Things to do in NYC on a Budget

9x things to do for free in New York City

There is an undeniable allure to this city that drew in over 61.8 million tourists last year. And, any first-time visitor will have a full agenda trying to cross of its highlights. But, as goes for most cities that thrive on tourism,  these highlights are likely to cost you big bugs. Going to a show on Broadway filled with glitter and glam, seeing New York from above on the Empire State Building or exploring central park on a horse and carriage, it sure as hell doesn’t come cheap. When you’re eager to explore New York City, but are on a budget, here are our top things to do that are totally free: 

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1. Dumbo

Start with the best right? Our all-time favorite spot in New York; Dumbo. Some people might say that the  NYC High Line is the best place to get killer views from the skyline but those people obviously haven’t been to Dumbo yet. Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is an industrial area whereupon first arrival it’s hard to expect much. A first glimpse of its beauty is caught when approaching the photogenic bridge. Following the path towards the Brooklyn Bridge Park is where the true views lie, those of the world-renowned New York skyline. To see such a chaotic and immense city in such peaceful scenery is incredible.  No matter which time of the day you pay the venue a visit; sunrise, sunset or mid-day; it’s all equally good.

Dumbo bridgeView from Dumbo

Brooklyn Bridge Park

2. Brooklyn Bridge

Connecting Brooklyn to the iconic skyline of Manhattan: the Brooklyn Bridge. Till this day, the $15,000,000 bridge is crossed by over 120.000 vehicles every day. And those are not just cars alone. Thousands of tourists cross the bridge on a daily basis, trying to get a glimpse of the statue of liberty, Manhattan skyline and the river. Because of the popularity, the best time to visit is earlier on the day. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to cross the bridge. But, that depends of course on how many stops you intend on taking.  The bridge can be crossed on either side. Brooklyn to Manhattan and vice versa. The best views, however, are spotted when walking towards Manhattan. Unless you’re visiting during summer time, make sure to bring a jacket as it can get incredibly windy up there.

Brooklyn BridgeBrooklyn Bridge walk

3. 9/11 memorial 

As tragic as this day was, as breathtaking is the monument. The immense size, and the meaning behind it, will leave you speechless. As it was meant to. Friends and family of the victims still bring white roses to the memorial to honor those they lost. Increasing the already powerful 2,977 names engraved in the bronze plates flanking the area.  The monument itself consists out of two colossal manmade waterfalls that are situated within the footprints of were once the world trace centers stood. The memorial is out in the open air and does not require any admission. However, if you want to visit the museum afterward, the entrance fee is $24 dollar. 

Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York

New World Trade Centers New York

4. Time Square

New York’s most photographed scenery cannot fall short of this list. Dazzling bright lights coming from as far and wide as the eyes can see. Be entertained by street performers picking dozens of people from the crowd to jump over, a half-naked batman, dance battles or watch the live news. You choose. There is literally so much going on that, even when you’re not into the touristy stuff, there is something to this square that will leave you dazed for a minute. In an attempt to take it all in. There are multiple flagship stores and theaters attached to Times Square, but this might not be the best area to start off a shopping spree. As you’ve probably guessed, the people mass here is no joke.

Location: Midtown Manhattan at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. It stretches from 42nd to 47th street.

Times Square New York Times Square New York

5. Central Park

In the ultimate concrete jungle, there lies 3,41 km² of green peace and quiet. Allowing the hard-working people of  New York to do their morning runs, dog walks or simply enjoy a peaceful afternoon away from the hustle every now and then. Take a stroll through one of the most filmed sceneries in the world and observe it for yourself. During summer time it’s great (and very romantic) to go rowing in the middle of the lake or find a serene picknicking spot. During winter exploring the park in a horse and carriage ride packed under comfy blankets is superb or hit the skating ranks for a fun activity. (Paid)

Location: North 110th Street to Central Park South (59th Street), and from Central Park West (8th Avenue) to 5th Ave

boats central park Lake New Yorkboats central park Lake New YorkCentral Park Lake New York

6. The New York Public Library

The New York Public library stands proudly in the middle of the popular shopping street 5th avenue. The library is the second largest public library in the US and is still actively being used, whilst simultaneously being displayed for visitors. The entrance is free and whilst the first hall might not be very impressive, once you make your way through the somewhat of a maze of a building, you’ll start getting lost in rooms and halls that are nothing but majestic. Another reason why to love this place: the public toilet is easily accessible plus clean and there is free wifi. Pretty rare in the middle of 5th avenue. What more can one wish for?

Location: 42nd Street, Fifth Avenue

7. The American Museum of Natural History

Another favorite, the American Museum of Natural History. Where visitors take a walk through ancient history and it’s wildlife starting the moment they step foot inside. No dusty old museum as you might remember from your childhood. Imagine gigantic dinosaur fossils, animals from the amazon and creatures from the deep seas or take the chance to learn about ancient cultures and their traditions in one of the many exhibitions. The admission is $23 dollars, which will grant you access to all the museum halls. But hey we said free stuff only right? The funny thing is; the entrance fee is suggested. Which is sort of a “you need to know about it” thing or you’ll end up paying full price. Pay-what-you-wish admission is available only at the ticket counters.  The museum is also free the last hour it is open, which is from 16:45-17:45.

Location: Central Park West & 79th St, Upper West Side

American Museum of National HistoryAmerican Museum of National History

Click here for more information 

8.  High Line 

Just your regular park stroll, only 9 meters above the streets of West Manhattan. That would be the rather unique 2,3 km long High Line Park, which was built on an abandoned elevated rail line. The rail line used to run freight trains between 1934 and 1980. A few years after the rail line shut down the government decided to invest a lot of money to create what is now a magnificent park on the West side of Manhattan. The park was opened to the public in 2009 and has been one of New York’ most popular attractions ever since. Throughout the park expect to find a large variety of plants and flowers, art installations and plenty of benches to sit down and enjoy the view. The skyscrapers in the background make for a nice photo opp as well.

Location: Several entrances can be found anywhere on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenue.

View from the high line New York

9. The Staten Island Ferry 

Nothing like a nice boat ride, especially when it’s totally free. The Staten Island Ferry is a free commuter ferry that goes back and forth between the Whitehall Terminal (Manhattan) and the St. George Terminal (Staten Island). A great ride to get a glimpse of the renowned 46 meters tall copper statue of liberty located on Ellis Island. The ferry runs every 30 minutes, all day, all night and 7 days a week. A single crossing will take you approximately 25 minutes. Calculate some extra time though, cause passengers must get off and on once they’ve reached the destination.

For the exact ferry schedule click here.

Staten Island ferry Staten Island ferry view