It’s no secret that it costs a pretty penny to travel to the Big Apple. Thankfully, however, the city is so diverse and full of hidden treasures that you can have an enjoyable time exploring no matter your budget! With an array of interesting parks, activities, attractions and churches that are completely FREE, you won’t have to empty your bank account to have a good time. Be sure to keep your eye out for free events and exhibitions occurring during your visit as well. Here’s a list of free things to do that I put together based on my experience:
1. Spend a Day in Central Park
I call it the “quiet side of New York City” but it’s still bustling in its own way. With bikers, joggers, buskers and artists, Central Park is where it’s at. You can spend the whole day roaming through the Park in search of the Alice in Wonderland Statue, Balto, and the Imagine Tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Field. Don’t forget to stop to read on a Park Bench. There’s usually musicians at Bathesda Terrace – also the place of Giselle’s Fountain in Enchanted! Be inspired at the Shakespeare Garden, play some chess at the Chess and Checkers House, cross Bow Bridge, lie in the grass at Sheep Meadow and try to join the turtle club near Belvedere castle. At 843 acres, there is ALWAYS something to do!
2. Find the Wolf of Wall Street
I seriously wonder how much money I would make if I wandered around Wall Street dressed in a wolf costume charging tourists for photos…but that’s another story. Wall Street is a fascinating area to explore. Bustling with smartly dressed business men and women, it’s a place that holds so many triumphs and heartaches in New York’s history. Wander the cobblestones of Stone Street, take your photo with the bronze bull at Bowling Green, gaze in wonder at the Federal Hall and pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial.
3. Be Part of Times Square
You don’t have to buy anything. Just BE there. Walk up and down the strip. Take in the lights, the sounds and the smells. Sit on the steps at TKTS and people watch. Visit the M&M store, Disney Store and Toys R Us. Get excited over Broadway. Let the reality of being in New York – Times Square! – sink in! Times Square energizes you like a newly charged battery that will keep you going at full speed for at least two months after leaving.
4. Relax at Byrant Park
Bryant Park captures all the best bits of New York – it’s relaxing and alive at the same time. Picture green grass to lie in the sun and views of the Chrysler Building peeking through the trees in front of you. Around you, people read or relax while the sounds of taxi horns can be heard from behind. It’s a very community oriented area – there’s pingpong tables, a reading room, and even chess boards! Located right by the New York Public Library, this area quickly become one of my favorite places.
5. Reflect at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Even if you aren’t religious, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is worth a visit. The neo-gothic style landmark is absolutely inspiring inside and outside.
6. Walk the Highline
The Highline was one of my favourite things to do – I loved it so much I did it three times in one week! (You can do it a sunrise, daytime and evening for 3 different views!) The Highline is a 2.3km walkway overlooking the beautiful city and Hudson River. 210 plant species grow on either side of the tracks and unique artwork lines the walls of the buildings. People walk, jog, sit on the benches to talk about life or join in meditation groups. It also leads to the Chelsea Market or West Village (depending on when you get off) so you can spend some time exploring that after your walk. There’s just something about walking with your ponytail bouncing and your eyes eagerly scanning the world – it’s the feeling of freedom and above all, it’s the freedom of happiness!
7. Cross the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge
Walk or Bike – whatever tickles your fancy. Crossing the bridge is an easy walk and it treats you to a nice view of the sparkling water and building silhouettes. If you cross the Brooklyn, you can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
8. Explore The West Village
The West Village is a quaint little area of tree-lined cobble stoned streets and brick buildings. (Apparently Oscar Wilde lived here at one point!) Relax at Washington Square Park and browse through the shops along Bleeker Street. From here, you can venture into Soho – Little Italy and Chinatown and eventually make your way over the Manhattan Bridge.
9. Read at the New York Public Library
It would be absolutely inspiring to have the privilege to study at the New York Public Library. That is, so long as you don’t get distracted the the hundreds of tourists coming in to take pictures every day. But seriously, I think simply BEING there makes you feel smarter. The main reading room is terrific and wonderful and grand. It’s like something right outta Harry Potter.
10. Roam around Grand Central Terminal
This is a HUGE place with a constant stream of people coming and going. You can stand at the top of the stairs and people watch to your heart’s content. When you get tired of that, have some fun at the Whispering Gallery or marvel at the celestial ceiling mural. Do not be disappointed by the clock like I was…it’s not as big and grand as I always thought it was.
11. Friday Nights at the MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art seems to be on everyone’s list of things to do – but why pay for it when you can go for free? Every Friday night, the MoMA hands out free tickets from 4-8pm. Be sure to get there early however because it’s first come, first served and they go fast!