Hipmunk City Love: Free Things To Do in New York

Last Updated on May 25, 2015 by Natasha Amar

This post is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove project.

Traveling in the Big Apple can become a ridiculously expensive affair, with steep rates at hotels in New York, fancy restaurants, and significant admission fees to attractions, sites and museums. Still, there are always plenty of activities and entertainment to enjoy free if you only know where (and when) to look. Here’s a guide to get you started with free things to do in New York, from enjoying the city’s green spaces to tasting some seriously good craft beer.

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Central Park

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Cliché as it is, New York’s world famous Central Park, the country’s first public park, is undoubtedly a quintessentially New York experience. Other than the centrally located Great Lawn, the 843 acre park is home to some unique features such as a man-made lake called Harlem Meer, the miniature Belvedere Castle built in 1869, interesting art and sculptures such as Alice in Wonderland, and the Bethesda Fountain and Strawberry Fields, a living memorial to the artist John Lennon. You can easily spend an entire day (or two) in the park exploring its features, trails, and other areas like the zoo, reservoir, lake, ice rinks, pond, and discovery center. Don’t forget to ask about free concerts, screenings, and other events hosted in the park from time to time.

Staten Island Ferry

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Hop on board the Staten Island Ferry, a system that was originally built in 1905 to transport people between Manhattan and Staten Island. Today, this free 25-minute ferry ride is much more than just a means of transporting approximately 70,000 passengers a day across the New York harbor, offering fantastic views of the city’s skyline. Head to the deck to enjoy a hard-to-beat view of the Statue of Liberty and gaze into the sunset as Manhattan’s skyscrapers light up against the evening sky.

Tip: If you intend to do the round-trip from Manhattan, you’ll still have to disembark at Staten Island and board again through the waiting room. Check the Staten Island Ferry Schedule in advance to plan your trip.

Brewery Tour

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Explore the city’s increasingly popular craft beer scene by taking a free tour at one of Manhattan’s well-known breweries such as the Brooklyn Brewery, Bierkraft Brewery, or the Chelsea Brewing Company.

The Brooklyn Brewery first opened in 1988 and produces both year-round and seasonal varieties of beer that are sold across the U.S. and internationally. They offer free tours of their facility on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Chelsea Brewing Company holds the distinction of being the largest microbrewery in Manhattan and boasts a bottling capacity of 100,000 cases of beer for off-site consumption each year. They offer free tours on Saturdays only.

MoMA Free Friday Nights

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Take advantage of free entrance to the prestigious Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Fridays between 4.00-8.00 p.m. Visitors have viewing access to all galleries, screenings, and both permanent and temporary exhibits of impressive art pieces from around the world. If you appreciate art, then this is a must do, as the usual entrance fee is $25. Plan your visit and arrive early enough to beat the crowds on Friday evenings.

National Museum of the American Indian

A unique, off-the-beaten-path cultural experience, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) houses some of the world’s best and rare collections of Native American artifacts and exhibitions. Visitors can browse through objects, artwork, photographs, and documents of significance to Native American culture.  Other programs include music and dance performances as well as film and documentary screenings. Entrance is free through the week.


These are just a few of things you can do for free in New York. Have you ever visited or lived in New York? What would you add to this list? What is your favorite free thing to do in the city?

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