New York is teeming with beautiful sightseeing spots, unique museums, and cultural activities that are often free to enjoy all year round. The city’s many urban parks are great for leisurely strolls and picnics, while public libraries attract book lovers with rare editions, manuscripts, and talks by renowned authors.

    Times Square may be one of the most popular places to watch wacky street performances, but it can get rather overwhelming with crowds jostling for breathing space. The good news is there’s always a free gig happening somewhere in New York, especially during the summer. To help you experience this vibrant city on a small budget, we’ve listed some of our favourite things to do in New York for free.


    9/11 Memorial

    Enjoy free admission to this museum every Tuesday from 5pm onwards

    The National September 11 Memorial, located inside the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District, was built to commemorate those who were killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. One of its most stunning features is the twin reflecting pools, which were built to symbolize the fallen Twin Towers. You can also see the names of the deceased inscribed around the bronze edges of the pools. Inside, there are two main exhibitions within the memorial. One showcases the past, the present, and aftermath of the event, while the other is a 270° panoramic media installation of the memorial.

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    Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 212-312-8800


    Central Park

    Join a free guided tour and hike the North Woods

    Central Park is the green giant that's hard to miss in the centre of Manhattan, housing over 20 playgrounds, manmade lakes and ponds, as well as extensive walking tracks. It’s free and open to the public all year round, and you can enjoy many family-friendly activities here. Highlights include the Carousel, Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, Delacorte Theater, and Belvedere Castle. The Central Park Conservancy offers a free guided tour of Central Park’s North Woods for families. The 90-minute hike is inclusive of a complementary Discovery Journal, kid-friendly binoculars, field guides, and hand lenses.

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    Grand Central Terminal Station

    See the astronomical ceiling mural in the main concourse

    New York Grand Central Terminal Station is one of the city’s busiest landmarks, with thousands of New Yorkers passing through it on their daily commute. Located in Midtown, its exterior features Beaux-Arts sculptures and architecture while 44 train platforms and numerous restaurants can be found within. The main concourse is always packed with commuters, but you can find iconic features like the 4-sided clock, an astronomical ceiling mural, and a gourmet food market. Even if you’re not planning to catch a train, it’s not hard to spend hours exploring hidden nooks within New York Grand Central Terminal Station.

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    Location: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA

    Phone: +1 212-340-2583


    Free museum days

    Check out over 300 contemporary paintings and sculptures at MoMA

    New York is teeming with unique museums that offer free admission hours, usually on Friday and Saturday evenings. Some of the city’s biggest museums, like the Museum of Modem Art (MoMA) and Museum of the Moving Image are free to enter on Fridays between 4pm and 8pm. Museums that are free to enter all year round include Bronx Museum of the Arts, American Folk Art Museum, and FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) Museum.


    Manhattan Bridge

    Landmark bridge over the East River

    Manhattan Bridge spans New York’s East River and links Manhattan to Brooklyn. This suspension bridge has an impressive span and the total length of the structure is over 2 km long. The bridge opened in 1909, and its groundbreaking design was used in many subsequent bridge plans.

    Road traffic travels on both upper and lower decks, while on the lower level only, train tracks carry Q, N, B, and D subway trains. From its pedestrian walkways, there’s an uninterrupted view of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, located a little further downtown.

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    Location: Manhattan Bridge, New York, NY 11201, USA


    Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    Experience the "hanami’ cherry blossom at the Japanese Garden on Fridays

    The Brooklyn Botanic Garden spans over 200,000 sq m of garden space at the north-eastern edge of Prospect Park. It features over 10 flower conservatories, landscaped gardens, walking trails, and ponds that make for beautiful snapshots during your visit. Tickets to the botanical park costs $15 for adults and $8 for children over the age of 12, but you can enjoy free admission on Fridays before 12pm. If you’re in New York during wintertime, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free to enter all day from Tuesday to Friday.

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    Location: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225, USA

    Open: Tuesday – Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday – Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 718-623-7200


    Hamilton Grange National Memorial

    Watch a short film of Hamilton’s life at the visitor’s centre

    The Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the former home of US founding father Alexander Hamilton. Located on the northern end of St. Nicholas Park, you can explore the entire house for free, with the chance to see original furniture and decorative items dating back to the 19th century. Guided tours are available at 10am, 11am, 2pm, and 4pm. The onsite visitor’s centre features a permanent gallery, bookstore, and a 25-seat theatre that airs a short film of Hamilton’s life.

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    Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031, USA

    Open: Wednesday – Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +1 646-548-2310


    New York Public Library

    Check out the original "Winnie the Pooh" toys in the Children's Center

    The New York Public Library has more than 90 branches in New York, but many locals love the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building for its Beaux-Arts-style architecture, extensive collection of rare books, author talks, and workshops for all ages. One of the library’s most visited displays is the "Winnie-the-Pooh" display in the Children’s Centre, where you get to see the original stuffed toy animals that inspired author Alan Alexander Milne. If you want to learn about the building’s history, free tours are available from Monday to Saturday at 11am and 2pm.

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    Location: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018, USA

    Open: Monday, Thursday–Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday–Wednesday from 10 am to 8 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 212-340-0863


    Brooklyn Brewery

    Sample the signature beer at discounted prices

    Brooklyn Brewery is where you can learn about the process of beer making in New York. Located in Williamsburg, this home-grown microbrewery offers free tours every 30 minutes on weekends. If you have some cash on hand, you can sample its signature lagers and ales in the tasting room for about $6 per pint.

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    Location: 79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249, USA

    Open: Monday – Thursday from 5 pm to 11 pm, Friday from 5 pm to midnight, Saturday from 12 pm to midnight, Sunday from 12 pm to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 718-486-7422


    Chelsea's art galleries

    Enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks on opening nights

    Art galleries in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood often host free opening ceremonies for artists from all over the world. Set along W. 14th to W. 29th Streets from 10th to 11th Avenues, there are over 100 galleries you can visit for free on Thursdays, including David Zwirner, Anton Kern Gallery, and Pace Gallery. Best of all, you get to enjoy complimentary drinks (wines and beers are commonly served) and snacks if you visit in the evenings.



    Explore an iconic district and take a break at Columbus Park

    Chinatown is a vibrant neighbourhood that covers the area south of Broome Street and east of Lafayette in Lower Manhattan. Exploring its busy streets gives the feeling of travelling to a different continent, with dozens of restaurants representing the cuisines of Southeast Asia, mainland China, and Hong Kong. If you’re a fan of eclectic items, the tiny Mmuseumm exhibits quirky objects from all over the world, including counterfeit beauty products, selfie sticks, and toys left behind by immigrants.

    Location: Lower Manhattan, New York, NY, USA

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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