How to See New York – For FREE!

New York may be an amazing city but it certainly isn’t a cheap one, especially at this time of year when New York shopping breaks become popular with Brits planning to kick-start the Christmas present buying. So once you’ve splashed out for your flight, hotel and gifts for the grateful folks back home – here’s how to see the best of New York for FREE!

Free New York Sightseeing

We’ll start with the easiest since it’s completely free to begin your New York sightseeing with a wander around the city to admire some of the most iconic buildings.

The Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building – photo by thenails

The Empire State Building and Chrysler Building are must-see examples of the Art Deco scene, and the Brooklyn Bridge provides a simply stunning view of both Manhattan and Brooklyn as you cross between them. New York’s districts can seem worlds apart, as you’ll see if you contrast a stroll through Little Italy with arty TriBeCa, Times Square or Fifth Avenue.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station – photo by *Muhammad*

Grand Central Station is worth a look-in, especially as you can get a free tour courtesy of the Grand Central Partnership. They run a free 90-minute walking tour every Friday – They’re led by local historians and venture out to explore the surrounding neighbourhood which includes the Chrysler Building and the News Building as well as the station itself.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty – photo by Celso Flores

We’ve yet to find a completely free way of getting up close to New York’s unmistakable Statue of Liberty. Whilst it is free to visit Liberty Island where she’s based and the Museum on Ellis Island – you have to pay $13 (£8/9) per adult to get the ferry to the island. You can’t book crown access at the moment as the statue’s interior will be closed for renovations from October 2011 to October 2012. However you can still access the pedestal – the stone portion of the monument. This is free but you need to reserve here at least two weeks in advance (and more for busy periods).

Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry – photo by robertpaulyoung

However you do get a great view of Lady Liberty from the free Staten Island Ferry – as well as a free tour of New York Bay.

High Line Park
High Line Park – photo by David Berkowitz

The High Line Park is the latest must-see New York sight – this elevated one-mile stretch of park is built on a disused railway running through the lower west side of Manhattan.

Free Culture in New York

If you’re in the Big Apple to experience their world-leading art galleries, theatre and museums then you’re in luck as there are plenty of incredible free offerings.

For free theatre you’d be best off checking what’s happening in Central Park  – many theatre groups stage free performances there, especially throughout the summer months.

New York Botanical Gardens
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – New York Botanical Gardens – photo by Ryan Somma

Lots of attractions have free days. For example, on a Wednesday you can take a free stroll through the New York Botanical Gardens, or visit Bronx Zoo (although they do appreciate any donations from visitors).

Museum of Modern Art – photo by james.

As for museums, there are plenty of freebies, even from the big name galleries – but you’ve got to know when to go. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opens its doors for free from 4pm on Fridays, whilst Saturdays are the turn of the Guggenheim – visit after 5.45pm and the policy is pay what you wish.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library – photo by Vincent Desjardins

New York Public Library is always free to visit. Not only will you see spectacular architecture and an impressive book collection but they have a varied exhibition programme – check what’s on when you go here.

American Folk Art Museum
American Folk Art Museum – photo by H.L.I.T.

The American Folk Art Museum is another freebie worth a look. Their fascinating collection is comprised of not just US folk art but works from international self-taught artists too.

Eat for Free in New York

All of this sightseeing is hungry work so we thought we’d help out some more by finding some free grub in the city. Amazingly free food is out there – though you may have to buy a drink or two to get at it! You can get a fresh pizza personally made for you with any drink at the Alligator Lounge in Brooklyn. And there’s more free pizza at The Mark Bar – as well as free coffee and bagels on Sundays.

Mmmmmmm pizza – photo by TheHungryDudes

There’s a whole free buffet available on weekdays between 5.30pm and 6.30pm at The Watering Hole. By happy coincidence it’s Happy Hour at the bar too.

New York’s Free Nightlife

Catching some live music in New York City is easy – there are plenty of smaller venues with no admission charge. Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn and Lakeside Lounge in the East Village come highly recommended but ask around for the latest hot spot.

BAM Cafe
BAM Cafe – photo by Yusuf C

Also worth a mention is jazz at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – it’s free admission to their BAMcafé every Friday night. Finally there’s always free live music at Lucille’s Bar and Grill, located inside the legendary BB King Blues Club.

roof garden
Roof Garden at The Delancey – photo by The Delancey website

If you enjoy a free thirst-quencher to nicely complement your free night’s entertainment then head to The Delancey on the Lower East Side – your one-stop shop for all things free! At their free dance parties on Thursdays and free burlesque shows on Wednesdays they even give away free vodka! Plus they have a stunning all-weather rooftop garden. That’s free to visit too by the way.

Top image by Anthony Quintano

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