It’s no surprise that New York City is one of the most expensive ones to visit. After paying for your cost of getting there, a hotel or hostel, and food, you may find that you don’t have much money left for sightseeing. But even though NYC is so expensive, there are still so many free ways to experience the city! If you take a trip to New York but can’t afford to spend too much, you definitely need to add these places to your to-do list:
Times Square is probably the most famous tourist attraction in New York City, and the best part is you can walk around for as long as you like for no charge! It’s impressive during the day, but especially amazing at night, and there is never a shortage of street performers. Just beware of the restaurants surrounding Times Square…they are much more expensive than restaurants in most other parts of the city!
Right around the corner from Times Square is another major NYC attraction, Rockefeller Center. Of course the best time to visit is around Christmas when you can see the huge tree and the ice skating, but it’s beautiful all year round!
You could dedicate an entire day to exploring Central Park and not get bored. There are endless things to do and see, especially if you visit during the Spring or Summer!
The 9/11 Memorial
While the 9/11 Museum usually charges a fee to enter, you can always walk around the outside portion for free. There are two huge fountains where the Twin Towers stood with the names of everyone who died around the edge. When you see a rose like in the photo above, it means it would have been that person’s birthday. And if you visit on a Tuesday night, you can get into the museum for free! Tickets are limited and they go really quickly, so make sure you’re there right at 4pm to get a ticket! The museum and memorial are sad to experience but definitely worth visiting and so impressive.
The Staten Island Ferry
Don’t pay the expensive ticket price to visit the Statue of Liberty! You can get an even better view of the statue and the downtown skyline from the Staten Island Ferry, which takes a half hour and is free to ride! The best times to ride the ferry are during the warmer months so you can stand outside. And if you can, try to time your ferry ride so it’s daylight on your way over to Staten Island and the sun is setting on your ride back to Manhattan!
The High Line
This mile-long park in Chelsea is built on an abandoned railroad and is a must-see if you visit New York in the Spring, Summer, or Fall. You get an amazing view of the Hudson River, Chelsea, and lots of art along the way.
The Museum of Modern Art on a Friday night
If you enjoy visiting museums, you have to add the MoMA to your list. On Friday nights, everyone gets in for free and you can spend hours looking at the impressive exhibits featuring Van Gogh, Matisse, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollack!
The Brooklyn Bridge
This is becoming a major NYC attraction and for good reason! You get an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline, the river, Brooklyn, and the Statue of Liberty. I would recommend walking the Brooklyn Bridge and then walking back on the nearby Manhattan Bridge…hardly any tourists, same great view of Manhattan, and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge too!
Chelsea Market is one of my favourite places to visit in New York City and is exciting all year round. It’s full of cool shops, restaurants, and a flea market. And if you’re in New York on the first Friday night of the month, you can see a free concert featuring some local artists!
The American Museum of Natural History
While the website and signs say there’s a ticket price, if you read the fine print, you’ll see that it’s just a recommended price. If you wait in the longer line to get a ticket from a counter rather than an automated kiosk, you can pay whatever price you’d like for tickets: $10, $3, or absolutely nothing! You might get some disappointed looks, but don’t let that bother you! Take your free ticket and explore the museum that has awesome exhibits about animals, dinosaurs, prehistoric people, and lots more!
Just walk around, get lost, people watch, and explore!
I think the best way to really experience a city is to wander around aimlessly observing all the interesting sights and people that you come across. My favourite places to explore and people watch: Soho and Greenwich Village.
Now that it’s starting to get warmer, I’ll be able to explore New York a lot more over the next few months! I know of so many more free things to do in the city that I can’t wait to check out and post about 🙂
*all photos in this post are my own except the exterior shots of the MoMA and the Natural History Museum
Hi I’m Christie, a 28-year-old girl originally from Boston who has spent time living in New York City, North Carolina, France, Australia, and New Zealand. I love moving to new places and exploring them as a local, and I can’t see my nomadic expat life stopping any time soon! I have no greater passion than travel, and when I’m not exploring I spend my free time reminiscing on past trips and daydreaming about future travel.