Free Things to Do in New York City

On a Budget? No Problem!

While New York City might have a reputation of being an expensive city, fear not intrepid traveler, for the Big Apple has plenty of activities, museums, and things to do that are absolutely free. And we're going to list them out for you here so that you can enjoy your next trip without breaking your budget. So, let's get to it and list out the best free things in New York City.
Central Park
Central Park
The heart and lungs of New York City, the famous, expansive, and huge Central Park is an iconic destination in the city featuring a variety of smaller attractions and features within itself. From ball fields and jogging paths to botanical gardens, concert spaces, cafes, ponds, playgrounds, and more, the park offers something for everyone. Don't forget to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park - one of the quintessential tourist activities in the city.
New York City, New York
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan is one of the city's most famous public parks. Visitors here can find the huge Washington Arch which is a large, marble triumphant arch which serves as a landmark and honors the nation's first president. In front of the arch is a nice fountain. The arch also serves as the terminus for 5th Avenue. Also located in the square is a monument to Alexander Lyman Holley, along with some walking paths, benches, and shaded tree areas which make for a nice and relaxing picnic spot.
Washington Square Village, NYC, New York
If you're looking for more information about New York City, read The Best Neighborhoods in Manhattan and The Best Neighborhoods in Staten Island.
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square is one of the most famous areas in New York City. It's known for its brightly lit billboards which really brighten the city at night. But even if you visit during the day you'll find the area filled with energy, activity, and people. If the crowds get to be too much, there are bleachers set up on one side where you can sit and take a break. Times Square is also recognizable as the location of the iconic ball drop on New Years Eve. It's also an entertainment center for the city.

Times Square is in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
Wall Street
Wall Street
This eight block area runs between Broadway and South Street and is where you'll find some of the world's most important exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, and the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Broadway, this is also where you'll find the famous bronze statue of Charging Bull at Bowling Green.
Broad Street, NYC, New York, 10004
Prospect Park
Prospect Park
Prospect Park is located in Brooklyn and is a family-friendly place to explore with a carousel, a zoo, and Greenmarket. There's plenty of grassy areas and green space where you can enjoy a picnic or meet some friends at the ball fields for a pick-up game. During the warmer months you can also catch some outdoor music or even a show at the Prospect Park Bandshell.
Manhattan Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
The Manhattan Bridge connects Lower Manhattan and Canal Street to Downtown Brooklyn. It's a suspension bridge that's 6,855 ft long and crosses the East River. The bridge is also a lesser known spot where you can enjoy views of the city, looking out on either Chinatown or the Brooklyn Bridge.
Manhattan Bridge lower level, NYC, New York, 11201-1832
Ulysses S. Grant's Tomb
Ulysses S. Grant's Tomb
Formally known as the General Grant National Memorial, this is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant (1826–1902). Construction was completed in 1897, and the tomb and monument is located in Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.
501 Riverside Drive, NYC, New York, 10024
Flatiron Plaza
Flatiron Plaza
Flatiron Plaza is a triangular pedestrian plaza that offers a great view of the famous Flatiron building. It's also right by Madison Square Park. During the warmer months, this plaza comes to life with live music or other forms of entertainment, but it's a nice place to relax and people watch any time of the year.
If you're looking for more information about New York City, read The Best History Museums in New York City and Famous Squares and Plazas to Visit in New York City.
Bronx Zoo
Bronx Zoo
Located in Bronx Park, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States. With over 265 acres of habitats and park area full of animal exhibits, educational resources, and more, this is a destination for the whole family. And it's popular, too, as over 2 million people visit every year. Some of the more popular exhibits include the lions, red pandas, bison, cheetahs, sloths, and the World of Birds area featuring species from around the world. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
Jungleworld Road, Lambert Houses, NYC, New York, 10460
New York Botanical Garden
New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, this 250-acre site is on the list of historic landmarks in addition to housing a huge and gorgeous collection of flora and stunning landscapes. Open every day except Mondays, this destination in of itself draws large crowds, especially in the warmer months. It also operates molecular labs, educational programs, cooking classes, kid-friendly events, art exhibitions, and other events to bring in crowds. The building itself is architecturally significant, as it combines a historical beauty with a practical approach to protecting and growing the plants. (Admission on Wednesdays is free!)
Belmont, NYC, New York
Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
In the heart of Central Park sits the Bethesda Fountain and the Terrace which overlooks it along with the lake. This scenic spot has appeared in multiple films and TV shows over the decades, and it's a very popular spot with tourists and locals alike.
Central Park, NYC, New York
9/11 Memorial and Museum
9/11 Memorial and Museum
This memorial commemorates the tragic loss of life felt on September 11, 2001 when suicide-piloted planes flew into the two towers of the World Trade Center. More than 3,000 people were killed as a result of the attacks on that day. The memorial is designed with a series of cascading waterfalls, recessed pools, and bronze panels that show the names of those killed during the attacks. The museum shows photos, videos, and artifacts from the events. It is recommended you purchase tickets in advance to visit the memorial. You can also visit for free on Mondays between 3:30 and 5:00, but reservations are still required.
180 Greenwich Street, NYC, New York, 10007
African Burial Ground National Monument
African Burial Ground is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for both free and enslaved Africans. It protects the historic role slavery played in building New York City.
NYC, New York
Federal Hall
This is one of the first two historic buildings to be located on Wall Street. It once served as New York's City Hall and after the American Revolution it was the meeting place of the Congress of the Confederation.
Pine Street, NYC, New York, 10005
Interested in more travel advice for New York City? Check out The Best Science Museums in New York City and The 17 Best Children's Museums in New York City.
Castle Clinton
This monument, previously Fort Clinton and Castle Garden, is a sandstone fort that is found in Battery Park. It once served as the first immigration station between 1855 and 1890 before Ellis Island.
NYC, New York
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
The Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the home and burial site of U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The mansion showcases the restored historical rooms of the house, along with an interactive exhibit showcasing the history and life of Hamilton.
160 Convent Avenue, NYC, New York, 10031
Fort Tryon Park
Fort Tryon Park, in Hudson Heights, has 67 acres of forest area that overlooks the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge. A certain 3-acre section resembles an English estate garden. Other areas have a unique collection of trees which bloom during various seasons.
63 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort George, NYC, New York, 10040
Barrett Park Staten Island Zoo
This suburban zoo is located in West New Brighton on Staten Island. It's a small, 8 acre zoo that has reptiles, spider monkeys, donkeys, foxes, cows, and more. It's also the home of the famed Staten Island Chuck, a groundhog who predicts the Groundhog Day forecast yearly for New York City. Admission is normally $10, but it's free on Wednesday afternoons.
614 Broadway, West New Brighton, NYC, New York, 10310
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
On Staten Island this 83-acre garden and cultural center is home to not just gardens, but also historical buildings from the 19th century which were a home to retired sailors. Tudor and Victorian style buildings are mixed in with interesting garden areas representing different environments. A Chinese garden area has a koi pond and bamboo paths which make for a scenic walk. The cultural center hosts events and educational programs as well.
Cottage Road, West New Brighton, NYC, New York, 10301
New York Aquarium
The New York Aquarium first opened in Castle Garden in Battery Park, but it's been located on the boardwalk in Coney Island since 1957. It's been operational since 1896, making it the oldest continually running aquarium in the US. The aquarium offers interesting exhibits and educational experiences including a shark tunnel that guests of all ages can enjoy. They offer free admission on Wednesday afternoons, but charge admission fees all other times.
NYC, New York, 11224
Planning a trip to New York City? You might also be interested in The Best Parks, Gardens, and Things to Do Outdoors in New York City and The Best Iconic Skyscrapers to Visit in New York City.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden was created in 1910 and is situated in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Here you can find a number of special plant collections a s well as the Steinhardt Conservatory which is home to the Bonsai Museum. Also in the Conservatory are several themed areas featuring various climates, a glass aquatic plant house, plus an art gallery. While admission is not free, a huge number of visitors enter every year making this a popular and well-visited destination. They host events, children's activities, and classes, too. While an admission fee is usually charged for entry, it's free on Tuesdays, Saturday mornings, and a few other days of the year, too.
1000 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, NYC, New York, 11238
Wave Hill
Once a private estate with a beautiful garden dating back to 1843, this home is now owned by the city and is open to the public, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour both the gardens and the house for a small admission fee. The gardens consist of a variety of flora along with a few spots with magnificent views over the river. Also on the premises is an art gallery and gift shop. An entry fee is normally charged, but it's free before noon on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
665 West 252nd Street, Riverdale, New York, New York, 10471
Irish Hunger Memorial
This memorial and park is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine, also known as "The Great Hunger", during which more than one million people starved to death.
NYC, New York, 10282
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
This interesting museum located in the Museum Mile on the Upper East Side is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum showcases design aesthetic, creativity, contemporary design, and showcases other interesting related works of art and design.
2 East 91st Street, NYC, New York, 10128
Delacorte Theater
This outdoor theatre in Central Park is home to the Shakespeare in the Park shows which are free. Opening in 1962, this theatre has been home to a large number of free shows which are loved by adults and children alike. While sometimes the shows are based on Shakespeare's works, other times the theatre hosts musicals and other classic plays.
Central Park, NYC, New York
The High Line
This popular urban walking trail is located high above the city streets on an old rail line. It's a linear public park that has been lined with plants and trees that are particularly beautiful during the spring months. There are also benches and art work that give the trail a fascinating atmosphere. From the park there are impressive views of the city and access is available at various points along the route.
The High Line, NYC, New York, 100014
Interested in more travel advice for New York City? Check out Famous Squares and Plazas to Visit in New York City and The Best Planetariums to Visit near New York City.
Lewis Howard Latimer House Museum
This museum was once the home of the African American inventer Lewis Howard Latimer and today it is a museum that educates visitors on his work.
34-41 137th Street, Linden Hill, NYC, New York, 11354
Gay Liberation Monument
The Gay Liberation Monument, created by American artist George Segal, is located in Christopher Park along Christopher Street in the West Village.
Christopher Street, 204 West 4th Street, NYC, New York, 10014
Brighton Beach
Next door to all the fun at Coney Island, Brighton Beach has some wide sandy beaches with a relaxing but fun vibe. As expected, it's very popular in the summer months when the water and weather is warmer. Lifeguards are on duty during the day in the summer, and the facilities are wheelchair accessible, too.
Ocean Parkway to Corbin Place, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Riverside Park 91st Street Garden
The curated garden at 91st Street in Riverside Park was made famous from a final scene in You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Located right by the water, this small but scenic garden hosts a variety of flowers blooming throughout the warmer months.
Riverside Drive at 91st St, New York, New York, 10024
Louise Nevelson Plaza
Located by William St. and Liberty St., this plaza is where you'll find the seven sculptures called "Shadows and Flags." You'll likely pass by it on your way to catch a boat to see the Statue of Liberty. There are several glass benches in the area as well where you can relax for a bit before continuing to explore Lower Manhattan.
Union Square
Union Square Park is a popular place to tourists and locals alike. The park is a hub of activity and there always seems to be something going on. Locals are often in the park playing chess, and there are performers that entertain tourists and those passing by. The park also has lots of public artwork as well as the Metronome and Countdown Clock, which shows 24 hour time from left to right and also counts down the time that's left in the day. Various markets are also held here at different times of the year, such as Christmas.
Queens Night Market
This family-friendly night market not only has vendors that sell art, food, and antiques, there are also cultural performances and fun activities that everyone can enjoy. This is an open-air market that's found in Queens and it's an interesting place to wander and experience local New York culture.
Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, Queens, New York City, NY
The Bronx Museum of the Arts
This multicultural art museum has more than 1000 pieces of work that highlight 20th and 21st century artists who were either based in the Bronx or of African, Asian or Latino ancestry.
1040 Grand Concourse, New York, NY, 10456
The Brooklyn Museum
This low key museum doesn't see the crowds that are found at some of Manhattan's bigger name museums. It's collection is still impressive though with more than 1.5 million pieces that include Egyptian art, early American art, and much more. The museum is also the third largest in New York City when measured by size.
200 Eastern Pkwy , Brooklyn, NY, 11238
Bronx Night Market
This is the first open air food market in the Bronx. Featuring a large selection of vendors that sell food, drinks, and artisan goods, this market is popular during the warmer months. It's located in Fordham Plaza from April thru November every Saturday night. If you want to get outside of Manhattan and see a bit of the local nightlife, then this street market is fun to explore
Brooklyn Flea Market
This weekend flea market has hundreds of vendors that sell everything from furniture to vintage clothing, or antiques. This is a favorite for shoppers of all kinds and styles, and many have ranked it among the best flea markets in the world.
Brooklyn
Industry City
Located on the waterfront in Brooklyn, this retail area is spread throughout a repurposed New York industrial site. It offers open air shopping, plenty of open space, and a unique experience. There's also a food court with a wide variety of options, and tons of shopping venues with anything you might need.
220 36th St, Suite 2-A, Brooklyn, NY, 11232
Cedar Grove Beach
You'll find this fairly new beach on Staten Island. It's charming and small, and it's also wheelchair accessible. Lifeguards are on staff in the summer months, too.
Ebbitts Street and Cedar Grove Avenue, Staten Island, New York City, New York
St. Vincent's Triangle Park
This triangular plaza is in the middle of Greenwich Village and is the location of the New York City AIDS Memorial. The park also has beautiful vegetation and plenty of seating where wanderers can rest their weary legs. Whether you want to watch the people passing by or just take a moment to reflect to yourself, this is a nice space to spend some time.
Queens County Farm Museum
This fun and family-friendly museum lets kids and adults explore everything about life on a farm, including getting to know the animals. They have pigs, alpacas, sheep, goats, and chickens, as well as hay rides, a bush maze, and a variety of education events. They also have seasonal activities such as pumpkin picking in the fall and more. Most days are free, except during special events.
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens, Floral Park, New York, 11004
The Cloisters
The Cloisters is located in a park by the Hudson Rivers and you can reach it by following a charming path that leads to a castle. This is where you'll find the Met's medieval art and architecture collections. Popular exhibits include the Unicorn Tapestries, the 12th century Fuentidueña Chapel and the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin.
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, New York, NY, 10040
Staten Island Children's Museum
This hands-on kid's museum includes a number of fun exhibits including the Block Harbor (a builder's dream!), large Connect Four and Dominoes games, and a human sized anthill. There's also pretend areas where kids can play firefighter and an environmental education room. Normally an admission fee is charged, but it's free on Wednesday afternoons.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
How much does it cost?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $98 to $98. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $49. A few of the best options are below.

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