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12 Awesome Free Things to do in New York

The New York Skyline at night

New York, the city that never sleeps and where it seems to cost you to breathe. It doesn’t always have to be like this though, here are our top 12 awesome free things to do in New York.

Walk the High Line

We LOVE the High Line and go every time we’re in NYC – it was an old railway spur, and now is a park and green space. It has amazing murals, great plants, places to sit and contemplate. What’s great is on a Tuesday when the weather is good they do stargazing from the Highline too! They have guided and self guided tours and loads of information on the Friends of the Highline website.

Hamilton’s Estate

Hamilton Grange is the most fascinating place from the outside…and I’m sure from the inside too. We went up to Harlem for a delicious brunch and to see the Hamilton Grange estate, only to find it shut due to the government shutdown. We had a walk about the outside and read the information available to us. After doing some research however, it does look as if it is well worth a visit, particularly if you’re interested in the man behind the musical!

Museums (on the right day/time)

Museums in New York are amazing, but they come at quite a cost. There are some amazing ways to beat that (the New York Sightseeing Pass being one way). The other way is to plan the times that museums are either free or suggested donation (this can be $0). As of May 2019, these are the days/times that we could find and are correct as of today.
Guggenheim Museum: pay what you wish; every Saturday, 1745 to 1945.
The Jewish Museum: free; every Saturday, all day.
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art): free; Friday, 1600 to 2000
Whitney Museum of Modern Art: pay what you wish; Fridays, 1900 to 2200.
The Brooklyn Museum: Free; First Saturday of the month, 1700-2300.
Museum of the Moving Image: Free; Fridays, 1600-2000.

Jess and Tim in front of a neon installation
Watch the free video at the Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum is one of our favourite museums and we did the ‘Under One Roof’ tour this time round. However if you’re looking for free but still want to experience the museum then through the shop have a seat to watch the fascinating documentary that they show on a loop for free. It details the history of the area, the work of the museum and spotlights some of the old residents. It’s a must see in our opinion, and works wonders in a world of hate to promote community cohesion.

Ferry to Staten Island

The Statue of Liberty, one of New York’s most iconic landmarks is remarkably small for her fame. It’s also quite costly to get the ferry to Liberty Island and up the statue (we went to the island as part of a tour on our New York City sightseeing pass) but there is another way. You can get the free commuter ferry from South Ferry in Manhattan to Staten Island, and if you’re anything like us, turn around and go straight back again. The ferry is its own historical landmark – being the last of the ferry services left from when there were no bridges between Manhattan and it’s neighbours. It goes right up close and personal to lady Liberty herself and is totally free, takes about 25 minutes from one port to the other and the service runs every 30 minutes.

New York Public Library

For bibliophiles and Ghostbuster-philes this is a fabulous place to visit and is open late. You can walk around and explore the incredible decor, walk into the reading rooms (you’ll recognise them from Ghostbusters) and they often have fabulous exhibitions on downstairs about authors or other literary New York Life.

Brooklyn Brewery Tours

If you like beer, and you are interested in the process behind it, then the free weekend Brooklyn brewery tours are exactly what you need. On Saturday and Sundays the tours are free, they start at 12pm and last an hour ish. Also, on Saturdays the last tour is at 5pm and Sunday is at 4pm. Tickets are released about an hour before the tour that you pick up at the brewery. It’s been the best tour we’ve done and there are a lot of funny points, and the best bit is tasting all of the amazing beers after!

See some art at Chelsea Galleries

A bit like in Mayfair, lots of the galleries in Chelsea are selling art by artists you know at prices you can’t afford. However, this doesn’t meant that you can’t look. Free to enter, just don’t break anything whilst you’re in there. You’ve got loads to chose from like David Zwirner, Gagosian, Hauser and Wirth amongst others. Once you’ve found one, you can just meander the streets of Chelsea to find others!

Hauser and Wirth window
Walk over Brooklyn Bridge

It’s iconic, that’s for sure and if you are looking for more free things to do then why not wonder down to the Brooklyn Bridge. It is much longer than it looks, and always windy. Always. The pedestrians have their own walkway above the cars, and it’s the best place to get your photos of Manhattan and the bridge. There’s no charge, and it’s open 24 hours a day, so you can do it anytime!

Central Park

Central Park, Tim’s favourite in the world, and there’s good reason for that. Within a city of pollution and busy-ness, the escape into Central Park is exactly what the people of New York need. And the tourists. Aside from walking around Central Park, there is so much to do! You can visit the memorial to John Lennon, go ice skating in the Winter months, or row round the lake. And go and watch Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theatre in the summer, visit the European style conservatory gardens. Or see Cleopatra’s Needle (the obelisk) and take a stroll down the literary walk to see the famous authors. You can listen to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in free summer concerts or race model sailboats on the water. You name it, you can probably do it!

The Whispering Gallery at Grand Central

So we thought that this was made up, and when you go down people that don’t know it’s there will think you’re idiots. However, down on the lower level, right by the Oyster Bar Restaurant is an arched ceiling that holds many secrets. In fact, if you stand with your ear against the tiles and someone on the opposite corner whispering, you can share secrets too!The perfect arches make this acoustic oddity a lot of fun, and they’re now protected so they wont be moved. Go down and have a look for yourself!

Free Museums all of the time

There are a number of museums in New York, slightly more off the beaten track, that are free all the time. These include ones like Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace, The Soldier and Sailors Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. The American Folk Art Museum is free always, as is the Federal Hall National Memorial. If you’re up for something different and free then seek and ye shall find young Jedi, but these things should help to start you.

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