Museum of Modern Art New York1/19
Midtown’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the city’s most revered art institutions and with good reason – it’s a veritable treasure trove. Although there are true masters along its walls (the permanent collection includes pieces by Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, for starters), it won’t always cost you a pretty penny to critique them. Entry is completely free on the first Friday evening between 4pm and 8pm so you can pretend you know your way around a canvas without even having to pay.
New York Public Library2/19
You don’t have to be pining for a good page-turner to make a visit to the impressively vast New York Public Library in Midtown. Being the home of over 2.5 million tomes – some dating back as far as 1455 – is just the start of this landmark’s riches. The building itself is something to behold (free tours of the site happen twice Monday to Saturday and 2pm on Sundays for interested parties) and there’s a children’s centre that houses the very toys that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh as well as a rotating schedule of interesting exhibitions and events, most of which are also free.
Prospect and Battery Park3/19
New York is a city best seen on foot so why not loop one of its many pretty parks into your route? Sure, Central Park is a must-do but there’s also the 10 riverside hectares of woodland, urban farms and parkland of Battery Park or the enormous Prospect Park, which occupies 213 hectares in Brooklyn, complete with the area’s only forest.
Staten Island ferry4/19
Save your dollars and skip the pricey journey to the crown of the Statue of Liberty on Staten Island. Instead, spend a Sunday giving her a wave as you pass by on the complimentary Staten Island ferry. The route not only takes you straight past Liberty Island but also a fair way from Manhattan for an impressively different view. A warning, though: you’ll have to pay for the trip any other day of the week.
Between May and October, the island off the south of Manhattan comes alive: food trucks trundle in, festivals set up shop (a serious highlight being the otherworldly Jazz Age Lawn Party) and pop-up poetry, well, pops up. Most events are free but if you’re really penny pinching, hang out in one of the island’s 50 red hammocks. You’d never have thought New York could feel so zen.
Walk the High Line6/19
Originally a train line for transporting all manner of goods to New York’s industrial district, The High Line was subsequently reclaimed and reopened for public use in 2009 as a shrub-studded walkway skirting buildings and city blocks. Running from the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, this 2.33-kilometre-long elevated path provides great views of Chelsea and West Manhattan, as well as out over the Hudson River.
New York Classical Theatre7/19
Who can resist giving their regards to Broadway? While tickets to some hits (we’re looking at you, Hamilton) are virtually impossible to secure, there are a few options that won’t even leave you out of pocket. New York Classical Theatre is the city’s only professional off-Broadway theatre company and offers performances for zilch, bringing the stories of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Molière to life for the cultured (yet cash-strapped) masses. New York’s premiere performing arts school, The Juilliard School, also offers a number of free opera and classical music performances throughout the year.
Late night show tapings8/19
If you’re keen to do a little celeb spotting, this could be your ticket. Each of the major late-night shows – think Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon – film in New York and invite audiences to join them for free. Yep, that’s right – you could be mere metres from your favourite film star for absolutely nothing. Tickets are popular for all tapings so you’ll have to be quick to secure a few – try Showclix for upcoming shows.
Brooklyn Bridge walk9/19
Despite its downtown location and sizeable tourist cred, a view from the roof of, say, the Empire State Building won’t give you the same stunning sprawl that wandering the Brooklyn Bridge will. At just over 1.6 kilometres long, it’s an easy stroll from one side to the other of the bridge’s pedestrian walkway, with your only challenge being to dodge photo snappers and impatient locals whizzing past on their bikes.
Heading down to the Brooklyn Museum on the first Saturday of every month is as close as you’ll get to looking like a local in New York’s hippest ‘hood. While the museum is serious in so far as its everyday offerings (it is the city’s third largest art institution, after all), it also loves to let its hair down come Saturday, when the grounds transform into somewhat of a block party – for free, no less. Target First Saturdays puts on a program studded with avant-garde activities from 5pm until 11pm including concerts (local rapper Leikeli47 has previously performed), talks, film screenings and pop-up poetry.
New York comedy club11/19
Love a laugh? Make your way to one of the many open mic comedy nights that thrive in this creative city. A lot of comedy clubs don’t charge for entry and who knows? You might be cackling at the next Amy Schumer.
Keep across the latest events12/19
In a city of more than 8.5 million people, it's little wonder there's something happening on nearly every street corner. Because summers can soar into the 30s and winters often dip below freezing, some of the city's best events are often only held seasonally. Check back with New York's official tourism site, NYC Go, for events happening around your visiting dates. Hint: there's a page dedicated to free currents events to make sure you're not out of pocket.
Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum13/19
The striking Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an artwork itself, its bulbous facade an unmissable feature of 5th Avenue thanks to architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Inside, there are 17,000 artworks to admire and, luckily for weekend visitors, entry to the museum is free on Saturdays between 5pm and 8pm—just enough time to enjoy a few Cezanne, Kandinsky and Gauguin masterpieces.
Image credit: Getty Images
How big does a park need to be in order to house two skating rinks, a zoo, an art gallery, a castle and swathes of free space? Around 341 hectares, to be exact. If you don’t fancy any of the activities listed above, a simple walk among the lovely surrounds will do the trick; the longest track one can walk within the park without repeating any territory is 9.65 kilometres.
Image credit: Getty Images
Kayak on the Hudson River15/19
Several of New York’s boating clubs, including Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, offer free kayaking to adventurous travellers, with double and single kayaks available for complimentary paddles down the Hudson River. Views from your kayak (depending on your effort) can be spectacular.
Visit famous filming locations16/19
Many enduring film favourites have captured New York at its finest moments and taking a peek won’t necessarily cost a penny. FDNY Hook and Ladder 8 in Tribeca is where the Ghostbusters clan plotted their takedown of the city’s paranormal pranksters, Sex and the City’s most emotional scene can be relived at the New York Public Library and that iconic Marilyn Monroe moment with her rebellious skirt is hiding on 52nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Perhaps wear pants to visit the last spot, however.
Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Yoga in Bryant Park17/19
If you don’t mind stretching with a stranger, head to the shady surrounds of Bryant Park during the summer months and you can join a yoga class free of charge. Each Tuesday and Wednesday, the Upper Terrace and the Lawn respectively are filled with an array of colourful mats ready for use. Needless to say, turning up early is necessary to secure a spot
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Trains aren’t the only thing that draws visitors to Grand Central Station – the transport hub is also a beautiful example of Beaux-arts architecture in the heart of the city. One little-known highlight is the so-called Whispering Gallery, an area in the station’s tunnels where a secret can be whispered into one arch and it will be fed to someone at a neighbouring arch metres away.
Image credit: Destination NSW