Free Tours in New York City
By: Josh – Josh@CheapInTheCity.com
Last Updated: November 14, 2016
NYC has more free tours than you can throw subway sludge at. Below I’m going to describe some of my favorite. If you know of any free tours in NYC that are not on my list, please let me know.
CENTRAL PARK CONSERVANCY TOURS
Location: Throughout and around Central Park
Contact: 212-310-6600; centralparknyc.org
Offering hundreds of free tours every year, the volunteer-led walking tours focus on everything from Central Park’s history to its wildlife. Some tours on their calendar now include Views from the Past Tour, Castle and its Kingdom Tour, Tavern and its Green Tour and the West Side Stories Tour.
Most tours are open enrollment. You simply show up. Check the Conservancy website for their calendar of tours, which include times, meeting locations and accessibility level.
THE MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY'S GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL TOUR
Location: Meet at the information booth in the main concourse
When: Every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (Lasts about an hour and a half)
Contact: 212-935-3960; mas.org
Cost: Free – Suggested donation $10
This amazing tour of this Beaux Arts landmark will introduce you to some hidden treasures found in Grand Central including its design, architecture, sculptures and a history of its preservation and restoration. The tour has been around for over 25 years, is led by MAS staff who are experts in their field and passionate about Grand Central.
Be sure to check out soe of their other tours, such as their tour of the Upper West Side and 34th Street. Find out more by following the above link.
THE GRAND TOUR
Location: The Grand Central Neighborhood. Meet in the street level atrium at 120 Park Ave.
When: Every Friday at 12:30 p.m. (Lasts about 90 minutes)
Contact: 212-883-2420; http://grandcentralpartnership.org/things-to-do/tours
This tour led by historians Justin Ferate and Peter Laskowich will take you around the grand central neighborhood. You will visit Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building and the News Building “through new eyes”.
The AAA Guide rated The Grand Tour New York City’s “Best Walking Tour”. No reservation required. Just show up!
FREE TOURS BY FOOT - NEW YORK TOURS
Location: Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village, Midtown, Historic District, Central Park
When: Varies – Everyday
Contact: 646-450-6831; freetoursbyfoot.com/new-york-tours
Cost: Free – Tip based
This group of licensed tour guides offers a number of tours in many of Manhattan’s amazing neighborhoods. The tours are free, but you should tip your guide after it is all over. The tours last around two hours each and are by foot. These tours by foot are a great way to get to know the city while getting some exercise.
You do not need to preregister unless you are in a group of six or more. They also offer custom tours for a fee.
BROOKLYN BREWERY TOURS & BEER TASTING
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
When: Monday - Thursday @ 5pm.
Contact: Visit Brooklyn Brewery
Get the skinny on the science of beer brewing as well as the brewery itself on their monday - thursday "small batch tour". The tour lasts about 2 hours. Some free beer sampling takes place after the tour.
UNION SQUARE: CROSSROADS OF NEW YORK
Location: Around Union Square – Meet at the Abraham Lincoln Statue along 16th Street
When: Typically Saturdays at 2pm, but times vary! Check the below link for dates/times.
Contact: 212-517-1826; unionsquarenyc.org
The Union Square Partnership teamed up with Big Onion Walking Tours to present this free tour of New York’s Union Square neighborhood. You do not need to make a reservation for the tour unless you are a large group. Simply show up. Your guide will take you through the park and surrounding area and present you with the area’s history as you explore Union Square’s architecture.
THE HIGH LINE FREE TOURS
Location: Meet at Chelsea Market Passage on The High Line near West 16th Street.
When: Check site for free weekly tours
Contact: 212-206-9922; thehighline.org
The High Line offers several free tours, from star gazing to history tours. Show up early as these tours are first come, first served and space is limited. Check out our article on The High Line to find out more.
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK TOUR
Location: Enter at 44 Maiden Lane (Wall Street area)
When: Monday to Friday at 11:15 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Contact: 212-720-6130; newyorkfed.org
Reservations required. You must make your reservations a week or more in advance! Be sure to plan. You can make your reservation online on their website. Also, be sure to bring an officially issued photo ID. You’ll have to go through security screening.
The tour lasts about an hour and will provide you with a brief overview of the Federal Reserve System. You will then go on a guided tour of the gold vault! After the tour, you’ll receive free admission to the bank’s museum.
VILLAGE ALLIANCE - Self Guided Tours
Location: Greenwich Village
Charge up your smartphone or tablet and pick from a number of self guided tours offered up via the Village Alliance website.
HISTORIC TOUR OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE - CANCELLED
Location: Meet in front of Katz’s Delicatessen (corner of East Houston and Ludlow Street)
When: Every Sunday, April through November at 11 a.m.
Contact: 212-226-9010; LowerEastSideNY.com
This comprehensive three-hour walking tour of the Lower East Side will introduce you to the rich history of the neighborhood from the arrival of immigrants to modern day.
The Lower East Side Business Improvement District sponsors the tour. There are no reservations; you simply show up. Bring your walking-shoes, as this is a long one!
EVERY LAST SUNDAY LOWER EAST SIDE ARTIST'S GALLARIES TOUR - CANCELLED
Location: Meet at LES Visitor Center, 54 Orchard Street
When: The last Sunday of each month, April through October (no August tour) 1 p.m.
Contact: 212-226-9010; LowerEastSideNY.com
Another free guided NYC tour offered by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District will take you through the LES’s artist community. You’ll explore independent galleries, studios and performance spaces. No reservation required.
Every LES tour offers a free neighborhood map featuring historic points of interest and a discount guide.