New York City on a Budget: 11 Notable Free Things to Do in NYC

If you have not already caught on, New York City is EXPENSIVE. And if you have been researching things to do and see, I am sure you have noticed by now that this city while beautiful can easily run your wallet dry. Cue $30 brunch and spending $25 on aesthetic coffee and desserts—yikes. So if you stumbled on this post because you are scratching your head wondering how you can possibly afford to have fun on your next NYC vacation without breaking your bank, you have come to the right place! Despite NYC being one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are still quite a few things you can enjoy doing here without spending a cent. So here is my gift to your already crying wallet

11 Notable Free Things to Do in NYC

1.Kayaking on The Hudson (May-October)

Pier 26

This is probably one of the coolest things you can do in NYC for FREE. Yep, you heard that right! While I have not personally done this myself, I have had numerous friends who have and they recounted enjoying their experience. The Downtown Boathouse offers free sit-on-top kayaks for public use in protected Hudson River embayments at each of their locations throughout the season (May-October). In addition, they give brief instruction and provide all necessary safety equipment as well as changing rooms, lockers and locks, bike locks, sun block, and first aid equipment for you! It’s the perfect activity for your visit and all for free!

(Winter Weekdays: Tuesday–Friday, December–February and Friday mornings before noon, March–November)

From windagainstcurrent.com

From windagainstcurrent.com

The (zoomed in) view from the Staten Island Ferry of The Statue of Liberty

The (zoomed in) view from the Staten Island Ferry of The Statue of Liberty

2. Staten Island Ferry

If you do not want to pay the $30 to go to Liberty Island, just hop on the free Staten Island Ferry that will allow you to see the Statue of Liberty pretty close

The ferry leaves every 30 minutes from the South Ferry terminal at the tip of Manhattan. The ride lasts about 25 minutes and unless you want to hang around Staten Island, just get off the ferry, around the corner and get back onto the ferry (there will be people getting on, so just follow them)!

Pro Tip: In order to see the Statue of Liberty, you need to be on the right hand side (north side) of the ferry when you are leaving Manhattan. When entering, enter through the left doors (which are less crowded) and then cross over to right side and get a spot by the railing. As you near Staten Island, go down to the first floor so you can be at the front of the crowd when getting off the boat!

3. MoMA

11 W 53rd St.

Can you really go wrong with one of the most renowned museums in New York city? Nope! This one is my personal favorite.

Here’s how you get in for free: On Friday nights, they wave the $25 admission and you can get in for free from 4-8pm. Sculpture garden is free every morning from 9:30-10 am

Want to check out other museums that are “pay what you wish” (donation) or museums on their free days? Here’s a list: click here

3. Federal Reserve (Gold Vault Tour)

33 Liberty St.

I never thought I would be so amused by a gold vault until I saw the one holding a majority of this country’s wealth in gold bars. Want to experience the same awe? On weekday afternoons, it is free to tour the gold vault

4. Governor’s Island

Need a little escape from Manhattan? This 172-acre island sits at the tip of Lower Manhattan and has everything from parks and bike trails to art exhibitions. During the summer it is actually the site of a ton of festivals and events!

Ferry rides are free on Saturdays and Sundays until 11:30 am (open to public April-October), otherwise a roundtrip fare is $3 for adults, $1 for seniors and free for children under 13 years old.

From  nycgo.com

From nycgo.com

5. Brooklyn Brewery

79 N 11th St.

If you are a beer connoisseur and want to experience something away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown, head over to Brooklyn! The Brooklyn Brewery does free tours every half hour on the weekends.

6. New York Distilling Company Tour and Tasting

79 Richardson St.

Still have not had enough from the Brooklyn Brewery? Head over to the New York Distilling Company. They have free tours and tastings (what?!) on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

7. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

This one is a little tricky and requires some advance planning. If you know and are planning your visit to NYC well in advance, set a reminder for yourself for the 1st of the month that you are visiting. This is when the tickets are available on NBC’s website, but they go pretty fast—so get on it!

From nycgo.com

From nycgo.com

8. Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn

Visiting in the Spring and have no idea what to do? Head over to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the most beautiful blooms!

(Winter Weekdays: Tuesday–Friday, December–February and Friday mornings before noon, March–November)

10. Chelsea Galleries

There are hundreds of art galleries in Chelsea, mostly located between W. 14th Street and W. 29th Street around 10th and 11th Avenues. Contrary to what Gossip Girl made us believe, art galleries are not just for filthy rich people. Why? They’re always free to visit during opening hours, and many put on museum-quality exhibits. Sometimes on Thursdays (which are typically opening nights), galleries often serve complimentary wine or beer. Look at this website for a list of all the art gallery openings

11. Rose Main Reading Room (at the NYPL)

476 5th Ave

If you are a Harry Potter fan or just adore interior design as much as I do, then this is the perfect place for you. The Rose Main Reading Room is one of the largest and most beautiful interior spaces in NYC. It is the perfect place to discover a new book on a rainy day -- plus, this historical space is looking pristine as ever after its two-year renovation and reopening in 2016.

Where’s the freebie? If you want to learn more about the library’s history, free one-hour tours of the whole building are offered on a first come, first served basis Monday through Saturday at 11am and 2pm, and Sundays at 2pm.

From newyorker.org

From newyorker.org

Well there you have it! 11 Notable Free Things to Do in NYC on your next visit to this city. Stay tuned for more posts!

In the meantime, here are my other NYC centric blog posts:

A First Timer’s Guide to NYC

The Ultimate Planning Guide to New York City: A List of the BEST Places to Eat, Drink, See

Brooklyn’s 4 Must Visit Coffee Shops: Clinton Hill Edition

The Ultimate Gossip Girl Guide to NYC: 14 Must Visit Locations

Til’ Next Time,

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