Must Visit Free Attractions in NYC that Locals Do Too!
In keeping with my theme this month! I’m trying to share as much as I can with my followers about my own city, New York! New York can be a very overwhelming place if you have never been before. That’s where I come in! New York has no shortage of things to do. You may be surprised to find though how many of its best attractions are free! And since you’re probably spending an arm and a leg on your hotel, it never hurts to save a few bucks. Here are what I consider to be the top free things to do in New York City!
New York’s Free Parks
The City’s Parks are a great place to start to enjoy some of Manhattan’s gorgeous natural beauty. Central Park is actually bigger than you may think with over 800 acres of gardens and wide-open spaces. There are tons of beautiful places to visit! Some of my personal favorite highlights include the Central Park Zoo, the Conservancy Gardens, Literary Lane, Strawberry Field, and the Reservoir. Prospect Park in Brooklyn was created shortly after Central Park by the same landscapers and also features its own zoo, boating lake and carousel. If you’re looking for an iconic meal (not free of course), check out the Central Park Boathouse or Tavern on the Green.
New York’s Free Museums
You may be surprised to know that most museums in New York city are either free, “Pay what you wish” or have at least one day of the week where the fee is waived. Two of my favorite museums are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History are pay what you wish.
The signs aren’t so clear but take it from me, you can hand them any amount that you wish to donate and they’ll grant you admission. Then the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Frick Collection, the Jewish Museum, the Neue Gallerie, Museum of the City of New York and the Guggenheim, just to name a few, offer free admission certain days of the week—just check their websites.
The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is also one of New York’s most magnificent structures. It links Manhattan and Brooklyn across New York’s East River. Take in the sights of Manhattan’s City Hall and the New York City Supreme court before you take a stroll on the pedestrian walkway for some of the greatest views of Manhattan. When you reach Brooklyn there are some beautiful parks and even a carousel to enjoy before you head back. Be careful of cyclists who share the same pedestrian lane.
The New York Public Library
The main branch of the New York Public Library features stunning Beaux-Art architecture. Be sure to check out the famous reading room while you’re here as well as the famous marble lions that guard the main entrance, nicknamed Patience and Fortitude. There are free tours daily, too!
The Highline is an elevated old railway that used to carry goods to different factories on New York’s West Side. However, as the city continued to develop and factories moved elsewhere these tracks became abandoned. Recently they revamped them and turned these rusty old tracks into an oasis with greenery, flowers, benches and even fountains. It’s a fab place to take a stroll on a sunny afternoon to escape the craziness of the city’s streets. If you end up chilly after your walk, be sure to check out our top picks for Cozy Bars in NYC guaranteed to warm you up!
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station is one of New York’s most famous historical landmarks. It’s a transportation hub for trains and subways but it features stunning Beaus-arts architecture and lots of fun restaurants and bars like the Grand Central Oyster Bar, the Campbell apartment and a fun food court.
You should also wander through Times Square—home to bright lights and broadway shows! It’s insanely crowded but it’s a special place.
Rockefeller Center Complex is also a great place to pass some time. Wander into the shops and in the winter you can sip hot chocolate as you watch skaters on the famous ice rink.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
And finally, if you’re up for a trip uptown to Morningside Heights in Northern Manhattan The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the largest church in the United States. Explore the grounds and gardens where you just may spy a peacock wandering about.
For more fabulous advice about New York City check out Travelingpanties top picks for NYC’s Best Food experiences and also find out the Best Things to Do in NYC that locals actually do too!
And just for fun, here is a fun photo of my husband and I in Central Park where we got engaged on the Bow Bridge! In case you’re gearing up for a Travelingpanties tour! haha
these are great! will be sure to make my own little checklist when I visit New York 🙂
—————–- October 25, 2014
21 year old travel blogger
Please do! And let me know if you have any other questions!- October 29, 2014
I love the insider story…great post thank you…locals do know best and it is great to share..esp. when you are busy zooming off to other countries (sometimes I forget there are so many treasures in my own backyard), it is easy to forget there are so many stories to be told at home. Cheers- October 31, 2014
Thanks for stopping by! So happy you enjoyed! I totally agree about forgetting to look in your own hometown!- November 3, 2014
I moved to the U.S. ten years ago and can you believe I still haven’t been to New York?!! We’re planning a trip there this Fall and I’m so excited! Thanks for all these great tips, will keep them in mind!- January 13, 2015
Yes! And the fall is the best time to come so you are in luck! My favorite season here!- January 23, 2015
Museum of Modern Art!! One of my favorite places to go in NYC. I need to come back to NYC and visit all these other fab spots- January 13, 2015
I’m headed up to NYC next week! Perfect timing. The MET is one of my favorites. Pete & I did a date night there during our last visit to the city, and we practically had the place to ourselves!
Love all your tips here! And your photo in the MET is fabulous … but … are you wearing a boot? What happened to your foot? 🙁- January 14, 2015
I broke my foot last year! Too much walking around this wonderful city! haha. All better now though!- January 23, 2015
The Brooklyn Bridge is a great idea! Great post. I’ve marked it to save for when we go to NYC next!- January 14, 2015
Yes you must! Hope you’ll come soon!- January 23, 2015
As many times as I have been to New York I have yet to go to any museum or Grand Central Station I TOTALLY need to remedy that! Great posts from a local’s point of view!- January 14, 2015
You must come back and do those things! Thanks for your kind words!- January 23, 2015
I did a week in NYC in May and did everything on your list except the church, EVEN Grand Central Station!- June 14, 2015
I have been to NYC a handful of times, but I feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what there is to see there. Can’t wait to go back again – and add all of these to my list!!- January 16, 2015
I LOVE how many free thing there are to do in NYC. I live not far from the city (1.5 hours) so I’m always popping down to the city to enjoy all it has to offer.- January 19, 2015
How lovely! Yes, so many things to do! Even living here I don’t have enough time to see them!- January 19, 2015
Yes! Even living here full time there is not enough time to see it all!- January 23, 2015
I love what you’ve written here on New York. It’s one of my favorite cities. I have a site, Hometown Tourist, we’re looking for local travel writers to provide local travel tips. Please check out our site, and if you’re interested in more information let me know.
Thanks and have a great day!!- April 9, 2015
Thanks, Terri will definitely have a look!- April 23, 2015
My husband and I are considering going to NY next year – it will be our first time. Thanks for the list of free attractions – it will help our traveling dollars go much further.- June 8, 2015
I love this! I’ve been to NYC a few times, but there are things on this list I haven’t done. Will definitely save this!- June 9, 2015
This is perfect! My family and I were in New York in January for a long weekend and we had such a great time. We’re planning to go back later in the year so I’m bookmarking this post so we can explore the places you mentioned.- June 9, 2015
So happy you will be able to do some of these things!!- July 19, 2015
This is such a great list of budget friendly things to do in NYC! 🙂 I have only visited the city once- on one of those crazy whirlwind one day bus trips with my mom and sister. It was amazing and completely exhausting all at the same time, lol. But we went in November, so all the Christmas magic was already happening there. I have been wanting to take the kiddos there though. It is definitely a must-visit, must-see.- June 11, 2015
NYC has so much to offer – I love all these great ideas that are easy on the wallet. (more money for great food!)- June 11, 2015
I totally agree!!- July 19, 2015
I’ve never been in NYC longer than 24 hours and am DYING to go back!!!- June 15, 2015