Free Things to Do in New York City

Free Things to Do in New York City: 5 Ways to Be Active & 5 Ways to Explore Culture

New York City is expensive. Like, really expensive. A great cocktail starts at $15, dinner for two can easily be $100, taxis are almost $4 before you even move the car, and I'm not even going to get started on the cost of real estate...

It's easy to see your hard-earned money go quickly down the drain in New York City, so finding things to do for free (or on the reallll cheap) is so helpful to make sure this city doesn't suck you dry. Luckily I've been able to find some amazing things to do here that prove "free" doesn't have to mean "shitty." Here are some tips for free things to do in New York City in order to be active and explore culture.


5 Ways to Be Active:

1. Yoga To The People

This is hands down my favorite thing on this post. Yoga To The People is an amazing yoga studio (with multiple locations throughout the city) that offers free/affordable yoga classes to the masses. It is donation based, so you can pay what you are comfortable paying. And if you don't have a yoga mat, you can rent one for just $2. The classes are really, really good and very popular amongst New Yorkers. Go channel your inner yogi now!


2. Walk the High Line

The High Line is a beautiful, old, elevated railroad track that has been turned into an outdoor park/walkway for pedestrians. It connects the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and bits of Hell's Kitchen all by this one stretch of track. You'll get amazing views of the city, the river, and even New Jersey by walking through the High Line. It's really great to come when it's nice and sunny out too.


3. Walk, bike, or skate across the Brooklyn Bridge

There's no better way to get stunning cityscape views of Manhattan and Brooklyn than by crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Marvel at this architectural beauty while walking, biking, or skating 1.134 miles to cross it one-way. You'll definitely want to stop for pictures if you haven't already because it's too pretty not to oogle at the views from here.


4. Pick a neighborhood and walk around

Picking a neighborhood to get lost in and explore is a wonderful way to stay active and get to know the city better. My boyfriend and I love doing this on our days off together. We just pick a place that we want to get a deeper look at and spend the day wandering the streets. It's a fun way to walk a few miles on any afternoon.


5. Go Kayaking on the Hudson

If you're into kayaking, try out the free tours that you can take at the Downtown Boathouse. This company offers free tours and classes throughout the week when the weather is warmer. Services usually open up around April of every year.

Also try:  Free ice skating or yoga in Bryant Park, biking around the city, or free yoga in Times Square in the summer.


5 Way to Explore Culture:

1. Visit Museums, Zoos, or Gardens

Many tourists aren't privy to the fact that NYC museums can actually be free to get into. There are tons of wonderful places that are either donation based or offer free nights to visit. Here are some great spots to check out:

  • African Burial Ground:  Free all the time
  • American Museum of Natural History:  Free the last hour it's open and admission price is "suggested"
  • Brooklyn Botanic Gardens:  Free on Tuesdays and from 10am-12pm on Saturdays
  • Brooklyn Museum:  Free first Saturday of the month
  • Bronx Museum:  Free all the time
  • Bronx Zoo:  Free on Wednesdays
  • El Museo del Barrio:  Free the third Saturday of the month
  • Fashion Institute of Technology Museum:  Free all the time
  • Guggenheim Museum:  Free from 5:45-7:45pm on Saturdays
  • Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library:  Free all the time
  • Japan Society:  Free from 6-9pm on Fridays
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art:  Admission price is "suggested"
  • MoMA:  Free from 4-8pm on Fridays
  • National Museum of the American Indian:  Free all the time
  • New York Botanical Garden:  Free all day Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9-10am
  • New York Earth Room:  Free all the time
  • New York Historical Society:  Free from 6-8pm on Fridays
  • New York Aquarium:  Free 3pm Fridays and 4pm in the summer
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture:  Free all the time
  • Socrates Sculpture Park:  Free all the time (light shows & movies on Wednesdays in the summer)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art:  Free from 7-9:30 on Fridays
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum:  Free from 5-8pm on Tuesdays


2. Hang in Parks

New York has plenty of parks to love throughout the city. Central Park, Bryant Park, Riverside Park, Battery Park, Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, and the list goes on and on. Take a picnic and hang out in one of the many parks, see Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park, or catch a movie on the Astoria Park Great Lawn. All for free, and all for your enjoyment!


3. Take a Brooklyn Brewery Tour

The Brooklyn Brewery has been gaining more and more notoriety over the last few years, and hosting free tours every week has been a vital role in growing their presence in the community. Stop by the Brooklyn Brewery for a free tour every weekend to see how your favorite NYC beer is made. Tours are free from 1-5pm on Saturdays and 1-4pm on Sundays.


4. Sightsee in Midtown

There are so many modern and iconic beauties to love in Midtown. You can do any of the following things for free around this neighborhood:

  • Visit the New York Public Library
  • Walk through Grand Central Station to see the architecture
  • See Rockefeller Center (and the Christmas tree/lights on 5th Avenue during the holidays)
  • Take in the energy at Times Square
  • Visit St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • See the Empire State Building
  • See the Chrysler Building


5. Go to TV show tapings

Did you know that a lot of your favorite TV show tapings are actually free to attend? Yep! Jimmy Fallon, Kelly & Michael, The Today Show, and so many more! All you have to do is either show up or reserve your tickets ahead of time and get there early. Here is a list of shows that are currently offering free tickets to studio audiences.

Also try: Seeing the art in the Chelsea galleries, visiting Governor's Island, taking a tour at the Federal Reserve, or calling ahead at Juilliard to score free tickets to performances.


What are other free things you like to do around NYC? List any recommendations below!

PS - See my favorite travel things that I can't live without here!

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