Free Things to do in New York City

Since I travel often, I’m regularly asked, where is my favourite place to visit? I’ve been to some pretty amazing places so you would think that would be a hard question to answer, right? Wrong! It’s easy… New York City!

Being real life explorers, we like to explore new places and so it’s unusual for us to return to anywhere we’ve already been to. We’ve been there about 6 times and in a few weeks, we’ll be there again… BUTTERFLIES!

I don’t know what it was about New York that stole my heart. It’s not one thing in particular; I think it’s just the energy about the place, and I think everyone should visit there at least once in their lifetime. It’s such an amazing experience.

We’ve seen and done a lot in the Big Apple, but some of my most memorable experiences didn’t cost a penny. So, I set myself a challenge, this time around, of putting a list together of things to do in New York City for free, and here’s what I came up with.

Obviously this list doesn’t contain everything you can do in NYC for free, but I focused on things that interest me and I think will interest you too 😉

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to New York, read here about how we got flights for 2 people for less than €650 (yes, that’s return for both of us!).

Walk… Anywhere

Walking around New York, with Darren, with a coffee in my hand is honestly one of my favourite things to do in the whole world. I’m so content, not rushing to go anywhere, just looking around and observing an amazing, and very different, city.

Central Park

I love Central Park so much and I haven’t spent as much time there as I would have liked. I can’t explain to you how breathtaking it is. My favourite time of year to visit is autumn (or as the America’s say, fall). I love the colours!

There’s something magical about a park in the middle of the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest cities in the world. It has the most beautiful backdrop of a New York City skyline and ice-skating there was one of the best things I’ve ever done… even if I did fall flat on my face on more than one occasion.

In the summer months, there’s Movies in the Park and Shakespeare in the Park. I would love this but I don’t think I’d ever choose to visit New York in the summer time over autumn or winter.

Last thing on this amazing park, there were so many TV shows and films shot in Central Park – ELF, Enchanted, Gossip Girl, The Avengers, to name a few. You’ll recognise some places as you’re walking around. You can do free walking tours like this Movie and TV Tour but you are expected to tip, like everywhere else in NYC 🙂

Famous Locations

Friends, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Spiderman, are some of thousands of shows and films set in New York (or Manhattan to be exact). All you have to do is Google to find out the locations. I wouldn’t bother paying for tours.

Metropolitan Museum

Gossip Girl fans, you can have lunch on the steps of the Met like Serena and Blaire. Fans of the show will recognise these steps from some of the most dramatic scenes in the show.

Besides that, fashion fans will know that the Met Ball, “fashion’s biggest night out”, takes places here every year.

Oh and of course, it’s home to over 2 million works of art! If you want to go in, it’s about $25.

Times Square

Does one of the most famous landmarks in the world need any commentary? Read 10 facts about Times Square here. And if you’re lucky enough to be in New York for New Year’s Eve, yourself and a million others can watch “The Dropping of the Ball”.

FYI, my favourite part of Times Square is Bubba Gump Shrimp!

9/11 Memorial

A memorial in honour of those who lost their lives on September 11th 2001, now stands where the Twin Towers once did. Although very poignant, it’s done very tastefully.

While it’s not free, you can also visit the museum to learn about the lives of all the men, women and children who died. I’m not sure how I feel about that so we’ve never visited the museum.

Statue of Liberty

The Staten Island Ferry is free and brings you to Staten Island, but on a clear day you get a great view of Lady Liberty herself.

Walk Over Brooklyn Bridge

When you’re staying in Manhattan, you don’t have the best views of the New York City skyline… because you’re in it! So when you come outside of the city centre, the views are incredible! We even stayed at The Bentley Hotel before just so we could have a better view of the city.

One of the best, and most iconic, views of New York City is from one of the most famous bridges in the world… The Brooklyn Bridge. Nearly all of the key figures in building the bridge were Irish or Irish-American, so I have a little soft spot for it anyways :p

American Museum of National History

I am not a museum person but this was SO COOL. Dinosaur bones, meteorite fragments, mummies… they had it all (this is also the place where they filmed Night at the Museum). This is such a well put together museum and so interactive. There’s no way you will find The American Museum of National History boring, trust me, I have the attention span of a fly (is that even a saying!?).

The museum is free entry but you can make a donation if you wish.

Bryant Park

Bryant Park is a privately run park located between 5th and 6th Avenue. Chess, backgammon, painting, juggling, people watching :p… there’s so much going on and so much to do!

Walk the Highline

God, I have a lot of walking planned for this trip! Trust me when I tell you, that would not be like me! :p The Highline is a public park on the West Side, that was built on top of a historic railway. It’s a very unique structure and boasts some of the best views of Manhattan.

New York Buildings

Besides the Empire State Building and The Rockerfellar Center, New York is home to some of the most spectacular buildings in the world. Most of them are free to enter, but even those that aren’t (like the Empire State), you can just look at them from the outside, their scale and architecture is breathtaking!

Grand Central Station, The Flat Iron Building, New York Public Library, The WTC Transportation Hub, Carnegie Hall, are all worth a visit!

Public Boathouse Kayaking

Free kayaking on the Hudson River, how amazing is this opportunity? The season is from May to October so unfortunately we won’t get to do it this time around 🙁

TV Show Tickets

So many of our favourite shows are filmed live in New York with a live audience. We managed to nab tickets for the David Letterman Show one year, it was great craic!

Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, Jerry Springer, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, are some worth mentioning. If you go to the location on the day, you can go on stand-by for tickets. This is your best chance of getting tickets but you can also apply online to be entered into a lottery.

I hope the above is helpful and if you are visiting New York, I hope it has made you as excited as it has made me! I’ll be updating this post with my own photos when I’m home and sharing loads more tips and tricks!

Thank you for reading pals,

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A Lifestyle Blog by Carly Colgan Bates