free things to do in NYC
Time Square, New York – Joshua Earle (Unsplash)

New York City is one of the biggest tourist cities in the world, with over 66 million travelers stopping over in 2019 alone to admire the attractions, food, and general vibe. It can be an expensive destination though, so take a look through our list of free things to do in NYC.

No matter if you’re on a budget or not, these are some of the best activities available in the city, and can easily complement other fantastic spots that might be on your bucket list.

Stroll through Central Park

Central Park is no secret, as tourists love to take a breath of fresh air in this midtown oasis. What’s interesting is that this is one of the few spots in the city that is very touristy but also loved by locals. You’ll notice the daily joggers weaving around the couples with maps and cameras.

Central Park skyline
Central Park skyline – Vincent Ledvina (unsplash)

It’s a stunning place for a stroll, bike ride, or even a horse-drawn carriage tour. And here’s an extra tip for people traveling in the summer: head to the Delacorte Theater to admire Shakespeare in the Park, a free open-air series of plays put on from July to September.

Admire Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Not too far from the southern end of Central Park is the incredible Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s made up of stunning neo-Gothic architecture and is an important piece of religious history in New York City. Its importance has been recognized through its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Joseph Barrientos (unsplash)

The view from outside is already worth it, but you can enter for free and admire the cathedral’s beauty from within. There is the possibility to get an audio guide for a fee if you want to learn more about one of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world. Maybe you would even like to attend mass for the most authentic experience of this building.

Discover Soho Murals

Soho has long been one of the trendiest neighborhoods in NYC, with its high-end boutiques, art galleries, and fashionable restaurants and nightclubs. It’s a great spot for window shopping, but also for checking out some fantastic murals.

Murals in Soho, New York
Murals in Soho, New York – Krisztina Papp (unsplash)

Take a casual stroll through Soho and you’ll regularly come across these beautiful murals which have been painted onto building walls and shop shutters. One of the best known is the Bowery Mural on East Houston Street, which changes regularly, so you can never be too sure of what you’ll see.

Wander Down Broadway

Broadway famously hosts some of the world’s greatest shows, which are seen by millions of people every year in New York. Going to a show can be expensive, but strolling down this iconic street can be its own form of entertainment.

You’ll be in awe of the architecture, lights, and posters that highlight each theater on Broadway. It’s always bustling with fans looking to meet their favorite actors, who might be seen leaving rehearsal or quietly having a coffee in some of the local cafés, which can be famous in their own right.

Broadway, Theater District, New York
Broadway, Theater District, New York – Denys Nevozhai (unsplash)

Look Up on 5th Avenue

5th Avenue is one of the best known streets in the whole city. It’s a long walk from start to finish, but you’ll come across some iconic buildings on your way. It’s worth keeping your eyes high in order to admire the Museum of the City of New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Flatiron Building, and, of course, the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building, New York
Empire State Building, New York – Ben Dumond (unsplash)

Walk Along the Waterfront

If you’re in Manhattan, you’ll have beautiful views of both the East River and the Hudson River. Taking a walk through certain parts of the city to see these two rivers can be a great experience. One of the best places is Battery Park on the southern tip of the island.

Aerial view of Waterfront
Aerial view of Waterfront – Florian Wehde (unsplash)

You get the best views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty from here without taking a ferry to reach them. There are many waterfront paths, cafés, restaurants, and it’s one of the best places in the city to watch the sunset.

Tour the New York Public Library

Libraries may not be on everyone’s must-visit list for holidays, but the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue is as emblematic as it is beautiful. It houses countless books, paintings, sculptures, and other treasures that you can admire without any cost. You won’t even need a library card.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library – Clay Banks (unsplash)

If you want to learn more about the space, there are free tours as well. Once you’re done, wander around to the back of the building into Bryant Park, which is stunning in its own right.

Travel Across the Brooklyn Bridge

There are many bridges that span the rivers around Manhattan, but none are as recognizable as the Brooklyn Bridge. Its two granite and limestone towers linked by suspension cables give it an iconic look. It’s a fantastic place to get a more distant view of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the bay, as well as the Manhattan Bridge, which is just to the northeast.

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge – TAALAI DJUMABAEV (unsplash)

Learn about Beer in Brooklyn Brewery

Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Brewery is one of the best microbreweries in the region. There are beers for all seasons, plus their year-round brews. There are even non-alcoholic options. Of course, trying all of these drinks has a cost, but touring the brewery doesn’t.

Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn Brewery – Enzo Ticà (unsplash)

Every Sunday between 1 and 6 p.m., Brooklyn Brewery is open to everyone who wants to learn more about the history of beer, the process of making it, and much more. It’s a fantastic place to try something new and hang out with other beer appreciators.

Go Wild at Coney Island

Coney Island has long been a seaside resort for New Yorkers who want to escape the city. Tourists have started to take advantage of the area too, with many great attractions to keep them entertained.

Coney Island
Coney Island – Julie Ricard (unsplash)

The best-known attractions are the fairground rides, including the Wonder Wheel, but if you want to take it slow and avoid spending too much money, take a stroll on the boardwalk or sit down on the sand. The beach is a lovely place to relax and hang out with friends. You can admire the view in silence or, if you’ve brought your best travel guitar, serenade those around you.

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