50 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City
New York City is among the most expensive places in the world to live in or visit, but it's also among the richest in free or inexpensive things to do -- resulting from a mix of philanthropy, loss leaders, and a mass of artists, musicians, comedians, foodies, curators, and other creative types who want to share their work with the world. Look past the city’s skyscrapers, and try some of these down-to-earth diversions while in the Big Apple.
One of the most famous museums in the world, the Met has a suggested ticket price of $25, but many people don't realize they can pay what they want. Pick a price that seems fair and affordable.
Astor Wines and Spirits in Greenwich Village regularly hosts free wine and spirit tastings in the evenings. Sometimes there are even multiple events in one day. Those who like something they taste can get a bottle of wine or spirits for 20 percent off or 10 percent off, respectively, the day of their visit.
Brooklyn Bridge Park's six piers offer panoramic views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor, along with free movies and concerts during the summer, a playground for children, a roller rink, bocce, handball, and more. The Wednesday night tour series continues through the end of September, with hour-long talks and walks with guest lecturers. Tickets are often $5 and free for Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy members, but some tours are free for everyone.
More than a century old, the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is a landmark in Midtown. The Rose Main Reading Room, which underwent a restoration in 2016, is a highlight. The library hosts free exhibits and free docent-led tours Monday through Saturday.
Ask New Yorkers the cheapest way to see the Statue of Liberty and they are likely to point you to the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan. A free ride on the Staten Island Ferry takes passengers right by the statue on a 25-minute trip, which is one of the most scenic ferry rides in the U.S.
Every Wednesday, the club Cielo hosts DJs Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge for a dance party that lasts all night. Admission is free for the first 100 people before 11 p.m. ($20 after).
The park has served as a backdrop to many movies and books and hosts events throughout the year. The Central Park Conservancy offers free tours of different areas within the park, or you can enjoy a self-guided tour while listening to the Celebrity Audio Guide, featuring some of the park’s most famous fans, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Yoko Ono.
There are several places in New York where chocolate lovers can sample the goods and watch small batches be poured and cut. At environmentally friendly and vegan Raaka Chocolate in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a 45-minute tour for $10 includes tastings of raw cocoa and samples of the company's finished bars.
Families with little ones can take advantage of free days at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of the month) and Brooklyn Children's Museum (2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays).
Free Tours by Foot offers more than 30 pay-what-you-want tours of the city. Reservations are required, and there is often a minimum group size. Foodies can sign up for one of the food-focused tours, and bike tours traverse Central Park or the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.
The private collection of one of New York's most well-known financiers, the Morgan Library and Museum is free from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays. A section of the museum is also free to the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Open May 1 to Oct. 31, Governors Island has a food court, bicycles for rent (including tandem bikes and quadricycles), a farm, a beach, and historic houses. Hour-long bike rentals are free from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays. The ferry ride -- usually $2 round trip -- is free weekend mornings from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The Bronx Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the world, is open year-round. Tickets can cost up to $36.95 for adults, but it’s pay what you wish all day on Wednesday.