Free things to do in New York City

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A trip to New York City doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these great ways to explore the Big Apple for free.

A trip to New York City doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these great ways to explore the Big Apple for free.

Central Park

Central Park (Image: edenpictures)
Central Park (Image: edenpictures)

NYC’s iconic Central Park offers plenty beyond lush green space in this urban city center. With 843 acres of free gardens, statues, ponds and trails, you’ll find plenty to enjoy no matter your budget. Central Park always draws a lively mixture of public events and eclectic park-goers, making for an entertaining afternoon of people-watching as you take in the free performances. You’ll also discover interesting landmarks as you peruse the park, including the tranquil Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon and The Beatles.


Tiger at the Bronx Zoo (Image: cacostello)
Tiger at the Bronx Zoo (Image: cacostello)

Dozens of New York City museums offer free admission, including the Federal Reserve Bank, Bronx Museum of the Arts and the outdoor Irish Hunger Memorial garden. On Wednesdays, you can enjoy free admission to the New York Botanical Garden and donation-based admission to the Bronx Zoo. Friday nights, you can visit the Museum of Modern Art, Rubin Museum of Art and Museum of the Moving Image for free.


Chinatown (Image: vauvau)
Chinatown (Image: vauvau)

Plenty of free tours offer a budget-friendly way to explore New York City. Free Tours by Foot offers pay-what-you-want tours throughout the city, including walking tours of downtown, Manhattan, Harlem, Greenwich Village and Little Italy. You can also dig into the city’s culinary scene with Free Tours by Foot’s food tours through Chinatown or the Lower East Side.

If you’re a beer drinker, you won’t want to miss a free tour of Brooklyn Brewery, held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. One-hour tours are held every hour between 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays, and you’re welcome to bring your own food if you choose to stick around and sample beers for $5 a token.

TV Tapings

Entrance to "The Colbert Report" studio (Image: raybdbomb)
Entrance to “The Colbert Report” studio (Image: raybdbomb)

With a little luck, you can join the studio audience for some of your favorite TV shows for free. Morning shows like “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” and “Live! with Kelly and Michael” are all shot in the Big Apple, as are talk shows like “The View.” In fact, you’ll find a whole slew of daytime TV shows looking for studio audiences, including “The Rachael Ray Show,” “The People’s Court” and “The Dr. Oz Show.”

If you’re more of a late-night comedy show junkie, you can try to score tickets for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” or “The Colbert Report.” Tickets usually need to be requested in advance online; check out this guide to TV taping tickets by the NYC Tourism Board for more information on joining a live studio audience.

(Main image: patrickhashley)

Free things to do in New York City was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.