What to Do in New York City for Free

Updated: 9 noviembre 2023

This post lists hundreds of free things to do in NYC.

We include the best free things to do, free nighttime activities, free things to do with kids, and free museums, attractions, and activities.

As local tour guides who live on a budget in NYC, we know a thing or two about finding things to do for free.

Throughout this post, we have sprinkled videos of our guides giving tours or providing helpful tips.

For example, in the video below, Katie, a guide with us, Free Tours a pie, lays out a 1-day itinerary including only free things to do.

We lead hundreds of people each day on tours, and we are asked about this on every single tour.

We've used these experiences to help craft this post.

We also asked the roughly 200k members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group to share their tips on free and cheap things to do in NYC.

Recommendations for Free Things to Do in NYC

Our group is comprised of locals, like our tour guides, veteran NYC visitors, as well as newbies to the city.

You don't need to be a member in order to read the posts, comments, and suggestions.

So, check the group out when you are finished reading this post. A link can be found at the end of this post.


There are so many free and cheap things to do in NYC that it's totally possible to spend a few days in NYC and only pay for food and accommodation.

This is one of the best facts about New York City!

When looking into the cost of a trip to NYC, you can breathe easy knowing there is so much to do here for free!

Below are the top 10 free activities and attractions not to be missed.

1. Stroll through Central Park

This pastoral escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets is everything you imagined it would be.

With wide-open spaces, rides, zoos, sculptures, shade trees, ponds, and lakes, there are so many things to do.

In this video, Katie takes you on a virtual walking tour through the southern half of Central Park.

Our guide to Central Park has information about the activities in the park as well as a downloadable and free self-guided tour.

Other ways to explore the park are with our GPS-led audio tour (just $1.99) or one of our pay-what-you-wish guided tours of Central Park.

2. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

This bridge is loved by locals and visitors alike and offers great views of the city and the harbor.

It also has a fascinating history behind it.

And best of all, there is no cost to cross the bridge and pedestrians have there own walkway free of cars and bicycles.

Our guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge can help you to have the best experience possible.

And in the video below, Tour Guide Katie takes you on a virtual tour across the bridge starting from the Brooklyn side.

If you would like more of a guided experience, check out our GPS-led audio tour or join one of our pay-what-you-wish Brooklyn Bridge tours.

3. Ride the Staten Island Ferry

Take a free ferry ride from Manhattan to Staten Island and back again.

Whether you ride it during the day or at night, you will get spectacular views of Lower Manhattan, New York Harbor, and the Statue of Liberty.

And, in this video, Canden, also a guide with Free Tours by Foot, takes you on a virtual ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

For other ways to get out on the water, see our post about all of NYC's boat tour options.

You may also be interested in other free ways to view the Statue of Liberty.

4. Visit the 9/11 Memorial

Located in a simple, spacious wide-open plaza in Lower Manhattan, this memorial to the lost lives of 9/11 is an essential feature of New York City.

The memorial is free to visit.

It's quite a large memorial with many adjacent features, all which Katie shows you in the video below.

The National September 11th Museum, which is next to the memorial, is free to visit on Tuesday evenings.

The museum covers the tragic events of 9/11 through artifacts, documents, film, recordings, and more.

5. Explore NYC Neighborhoods

An excellent and free way to spend your time in NYC is to visit its most popular neighborhoods.

It's the neighborhoods that give the city its character and there are no entry tickets!

Just walking around the city's neighborhoods is a treat.

Our Top Ten neighborhoods to visit are:

We have even more profiles on our NYC neighborhoods explained post.

6. Walk the High Line

The High Line, a unique park, is built on an abandoned and repurposed elevated railroad.

The story of how the park came to be is fascinating and the views of the Hudson River and the surrounding streets of Chelsea and Midtown are unparalleled.

It's absoutely free to walk along this unique park's parthway.

Our guide to the High Line will help you plan your visit and get the most out of this interesting urban park.

And Katie takes you on a virtual walk along the High Line in the video below.

At the northern end of the High Line, you'll be at Hudson Yards where you can see The Vessel, a one-of-a-kind feat of innovative architecture.

7. Visit a Free Museum 

NYC has more museums than you can count and many of them are free to visit!

Here are just a few museums that are either always free or have free days/hours. See our list below for even more.

Be sure to check our extensive list of free NYC museums.

8. See the Splendor of Grand Central Station 

From its massive celestial ceiling to its secret 'whispering gallery', there is no train station like it in the world.

Grand Central also has an amazing history and architectural details and quirks that you can read about in our guide to Grand Central Terminal.

We also lead walking tours here, and Katie samples what you will see in the video below.

We also cover this information in our audio tour with GPS, though not free, is just $1.99 to download.

9. Best Free Things To Do By Season

All four seasons in NYC bring with them all sorts of free activities.

In the summer, you can cool off in the water, watch free movies outdoors, and see dozens of free concerts like Summerstage.

And of course, you have the famous free Shakespeare in the Park performances hosted in Central Park by the Public Theater

In the winter you can find free ice skating, take a holiday lights tour, and see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

See the full section below on seasonal and monthly free things to do in NYC.

10. Get an All-Inclusive Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

An all-inclusive tourist discount pass affords you free entry into most of NYC's most popular attractions and tours all for one low price.

While the passes themselves certainly aren't free, if you plan your itineraries well, you will end up getting one or two attractions for free each day.

There are several different types of passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save the most money on your trip.


See a TV Show Taping

Learn how you could become a member of an audience of over a dozen popular TV shows for free, including The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert!

Though these tapings are free, to be a member of a live audience could take up several hours of your day.

Katie gives the lowdown on how most of the shows regarding tickets and what to expect on the day of your visit.

Hear Gospel Music

Many churches, particularly in Harlem and Brooklyn, open up their doors on Wednesdays and Sundays for religious services that are heavy on gospel music.

One of the most famous churches known for its gospel service while being welcoming to visitors is Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

But be forwarned, you are expected to remain for the entirety of the service.

Here is n excerpt from our Harlem walking tour where Tour Guide Derrick warns you about how long a gospel service can be.

There are no tickets, but donations are welcome.

Find out where you could experience NYC gospel music.

Check Out Street Art

New York has some of the best street art in the world and Bushwick in Brooklyn is one neighborhood where you can see a lot of world-renowned artists.

For example, the Bushwick Collective is essentially a free outdoor street art gallery.

There are many places to see street art in NYC.

Visit Little Island

Opened in 2021, this unique public park is not like anything you've probably seen before!

Little Island is a 'floating' park built on concrete piles rising up from the river and culminating into what resemble tulip pots!

It's free to visit Little Island and explore all of its features.

Only the live performances have a cost to attend.

And in this video, Kyle, also a guide with Free Tours by Foot, takes you on a virtual walk of Little Island.

Head to Coney Island

Visit one of the most iconic places in NYC! Stroll along Coney Island's famed boardwalk. Dip your feet in the ocean.

There's an amusement park there, though it isn't free.

But at night, the lights from the rides give Coney Island an extra exciting atmosphere.


Several activities mentioned above, like riding the Staten Island Ferry, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and strolling along the High Line are free to do at night as well as during the day.

This section lists even more free nighttime activities.

Take a look at our post on things to do at night in NYC which has a section dedicated to free activities and attractions to enjoy in the evening.

Take a Free Night Tour

Our downloadable PDFs of self-guided tours are free and can be used at night. 

For under $2, you can take one of our GPS-led audio tours any time day or night.

Excelente4.9 Basado en 2225 reseñas de danos tu opinión enAllan B.Allan B. ★★★★★ Jon was amazing. Very knowledgeable and informative. Good sense of humor! Picked appropriate spot to stop for a quick break!Raluca MRaluca M ★★★★★ I enjoyed a very nice guided tour of SoHo, Little Italy and ChinaTown with John. He is a great story teller with history facts, true stories and very attentive to the whole group. Thanks a lot!Helen C.Helen C. ★★★★★ Harlem walking tour was excellent.Lady Altoviese is a wonderful guide with so much history to share, learnt a lot!Toni R.Toni R. ★★★★★ I love these walking tours! I've been to 4 so far! Everyone is extremely nice and so much to learn! Thanks John G 🙂Gillian B.Gillian B. ★★★★★ What a fabulous find! Thank you John for a wonderful Brooklyn Bridge/DUMBO tour. Will definitely recommend!!Anand K.Anand K. ★★★★★ Did multiple tours across newyork and loved them all. The hosts are knowledgeable entertaining and give you the right start to your tripBrooklyn - John was an amazing guide with interesting stories narrated in the.most engaging manner.Harlem - Loved tge passion and energy of our host Alta....she mad stories from the past relevant, fun, real and easy to relate to.Alan B.Alan B. ★★★★★ Fantastic tour with Jon. His knowledge and dry sense of humour made the tour an absolute highlight of our New York trip. Will definitely search him out on our next visitKerry C.Kerry C. ★★★★★ I recently discovered Free Tours by Foot and I have taken 2 tours. I did a food tour of Greenwich Villlage with Mary and my whole family did a tour of Lower Manhattan with Renee. Both tours were very interesting. Mary did a great job incorporating the history with the food. Renee did a great job of basing her tour on the interest of the participants and engaged the kids. My 10 year old son said he loved the Lower Manhattan tour. I also loved the fact that neither tour guide begged for tips. We will definitely look for tours in Other cities we vsist!Markus H.Markus H. ★★★★★ Many thanks to Renee for an interesting and humorous morning.Tasmin D.Tasmin D. ★★★★★ Our Tour Guide John Gallagher was so informative and friendly. I learnt so much about New York City and the history of Brooklyn. The scenery at that time of day was spectacular. John gave great tips on more things to see in the city and good places to eat after the tour had finished. i will be booking another tour with Free Tours by Foot due to this great experience. It was great to have a tour with a local who really knows the city.John M.John M. ★★★★★ Great tour with John Gallagher around Grand Central. Added so much in explaining not just what was there, but why it was there as well as the building’s history. Well worth booking a tour. Also, his twilight Brooklyn tour is just as good!JamieJamie ★★★★☆ We did the Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown tour with John Gallagher. We enjoyed our tour & learned some interesting facts. John was witty & did his best to engage with everyone on the tour, even though it was large. Our only suggestion would be to eliminate one of the two food stops as we would have preferred to hear more instead of stop & take time out to eat when it wasn't even lunch time (tour is over by 12:15p). The first food stop was also a restroom stop so our suggestion would be to eliminate the second. Otherwise, a fun, enjoyable tour that we would recommend!Eliot M.Eliot M. ★★★★★ Great walking tour of Brooklyn Bridge and parts of Brooklyn, with nice suggestions for more things to do after.Subhasish B.Subhasish B. ★★★★★ We did the Greenwich Village food tour which was a fun medley of architectural/historical facts and food stops. I appreciated that I could partake in this experience as a vegetarian.Thais M.Thais M. ★★★★★ The tour was amazing. Renée was fun and informative.Nick R.Nick R. ★★★★★ Ron who did the Highline tour was terrific. Very kind and nice man who made a huge effortMichael W.Michael W. ★★★★★ Thanks to John we got a lot of interesting information about this beautiful place, Grand Central Terminal. The tour of this historic building was very impressive and we also received useful information about our stay in New Yorkmarillokmarillok ★★★★★ Robert W.Robert W. ★★★★★ John Gallagher took us to one of the best Brooklyn bridge sunset photo experiences!! Highly recommendHelene C.Helene C. ★★★★★ Jon was a great guide and all the food was great. I highly recommend this tour!dayle D.dayle D. ★★★★★ Our lower east side food tour with Jon yesterday was fantastic! Truly the best tour we have taken anywhere. He's informative, funny, the food stops were delicious and generous. I so appreciated that he used a microphone also. Could hear every word even on the noisy streets. Free tours by foot is a great company. Thank you.Caroline L.Caroline L. ★★★★★ Excellent Brooklyn tour with John Gallagher ! Full of informations, fun and beautiful surprises 🙂 thank you so much !Elisabeth W.Elisabeth W. ★★★★★ Becky I.Becky I. ★★★★★ My husband and I have completed many walking tours. The tour of Grand Central Station with John Gallagher was excellant and was one of our favorites. 5 stars from a couple from Philadelphia visitng NYC.Emmanuelle C.Emmanuelle C. ★★★★★ We had a great time and learnt a lot about the history of the city with Jon today, many thanks!karlakarla ★★★★★ We took the Brooklyn bridge twilight tour in April and it was excellent! Our guide Meredith really knew her stuff, told us a lot of interesting facts (especially about the tragic story surrounding the bridge, but also more) and was able to answer most of our questions. Would definitely recommend!We also took the Harlem walking tour with Ryan and I’ve rarely learned that much in such a short time - about the history, culture and architecture of Harlem, but also of NYC as a whole - he really managed to make it all come together. Extremely informative and enjoyable!Rubi S.Rubi S. ★★★★★ Hubby and I took a tour with John Gallagher through SOHO, Little Italy, and Chinatown. John is a fabulous tour guide and provided plenty of history and information about the area with colorful stories and plenty of personality. We love Free Tours by Foot and have taken many not only in NYC but San Francisco, and Boston. We highly recommend them to all our friends. Bring your walking shoes, $5 for delicious fried dumplings, and get ready to enjoy. Tip generously, these guys are worth it.Daniel T.Daniel T. ★★★★★ I always love doing a walking tour in a new city, our Tour of New York (little italy, Soho and china town) did not disappoint! Our tour guide John was super knowledge and funny. I felt that I got a really authentic and unique experience of New York. Would 100% recommendBob L.Bob L. ★★★★★ My wife and I did the tour of Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy on October 21st with John Gallagher as the tour guide, and enjoyed every minute of it.John was informative and entertaining and we couldn’t have asked for a better guide. I would highly recommend this tour!Tanya S.Tanya S. ★★★★★ A wonderful morning crossing the Brooklyn bridge, touring DUMBO and scaling the Brooklyn Heights! Tour was super informative and lead by the wonderful guide Renee! The information was interesting and relative! Tour flowed well and 3 1/2 hours went in a blink of an eye! One of the best tours we have taken, and not just in NYC! You won’t be disappointed!Rebecca O.Rebecca O. ★★★★★ LOVED John's Grand Central Station Tour, it was a highlight of my trip. He was informative, the tour clipped along, we saw some of the other surrounding buildings (which felt like a bonus). He is a true New Yorker and I am so glad we decided to join this tour last minute!Matthew S.Matthew S. ★★★★★ Really enjoyed the Lower East Side food tour with Jon Noto. Super knowledgeable, learnt loads. Highly recommend!Martin W.Martin W. ★★★★★ Jon does an awesome tour, perfectly mixing sights, history and tastes with a humorous twist. Great value for money. Would happily do it all over againximena A.ximena A. ★★★★★ Took a tour of grand central station with John and it was great! He was so knowledgeable about everything we were being shown and it was a fun way to see this New York City staple. Will definitely be taking more tours!Cathy S.Cathy S. ★★★★★ I would award more than 5* if I could. We were so happy to be on our 2nd tour with John Gallagher. He was very enjoyable, and while he was a walking encyclopedia of NY knowledge, he was also very entertaining with stories and advice as a New Yorker… and offered suggestions for more sight-seeing that we enjoyed later. We learned so much and look forward to our next tour! Thanks, John!! Spencer groupKIM D.KIM D. ★★★★★ What a wonderful way to spend a few hours in a part of Manhattan that holds so much history. Jon was our tour guide and was a very seasoned guide- working his mic to accommodate the fluctuating noises of the city (trucks, ambulances, no- mic zones, etc). His knowledge was vast! The history, the stories, the jokes, … all very articulately delivered. Jon is a guy who is born to serve. It is evident that he enjoys his work and enjoys helping people.I would def recommend this tour. Having been to NYC many times, it’s a nice way of filling in some gaps- learning about the stories and history that makes up this great city.Enjoy!J M.J M. ★★★★★ We have done these tours in multiple cities and always find they are great.While in Manhattan our group did two tours with John Gallagher. Communication was timely with good instructions and John greets each person as they arrive. He is a NYC fact machine !! He does a fantastic job of giving historical and interesting stories about the locations. John also plans the stops shade, cover if it raining, restroom stops, snacks and gives suggestions for restaurants in the area.Laura GLaura G ★★★★★ To date, I have done two tours with Free Tours by Foot, and I recommend them wholeheartedly!First, I had a fantastic tour of Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo, with our guide Renée. She was extremely knowledgeable and took us on a very interesting journey. Thank you very much!Then, I did an awesome tour of SoHo, China Town and Little Italy with Jon. He was very nice, funny, and knowledgeable, bringing us on a tour definitely worth doing! He also gave us great recommendations of where to eat, which were much appreciated. Many thanks!!Mike Google L.Mike Google L. ★★★★★ Jon was our guide in the Lower East Side walking and food tour. He was knowledgeable, funny and patient with our large group. Jon showed us very interesting sites and shared facts that we never would have seen. The food was great and we all had fun and full tummies too.Radiana D.Radiana D. ★★★★★ Hi, I don’t have enough words to thank John Gallagher for the excellent tour on Sunday, October 22! Caring, intelligent, funny, entertaining! John, from now on, every time when I pass Grand central I will smile with great memories and knowledge!The best tour guide ever!Thank you!Claudia Baquero J.Claudia Baquero J. ★★★★★ I loved this tour, the guide knows a lot about the city, and likes to tell many details, and he was super friendly.Excellent for those who want to know more about the history of the city, from BrooklynWe were lucky to do it on a day with perfect weather!I highly recommend it.John Gallagher, was super cool and nice.Richard N.Richard N. ★★★★★ Superb twilight walk over The Brooklyn Bridge.John was a great guide and very interesting on the bridge and Brooklyn Heights.Many nationalities and John was interested in all - particularly The Irish- as his ancestors were from County Donegal.Superb sunset views from promenade.Would highly recommend this tour and particularly John.Ce B.Ce B. ★★★★★ I`ve just completed both Harlem and LES food tour, I cannot recommend these tours enough. Great guides (Ryan and Jon), great content, funny and entertained. Would give 10 stars if possible!Blair M.Blair M. ★★★★★ A wonderful experience with John Joseph Gallagher on the Brooklyn Bridge DUMBO walking tour. John has an incredible knowledge of the history of the founding of New York and stories of people who made history in New York. His stories of the struggles of the poor Brooklyn residents who built the Bridge under horrific circumstance were quite poignant! The stories of the Underground Railroad and the terrible circumstances of American Blacks trying to flee to Canada really made an emotional impact on me. Truman Capote's apartment astounded me! His knowledge of Brooklyn Heights " bohemian" residents and also celebrities who still live there was utterly fascinating. His knowledge of food was impressive! Highly recommended! We will do another tour Soho Greenwich Highline tomorrow. Blair, Guy and Susan from Canada.David F.David F. ★★★★★ Amazing way to see New York. The guides are knowledgeable, friendly and happy to answer questions. Enjoyed the Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo tour the most - highly recommendedMatt J.Matt J. ★★★★★ Renee Rewiski was the best tour guide!! My 18 year old son and I booked the Brooklyn Bridge/ Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO tour and it was worth every minute with Renee. She was a wealth of information, very knowledgeable, outgoing, and answered all of our questions. We definitely recommend booking with free tours and especially with Renee. You will get a great New York experience!Thomas G.Thomas G. ★★★★★ ranboos cat E.ranboos cat E. ★★★★★ Last week we did a walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, & Brooklyn Heights with Renee. She was very knowledgeable about there area & very pleasant to talk to. I would definitely recommend this tour.Julie B.Julie B. ★★★★★ This was our first experience with FTBF and it absolutely exceeded our expectations! We selected the Greenwich Village Food Tour and our guide was Lori. Lori was very knowledgeable on the history of the area, easy to understand, and fun to talk to. The food stops on our tour included sweet and savory, and each one was delicious. Highly recommend!Liat Z.Liat Z. ★★★★★ Jon our guide for the Brooklyn Bridge Sunset Tour was nothing but amazing. A nice guy, a walking encyclopedia of everything-NY - very impressive. The walking pace was faster than what we are used to on guided tours because Jon wanted us to make it to the perfect spot on the other side of the bridge and watch Manhattan in all its glory - and we did! It was well worth it. I highly recommend these walking tours and especially Jon.js_loader

You can also take one of our free guided night tours, which are:

  • Midtown Manhattan
  • 911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge
  • High Line
  • Central Park.
  • Ghost Tours

Enjoy Free Skyline Views

New York is known for its skyline. You don't need to pay any money to get spectacular skyline views day or night.

Free Things to Do at Night in NYC

One of the most impressive free views is from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, located just across the East River from Lower Manhattan.

Make sure to have that camera ready!

Read our post on where to find the best free skyline views, which includes the Staten Island Ferry, the Brooklyn Bridge and more.

Take the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram

The Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram offers an almost-free, jaw-dropping 360-degree view of New York City and it runs past midnight every night.

It is a commuter tram that crosses over the East River to Roosevelt Island and costs the same as a subway ride.

So, it's almost free, and if you already have an unlimited MetroCard, you might consider it totally free.

Katherine shows you how to ride the Roosevelt Island Tram with some visitor tips for exploring Roosevelt Island.

Roosevelt Island has quite a number of things to see and you can use our free, self-guided tour of Roosevelt Island to explore the area.

Take an Almost-Free Ferry Ride

Though the East River Ferry is not free, it is just $4, and it runs well past 9 pm (21:00) every night.

East River Ferry

Like the Roosevelt Island Tram, the East River Ferry is a commuter ferry, but anyone can sit back and take in the nighttime (and daytime) views from the water.

Read our post on the East River Ferry for details as well as suggestions of what you can do at each of the neighborhoods the ferry goes to.

Go to a Free Museum

As noted above, there are dozens of free museums in NYC.

There are quite a few museums that stay open late and are free to visit during those late hours.

Just a few are:

See a full listing here.

Enjoy a Free Party at a Museum

For a more festive nighttime activity, these below museums have free nighttime events that are more like a party than a museum.

You can see their art exhibits, as well as hear live music, dance to a DJ, or watch films.

Usually, refreshments including alcoholic beverages are available for purchase.

See the Bright Lights of Times Square

Times Square can be explored 24 hours a day. It is especially exhilarating at night as the neon lights and billboards are abuzz.

Be there just before 12:00 a.m. to take part in the Midnight Moment.

See our guide to Times Square which lists things to do in the area at night and also during the day.


Times Square, day or night, is ideal for people-watching.

Just grab a seat on the big red stairs at the TKTS Booth and watch the world go by.

The Naked Cowboy

Other places and neighborhoods where you'll see some colorful characters at night are:

Explore Rockefeller Center

This complex of buildings centered around its iconic promenade is very lively at night.

Lots of people come for the Top of the Rock observation deck, but there is more to see.

Atlas Statue

It is especially charming in the winter when the promenade is transformed into an ice-skating rink and the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree is put up.

Use our free self-guided tour of Rockefeller Center to locate the sights you can see at night.

Go Stargazing

From April to October, members of the Amateur Astronomers Association bring high-powered telescopes to various parks in NYC.

The public is invited for free to gaze at the stars, planets, and moon. Experts are there to answer questions.

Locations include Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Lincoln Center, and the High Line.

See a Free Comedy Show

New York is known for its comedy clubs.

Though most do charge a cover price or require tickets, there are free comedy and improv shows such as these: 

You can find free comedy at many other locations from Free Stand Up NYC.

If you can spend a little money, read our post on affordable comedy clubs in NYC.

Seasonal Night Activities

After dark, you have many activities unique to each season. In the warmer months, especially summertime the choices are endless.

Christmas Movie Tour

You have a long list of outdoor movies, free concerts of every genre of music, and theater performances, including Shakespeare in the Park and Broadway in Bryant Park to choose from.

In the fall, you can see the amazing Halloween Parade and take a Ghost Tour or see the leaves changing color in Central Park

In winter and around the holidays, you can see the Holiday Lights, go ice-skating, and celebrate New Year's Eve in Times Square.

Browse our list of monthly things-to-do posts for more ideas when you are in town.

And take a look at our post on things to do at night in NYC which has a section dedicated to free activities and attractions to enjoy in the evening.


As you probably have realized, many free things to do mentioned in other sections are also appropriate for families.

This section lists even more things to do with your kids for a memorable visit to New York City.

For other ideas, look at our master post on the top things to do with kids in NYC.

Visit Central Park

With the number of things to do for kids in Central Park year-round, you would think it was created just for them!

Central Park for Kids

Here’s just a sampling of free activities in Central Park:

  • Play on the many statues like Alice in Wonderland
  • Hear a free story by the Hans Christian Andersen statue on Saturdays from June to September
  • Become a scientist at Belvedere Castle, which houses the Henry Luce Nature Observatory
  • See the dancing animal statues on the famous Delacorte Clock, which plays nursery rhymes every day for the hour and half hour from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.
  • Watch the model sailboats in the Conservatory Water Pond. You can bring your own small boat to launch onto the water or rent one there.

There are dozens of more activities for kids and families in Central Park, so be sure to read our post things to do in Central Park.

Go to a Kid-Friendly Museum

Many of the major museums in NYC are well-suited for kids and have free admission for children under certain ages.

Additionally, NYC has quite a few museums created just for children. Some are free all the time while others have free days/hours.

American Museum of Natural History

These are among the best:

For a full listing of children's museums, see our post on things to do with kids in NYC.

Check out our post on free museums in NYC for even more options.

Playgrounds and Parks

Though Central Park is the granddaddy of them all, there are many other awesome playgrounds and parks for kids throughout the city. Here are three we highly recommend.

Washington Square Park has separate playgrounds for toddlers and older children.

In summer the fountain is on and they can splash around and romp in the water. There’s lots of music for them to dance to!

Bryant Park has free kids’ programs that include juggling lessons, puppet shows, and a kids’ reading room with StoryTime.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is a huge park in DUMBO, Brooklyn. There's free kayaking at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse.

There is also the historic Jane’s Carousel. Though the carousel does cost $2, it is absolutely worth it and is one of the top 10 things to do with kids in Brooklyn.

And if you are curious about how the neighborhood DUMBO got its name (no, it's not named after Disney's loveable elephant), read our post on What does the acronym DUMBO stand for?"

Play Indoors in and around Rockefeller Center

Too cold to play outdoors? Let the little ones run wild in the mega-stores in Rockefeller Center.

Check out the Lego Store, Nintendo World, and the famous toy store FAO Schwarz.

There’s also M+M World in Times Square.

See our map of 25 things to do with kids in Midtown Manhattan for both free and non-free activities.

Explore Grand Central Terminal

Another great indoor activity is visiting Grand Central.

Kids can learn about the zodiac lesson from the celestial ceiling and learn about acoustics from the secret “whispering gallery”.

Choo-choo lovers can watch trains depart from 44 platforms, more than any other train station in the world.

In the winter see the free holiday train show

See other ways you and your children can enjoy the station in our guide to Grand Central.

Free Music and Theatrical Productions

Though many of the free musical and theatrical performances for kids take place outdoors in the warmer months, you can find some that take place year-round.

You can also find theatrical for kids that are very inexpensive such as the Theater for Children with tickets for approximately $6.

If you can spend a bit more, check out the New Victory Theater in Times Square with quality productions just for kids year-round.

Another show that is great for kids and adults is There are multiple ways to get good deals on tickets.

See our post on getting discount tickets for Blue Man Group.

Lastly, if you are here in February, you can catch Kids’ Night on Broadway, an annual event where children 18 years old and under can attend a Broadway show for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult.

Ride the Subway

Chances are you will be taking the subway while you are here.

Take advantage of the free and engaging activities to be found on subways and in subway stations!

Hear live music, see magicians, and more. Read our post about the subway and street performers, to find out where to find the best performers.

The whole family can admire the unique art in the subway.  

Many stations have art installations and special tiled murals and artwork relating to the neighborhood above ground.

For example, the 81st Street Station by the American Museum of Natural History has a large, tiled of mosaics of replicas of fossilized bones and prehistoric creatures.

The 14th Street-8th Avenue station in Chelsea is filled with mischievous bronze creatures by sculptor Tom Otterness.

If you want to be led to the best subway art, we have a pay-what-you-wish subway art tour.

TIP: Use our post on Navigating the Subway to learn the ins and outs of the subway system.

Seasonal Activities for Kids

Summer in NYC keeps the kids busy with water activities, outdoor movies, playgrounds, and theatrical performances.

The fall has the Halloween Parade, Thanksgiving Parade, and pumpkin-related events galore, like the Great Pumpkin Flotilla in Central Park.

In winter, they can go ice skating and see the holiday lights, including the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Spring has Easter egg hunts, Governors Island opens for the season, and baby animals abound at the Bronx Zoo.

See the Seasonal/Monthly section below for more information.

Be sure to look at the monthly posts for the time you are visiting, as they have a section dedicated to things to do with kids, including some free events


This section provides you with lists of free attractions and includes items mentioned in the other sections.

We've broken this down into 3 sections.

NOTE: Free usually means pay-what-you-wish or donation, though many places are really free.


Below we've listed the top ten museums you can visit for free.

We've noted which are always free and which have specific days/hours when you do not have to pay to enter.

For a comprehensive list of museums and cultural institutions in NYC that are either always free or offer free days/hours, click here.


We encourage you to read through all the sections of this post for other attractions to visit such as Grand Central Terminal, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the High Line.

You can also see our post on NYC Attractions which lists both free and paid sights to see and activities to do.

Historical Sights and Memorials

Zoos and Aquariums

Botanical Gardens and Farms

Historic Houses of Worship

Historic Graveyards and Cemeteries

Libraries That Are Also Museums

Iconic Buildings to Photograph


Throughout this post, we list other great free activities like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, exploring Central Park, and strolling along the High Line.

Here are a bunch of free activities in NYC you can enjoy for free year-round.

For more ideas, see our master post on things to do in New York City.

See Free Art

In addition to the many free art museums,  there are also plenty of art galleries in Chelsea and Soho.

You can also see brilliant street art in Bushwick.

See our post on free museums in NYC for a long list of options.

Hear Free Music

Year-round you can hear performances of all sorts of music, from pop, classical, jazz, and more. Some venues are

In the warmer months, from late May to early September, there are numerous free concert series.

See our Summer Guide to NYC for a long list.

Go to a Gospel Performance

For another free music experience, you can see free gospel performances in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

See our post on where to see the best free gospel performances in NYC.

Attend a Free TV Show Taping

There is no cost at all to see the taping of a TV show and there are many to choose from.

Tapings take place during the day, even for late-night talk shows like the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

See our post on how to get free tickets to a TV show taping.

See Free Breathtaking Views of NYC

There are many locations where you can find free skyline views.

You can also go to a rooftop bar and order a soda, and while not free, the view will be worth the few bucks you spend.

If you can splurge a bit, we encourage you to go to one of the observatories for outstanding 360 views of NYC.

You can find prices and descriptions from our post comparing the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, and One World Observatory.

Free Performances, Classes, Movies, and More!

These parks offer a wide range of programs that include free activities like music, dancing, movies, readings, nature exploration, boating, arts, theater, classes, fitness, and activities just for kids. The list is endless!

Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan hosts over 1,000 free activities a year including theater, dance, movies, classes, games, birdwatching, fencing juggling, chess, ice skating, and so much more!

Hudson River Park has many free activities throughout the year, including water activities, classes, music, dance, and movie series.

There are too many programs to list here, but you can find hundreds of free activities on the NYC Parks Department’s website.

Get Fit

You can participate all year in free fitness classes through the Shape Up Program.

In the warmer months, you can find free yoga classes at Brooklyn Bridge Park and do tai-chi or learn how to fence in Bryant Park.

See our Summer Guide to NYC for a full listing of sports and fitness activities.

Be Entertained by Street Performers

New York City has some of the best subway musicians, buskers, and performers.

Our post about where to find New York City Street Performers and Subway Music will lead you right to them!

Sun Gaze

Join the Amateur Astronomers Association on the High Line to safely look at the sun through telescopes designed to observe sunspots.

See their website for dates.

Go to a Rollerskating Dance Party

From mid-April to late October, on most Saturdays and Sundays, the Central Park Dance Skaters Association has a free “Skate Circle” party with a DJ in Central Park.

Commune with Nature in a Park

There are loads of parks in NYC, but these are our favorites:

  • Central Park with expansive green spaces and statues and monuments
  • Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village for great people-watching and a funky, fun vibe
  • Prospect Park is a bit off the beaten track and located in the gorgeous Park Slope neighborhood

Get a Free Drink

Free Brewery Tours

New York City is home to several craft breweries, and a couple of them offer free tours of their facilities -- and sometimes even free samples of beer!

Our post on taking a free brewery tour tells you which breweries offer tours, how to get to them, and what else to do in the area.

Wine Tastings

In the early evenings, wine shops all over the city have wine tastings where you can sample usually 4-6 different wines.

Here are wine shops that have tastings several times a week.

Pair your wine with a free, self-guided tour of the neighborhoods! We also have audio tours and our pay-what-you-wish tours as well. Find out about all of these tours here.

Happy Hour

For other free drinks, you can take advantage of Happy Hours in many bars, pubs, and lounges in NYC.  Happy Hours often have a “Buy one, Get one” deal.

So while not entirely free, it’s still a good deal. See our post on Happy Hours in NYC.

Watch a Free, Practically Professional Basketball Game

The West 4th Street Basketball Courts, known informally as “The Cage” is famous for its high-quality players.

NBA scouts regularly come by looking for the next Michael Jordan.

You can join the audience standing along the fence on 6th Avenue and West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. You can also join in a pick-up game...if you dare!

While in the Village, use our post about things to do in Greenwich Village. You might enjoy our pay-what-you-wish tours of Greenwich Village.

See a Parade

NYC has some of the biggest and best parades in the world!  Among the best are the Halloween Parade, the Mermaid Parade, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

See our Seasonal section below for a listing of more parades.

Festivals and Street Fairs

To get more information on these and other festivals throughout the year, see our monthly posts. See below for links to each month of the year.

Free Seasonal Activities

The four seasons in NYC bring with them activities unique to that time of the year.

What is so great about NYC is that you can always find fantastic free things to do at any time of the year.

The highlights of free activities are:

Summer offers the chance to see dozens of free movies and concerts and attend a free performance of Shakespeare in Central Park.

In the fall, nothing could be more fun than watching (or even marching in) the Village Halloween Parade.

Seeing the leaves change color in Central Park is also very special.

Winter brings free, festive things to do, like seeing the Holiday lights around Midtown and other neighborhoods.

And there is nothing like the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Spring is filled with flowers at the free Macy's Flower Show, the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the buds sprouting in the High Line Park.

See our Seasonal section below for more ideas.

Tourist Passes

In addition to the free activities we’ve listed so far, you can find more if you purchase an all-inclusive tourist discount pass.

Though the pass does cost money, you can plan your itinerary so that you get one or two attractions for free for each day you have the pass.

Here are the Top Ten attractions included in the big three tourist passes.

This list is just a handful of the dozens of attractions, activities, and discounts included in tourist passes.

Our post comparing tourist passes can show you how to make the most of your trip budget.


Free Monthly Activities

Our monthly posts include a section on free things to do that month. This includes special events, parades, and festivals, that are held during that month.

We also created a post on when is the best time to visit NYC, which includes a section on the cheapest times.

Free Seasonal Activities

Winter Holiday Season 




About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: noviembre 9th, 2023
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