101 Free and Fun Things to Do in New York City
By: Josh – Josh@CheapInTheCity.com
Last Updated: July 20, 2016
1. Visit the New York Botanical Garden: Every Saturday from 10am to 12pm and all day Wednesdays, admission to the garden in the Bronx is completely free.
2. Visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Every Saturday from 5:45pm to 7:45pm, this amazing museum offers “pay-what-you-wish”. If you are as broke as we are, feel free to pay nothing at all.
3. Visit the Bronx Zoo: Similar to the Guggenheim, the zoo offers pay-what-you-wish. Each Wednesday, all day long the zoo can be yours for nothing at all. If you can afford it, please donate a buck or two. Think of the little animals!
4. Visit the Museum of Modern Art – MoMA: Typically $25 per adult, every Friday night between 4 and 8pm you can enter the MoMA free courtesy of UNIQLO.
5. Visit the Brooklyn Museum: Target will pick up the tab for this amazing museum on the first Saturday of each month between 5 and 11pm. Enjoy an amazing night of performances, hands-on art, music and FREE FOOD!
6. Visit the New Museum for Contemporary Art: Kids under 18 get into this art museum for free everyday!
7. Catch a performance at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts: Every Thursday at 8:30pm, Target sponsors a completely free musical or dance performance in the David Rubenstein Atrium.
8. Visit the Museum of Chinese in America – MOCA: Stop by on a Target Free Thursday from 11am to 9pm and catch a free program series along with free admission to the museum.
9. Take your kids to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan: Filled with interactive exhibits and programs designed for kids, you and your little one can get in for free every first Friday of each month between 5 and 8pm.
10. Visit the Met – The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A little known fact about the Met is that the posted fee of $25 is “suggested” and you really don’t have to pay anything at all. If you can afford it, I would still donate a dollar or two, but it is up to you.
11. Visit the American Museum of Natural History: Another amazing museum, which suggests a donation of $19. If you’re broke, feel free to drop down a dollar or skip the donation completely.
12. Visit the Cloisters: One of my favorite museums filled with art and architecture from medieval Europe is suggested donation. If you visit the Met beforehand and still have your pin, you don’t have to wait in line to get another.
13. Fill up on food samples around Union Square: When I was a student, I would often stop by stores around Union Square and fill up on their free samples. Start at Trader Joe’s and work your way over to Whole Foods.
14. Fill up on food and drink samples at Greenmarkets: The Greenmarket in Union Square is my favorite. Many of the stands hand out free samples. Cheeses, juices, breads and even wine are typical.
15. Work out free at city gyms: New York City Parks and Recreation gyms are free on the first Monday of every month. They include all the workout equipment you can think of and some even have indoor pools. Classes are also free.
16. Take a yoga class: Many of the city’s yoga studios offer free times or are donation only. If you’re new to a studio, they will often offer a free class or two. Try out some of the city’s amazing yoga studios free.
17. Take a yoga class in a park or in Times Square: Many of the city’s parks have special free yoga events during the summer. There is a massive yoga event every year in Times Square.
18. Watch free theater: Every summer The Public Theater offers free theater. A prime example is their famous Shakespeare in the Park. Other productions include Broadway greats such as Hair.
19. Watch free movies: There are free pre-screenings of some very popular films. You’ll see the latest blockbuster before anyone else and you won’t pay a dime!
20. Catch a free comedy show: There are a ton of free comedy clubs near the corner of MacDougal and Bleecker Streets in Greenwich Village. You’ll see people on the streets trying to get you to come inside. A nearby vendor even sells a t-shirt that reads, “No! I don’t want to see your free comedy show!” LOL.
21. Watch a TV show taping: There are tons of shows taped each day in the city. The Daily Show and many others like it are free to sit in on.
22. Get a free haircut: There are a number of solons and beauty schools, including Arrojo from What Not to Wear, that look for “hair models” to practice on. The experience can be enjoyable and you’ll get a great haircut free.
23. Get a free pedicure and/or manicure: The same beauty salons mentioned above also look for people to practice pedicure and manicures on.
24. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge: A walk every New Yorker should experience. You’ll find amazing views of the city. The walkway is above the cars (not alongside them) and the bridge looks amazing. Once you get to Brooklyn, you’ll find yourself in the middle of some of the city’s newest and most impressive parks.
25. Ride the IKEA water taxi: The water taxi leaves Pier 11 near Wall Street and takes you past the Statue of Liberty (well, you can see it) to IKEA’s Brooklyn location. On the other side is a waterfront where you can have a picnic. The water taxi is free on weekends. They even open the rooftop deck during summer months. Very cool.
26. Join a running group or club: One of the best ways to see the city is to run through it. There are free groups and clubs you can join that will hook you up with fellow runners. The group runs can be a lot of fun and are a great way to meet new people.
27. Watch a free movie in Bryant Park: Every Monday between June and August Bryant Park has their Summer Film Series. Movies start between 8 and 9pm. Get there early for a good spot.
28. Watch a free movie in Central Park: A free movie is show every night for five days at the Central Park Film Festival. The festival typically takes place at the end of August and movies start at 8pm.
29. Watch free movies on the river: River Flicks starts in July, continues through August and play every Wednesday and Friday. The Wednesday movies are for adults and Fridays films are for kids. Everyone gets free popcorn!
30. Watch a free movie, with a view: Another free summer movie series “Movies with a View” is located at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Movies start at sunset.
31. Watch a movie with hipsters: Every Tuesday after the sun goes down; you can catch a free movie in Williamsburg at McCarren Park pool. Movies run July through August.
32. Watch a movie on an aircraft carrier: Every Friday after Memorial Day, you can catch a free action movie on the Intrepid deck onboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The Intrepid is a freakin' aircraft carrier!
33. Watch a movie “under the stars”: Every Wednesday around 8pm, you can watch a free movie at Riverside Park South. Movies run between mid July and mid August. Each year there is a new theme.
34. Watch a movie on the beach: Every summer you can watch a free movie on the beach at Coney Island. The movies are typical classics like Top Gun and play every Monday at dusk.
35. Take the Staten Island Ferry: The ferry is free for everyone, anytime. The trip takes around 25 minutes each way and has amazing views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.
36. Go swimming: Every summer NYC opens a number of free public pools. The free pools are massive and many locations offer lounge chairs to lay back in. Private pools can cost $100 or more per day. Cool off and get some rays, free.
37. Watch street performances in Washington Square Park: There are a number of free acts that take place every day at all hours. From pianists to guys who jump over your head, it can all be found in this amazing park. During the summer, sit around the fountain and people watch.
38. Read the Village Voice or AM New York: To keep up on city happenings, grab one of these city papers free at most subway stations. I grab one every day just to see what is happening around town.
39. Go Kayaking: Every summer there are locations around the city that offer free kayaking. They provide the kayak, life vests, paddles and even some guidance. Locations include Pier 40, Pier 96 and Riverside Park.
40. Hit up a concert in Central Park: Summer Stage offers a number of free concerts every year. You’ll find everything from classical to rap.
41. Check out a Broadway hit in Bryant Park: Every Thursday between 12:30 and 1:30 from July through August, you’ll find some of Broadway’s most popular shows, free! They also offer contests for Broadway tickets.
42. Listen to live classical music: On select Mondays and Tuesdays, you can find some relaxing classical music played free by the Naumburg Orchestra in Central Park just south of 72nd Street.
43. Catch a free concert: Every year in mid June there is a free concert in Union Square via Summer in the Square.
44. Catch over 100 free concerts: Lincoln Center offers a variety of concerts July through August. You’ll find everything from Jazz to Hip-Hop.
45. Rock out to more free concerts: The nonprofit organization ‘City Parks’ offers a number of free concerts throughout the city in all five boroughs.
46. Jam to some music in Madison Square: From the end of June through mid July, you can catch a number of touring acts at the Oval Lawn Series. After mid July, Madison Square offers the “studio series” which is devoted to Blues music.
47. Rock out downtown: If you’re going to be spending time in lower Manhattan, you may want to check out the River-to-River Festival which takes place June to July and offer amazing New York legends such as Patti Smith and Sean Lennon.
48. Take in some Opera: Every summer for a week in July the MET offers free opera in the park. Six free performances take place in different parks throughout the city.
49. Rock out at the South Street Seaport: Every summer in mid July the 4Knots Music Festival offers a free indie-rock concert at 89 South Street.
50. Rock out in Brooklyn: June through August on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays you’ll find a number of great performances at Prospect Park Bandshell near 9th Street. There is often more than one performance in a day!
51. Rock out by the river and drink free lemonade: Mid July through the beginning of August, you can catch some free concerts and drink free lemonade at Hudson River Park near 13th Street in Brooklyn.
52. Jam to some tunes at the Fulton Stall Market: Every Sunday afternoon from the end of June through the end of August, you can jam to free concerts.
53. Jam in the morning: Every summer Friday morning around 7 am, you can catch a free concert with Good Morning America. The performances take place in Central Park.
54. Go ice-skating in Bryant Park: Every winter you can ice skate free in this amazing park. It is a little less crowded than some other more popular skating locations. Be sure to bring your own skates or you’ll need to pay a fee to rent them.
55. Go ice-skating at Rockefeller Center: Another free location, right in the center of the city. You’ll be skating on the same ice skating rink you see on TV! This location can be crowded so try to go on a weekday. Bring your skates or you’ll need to rent them for a fee.
56. Rent your books on your e-reader from the NYC library: Do you have a Kindle or Nook? The New York City library has teamed up with Amazon and Barnes & Nobel to offer free library books downloaded and “checked out” digitally by people with a NYC library card. There are THOUSANDS of titles available.
57. Drink and eat on Name Night: Some establishments throughout NYC offer free drinks and food to patrons with a specific name. The name changes each week. Have some drinks on the house!
58. Browse the web: There are TONS of free Wi-Fi internet hot spots in NYC. A new program named “Wi-Fi in Parks” will hook you up with free internet access at many of the city’s best parks.
59. Take a tour of the High Line: New York City’s newest and most unique park, the High Line is a raised park situated on top of an old rail line. Every Tuesday at 6:30 pm, the park offers a free walking tour.
60. Take a fitness or dance class on the High Line: From free Yoga to free Salsa Dancing, the High Line offers it all!
61. Take a tour of Central Park: The Central Park Conservancy offers hundreds of free and amazing tours throughout and around Central Park. You’ll find tours about the park’s history, tours of that park’s nature and even tours of the park’s ponds. Most are open enrollment and all are free.
62. Take a tour of Grand Central: The Municipal Art Society’s free Grand Central Terminal tour is over 25 years old and takes place every Wednesday. Your guide will introduce you to the terminal’s design, history and architecture.
63. Take a tour around Grand Central: This free AAA rated tour, which takes place every Friday, is lead by historians Justin Ferate and Peter Laskowich. You will explore the area around the terminal including the Chrysler Building.
64. Take a number of tours around Manhattan: Tours by Foot offers free/tip based tours at number of locations around the city. The guides are licensed and very knowledgeable. They also cater to custom tours for a nominal fee.
65. Take a tour of Brooklyn Brewery: Need an ice-cold beer after all that touring? End the day with a free tour of the famous Brooklyn Brewery on Saturdays and Sundays. The tours last about 45 minutes and end with beer tasting.
66. Take a tour around Union Square: Every Saturday afternoon the Union Square Partnership and Big Onion Walking Tours offer “Crossroads of New York”, a tour in and around Union Square Park. You’ll look at the area’s architecture and catch up on some history.
67. Take a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York: The New York fed offers a number of free tours everyday Monday thru Friday. You have to make a reservation in advance and go through some security, but once you get in you’ll receive a guided tour of the gold vault as well as some information on what exactly the Federal Reserve does.
68. Take a tour of Greenwich Village: The Village Alliance offers the 8th Street Greenwich Village Walking Tour ever Saturday at 11:30 am. The tour only takes place during summer months. The tour focuses on tidbits and gossip of the Village.
69. Take a historic tour of the Lower East Side: This free THREE-HOUR tour will introduce you to the history of the Lower East Side. Bring your walking shoes.
70. Take a tour of artist’s galleries on the Lower East Side: This free walking tour takes place on the last Sunday of each month and starts at 1 pm. You’ll explore independent galleries and studios throughout the neighborhood.
71. Take a Taste of Times Square: No, I don’t mean lick the sidewalk; that would be nasty! Every year at the beginning of June Times Square has its free music and food festival; Taste of Times Square. You’ll find samples of food from some of the city’s top restaurants. Full dishes are available at a major discount. The music is free.
72. Listen to some music and have a beer on Crosby Street: Every year at the beginning of June, Crosby Street is turned into an open-air market with free live music by local bands. BBQ and beer is available on the cheap.
73. Celebrate French culture: Every year in mid June you can hit up Bastille Day where you will find a TON of French food. You’ll also find wine and cheese tasting as well as free, authentic French music and art.
74. Be crafty: For two days each year in mid June, stop by Greenpoint, Brooklyn and learn all about indie crafts. The Renegade Craft Fair offers unique jewelry and crafts for sale, free craft classes and a ton of food from local eateries.
75. Check out museum mile: One evening a year in mid June many of the city’s most popular museums are completely free during the Museum Mile Festival. Nine amazing museums take part, including the Met and the Guggenheim. The streets around Museum Mile are closed off to traffic and there are live bands, street artists and other entertainment.
76. Hang out with mermaids: To celebrate the sand, sea and start of summer stop by the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The parade takes place every year in mid June. Dress up as a mermaid and celebrate King Neptune and the Mermaid Queen. Only in New York :)
77. Play a game: For four weeks every summer, June through August, you can play adult games at the Come Out and Play Festival in lower Manhattan. Adult tag anyone?
78. Welcome summer with yoga: Celebrate the coming of summer, yoga style. Every year the Solstice of Times Square includes an all day yoga event for yogis of all levels. On the way out you’ll get a goody bag full of yoga swag and coupons.
79. Watch people stuff their face with hotdogs: The Nathan’s Coney Island Hotdog Eating Contest takes place every year on the 4th of July.
80. Take a harbor boat tour: Every year in mid July, don’t miss the City of Water Festival. The festival includes free boat tours of the NYC harbor and free rides to Governor’s Island and Liberty State Park. You’ll find tons of live music and activities for all!
81. Party with the New Museum: Every year at the end of July, the New Museum has a block party in Sarah Roosevelt Park. There are free live performances, interactive art exhibits, guided tours and more.
82. Walk the streets: No, this is not one of those lame items that come up on 101 things to do lists, like “go out and walk…” Three times a year throughout the month of August, the city shuts down Park Avenue between Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge to allow pedestrians to walk the Summer Streets. You can walk, jog, rollerblade or bike and you won’t have to worry about being run over by a car. Free goodies and music pop-up along the way.
83. Visit the Queens Botanical Garden: Like the one in Brooklyn, this amazing garden offers an escape from the grunge of the city. You’ll find flowers, plants, exhibits and walking paths. The garden is always cheap, at $4 per head, but every year between November and March the garden is free for all. Other times of the year are free on Wednesdays from 3 – 6 and Mondays between 4 and 6.
84. Visit Governors Island via water ferry: Once a military base, now a park, you can catch a free ride on the water ferry every Saturday and Sunday during summer months. The ferries leave from 10 South Street in lower Manhattan and Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The ferry leaves every 10 to 15 minutes.
85. Rent a bike on Governors Island: Every Friday, during the summer, you can rent a bike for up to an hour, free to ride around the island. Governors Island offers five miles of trail.
86. Play Mini-Golf: Starting the end of April, through September, you can play mini-golf free on Governors Island. There are 14 holes and everything is provided.
87. Fly a kite: Free kites are provided to fly on Governors Island at the end of July starting around 11am. Let’s go fly a kite…
88. Take a free fitness class: The Shape-Up NYC program offers free fitness classes all over the city. Classes include yoga, weight training, tabata, body conditioning and more. Certified professionals that volunteer for the program teach the classes. Most classes are in recreation centers and some are in parks.
89. Work out at an exclusive private gym: Many of the city’s most exclusive gyms offer free passes and trials. Clay, for example, is a gym that focuses on the “mind, body and soul”. They not only offer a gym experience, but also a spa. Clay is currently offering a full one-week trial. A few others that offer free trials and passes are 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Bally’s, Crunch, Dolphin Fitness, Boom Fitness, The Sports Club/LA New York, Reebok Sports Club/NY, and World Gym.
90. Hang out on a roof: on warmer days and evenings, the roof at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is open to the public. Grab a cocktail and take in the amazing 360-degree view.
91. Go fishing in Central Park: Poles and bait are available free of charge every year between April and October. Equipment is provided by the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, inside the park around 110th Street. No, you can’t eat the fish. You must release them after you catch them.
92. Go fishing in Battery Park City: Equipment, including pole and bait are given out on select Saturdays (even during winter months) between 10am and 2pm. You’ll be fishing in the Hudson. If you catch anything, you could technically keep it and eat it. But, would you really want to?
93. Fish in Hudson River Park: From 10:30am to 5pm on summer weekends, you can grab yourself free rods and bait via the Big City Fishing program. Staff will answer questions and help you out. Everything is catch and release, so no yummy Hudson River fish for you!
94. Have lunch with Bach: Every Tuesday through Friday at the Grace Church, you can sit back and meditate to Bach at Noon. The organs start at 12:20 and last for half an hour.
95. Learn something new: New York has many free daily workshops. You’ll find everything from knitting to workshops on how to protect yourself. Check the Village Voice or other local publication for listings.
96. Take in some Shakespeare, in a parking lot: That’s right, in a freaking parking lot! LOL. Don’t be deterred. This free play takes place two times each summer in the Ludlow Parking lot down on Ludlow and Broome Streets and is a ton of fun.
97. Dance: There are a wide variety of free dance workshops and lessons that take place in the city. In the West Village, you’ll find a dance theater workshop at the Judson Memorial Church. The workshop provides studies project performances and festivals.
98. Sing: Free karaoke anyone!? Greenwich Village is full of free karaoke. Check out the Grisly Pear over on MacDougal or Arlene’s Grocery (no it is not a grocery store). Another one is Wicked Willy’s. Look for the funny looking bike-cart out front with the big skull and eye patch on it. If you see them riding around, ask for a free lift to the bar.
99. Gallery Crawl: Head over to West Chelsea and check out some of the neighborhood’s amazing art galleries. There are more galleries in this neighborhood than anywhere else in the city. Many have special times when you can meet the artist. Wine and cheese anyone?
100. Stroll through a cemetery: If you dare! Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn is a National Historic Landmark founded in 1838. It is MASSIVE and very beautiful. There are ponds, chapels and GRAVES… I’ve walked from one end to the other. It took over an hour and it was right when the sun started going down. With an ominous voice the guard at the gate even said, “Be sure to get to the other side before sun down…” LOL.
101. Follow CheapInTheCity.com: Hey, we are located in NYC and the site is free. Hang out near one of those free Wi-Fi hotspots and keep up with the many free things to do in New York City.