Are you looking for fun things to do in New York City that are for free? The Big Apple is a place where people from all over the world come to visit and explore. New York City has some of the best museums, restaurants, parks, and more that you will find anywhere in the country. In fact, there are so many things to do in NYC for free that it can be hard to know what places to choose!
This blog post highlights 20 different activities around New York City that are totally free of charge. From family-friendly attractions like Central Park and The Statue of Liberty to nightlife hotspots like Times Square – this list has something for everyone.
You are probably wondering…
What are some things to do in Times Square for free?
1. Self-guided Walking Tour
One of the best free things to do in Times Square is to take a self-guided walking tour. You can customize your own tour by focusing on your interests, so you can get an experience like no other. There are tours that focus on famous landmarks of Times Square like Grand Central Station, Broadway Theaters, and the multitude of neon signs and artwork. There are even audio tours you can download and self-walking tours you can follow online.
2. Watch the Entertainers
Times Square is known for its street entertainers that people can watch for free, from those who are dressed as popular superheroes to classic street performers. You can watch street musicians, choirs, and even stunt performances, this is a wonderful free way to experience the unique culture of Times Square.
Though be warned if you want to take pictures with any of the performers, it will cost you, and some characters have been known to be aggressive when it comes to asking for payment. So, keep a safe distance and enjoy the shows with others to be sure you are not singled out.
3. Visit the Parks For Free
Bryant Park is the park closest to Times Square but the more famous Central Park is only 2 miles away. These parks are free to enter, and you can spend as much time there as you would like, so it is the perfect way to see the natural parts of New York City. These parks have been the scenes of many films, and you can enjoy them for free and take in the sights of the trees and flowers, which look beautiful no matter the season.
4. Attend TV Tapings
There are many popular TV shows being filmed in Times Square, and it is often free to attend the TV tapings. You can reserve tickets online or wait outside the studios for entry to these shows’ audiences. You have many options for morning or late-night shows, so you can try to attend a taping around a schedule and show that you enjoy.
Several of these free-to-attend shows include The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, NBC’s Today Show, The View, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and even Saturday Night Live. Though some tickets, like those to Saturday Night Live tapings, can be hard to come by unless you wait in long lines or participate in the annual lottery draw for free tickets.
5. Visit the Times Square Church or St. Patrick’s Cathedral
If you are interested in religion, or you just enjoy the majesty of Gothic architecture then you should take the time to visit one of the well-known churches in Times Square. Times Square Church has regular services which are posted on their website and are free to attend to anyone who wishes to see a sermon, choir, or join a community prayer.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is another unique feature of New York City, and it is less than a mile from Times Square, so if you would like to see this architectural masterpiece then you can visit for free! This classical Catholic church also hosts mass and other religious services for its attendees and members. These are wonderful options to visit for free if you want to experience the local religious communities and beautiful structures.
Free Things to Do In NYC on the Weekend
6. Kayak with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
This company offers free kayaking on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Though the trips are limited to 20 minutes, you can experience a great deal and have a fun time with your weekend, seeing the famous Brooklyn Bridge from a new perspective in your kayak. You will be kayaking near the bridge in the company’s protected embayment while having free access to safety gear and everything you will need for your kayak trip.
7. Drink at the Brooklyn Brewery
If you are looking for a fun way to enjoy your weekend in New York City, then this brewery offers free tours that run in the mid to late afternoon, 1pm to 6pm, on Saturdays and Sundays. These free hourly tours give you a nice overview of the brewery and allow you to taste the delicious beers the brewery has been working on.
8. Sightsee at Little Island
You must reserve a free admission timed ticket to access this modernized public pier park, but rest assured that this is a trip that is worth it. This is a renovated version of the pier that used to be used as the main proponent in the shipping and handling of goods coming into the city by boat.
This newly reimagined space now has lush green surroundings with flowers, amphitheaters for events, and even hosts art festivals. You can visit this Little Island for free and have access to most of the events being hosted by the island such as art festivals and outdoor performances at the amphitheater. This is an exciting way to experience a natural outdoor art renovation that is becoming a popular New York City standout.
9. 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.
10. Visit the Museum of Modern Art
One of the most famous museums in America is the Museum of Modern Art, and every Friday evening from 5:30 to 9pm admission to this art world-renowned museum is free for all visitors. For free on this weekend night, you can see the many different forms of art at this museum that span over the course of 150 years, such as photography, painting, sculptures, film, and more. This museum hosts over 200,000 works of art, and they are consistently adding to the collection, so there is always something new to see.
Things To Do In New York City For Families That Are Free
11. Visit the Beaches
New York City has many beaches that are free to visitors, so if you and your family want to enjoy a beach day together, you can always go to the number one beach in New York, Coney Island. Coney Island is free to the public, and you can gain access to the volleyball and other sports courts that are also free to play on. This way, you and your family can enjoy outdoor beach activities without worrying about unnecessary costs.
12. 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.
13. Walk Along the Highline
The Highline in New York City is the renovated former railroad track that has been transformed into an elevated greenspace and park for locals and visitors. Entry to the highline is free and fully available on weekdays, while weekends are free but require reservation times as it gets quite busy. This is a nice option for a family activity as you can walk along this park and take in the sights of the surrounding city, while enjoying the natural spaces and flora of the park. The highline also frequently hosts events such as art exhibitions, which visitors can see with their entry as well.
14. Visit the New York Aquarium
If your family loves sea life and wants to enjoy a trip to an aquarium, then admission is free after 3pm on Wednesdays to the New York Aquarium, but you have to get reserved tickets in advance, and they may sell out quickly. This aquarium is home to many interesting animals such as sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, and penguins. The aquarium has shows at the water amphitheater and even hosts experiences where you can meet the animals and interact with them, though these activities cost extra. You can visit the exhibits and see all of the sea life for free if you just want to walk through with your family after 3pm on Wednesdays.
15. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is free to ride, and while it may not sound like the most exciting activity, it is a unique New York experience that you and your family will enjoy. You will have the pleasure of seeing the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, Lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn Heights. This trip will give you a new perspective on the city view and allows you to take in many of these famous sights all in one trip.
Free Things to Do In NYC At Night
16. See Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the park is an annual New York tradition for thespians and theater goers that has been going on for over 45 years. Hosted at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, these annual retellings of Shakespearean plays occur at sunset and have been keeping audiences entertained for decades! This is an experience you can only get in New York, and it will be sure to be a night you will remember for many years to come.
17. Lincoln Center Performances
The Lincoln Center hosts a variety of free performances that are available to the public. Jazz performances are the popular highlight, and many events are hosted weekly in the David Rubenstein Atrium. So, if you’re looking for a new way to spend your night in New York City then this would be a nice way to branch out and experience the jazz subculture of the city.
18. Experience Chelsea’s Art Galleries
There are several different art galleries located in Chelsea, which are all free to attend. They host art nights in the Chelsea neighborhood, which allows visitors to walk and enjoy the different galleries while exploring the local art community. These events usually have food and drinks, and are extremely welcoming to those who would like to expand their art knowledge.
While you are in Chelsea be sure to stop by the Chelsea Market for a bite to eat or just to stroll through the market!
19. 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.
20. Visit the Brooklyn Museum
This museum offers free admission days to all visitors, usually on the first Saturday of most every month, aside from January and September. The museum has recently expanded their free admissions by now offering this deal on Thursday nights as well. This museum is open for free admission on these days from 6pm to 11pm.
If you want to spend your night admiring paintings and sculptures from multiple different cultures, such as Egyptian and other African art, then this is your perfect option. A hub for cultural art located in Brooklyn, this is a great stop to add if you are planning to museum hop and want to get a taste of the multiple different art mediums associated with these unique cultures.
There are so many fun & free things to do in NYC!
If you are visiting New York City and you need some ideas for activities on a budget then this article will give you every option you need! Whether you are traveling with family, looking to visit popular landmarks, or want some ways to fill your evenings with fun then there are multiple choices for you to make your own adventure!
If you are a first-time visitor, be sure to take a self-guided walking tour of the world-renowned landmarks or take a ferry ride through the sights. If you are an art connoisseur, there are an array of opportunities for you to join any form of art you enjoy, such as sculptures, architecture, paintings, and museum hopping. No matter what your personality and interests you can find activities to match with this list, and best of all, they are free!
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