The broke babe guide: 27 free things to do in New York

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New York is not for the faint of heart when it comes of budget. With $20 dollar cocktails and expensive taxi rides everywhere you go, just stepping outside your doorstep will make you poor. But thankfully New York has a lot of fun activities for broke babes too. These are our favourite free things to do in New York.

Get cultured

A lot of museums in New York are free to visit at certain hours or have a flexible entry fee. That means they make suggestions but you can change the suggested price to $1 for example. I know that’s not free but I added two popular museums that are worth a visit if you have a dollar to spare. Turns out they are so used to people paying what they want that I even got the question at the Museum of Natural History before I could say anything.

Guggenheim

Free on Saturdays from 17.45 to 19.45

The Guggenheim is one of the many iconic buildings in New York. It’s the epicentre of modern art.

Museum of Modern Art

Free on Fridays from 16.00 to 20.00

MoMA has both modern and contemporary art. Works from Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock steal the spotlight.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Flexible pricing

The Met has a diverse art collection and with that comes the title of a largest art museum in the United States. This place should entertain you for hours!

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Free on Tuesdays from 17:00 to closing

Visiting this is a must when in New York. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum will make you leave a different person.

American Museum of Natural History

Flexible pricing

This large museum has everything you need to know about the history of our furry (and less furry) friends. Gives you those Night at the Museum vibes.

Museum of Arts and Design

Free on Thursdays from 18:00 to 21:00

After the somewhat traditional museums, this is art from another perspective. If paintings aren’t your thing then this museum is worth a visit. Just like the other museums, modern art can be found here.

Go see nature

New York has a surprising amount of green space. The many parks spread out over town are perfect for a picknick, a quiet moment or to watch people. Almost all of them are free to the public.

Bryant Park

One of the parks located in the city centre is Bryant Park. During winter, you can find a large skating rink here and in summer time, many people eat their lunch here.

Central Park

Possibly the most famous park in the world: Central Park. If you really want to experience what it is like to escape the city without actually leaving, this is it. Something you could invest some money in, is renting a bicycle. This way you can fully enjoy the beauty of Central Park.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

From this park, you will have an amazing view over Manhattan and, of course, the Brooklyn Bridge. This park is also super suitable for a picknick, cycling or a great walk to get away from the busy city.

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Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Free on Tuesdays

The Botanic Gardens in New York are the best place to be in springtime, when everything starts to blossom. Don’t hesitate to bring a book and enjoy the beautiful nature around you.

New York Botanical Garden

Free on Wednesdays

Of course, same goes for New York Botanical Garden only this garden is a lot bigger than the one in Brooklyn. Don’t forget your camera because many Instagram-worthy shots are taken here.

Events in summer

We are still a long way from summer but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for it. New York is filled with free events during summer that are worth a slot in your calendar.

SummerScreen

Every Wednesday in July and August in McCarrenpark, Williamsburg

In summer, Brooklyn is the place to be when it comes to free events. At SummerScreen, you can find different movies and concerts to watch free of charge.

Celebrate Brooklyn

Free music festival in summer (1 June – 10 August) in Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn

Again in Brooklyn, a free music festival called Celebrate Brooklyn. Check the website to see the line-up.

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Shakespeare in the Park

Free theatre from May – August in Delacorte Theater, Central Park

If you’re more into theatre then New York is your place to be. Shakespeare in the Park is an annual event where you can watch different plays in the open theatre.

Dancing in Bryant Park

Free dancing lessons in May and June in Bryant Park

Why don’t you take your city trip to a whole new level? Take those free dancing lessons in Bryant Park and dance to live music afterwards.

FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS AT SKYSCANNER.

Outdoor Swimming

Free at several locations throughout NYC from 27 June

Bring your swimwear, sunscreen, towel and a lock (for your locker, otherwise you won’t get in) on your city trip and dive into the many free outdoor pools in summertime.

Be a tourist

Just because they are well-known sights in New York doesn’t mean you should skip them. Hell, they’re FREE. Who skips free things?!

The High Line

A historic rail line turned into somewhat of a park. It is located high above street level which means that you have an amazing view from here over the Hudson River and Manhattan.

Staten Island Ferry

Take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island, or one of the other tour boats, and watch the Statue of Liberty up close without having to spend a lot of money.

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Times Square

Does this even need an explanation? Visit Times Square when it is dark outside. It is the best way to really see how many bright lights there actually are. It doesn’t feel like nighttime at all.

New York Public Library

The library in New York is not just gorgeous from the outside but also inside. Take a look and don’t forget to check out any free exhibitions there!

Brooklyn Bridge

My personal favourite in New York; walking the Brooklyn Bridge. This gives an amazing view over Manhattan and its skyline.

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Grand Central Terminal

One of the busiest train stations in the world is an absolute sight to behold. Grand Central is definitely one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Roosevelt Island Tram

If you’ve already bought a MetroCard (recommended!) then it might be fun to take the tram to Roosevelt Island. If you’ve got a MetroCard you won’t pay any extra’s to do this.

Follow the leader

Many tours are to be found in a city like New York. Even better are the tours that won’t cost you a single thing. Of course, it is appreciated if you leave a tip for the tour guide afterwards.

Free Tours by Foot

By far the most popular free tour in New York. They offer tours at various locations so make sure to prepare beforehand which one you’d prefer.

Brooklyn Brewery

On Saturdays and Sundays, you can do a free tour in the Brooklyn Brewery and check out a lot of beers.

Big Apple Greeters

If you’re looking for a personal tour then Big Apple Greeters might be your thing. Contact them before your stay and book a “Greeter” for you and up to 5 friends.

Made in NY walking tour

This tour is guided through a podcast and is best to do on your own for that reason. This tour takes you past many movie and tv hotspots in town.

And with that, this enormous list comes to and end. In a city as large as New York, there are many other free things to do I haven’t mentioned yet. So if you’ve got more suggestions then keep them coming!

Also, if you do wish to visit some of the bigger attractions that New York has to offer, you could get the New York CityPass. This pass allows you to visit and skip the lines at 6 of the biggest tourist attractions of NYC!

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What are you going to do in New York?

About the author: 

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Nienke Buijser – 24 – happiest when writing and traveling – has a hot & steamy affair with NYC since 2014 – knows all Friends trivia – fights cat Charlie for her yoghurt – occasionally runs – blogs (in Dutch) at dromeninpixels.nlThe broke babes guide to New York City: 27 free things to do!

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2 comments

  1. Alexandria

    Totally agree that NYC is definitely not cheap. BUT there’s so much to do, it’s totally possible to find budget-friendly stuff to do. This is a great list! I’ve done a lot of them. :)

    Reply

  2. distant locals

    What an extensive and helpful guide! Another great park in NYC is Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. The park runs for miles and overlooks the Hudson River, so it’s a great place to schedule in a run or walk. Check out the Cherry Blossom trees that run from 100th to 125th streets in the spring – so beautiful, and a great alternative to Central Park!

    xx

    Reply

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