My first time visiting New York was absolutely unforgettable. It’s a place that’s too big to completely absorb, offering so many wonderful things to see and do you can’t quite possibly do it all in one trip. It’s a city you find yourself wanting to visit time and time again. One very important thing I learned while there was how costly it can be for visitors. It’s quite easy to completely blow your budget and overspend at every turn. Luckily for us, New York is bursting at the seams with insanely cheap and free things to do! Woohoo! Here are a few of my top picks for the very best cheap and free things to do in New York.
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- Take a free tour of the Brooklyn Brewery Tasting Room, offered every half-hour from 1-5pm on Saturday and 1-4pm on Sunday
- Visit rooftop lounge The Delancey where you’ll find them serving up cheap drinks and awesome free events
- Love books? Spend a few hours exploring the stunning New York Public Library, be sure to check out the events page too
- Head to the New York Aquarium from 3-3:30pm on Fridays in fall, winter and spring or 4-5pm in summer and gain entry by pay-what-you-wish donation
- For cheap drinks and free pizza head to the Crocodile Lounge where you can play skee ball and enjoy a cocktail on the patio
- Explore The High Line, which runs from West 30th street down to the Meatpacking District, created out of a disused section of NYC Railroad it offers fantastic, unique views of the city and a great spot to sit and relax for a while
- The High Line runs from West 30th street down along the old line to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. It runs through Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton through West Chelsea, and into the Meatpacking District (don’t worry, those neighbourhoods aren’t as scary as they sound!).
- Get your hands on free hot dogs and cheap beers at NYC dive bar, Rudy’s Bar and Grill
- Catch a free movie at one of the many free screenings across New York in the summer, you can also catch them at Bryant Park
- Take a tour of New York’s City Hall for absolutely free and see the Governor’s Room, visited by Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein
- Visit the American Museum of Natural History where the admission fee is suggested and you can pay less, if you wish, by purchasing your ticket at the museum admission desk
- You’ll find bookstores all across New York offering free readings, so stake out the event pages of Barnes & Noble or Housing Works Bookstore Cafe or check out the super cool KGB Bar in the East Village, a favourite of authors for many years
- You’ll find cheap beers and small plates of delicious Japanese food (plus spin-your-own cotton candy!!) at Kenka in the East Village
- Catch tango dancers and jazz musicians outside Lincoln Center at the annual, free, monthlong Out of Doors festival, held in August.
- It’s a no-brainer, but, be sure to visit Central Park and BYO picnic if you’re particularly broke (me!)
- Kayak for free from public boathouses such as the Downtown Boathouse and Long Island Community Boathouse in Queens.
- Love the theatre? Watch a free show, like Julius Ceasar or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Shakespeare in the Park
- There are plenty of art galleries in Chelsea, just begging to be explored for absolutely free! Time it right and you might find yourself at an event or launch, sinking back free wine!
- Take advantage of cheap drinks at Dive Bar favourite Jimmy’s Corner, near Times Square
- Visit the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday, when admission is a pay-what-you-wish donation
- It’s free to enter the Fashion Institute of Technology where you’ll find a museum with fantastic exhibits, like Black Fashion Designers and Paris Refashioned, they also have regular events worth scoping out
- Explore the Hispanic Society of America Museum in Washington Heights, for free, to discover an incredible collection of Spanish art
- Ride the Staten Island Ferry and take a totally free 30-minute (each way) trip with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhatten cityscape
- Visit the stunning Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue on the first Friday of the month, between 6-8pm, to explore the latest exhibition for free and fulfil your Upper East Side dreams (xoxo)
- Discover the yet-to-be-discovered rising stars of the creative arts at The Juilliard School’s free student concerts
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- Take yourself on a DIY walking tour of Wall Street and explore the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, City Hall Park, Federal Hall National Memorial (where George Washington was sworn in) then onto Battery Park and the South Street Seaport.
- Spend a few lazy hours walking the Brooklyn Bridge
- Catch the free ferry to Governor’s Island, once there discover a world of fun activities, events and exhibitions as well as gorgeous views of the Manhatten skyline
- Enjoy live Jazz and cheap drinks at Fat Cat in the West Village
- Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a weekday in winter for free entry (November – February) and Tuesdays (all day) and Saturdays (10am-noon) all other times
- Head to Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg for their famous $4 beer and hot dog combo while shooting skeeball
Useful travel resources for your trip to New York!
As always, our guides and content are completely free. If you found this post (or anything we do) useful, we’d be grateful if you considered using the affiliate links below. We’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the services we love and use ourselves. Thank you in advance for your support! Phoebe and Matt
Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Booking.com – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Rental Cars – a great search engine for renting a car
TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.