Free things to do in New York City

New York City has so many things you can do but did you know you can see so much of NYC absolutely free. Here is a list of places to go see for zero dollars. Friday Evenings at the MoMA So you want to see the Picassos in the Museum of Modern Art, but don’t […]

New York City has so many things you can do but did you know you can see so much of NYC absolutely free. Here is a list of places to go see for zero dollars.

Friday Evenings at the MoMA

So you want to see the Picassos in the Museum of Modern Art, but don’t want to commit to the $25 admission fee? Lucky for you, the museum offers free admission every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can also visit the sculpture garden for free every morning from 9:30 to 10 a.m.

Tour the Federal Bank of New York’s Gold Vault

A little-known but fascinating attraction lies in the Financial District’s Federal Bank of New York: more than 6,500 tons of gold. The building dates back to the 1920s and much of the gold arrived after WWII. Anyone can sign up for a free tour of the gold vault on weekday afternoons.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets with a visit to the bucolic Brooklyn Botanic Garden (pictured). Located on the northeastern edge of Prospect Park, the garden’s admission fee is waived on Tuesdays. Take your time exploring the park, which also contains the zoo, the Lefferts Historic House, and the LeFrak Center by the lake.

The New York Public Library

Remember the Dewey Decimal System? The New York Public Library, New York’s most famous library (aka the Stephen A Schwarzman Building), which turned 100 in 2011, is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square. It’s fronted by marble lions named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude,’ and is just a jaw-dropper to walk through, particularly the reading room fit for 500 patrons reading with the aid of the library’s original Carre-and-Hastings lamps. There’s exhibits too, including a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenburg Bible, plus 431,000 old maps. There are free tours at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday (closed Sunday in summer). Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East.

Walk the Highline

It’s a park, so it should be free, but the expanding High Line project has the impact and feel of a real-live attraction, complete with its own opening hours. Created from an abandoned stretch of elevated railroad track, the native-inspired landscaping of this park 30 feet in the air connects the Meatpacking District with Chelsea’s galleries (another great free institution), and eventually to the Javits Center on the south side of Hell’s Kitchen. There’s wonderful Hudson River views, or of pedestrians on the sidewalks below. Watch for public-art installations and events. Gansevoort Street to 30th St (currently), between 9th & 11th Aves, Chelsea.

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

During the summer, there are few things more pleasurable than taking a ride on a boat in the Hudson or the East River. The East River Ferry—which, by the way, is a great way to travel between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn—costs $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends, but the Staten Island Ferry is absolutely free.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Remember the Dewey Decimal System? The New York Public Library, New York’s most famous library (aka the Stephen A Schwarzman Building), which turned 100 in 2011, is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square. It’s fronted by marble lions named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude,’ and is just a jaw-dropper to walk through, particularly the reading room fit for 500 patrons reading with the aid of the library’s original Carre-and-Hastings lamps. There’s exhibits too, including a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenburg Bible, plus 431,000 old maps. There are free tours at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday (closed Sunday in summer). Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East.

Tour the Brooklyn Brewery

Stop by the pioneering Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg to learn about the fine art and science of beer making. There are free tours every half hour on the weekends, though they tend to fill up quickly, so get there early to snag a ticket. While you wait, you can sample the beers in the tasting room for a discounted price.

New York Distilling Company Tour and Tasting

One of Brooklyn’s best craft distilleries opens its doors to the public for free tours and tastings on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. After learning all about the history of gin and whiskey and the distilling process, sample their potent Dorothy Parker American gin and the recently released Mr. Katz’s Rock & Rye.

Kayak the Hudson River

Until mid-October, you can take a kayak out on the Hudson River at Pier 26 in Tribeca, or the Manhattan Community Boathouse locations at Pier 96 in Midtown and in Riverside Park at 72nd Street. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo

A donation is suggested, but if you’re too cheap to fork over a buck (no shame… okay, a little shame), admission to New York’s largest zoo is totally free. And with nearly 4,000 animals on 265 acres, there’s plenty to keep you busy without forking over any $$$

Battery Park City Parks Conservancy

Battery Park City Parks Conservancy
Battery Park City encompasses 36 acres of playgrounds, gardens and plazas. Every day, residents and visitors flock to the space for outdoor fun or, in winter, indoor activities—the parks host fitness programs, art exhibitions and hundred of other happenings each year—but to get the most out of this cluster of green spaces, a free tour or two is in order. Typical offerings include organic-gardening walks around Wagner Park, public-art explanations at Teardrop Park and bird-watching excursions around the area (binoculars included). Tours change throughout the year and information generally doesn’t become available until April, so check bpcparks.org for the most up-to-date information.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

NBC’s longest-running late-night franchise has returned to its ancestral (and rightful) home in New York City, and host Jimmy Fallon has made it a hot ticket and social media talking point. The show airs Monday through Friday at 11:30pm.
Ticket Info: To book free tickets, visit tonightshowtix.com; you’ll need to sign up for 1iota before applying. The ticket release date is posted on the shows Twitter page; each month’s block opens up roughly a month in advance. Standby tickets are distributed at 9am under the NBC marquee on the 49th Street side of 30 Rock; line up early to have a chance (though you’re still not guaranteed admission). The show also offers the chance to get a ticket for monologue rehearsal; the same requirements below, and with 1iota, apply.
Show Requirements: Audience members must be 16 or older, and photo ID is required. Individuals may not attend more than one show taping every six months. No groups larger than four people allowed. Audience members may not use cell phones, cameras or other electronic devices in the studio.
Location: Studio 6B, 30 Rockefeller Plaza (bet. Fifth and Sixth Aves. and W. 49th and W. 50th Sts.)
Schedule: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon tapes Mondays through Fridays at 5pm; arrive no later than 3:15pm.

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

NYC institution Saturday Night Live is a live comedy and entertainment show airing at 11:30pm on Saturdays. It features celebrity guest hosts and musical performances. The show is a hot ticket for both visitors and New Yorkers.
Ticket Info: Tickets are given out once a year through a lottery. To enter, send an email to[email protected] during the month of August only (in advance of the upcoming season). Include all contact information and do not request a specific date. One email per household allowed. Winners will each receive two tickets for a specific show date and performance (dress rehearsal or live show). You will be notified only if you are selected.
Standby tickets (one per person) are distributed at 7am on the West 49th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the mornings of the tapings. You can choose between the 8pm dress rehearsal and the 11:30pm live taping, though you’re not guaranteed admission.
Show Requirements: You must be 16 or older to attend. Standby-line members must remain in line at all times (aside from minimal, necessary breaks).
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza (bet. Fifth and Sixth Aves. and W. 49th and W. 50th Sts.)
Schedule: On Saturdays, arrive no later than 7:15pm for the 8pm dress rehearsal and 10:45pm for the 11:30pm live show.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)

After 20-plus years of being fronted by David Letterman, The Late Show welcomed a new host on in late 2015. Stephen Colbert, whose satirical Colbert Report skewered conservatives for nearly a decade, has shed that blowhard persona for that of a more conventional late-night ringleader. There are still shenanigans and a current-events bent, but celebrities and musical acts share the stage too. The show airs weeknights at 11:35pm.
Ticket Info: To get tickets, go online. It can be hard to score them, so check frequently and plan well ahead.
Show Requirements: You must be 18 or older to attend. Each person is entitled to two tickets (the guest’s name must be on the ticket; tickets are not transferable). Studio audience members must bring a government-issued photo ID. Use of cell phones, pagers, cameras or recording devices is not allowed; food and drink are prohibited as well. Due to the large volume of requests for tickets, you may apply for tickets only once in a six-month period; those who have already attended a show are not eligible to attend for another six months from the date of attendance.

Location: 1697 Broadway (bet. W. 53rd and W. 54th Sts.)
Schedule: The Late Show generally tapes Monday through Friday at 5:30pm; aim to arrive no later than 3pm. For more information, call 212-975-8800.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs Monday through Thursday at 11pm on Comedy Central. It parodies politics, pop culture, entertainment and news.
Ticket Info: To sign up for tickets, go to showclix.com; reservations for shows a few weeks out are released on a gradual basis, so it pays to keep visiting the website.
Show Requirements: You must be 18 or older to attend. Also, as ticket distribution may be in excess of studio capacity, admission is not guaranteed, even with reservations. No cameras or recording devices allowed.
Location: 733 Eleventh Ave. (bet. W. 51st and W. 52nd Sts.)

Schedule: Tapings are at Mondays through Thursdays at 6pm and last until around 7:15pm. You can check in beginning at 2:30pm, at which time tickets will be distributed and you’ll be given a time to return (around 4:30pm or so).

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