It is easy to spend a lot of money when visiting NYC. As New York natives who have been living in one of the most expensive cities all of our lives, we totally know. No need to fret though… we have put together a guide of 40 cheap things to do in NYC today (and many are FREE). This guide will help you save some of your hard-earned dollars. So take notes, go out, and enjoy!
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Visit the Lions, Tigers, and Bears! The Bronx Zoo offers FREE general admission on Wednesdays. Children 2 and under are always free. This leaves you some money for snacks. Did you know that the Zoo opened in 1899? It houses 4,000 different animals and 650 species. Be sure to get there early, dress comfortably, and be prepared to do a lot of walking.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Stop and smell the roses at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Admission is FREE on weekdays during the Winter December-February. Feel free to call or visit their website to inquire on which plants have bloomed. We went for Mother’s Day last year to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival. To our disappointment, they had not yet fully blossomed. I’ve read that during Winter the Greenhouses are full of Tropical Plants, offering a nice break from the cold winter months.
Enjoy the fresh air by taking a stroll through Central Park. Grab some blankets and a picnic basket and spend a lazy afternoon laying on the Great Lawn. During the winter months go ice skating at the Wolman Rink. This is definitely one of the most romantic things to do in NYC during the winter season.
The kid in me says you are never too old to ride the carousel so be sure to check it out as well. Check out the website for operating hours. It usually costs about $3.00 to ride. Movie buffs may recognize Central Park from movies such as Wall Street, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and When Harry Met Sally. A visit to Central Park is definitely one of those special things to do in New York City.
Staten Island Ferry
Hop on for free from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan into Staten Island. What’s cool about the Staten Island Ferry is that you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You will also see the stunning Manhattan Skyline. Have your camera ready for that money shot!
Watch a Brooklyn Cyclones game at MCU Park. The Brooklyn Cyclones are a minor league team affiliated with the New York Mets. Tickets can be purchased for as little as $10.00 and as high as $19.00. The Cyclones usually host a post-game fireworks show which is pretty cool. A FREE thing to catch in Coney Island is the fireworks show hosted by Luna Park every Friday night at 9:30 P.M. during the summer months.
Also free for the taking is a stroll on the historic Boardwalk where you can enjoy the sea breeze and people watch. The boardwalk stretches from the New York Aquarium to the neighborhood of Brighton Beach. You can check out the historic Parachute Jump which is an iconic steel frame structure and the Cyclone Rollercoaster. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by Famous Nathan’s for a hot dog or two!
Visit the non-profit organization Coney Island USA for a list of current events.
If you enjoy drinking beer and are near Williamsburg, Brooklyn I recommend you visit the Brooklyn Brewery. They are open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 6-9:30 P.M. On Fridays they are open to the public from 6-11 P.M, Saturdays 12-8 p.m, and Sundays 12-6 P.M. The Brewery offers Private tours but reservations are required and each ticket costs $15.00. You will learn the history of the Brooklyn Brewery, sample some beer, and take home a cool Beer glass. Check out their website for more info.
The Highline is a public park created from an abandoned stretch of elevated railroad track. It’ stretches 1.45 miles long and offers a different view of NYC. The landscaping stands 30 feet in the air and connects the Meatpacking District with Chelsea’s galleries. It runs on the West Side from 34th to Ganesvoort Streets. The views of the Hudson River are outstanding! You can check out many FREE events such as movies and garden tours. Visit Friends of the High Line for a listing of special events.
Street Fairs and Festivals
There are too many to list here but you can definitely find a street fair or festival happening throughout NYC during the Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons. Some of our favorite street fairs are the 5th Avenue, 7th Avenue, and Atlantic Antic in our old neighborhood in Brooklyn. They are free to attend but you should budget some money for food. Hey, all that walking is going to make you hungry right? And who doesn’t love traditional street fair food? Thoughts of sausage and peppers and Mozzarepas make me salivate as I sit here writing this blog post! To find the dates of all fairs and festivals happening throughout NYC you can visit NYCGO for up to date information.
New York Public Library
When’s the last time you stepped into a library? Remember the Dewey Decimal System? Research is so much easier nowadays. You can take a FREE tour of one of the world’s most famous libraries and re-live the days of long research papers. Did you know this library has over 53 million items? The library houses many exhibits, including the original Declaration of Independence. Hourly tours take place at 11 A.M and 2 P.M Monday through Saturdays. On Sunday,s the tours are at 2 P.M. except in July and August.
Take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Feel free to jog, run, or bike it as well. Local’s Tip: please stay on the correct path. If not, you may get the evil side-eye from a New Yorker. It is one of my favorite bridges to walk in the Summer.
Here are a few Brooklyn Bridge Facts:
- The length of the Brooklyn Bridge is a little over 1.1 miles
- At least 20 to 30 people died during its construction in 1869
- It took about 14 years to build and cost approximately $15 million
Check out this Brooklyn Bridge 3D Metal Model Kit on Amazon here.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
The views of Downtown Manhattan from these Six Piers are to die for! FREE movies and concerts can be enjoyed during the Summer months. Take a ride on Jane’s Carousel for only $2.00. Children 3 years old and younger ride FREE. Click here for visitor information.
Check out the glitz and glamorous lights by strolling this part of the city any night of the week. Native’s Tip: Try to avoid posing with the costumed characters walking around Times Square. If you pose with them, they will expect a tip. They tend to be pretty aggressive and annoying. NYC has been cracking down on them over the last couple of years because of this. If you want to save money on Broadway show tickets click here
Washington Square Park
This Park is named for George Washington (1732-1799), who was inaugurated in New York City as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. This park near New York University (NYU) is a nice spot to relax and catch some rays on a summer day. Here you will find a dog run and a children’s playground.
Long Island City Piers/ Hunter’s Point Park
This Pier in Long Island City, Queens offers killer views and a nice place to relax. My wife and a couple of friends brought me here to continue my birthday festivities last year. The cityscape view at night is insane.
FREE entrance to the Brooklyn Museum is available on the first Saturday of every month (except in September). Doors open from 5 to 11 P.M. You can choose from family activities, live music, and gallery talks. The museum is right next door to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden so you can plan to fit both in on the same day.
The Celebrate Brooklyn! Music Festival has been taking place at the Prospect Park Bandshell every Summer since 1979. FREE events take place on a weekly basis from May through September! Past performers include Bob Dylan, The Neville Brothers, and Norah Jones. The event calendar is usually published every May by BRIC.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Regardless of religious affiliation, I’m sure you can appreciate the history and architecture of this beautiful Cathedral. Public tours are available for a suggested donation of $5.00. Check out the website for dates and tour times.
Grand Central Terminal
The above pic was taken during the Blizzard in 2015. I have never seen it this empty. The Grand Central Partnership offers a FREE 90-minute walking tour of this iconic landmark and its surrounding area.
This Memorial honors the lives lost on 9/11. It is FREE and open to all. It is open daily from 7:30 A.M. to 9 P.M.
Tours by Foot
This tour company offers FREE walking tours throughout American and European cities. You pay Tours by Foot whatever you wish. For more information on these tours visit them here.
Tour Greenwich Village
Historically, this neighborhood in NYC has been a place for artists and the LGBTQ movement. This was the home of Edgar Allan Poe, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix. Use Tours by Foot mentioned above.
Miniature Golf Course @ Pier 25 Hudson River Park
If you’re into miniature golf check out this spot. This 18 hole Golf course is 13,000 square feet and is the only course of its kind in NYC. This place opens on April 15 and hours are extended as the weather warms up. Visit their website for ticket prices and hours of operation.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
This was the first Museum created for children in 1899. Tickets cost $11 per person. Children under 12 months enter free. Click here for address and hours of operation.
Nice place to hang out at when the weather is warm. You can shop at the year-round GreenMarket (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). Union Square is also well known for its Holiday Market. Bring your “A” game if you want to go up against the Chess players.
This museum no longer accepts suggested donations. The price to enter is $25.00 per adult and $14.00 per student with a valid I.D. Their is FREE entrance every Friday from 4-8 P.M. Plan to arrive an hour earlier. Once it fills up no one else is allowed in.
This building built in 1902 is not one of the tallest in NYC but it is one of the most dramatic-looking. It is popular with Artists and Photographers. Unfortunately, there are no tours inside the building.
This is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC. Enjoy a walk along the waterfront and hop on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Take your partner for a walk along the Promenade and take in the spectacular views of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, and the NYC Harbor.
No tickets are necessary to visit this Art-Deco Landmark. It is FREE but you can only visit the lobby of the building since it mainly occupies several private businesses.
East River State Park
This 11 Acre Park is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take a stroll and enjoy views of the Manhattan Skyline.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The largest park in Queens was the site of two 20th Centuries World Fairs which was attended by millions of people. There is a wide array of recreational activities to choose from such as playing baseball, cricket, and soccer. You can also check out the zoo, botanical garden, and the Queens Museum. If you are in NYC April 28-29, 2018 you can make your way to Citifield for a recreation of the World’s Fair. This time around it is being called “The World’s Fare” and will feature over 100 food vendors, street art, a beer garden, and live music. Ticket prices range from $19.00 to $199.00 and can be purchased here.
Socrates Sculpture Park
This park was founded in 1986 as a place for the community to engage and have an accessible art space. Visitors can witness thought-provoking art installations, light shows, and FREE movies in the Summer.
This former military outpost played a major role in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. The island is about 800 yards away from Lower Manhattan. A ferry ride departs from Battery Maritime Bldg, Slip 7, Lower Manhattan. It costs $2.00 for Adults, $1.00 for Seniors, and is FREE for Children under 13. The island is about 172 acres. Visitors can cycle, picnic, and enjoy FREE events. Read more about this beautiful oasis on my post titled “Is Governor’s Island Worth A Family Visit?”
Ghostbusters Firehouse (Tribeca, NYC)
This is definitely one of my favorite things to check out in NYC. Here are a couple of things to know prior to your visit:
- FDNY Hook and Ladder #8 opened in 1903 and is located at 14 North Moore Street, Tribeca, NYC 10013
- The Firefighters of this firehouse were among the First Responders in the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- This fire station was selected as the base for the Ghostbusters by Actor Dan Akroyd in 1984 because he knew the area and liked the building.
- Has appeared in the Movie Hitch and an episode of Seinfeld.
- Hook and Ladder #8 was slated for closure in 2011 but was saved by the community and is currently undergoing renovation.
In January 2016 Lego released a playset based on the “Ghostbusters Headquarters Location”. Check it out on Amazon here
Roosevelt Island Tram
The Tram connects the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. The trip across the East River only takes about 3 to 4 minutes. Cost for the amazing NYC views is $2.25 each way ($4 for a roundtrip). The Tram is not operated by the MTA but uses the same MetroCard System.
Broadway in Bryant Park
Take your lunch to the park and listen to Broadway cast members play songs from famous musicals. Bring your own chair or have a seat on the lawn.
Go for a gallery crawl. Why not? Entrance to these galleries is FREE and there is no pressure to buy. Time your visits to Thursdays and you can enjoy some FREE Wine and Cheese. Check the Gallery Guide for listings.
New York Botanical Garden
Admission is FREE for all on Wednesdays and 9-10 A.M. on Saturdays. The garden is located on Bronx River Pkwy & Fordham Rd, The Bronx. Visit the NYBC website for more information.
Studio Museum in Harlem
The suggested donation for entrance is $7.00 and is FREE on Sundays. For more information, click here.
Check out the Wall Street Bull. It is located on Broadway and Morris Street New York, NY 10004. The Bronze piece of art was created by Arturo Di Modica in 1989. The Bull is a symbol of passion, transformation, virility, strength, and fulfillment. In Astrology the Bull is one-in-the-same with the Taurus (and the word Taurus means bull in Latin). I just had to share another one of my favorite movies below.