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10 Things to Do in New York City for Free

New York has a wide variety of places to visit such as Niagara Falls, miles of beaches, mountainous state parks, and quaint country towns. Growing up on the South Shore of Long Island, one of my favorite spots was New York City. New York can be pricey, but this guest post outlines some great things to do in New York City for free.

Things to do in New York City for free 

Written by Bev & Shams Adventures 

New York is one of the most expensive cities to visit, but it really doesn’t have to be! It’s still possible to explore New York City and have an adventure without breaking the bank. Simple, with these things to do in New York City for Free. 

New York City is surrounded by skyscrapers, big beautiful parks, memorials, shopping and so much more. What is not to love about New York City? 

Whether you’re a solo traveller, travelling as a family or just looking for a cheap weekend getaway, there’s plenty of things you can still do in New York City for free.  

Notable buildings to see in New York City for Free

Grand Central Station 

This busy transportation hub, sees about 750,000 people pass through the station every day. Making this one of the most visited locations in New York.  

A landmark destination due to its unique design and architecture. The main concourse of the station is the main place to visit. With the gorgeous clock balancing on the top of the information centre. But slowly move your gaze up, to see the magnificent celestial ceiling.  

Have fun with visiting the whispering gallery, located near the Oyster Bar and Restaurant. Two people stand in opposite corners and whisper messages, while the rest of the station rushes by. The sound waves of the whisper bounce around the curved arches and received on the opposite corner by the listener. 

The food hall, is located in the lower concourse of the station, with a variety of cuisines. 

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Flatiron Building 

This quintessential, iconic building gets its name from its shape resembling a flat iron.  On its completion back in 1902, it was the tallest building in New York city. 

This unusual shape, makes it even more interesting to visit, as it stands out from the other regular shaped buildings in the area. The best spot to see its shape, is at the traffic island between Broadway and Fifth Ave.    

Oculus   

Of things to do in New York City for free this is a great display of architecture
The Oculus

The area has vastly changed over the last 10 years plus, for the better. 

Once a bland PATH and subway station, exited to the World Trade Centre. It’s now been replaced by the fresh design of the Oculus. The interior is so spacious with shops and food outlets. On ground level, it really isn’t possible to think there is something so large beneath your feet.   

The Oculus opened in 2016 following the terrible events of 9/11. It forms part of the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub. The terminus connects travelers with 11 subway lines, the PATH and has many shops and restaurants. 

Streets you must visit in New York City 

Street Art 

Love street art, then this has to be at the top of your list of things to do in New York City for free. Discover some fantastic art displays, from the mural project, subway graffiti, to masterpieces on shops, residential and restaurant buildings and so much more.  

Street art has changed over the years, starting in the 1970s as a form of protest, with graffiti tags painted on subway carriages and buildings, to more colourful displays of art today.  

One of the best displays in our opinion is the mural project located in the area of the Oculus, One World Trade Centre PATH Station and the 9/11 Memorial. The colours and designs are just amazing, it’s like standing in a free art gallery, while the city passes you by. 

Other such noteworthy street art to explore are located in Williamsburg and the Bronx.  

Times square 

Shows Times Square
Time Square

Times Square is often referred to as the centre of the universe and one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world. It sees an estimated 330,000 visitors a day. 

The bright sparkling lights from the billboards is the main attraction. But many are not just stopping for the lights. Many are passing through Times Square to a famous Broadway Theatre show. 

It’s previous name until 1904 was Longacre Square. That was until the New York Times moved its headquarters to the area.  

The first New Year’s Eve Ball drop was in December 1907 and has become an annual event since, with growing popularity over the years. Millions of people watch this famous event from all over the world.  

Are you brave enough to visit during December and stand in the bitter cold, with the thousands of other people, to watch the ball drop? If you do brave this famous event, then fear not, it is free. But you will need to get there early. 

Parks to visit in New York City for free 

Central Park 

Shows Central Park where you can stroll around and find many things to d in New York City for free.
Nature in Central Park

Central Park is the most popular in New York. But surprisingly it is only the 5th largest in the city at a size of 863 acres (349 hectares).  

There’s so much to see and do, from ice skating in the winter, to sun bathing on the green in the summer. Join an exercise class, play a sport on the sports court or go for a run around the park to stay fit and healthy.  

Many statues and monuments are located around the park, for you to explore. If you’re traveling with children, why not let them run off some steam in the number of play parks. 

How many movie spots did you discover?  

Bridges to walk in New York City 

Brooklyn Bridge   

One of New Yorks iconic bridges and was once the longest bridge in the world, when it was built in 1883.  

To get the best view of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn skyline and the statue of liberty, walk the nearly 1600-foot bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It can get very busy and congested. By taking a sunrise walk, not only could you get the best views, but there’ll be fewer tourists.  

Memorials and Churches in New York City 

National September 11th Memorial   

A big statue at the September 11th Memorial, something in New York City to do for free
September 11th Memorial

This is a real somber and emotional place to visit, but the new design has done it justice.  

The twin towers once stood in the middle of Lower Manhattan, until that unforgettable day on 09/11/2001. We all know what happened. 

Two memorial pools have been designed exactly where the original Twin Towers once stood. Surrounding the memorial pools are the names of the people who lost their lives. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t lost a loved one from that terrible day, but you will want to visit just to pay your respects.   

The names of all the people who lost their lives in 2001 and 1993 are inscribed around the two pools. Liberty Park offers great views of the Memorial, look out for the World Trade Centre Sphere.  

The sphere survived the collapse of the Twin Towers. Although visibly damaged, it was removed, cleaned up and placed in Battery Park. It has since been moved to Liberty Park, where it remains as it’s home. 

The

St Paul’s Chapel 

Donations 

Built in 1766, making this the oldest building in Manhattan and would have once been the tallest building in New York. Over the year St Paul’s Chapel has withstood the great fire of New York City in 1776 and the September 11th attacks. 

The exterior of the building retains its beautiful and dated architecture. The interior is a peaceful and quiet area to get away from the busy New York City streets.  

More memorabilia about September 11th can be found in a room within the Chapel. 

Museums to visit in New York City for Free 

September 11th Museum 

inside the September 11th Museum, one of the things to do in New York City for free
September 11th Museum

Free on Mondays between 3:30pm-5pm 

On 21st May 2014 the September 11th Museum was opened in memory of the people who died in the terrorist attack in 2001 and the 1993 bombing. 

With over 4000 images, artifacts and 500 hours of video footage detailing the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks and then the days, weeks and months following. The last remaining piece of steel that left ground zero, is on display in the museum. 

Other artifacts to look out for, are the telecommunications antenna that was at the top of the towers, the damaged fire engine that was in attendance and the stairwell that saved many people’s lives.  

Listening to the loved ones talking about the family members that they have lost, is one of the most emotional sections of the museum.  

Conclusion 

So, it really is possible to visit one of the most expensive cities on a budget and still have an adventure, with these things to do in New York City for free. We hope that you enjoy visiting New York City without breaking the bank balance. 

Have you visited New York City? What was your highlight? Would you recommend anywhere else that is free that we haven’t included in this list? We would love to hear from you, simply leave a comment below. 

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3 thoughts on “10 Things to Do in New York City for Free

  1. I have actually never been to New York City before, but I have always wanted to go. My mom is from CT and had gone into the city dozens of times telling me how amazing it is. Central Park would be the top place I would want to go! This article would be perfect for me as I now know all the good spots to go to when I visit!

  2. It is always amazing to see how much free stuff there is to do in a big city like New York City. As a civil engineer, I am a bit of a building geek so walking and checking out cool buildings and structure like The Oculus will always be a draw. And the street art is a constant changing way to enjoy the city.

  3. I love the parks in New York. When I go back to visit, I love visiting Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. Since I grew up in Queens, I always remember going there. It’s the second largest park in the city and my mom always took us to the Botanical Gardens which is there. There’s also the Unisphere structure, which looks like a giant planet, they put it there for the 1964 World’s Fair, which was hosted in the park, as well. I loved listening to my family talk about the Worlds Fair . There is so much going on and always a great place to people watch. Another one of my favorite parks is Washington Square par, especially in the Summer.

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