Top free things to do in New York

Must-see free things to do in New York

Boasting famous shopping streets, world-class theater and high-end dining, New York is synonymous with big spenders looking to make the most of their time in one of the world’s most exciting cities. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll soon realise that there are a number of free sights and attractions that are just as iconic and enjoyable. From crossing Brooklyn Bridge, strolling around Central Park, taking a guided tour of a 19th century cathedral to island-hopping from Manhattan to Staten Island, here’s our round-up of the top free things to do in New York.

  1. The High Line
  2. Staten Island Ferry
  3. National Museum of the American Indian
  4. Brooklyn Brewery tour
  5. St Patrick’s Cathedral
  6. Brooklyn Bridge
  7. Central Park

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1. The High Line

The High Line is situated on the west side of New York and is a public space with so much on offer year-round. Built on an old freight line, this non-profit project features numerous art installations, gorgeous gardens and food stalls. Walk along the wooden promenade, chill out on the steps and simply soak up a chill-out atmosphere in one of the world’s most frenetic cities.

Best for:

While you’re there: As it’s a non-profit venture, if you really like it you can make a donation to support the upkeep of the park.

2. Staten Island Ferry

Many tourists pay a lot to take river tours across to Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty, but we’ll let you in on a secret – there’s a totally free way to see the very same things. The Staten Island Ferry transports locals and visitors alike between Manhattan and Staten Island; all that’s missing is a tour guide, but you’ll still have the same exhilarating experience.

Best for: River tours.

While you’re there: Many locals use the ferry as their way of commuting, so try to avoid main rush-hour times.

3. National Museum of the American Indian

Housed in a strikingly unique curved building, the National Museum of the American Indian , explores the Native tribes and peoples of the Americas. They have a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as varying public programmes. There are four permanent collections: one takes a look at 80 years of Native paintings, a second focuses on contemporary Native art, a third looks at original objects and artefacts; and a fourth looks at Native Americans’ involvement in the US Armed Forces.

Best for: Native American history to today.

While you’re there: Nearby in the same park is the First Ladies Water Garden, Garfield Monument and United States Capitol.

4. Brooklyn Brewery tour

Geek out in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg on a free guided tour of its Brooklyn Brewery . It gives you a chance to learn about an important part of Brooklyn’s business heritage, as well as finding out more about the science of brewmaking; you’ll also get to check out the brewhouse and the packaging hall.

Best for: Venturing into Brooklyn.

While you’re there: Arrive first thing to avoid the busier and more popular times, when there can be a long queue for the tours..

5. St Patrick’s Cathedral

If you want to find out more about New York’s immigrant heritage, head to the superlative St Patrick’s Cathedral , where you can join a free guided tour of the site. It opened in 1879 and is designed in a striking Neo-Gothic style, which truly stands out against its modern skyscraper neighbours.

Best for: Checking out the ‘older’ (19th century) buildings of New York.

While you’re there: Wander down the iconic Fifth Avenue afterwards, which is where the cathedral is located (between 50th and 51st streets).

6. Brooklyn Bridge

One of New York’s key sights is one of the easiest to do; simply cross the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan into Brooklyn, and take in the skylines of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Spanning a little over one mile in length, the bridge opened in 1883 and is recognised as both a National Historic and New York City Landmark; it truly is one of the best free things to do in New York.

Best for: Iconic bridges.

While you're there: You can also cycle along the bridge.

7. Central Park

Totally free and totally iconic, a stroll around Central Park should be at the top of any New York itinerary, and best of all it can be enjoyed on any budget. At a whopping 863 acres, the park sits slap-bang at the heart of the city; often referred to as the green lungs of Manhattan, you can enjoy a picnic, yoga, stroll and more here, all totally free of charge and set against a beautiful backdrop. As this article proves, New York holidays don’t have to be an expensive luxury; there are plenty of free, interesting things to do here – after all, this is the city that doesn't sleep...

Best for: Romantic or chilled-out strolls.

While you’re there: Cross the famous Bow Bridge which spans stunning views across the lake.

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