all of the free things to do here, you can have an amazing trip to the Big Apple without breaking the bank. 

From scenic walks and admiring the city’s most iconic buildings (hello Empire State Building!) to visiting free shows, monuments, and museums, there are tons of things to do in New York City that won’t cost you a penny. And in a city as pricey as NYC, doing things for free feels extra satisfying! 

So if you’re planning a trip to New York for a day or a week, keep on reading to discover the best fun and free things to do. 

Don’t have time to read the full article? Some of the best things to do in NYC for free include:

  1. Explore the High Line – a park among the skyscrapers!
  2. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for the best views of the famous skyline
  3. Visit the 9/11 Memorial
  4. Take the historic Staten Island Ferry
  5. Stroll through Central Park for an iconic NYC experience.

Free Things to do in New York City

1. Walk the High Line

The High Line Trail with views of the skyscrapers in NYC
You literally walk among the skyscrapers!
View of New York City from the High Line Trail
The views are amazing!

Located near the Hudson Yards is a former railway line turned walking trail known as the High Line. The trail is a “park in the sky” that stretches for 1.45 miles (2.3 km) in western Manhattan.

It’s free to visit, and it’s accessible by stairs, ramps, and elevators so it’s also a good option for wheelchair users. This nonprofit park is community-built and run, and it’s clear how much care goes into keeping it beautiful.

The High Line is a lovely place to walk around or even just sit and enjoy the sights. There are also playgrounds, art installations, and plenty of places to eat or enjoy a drink (although some places close during winter).

If you enjoy a glass of wine, Hearth is a charming open-air wine bar and kitchen with excellent views of the Hudson River. If you’re visiting NYC in the summer, we recommend checking out the Malai ice cream cart for some truly delicious South Asian-inspired ice cream.

There are free High Line tours throughout the year, run by volunteers with a passion for the park and its history. We visited the High Line after stuffing ourselves full on a food tour in Chelsea Market, so a stroll through a gorgeous park was welcomed!

It’s such a beautiful and unique park and it’s clear how much it means to the local community. We think it deserves a top spot on your visit to the Big Apple.

2. Visit the Chelsea Market

The outside of the Chelsea Market in the meat packing district of New York City
The Chelsea Market!
Bailey in the Chelsea Market during our free time on our Chelsea Market food tour
The Chelsea Market is huge!

The Chelsea Market is a top destination for foodies worldwide. With over 6 million annual visitors, there’s a reason so many people flock here.

Originally the headquarters of the National Biscuit Company, the Chelsea Market officially opened in 1997 and has been serving locals and tourists alike for years. There are over 35 vendors and tons of different stalls, serving everything from the classic NY bagel or pizza to international cuisines and global fusions.

It’s free to wander around here, but I imagine you might want to spend a few bucks once your stomach starts grumbling like ours were! We loved the unique flavors at the Doughnuttery, and it was fun to choose different sauces for our doughnuts too! If you’re looking for something more substantial, Filaga Pizzeria has some mouth-watering slices, and Los Tacos No. 1 has some of the best tacos in the city. There’s a reason they always have a huge line!

If you don’t want to wait in line and have some room in your budget, we recommend taking this small-group food tour. It’s $88 USD per person and takes you to the Chelsea Market, Hudson Yards, and the High Line which we mentioned above. This tour includes all of your food costs too, so if you plan on trying a few places, it ends up balancing out the cost. We loved this tour, but you can totally visit the Chelsea Market on your own and it should definitely be part of your NYC itinerary.

Related Read: If you’re traveling around the East Coast, you have to make a stop in Philly! They have amazing tours in Philadephia and we’ve narrowed down our favorite Philly cheesesteak places as well!

3. Wander Little Italy

Biley enjoys a meal at L'Amore Restaurant in little Italy New York City
L’Amore!
Bailey in Little Italy, NYC
Little Italy!

Another fun and free thing to do is explore Little Italy. It’s one of NYC’s most colorful and energetic neighborhoods, and we really enjoyed our time here.

We walked down Mulberry Street and the architecture and atmosphere felt like the classic New York you see on screen. This street also has some huge murals created by LISA Project NYC. The one of Audrey Hepburn was my personal favorite!

Of course, we couldn’t walk around Little Italy without trying the food. We ate at L’Amore Ristorante, and it was *chef’s kiss* so good. Little Italy is one of the best places to go on a food tour in NYC, and we can’t wait to go back for another authentic Italian meal. We recommend spending a nice evening in Little Italy to walk around the neighborhood and enjoy a delicious dinner.

4. See the Charging Bull of Wall Street

The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City
The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City

Another quick stop to add to your agenda is a visit to see the Charging Bull.

This bronze statue was created by artist Arturo Di Modica after the stock market crash of 1987. He created the piece as a sign of hope to represent a “bull market,” which is a period of rising investment prices. In 1989, Di Modica waited until the coast was clear to place the statue right on Wall Street as a means to improve morale.

The NYPD wasn’t too fond of the illegal installment, but fortunately, they rehoused the bull nearby to Bowling Green where it stands to this day. Whether you’re interested in the financial district or not, seeing the Charging Bull statue is an iconic free thing to do in New York City!

5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!
Bailey poses for a photo along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City with Manhattan in the background
The views are magnificent!

One of our favorite free activities in New York is walking across the Brooklyn Bridge!

There are tons of iconic landmarks in this city, and the Brooklyn Bridge is definitely on this list. Not only is it a cool thing to do, but the views are outstanding so it’s a great place to take some photos of the skyline.

From midtown, it’ll take about an hour to walk to the bridge. Or, you can take a taxi or ride the subway to Chambers Street Station or Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall Subway Station.

In total, the bridge is 1.1 miles (1.8 km) long and it’s a pretty easy walk. It can get crowded, so we recommend going earlier in the morning, especially if you’re visiting during the summer.

Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge
Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge

There are also vendors on the bridge, so you can stop for a pastry or cold drink. Enjoying breakfast on the Brooklyn Bridge sounds like a pretty great way to start the day! It’s the perfect chance to see epic views of the city, and we recommend planning about an hour of your day for this trip, that way you won’t feel rushed.

If you don’t want to walk back, you can take the High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station which goes to Manhattan. Otherwise, we suggest exploring Brooklyn a little further. A walk on the Brooklyn Bridge is a nice way to get some fresh air while seeing the sights for free!

Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.

6. New York City free walking tour 

The 911 Memorial outside the 911 Museum in NYC
The 911 Memorial outside the 911 Museum!
Bailey in Brooklyn heights, New York with views of Manhattan
What a view!

I love doing free walking tours whenever I visit a new city. Not only are they a budget-friendly way to get acquainted with a place, but you also tend to get lots of great local recommendations about where to eat, drink, and shop. 

New York City is huge, and there are tons of different neighborhoods to explore, each with its own distinct character, so you might even want to do more than one free walking tour while you’re here. 

At this point, I should warn you that a lot of the walking tours in New York City that used to be free before COVID-19 now charge a fee. They started this to keep numbers small, but now that the pandemic is over, the fees remain! However, there are still some walking tours that you don’t need to pay for.

As is standard practice with free walking tours, it’s customary to give your guide a cash tip at the end of your tour. We think $5-$10 USD is the standard amount, but you can tip what you think the tour was worth. So basically, it’s free plus a tip. 

Free Walking Tour of New York

This free walking tour focuses on the city’s most iconic attractions. The route takes you to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, and Battery Park, which is a great spot to view the Statue of Liberty. It leaves at 10 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is a great way to tick off lots of the city’s highlights. 

Harlem Walking Tour

You can also take this free walking tour of Harlem, which is famous for its civil rights history and thriving jazz scene. Jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington made their names in Harlem. The area is also home to the famous Apollo Theatre, where all-time greats like Mariah Carey and Jimi Hendrix have played. On the tour, you’ll see lots of Harlem’s historic sites and get some great soul food recommendations from your guide.

The tour schedule changes throughout the year and usually lasts for 2 hours. When you go to book the tour online, a $3 USD booking fee will be automatically added to your cart, but it’s optional so you can click on it and delete it. 

Historic street in Little Italy known for being home to gangsters
Little Italy!

SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown

This 2-hour walking tour shows you a diverse slice of life in the Big Apple as you explore artsy SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown. You’ll learn more about the history of immigration in New York and the different communities that co-exist here, as well as how these areas have changed over time. You’ll also see some famous film and TV locations from famous franchises including Men in Black and Sex and the City

The tour runs on Fridays and Saturdays and leaves at 9:45 am from Spring Street Park in SoHo. This tour is usually available 7 days a week during the warmer months, and you can check the website for availability. You need to make a reservation, and as with the tour above, there’s an optional $3 USD booking fee. 

Although this isn’t a food tour, Little Italy and Chinatown are some of NYC’s best foodie neighborhoods, so it’s a good way to get some local recommendations to check out later on. But if you are looking to indulge in this famous food scene, I recommend this 2-hour Little Italy and Chinatown food tour! You’ll get to sample the absolute best dishes and learn all about the history and culture of the neighborhoods while you feast.

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO

This 3-hour walking tour will help you get your steps in (not that that’s difficult in New York City). You’ll walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge with your guide, and then explore Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, which are two of the borough’s best-known neighborhoods.

The great thing about this tour is that you’ll have fantastic views of Manhattan while discovering how different NYC feels on the other side of the East River!

The tour leaves around 9 am from City Hall Park in Manhattan and involves about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of walking in total. During the winter, the schedule is limited to Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, with more availability for the rest of the year. You’ll end at the Fulton Ferry landing, which is a 10-minute walk from the High Street subway station, so you can either catch the subway back to Manhattan or even walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge if you’ve got time (and energy!).

7. Enjoy the Staten Island Ferry

Views of New York City from the Staten island Ferry in New York City
Views of New York City from the Staten Island Ferry in New York City

Another free activity to enjoy in NYC is taking the Staten Island Ferry. The best part is it runs 24 hours a day, every day, so it’s really easy to fit into your big city plans!

Before the subway system was built, people relied on ferries to connect them to neighboring boroughs. These days, people tend to take a taxi, subway or rent a car, but taking this historic ferry definitely provides a unique perspective of the city. They were even featured in The Dark Knight and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Taking the Staten Island Ferry is also a great way to get photos of the skyline, so it’s worth the trip for any photographers out there.

Keep in mind that the ferry rides are free, so don’t believe anyone who tries to sell you a ticket. Also, it’s first-come first-served, so we suggest going during the middle of the day to avoid the rush from daily commuters. To catch a Staten Island Ferry, head to Whitehall Terminal, and wait until the next one departs which is usually every 30 minutes.

When you arrive on Staten Island, you can wander around, take in the sights, and stop by some unique places like Historic Richmond Town. It’s NYC’s only living history village with costumed actors who explain everyday life during different time periods. Tickets cost $10 USD and while it’s not free, it’s pretty cheap, and a good family-friendly option.

8. Walk Central Park

Bailey walks through Central Park in New York City
The park is huge!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Central Park, New York City
It’s such a nice break from the city!

Central Park covers a whopping 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) and is one of the most recognizable places in New York City.

Featured in films like Ghostbusters and John Wick, this popular spot is also a beautiful place to visit. Walking around this iconic urban park is an absolute must! It’s located in the middle of Manhattan, and honestly, we could have spent every day exploring a different section during our visit.

For a little history, the construction of the park began in 1858 to provide a place where people could escape the stress of urban life. Its creation also brought environmental benefits such as a stopover for over 200 species of birds, and an improvement in air quality from its 18,000 planted trees. Central Park is a National Historic Landmark and welcomes over 42 million visitors each year!

There are so many things to see here, but some of our favorites include Belvedere Castle, Sheep Meadow, and the famous Alice in Wonderland sculpture.

There’s also a carousel, a model boat pond where adults and kids can race mini sailboats, and even an ice skating rink during the colder months.

It’s the perfect place to bring little ones, go on a date, or just bring a book and bask in the sunshine on your own. There’s even an article on the best places to sunbathe in the park!

Central Park is massive, so it can be difficult to walk. We actually took this pedicab tour during our last stay. Our guide was hilarious, and we got to see a ton of the park that we had missed before. It costs $50 USD per person for a 1-hour tour with a minimum booking of two people. While it isn’t free, it’s a fun cheap activity in New York and a way to cover a lot of ground if you want to explore the park and give your feet a break!

There are tons of amazing tour options in Central Park, but if you’d rather just enjoy a leisurely stroll, then Central Park is the place to go! It’s stunning and honestly, you could visit every day on your vacation and discover something new each time. Central Park is by far the best free thing to do in New York City!

9. Morgan Library and Museum

Old books inside the Morgan Library in New York City
This is one of the best book collections!
Bailey walks around the Morgan Library in New York City
It’s a work of art!

For all the book lovers out there, this one is for you! The Morgan Library, as in J.P. Morgan, was completed in 1906 and holds a wide variety of literary treasures and art pieces from across the globe.

The private collection includes a manuscript of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and a notebook of poetry written by a very young Sylvia Plath. There are rotating exhibits, so you can come back throughout the year to view new material.

While standard tickets cost $22 USD for adults, the Morgan hosts an event called Free Friday Evenings on every – you guessed it – Friday! This event runs from 5-7 pm and includes live music and access to the galleries. Reservations are required and you can sign up on their website up to one week in advance.

On Tuesdays and Sundays, there is free admission into the historic rooms of the library from 3-5 pm, and these don’t require a reservation. Also, it’s free to visit the Morgan Shop and Morgan Café, but we think it’s worth it to check out all of the galleries while you’re here.

The library is amazing, and the grounds and architecture are equally stunning. I wish there was one of those wheeled ladders so I could live out my Beauty and the Beast dream, but I suppose I can save that for another day. Either way, we hope one of the free tours coincides with your vacation because this is a true gem worth visiting in NYC.

10. Visit Grand Central Station

People walk through Grand Central Station in New York City
Grand Central Station is huge!
A vintage clock at Grand Central Station in New York City
The vintage clocks!

Usually, going to a train station is just a means to an end, but Grand Central Station is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. This beautiful terminal has been the setting of countless movie scenes, and it’s also home to stores, restaurants, and even a market. 

To me, the main concourse feels almost like the inside of a church with its marble arches and celestial-painted ceiling. But instead of a congregation, over 750,000 passengers go through this building every single day. 

You don’t need to buy a train ticket to check out Grand Central, and you could easily spend an hour or more here just exploring. Some must-see features of the terminal include the famous opal glass clock at the information booth, which is worth an estimated $20 million! You can also spot a hole in the painted ceiling from when a stabilizing wire was installed to help house a massive Redstone missile during the Cold War, which is pretty crazy to think about nowadays. 

It’s also worth testing out the acoustics at the Whispering Gallery, where two people can stand on opposite corners of the entryway, facing the wall, and hear each other perfectly from the other side. 

And if you’re on a romantic trip to NYC, make sure to visit the Biltmore Room – aka the Kissing Gallery. This was where long-distance trains used to arrive and so this greeting room was the site of many reunion kisses, although there were strict rules about how long these kisses could last – no longer than 5 seconds! 

Located in Midtown East, it’s central to many other free attractions in NYC. It’s an easy (and beautiful) addition to your itinerary!

Related Read: Speaking of romance, if you’re in NYC for a special getaway, we recommend going on a harbor cruise of New York City.

11. See the New York Public Library

Bailey stands out the front of the New York Public Library in New York City
So many shows and movies have scenes here!
Beautiful buildings inside the New York Public Library
It’s stunning!

Another free activity is exploring the New York Public Library. While it’s a must for anyone who loves escaping into books, it’s also a beautiful building with elaborate architecture that will complement your NYC photo album.

It’s located in Midtown next to Bryant Park, so it’s easy to find. The library’s famous steps have been featured in films like 13 Going on 30 and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So, it’s a good photo op if you’re a fan of rom-coms!

When you walk up the steps, you’ll be greeted by two lion sculptures named Patience and Fortitude. As we’ve noted before, this city is all about symbolic gestures, and we’re here for it.

The New York Public Library opened in 1911, and its works and architectural design continue to inspire libraries around the world. When you enter the main Astor Hall, you’ll see even more beautiful designs like the white marble arches and giant staircase. It’s a gorgeous room and it’s no wonder why so many people use it for weddings.

If you’re traveling with little ones, there’s a Children’s Center with storytimes and tons of educational resources. The center also has an exhibit with the stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh, which have been lovingly cared for at this library since 1987.

Another stop to add to your list is the Rose Reading Room, which feels like a room straight out of Hogwarts. I would just come to look at the ceiling which is covered in paintings of cloudy skies. What I wouldn’t give to have had that in my room growing up!

We recommend staying for about an hour to wander around the library, or more if you find a good book to read. This is one of my favorite rainy-day activities in NYC – what’s better than a cozy library on a drizzly day!?

12. Take it in at Times Square

Crowds of people in Times Square in New York City
Times Square!
Bailey poses for a photo at Times Square in New York City
Same place just during the day!

Times Square is full of chaos and fun, and it’s just a cool place to see in person. There are tons of tourists taking pictures, huge electronic advertisements, and plenty of people who are trying to make a buck – and they will try to get you to take a photo with them, so bring some cash. While we enjoyed visiting during the day, it’s so much livelier at night!

There are loads of people, crazy traffic, and every color of neon light surrounding Times Square. It’s also a great place to get food so you won’t be hungry while you walk around.

It’s easy to walk here if you’re close to Midtown but you can also take the subway to Times Square – 42nd Street Station.

If walking around Times Square on your own sounds stressful, there are plenty of tours you can go on instead. We enjoyed this affordable Times Square walking tour which included behind-the-scenes information about Broadway. Our guide was super enthusiastic and belted out some songs while telling us about different theaters and who performed there. It’s a small group tour which is nice, and tickets only cost $39 USD per person.

While Times Square was extremely crowded (especially at night), we enjoyed the energy and think it’s worth coming here. After all, how many times can you say you’ve been to Times Square?!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

13. See a show at Pete’s Candy Store

show at Pete's Candy Store in New York City
It’s an intimate experience!

Despite its name, Pete’s Candy Store is not and has never been a sweet shop. Instead, it’s a live music and entertainment venue located in Williamsburg where you can watch all kinds of shows for free!

Pete’s started in the 1920s as a general store called Funzi’s and over time it evolved into a greasy spoon diner with a poker room out back, and then into a music venue and bar. It was one of Brooklyn’s first hipster hotspots and it remains a great place to enjoy Williamsburg’s renowned music scene. 

You can catch local bands, open mics, trivia, and stand-up comedy shows at Pete’s, and there’s no cover charge! There’s a recommended donation of $10 USD per person when the tip bucket comes around, but this is totally optional. 

Pete’s Candy Store is open every day until 2 am, so it’s worth checking out what’s on while you’re in the city. New York is called the City That Never Sleeps for a reason, so see what the late-night scene is all about!

14. Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center in New York City
The Rockefeller Center in New York City
Bailey at the roller blading ring at the Rockefeller Center in New York City
It would be amazing in winter!

The Rockefeller family created the legendary Rockefeller Center which was officially completed in 1939. Given that its construction happened during the Great Depression, the completion of this building is a pretty big achievement in history.

You might recognize Rockefeller Center from the giant Christmas tree or ice skating rink which pop up in movies like Home Alone and Elf. Since we were here during the summer last time, we didn’t get to see these, but it’s still on my bucket list for the next time we visit!

There are plenty of free things to do at Rockefeller Center. The Channel Gardens is a lovely place to take a walk, or you can enjoy window shopping at the indoor mall. There are some seriously swanky stores, so it’s pretty interesting to see.

If you’re hungry, there are nearby restaurants as well. We had some super delicious sandwiches from Alidoro, but there are tons of options in the mall and around the plaza.

The Rockefeller Center is also the home of NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall, so it’s worth visiting if you’re a fan of shows like Saturday Night Live or American Ninja Warrior. You can even try to get free tickets to a taping on their website. While they’re never guaranteed, it’s still worth a shot!

Top of the Rock in New York City
The Top of the Rock!

Radio City Music Hall is another huge name in the entertainment industry. It was the largest auditorium in the world when it opened in 1932, and it still puts out outstanding performances like the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular show which is easily one of the best Christmas events in NYC!

If you have a little spending money, we highly recommend checking out the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. It’s one of our favorite observation decks in New York City. Tickets cost $44 USD per person, but the views are so worth it! You’ll see the entire city and all those famous landmarks.

Related Read: Looking for more aerial views of the city? Check out the Empire State Building observation deck, or kick it up a notch and take a helicopter tour over Manhattan – it’s an epic experience!

15. Washington Square Park

Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village New York City
Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village New York City

Washington Square Park is a beautiful public park in Greenwich Village. It’s nowhere near as big as Central Park, but its landscaped gardens and variety of street performers definitely merit a stroll. 

The park is best known for the Washington Arch, a beautiful marble arch that commemorates the inauguration of George Washington. The fountain in front of the arch has long been a popular meeting place for NYU students since the park is surrounded by university buildings. 

Historically, the park has been the site of many political demonstrations and it even served as a mass graveyard during the cholera outbreak in the 1800s. That’s hard to imagine when you visit today, but it’s believed that there are still over 20,000 remains buried beneath the manicured lawns.

There are also events like the Films on the Greens Festival, which is put on by the FACE Foundation with help from the French Embassy and NYC Parks. These films have English subtitles and are free to the public, so bring a blanket and enjoy some free French films (that’s a tongue-twister for sure)!

16. Take in the views from Brooklyn Heights

Bailey in Brooklyn heights, New York with views of Manhattan
What a view!
Daniel poses for a photo at Brooklyn Heights in New York City
It’s not far from the Brooklyn Bridge!

Remember how we talked about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge? Well, before hurrying back, we recommend checking out Brooklyn Heights. It’s a neighborhood with absolutely amazing views of Manhattan, so it’ll be a great place to take some photos.

One of the best parts of the neighborhood is Brooklyn Bridge Park. You’ll get some outstanding views of the city skyline, and there are art installations and sculptures that are brought in each year, so it’s a great way to see some free art pieces and support local artists.

If you want to visit this park after walking the Brooklyn Bridge, you can follow the pathway to the left after exiting the bridge on the Brooklyn side. It’ll take you on a detour under the bridge which leads to the Brooklyn Heights area. Once you get to Prospect Street, it’s about a 10-minute walk to get to the park.

When you’re ready to go back to Manhattan, you can take the subway at the High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station. Or, if you haven’t reached your step count goals, you can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge all over again!

17. See the Flatiron Building 

Bailey poses for a photo at the Flatiron Building in NYC
It was under repairs the last time I was there!
Flatiron Building in New York City
Still a cool building!

The Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue is one of New York City’s oldest and most iconic skyscrapers, thanks to its triangular design! As you can probably guess, its strange name stems from the fact that it looks like a clothes iron. 

The building went up in 1902, and it has historically been used as an office space, but it was recently sold and is likely to be developed into apartments. I shudder to think about how much they would cost, but you can admire and photograph the building for free! 

The best vantage points for the Flatiron Building are from the corner of 23rd and Fifth Avenue, or Madison Square Park

18. 9/11 Memorial 

Wide shot of the 911 Memorial you can visit for free in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial is a must-see while you’re in New York City. Few events have rocked the world in the way that the collapse of the Twin Towers did, and the memorial is a moving tribute to the victims who died on that fateful day in 2001. 

You do have to pay to visit the adjacent 9/11 Museum except for Monday nights, but I’ll share more info on that below. The 9/11 Memorial, meanwhile, is free all of the time and open daily from 8 am until 8 pm. 

Two waterfall pools sit where the World Trade Center towers once stood, with the names of victims inscribed on the bronze parapets around the edge. There’s also a memorial glade and path dedicated to first responders who lost their lives in the aftermath of the attacks as a result of inhaling toxins during rescue efforts. 

19. 9/11 Museum 

A damaged firetruck at the 911 Memorial and Museum
A damaged firetruck at the 911 Memorial and Museum
Bailey walks through the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City
The steel beams that collapsed

A visit to the 9/11 Musuem usually costs $33 USD for tickets, but you can enter for free every Monday evening between 5:30-7 pm. 

I would recommend getting there as early as you can because we spent hours looking around. There’s so much to see, including personal artifacts recovered from the site, video recordings, first-hand accounts of the attacks, a destroyed fire truck, and even parts of the steel frames. The museum not only takes you through the events of September 11, 2001, but also discusses what led up to the attacks and the huge impact that it had on people all around the world. 

To get free tickets to the 9/11 Museum on a Monday, you should head to the booking site at 7 am (local time) on that same Monday. You can book up to 4 free tickets per session, and it’s best to try and get online early because they go quickly. 

However, if you’re on a tighter schedule and can’t make the free admission, you can book general museum admission tickets here. Entrance to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is also included in the New York CityPASS®, the New York Explorer Pass by Go City, and the New York Pass.

20. Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island in New York City
Coney Island in New York City

Coney Island is a bright and colorful entertainment district on a peninsula in Brooklyn that’s famed for its carnival atmosphere and amusement rides. There are plenty of paid attractions here, but you can walk along the boardwalk for free to soak it all in. 

The Coney Island Boardwalk – officially titled the Riegelmann Boardwalk – first opened in 1923, and has appeared in a ton of films, including Beaches and Two Weeks Notice.

The iconic boardwalk is 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers) long in total, and as you explore you’ll bypass many of the area’s top attractions, including the famous Wonder Wheel at Deno’s Amusement Park. You can also stop off at the beach or even take a dip during the summertime, and enjoy the smells of all the sugary treats and hotdogs on offer. 

If you’re on a budget, you don’t need to spend any money here because walking through this whacky giant playground is enough of an experience in itself. Sure, it’s a bit tacky, but that’s all part of the fun! 

21. Walk to Little Island NYC 

Little Island NYC 
The most unique island you’ll see!

Little Island is one of the newest and coolest free attractions in New York City. It’s an artificial island that’s adjoined to Hudson River Park on the west side of Manhattan, and it’s rather futuristic. It’s held up by tulip-shaped structures that stick out of the Hudson River, and you can get a nice view of the city skyline from here. 

As well as admiring the views and the park’s kooky design, there’s plenty to do at Little Island. You can scramble up the boulder piles if you’re feeling active, have fun experimenting with the music makers, or even take a free audio tour.

Little Island is open from 6 am until 9 pm daily. We think it’s worth coming here in the evening to watch the sunset over the Hudson River. You also tend to see lots of people practicing yoga around the park, so feel free to bring your mat!  

22. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Bailey stands out the front of the St. Patrick's Cathedral
You can’t miss it!
Inside the St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City

Located across from Rockefeller Center is a stunning piece of Neo-Gothic architecture known as St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This cathedral opened its doors in 1879 and partial restorations have been done over the years to keep it active.

While you can admire this building from outside, it’s also free to enter the cathedral. There are so many amazing structures like the marble arches and cross-ribbed vaults, not to mention all the artwork in the windows.

There’s plenty to see here, but you won’t need to stay for long. I think an hour is plenty of time to visit. On the plus side, it’s also close to a bunch of nearby attractions. You can visit Grand Central Station or MoMA, or if you’re a gamer, we suggest checking out the giant Nintendo store! It’s a great place to bring your kids, but let’s be honest, it’s also awesome for adults.

23. African Burial Ground National Monument 

African Burial Ground National Monument in NYC
African Burial Ground National Monument in NYC

The African Burial Ground National Monument has a fascinating history. From the late 17th century until 1794, the site was a cemetery for African Americans, most of whom were slaves. It’s estimated that over a century, between 10,000 and 15,000 people were buried here.

After the burial ground closed, the site was redeveloped and human remains were only rediscovered in the 1990s, when the General Services Administration began building offices here. They originally planned to continue building, but this decision was met with a lot of resistance from historians, activists, and the local community. Eventually, the African Burial Ground National Monument was opened in 2007, and a visitor center was added in 2010. 

The monument pays tribute to the contributions of both free and enslaved Africans to the development of Lower Manhattan and educates the public on the history of slavery in the USA. At the visitor center, you can also explore the interactive exhibits and learn about how this burial ground was used, forgotten, and later unearthed. 

The African Burial Ground National Monument is located on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, close to City Hall Park. It’s open from 10 am until 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and both the memorial and visitor center are free to visit. 

24. Governors Island

View of New York City from Governors Island
The view from governors Island!

Governors Island is an island park in New York Harbour, and it’s only accessible via ferry. Usually, return tickets cost $4 USD but you can get them for free before 12 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Governors Island is an awesome place to kick off a weekend in NYC, so I say go for it! 

For over 150 years, the island functioned as a military base, and its artificial hills are even made from the debris of a demolished army building! Today, though, it’s an absolute gem of a public park with a ton of things to do. 

You can check out the abandoned military buildings, admire the ever-changing public art installations, and relax in one of the free hammocks at Hammock Grove. I think the best thing to do, though, is to climb up the hills to enjoy fantastic views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Then, when you’ve had your fill of the sights, slide down the 57-foot (17-meter) giant slide! Or check out the smaller slides which are big hits with kids and families.

It’s best to reserve your free ferry tickets online, especially during the summer. They’re usually made available around two weeks in advance, so you just have to choose a weekend date and time slot before 12 pm. You don’t need to choose a return time, so you’re free to stay on Governors Island for as long as you like. 

Money saving tip – You can bring your own food and drink to Governors Island and plan for an afternoon picnic! Bear in mind that alcohol is not allowed.

25. Bronx Museum of the Arts

Bronx Museum of the Arts
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Bronx Museum of the Arts 1
The displays are really cool!

New York City is often referred to as “the melting pot”, and that’s reflected by the art collection at The Bronx Museum. There are over 800 works of contemporary art here by artists of African American, Asian American, and Latin-American descent, many of whom hail from the Bronx itself. 

The Bronx is nowhere near as touristy as Manhattan, so a visit to this free museum is an awesome way to discover the diversity of NYC’s art scene. It’s certainly a must for anyone interested in contemporary art, or the history of the Bronx. 

The museum is open from 11 am until 6 pm from Wednesday to Sunday, and admission is always free. Check their website before you visit as the art museum occasionally closes for a few weeks between exhibitions.

Where to Stay in New York City

Bailey with her luggage in New york City
Ready to check in!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood near the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes.” In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views!

Prices start from about $400 USD per night. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $100 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in New York City
Thanks for reading!

Well now if anyone tells you New York is too expensive, you can just show them this list of free things to do! There are plenty of options from walking tours to visiting museums, and we hope this list has given you some additional items to add to your NYC agenda. At the very least, you can sprinkle these suggestions in between all of the other iconic (and more expensive) activities!

We appreciate you taking the time to read our blog and hope you’ll check out some of our other posts. We’ve traveled across the USA, Canada, and around the world! Here are a few articles that you might enjoy:

How to Spend SIX DAYS in New York City – An Ideal NYC 6-Day Itinerary

The 3 BEST Niagara Falls Tours from New York City

33 BEST Things to do in Philadelphia

12 BEST Tours in Toronto, Canada