10 Free things to do in New York [in 2021]

What to do in NYC paying nothing (or nearly nothing)

New York is undoubtedly one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. (and the world) but also a dream for many international travelers. While average accommodation in NY can strip your wallet out, and coffee & muffin easily reach up to $10, it’s necessary to show that there are other possibilities to enjoy the city. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for free tours, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions. Here are 10 fun free things you can do in NYC without spending a cent.

Take a Tour at the Central Park

nyc central park

Central Park is an outdoor park, therefore it’s free and open to the public from 6 am to 1 am. However many people are not aware that the Central Park Conservancy offers guided tours. There are dozens of virtual tours that are free although a suggested donation of US$ 5 is expected. But if you want to try the experience in person, you can enjoy an offer of 6 tours of 90 minutes in different areas of Central Park for US$ 15.

Watch a Taping of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Ever thought of seeing Jimmy Fallon in person? You can watch a taping of The Tonight Show at NBC’s studios in Rockefeller Center, but it takes a bit of planning. Free tickets are released a month in advance, though if you’re lucky you can get standby tickets the night of the event. All the info you find here.

Dream upon stars on the High Line

new york high line

The High Line, New York’s famous elevated park, is free and an amazing attraction by itself. But could you imagine you can also stargaze on the High Line? Every Tuesday, from April to October, starting at dusk, the Amateur Astronomers Association puts telescopes on the section between West 15th and West 16th Streets. It’s the perfect time to visit the park and feel the cosmos just in the heart of NYC. In normal times, no RSVP needed. However, while Covid-19 is a major issue, all group activities are on hold.

Visit Chelsea art galleries

What about hopping around the artsy neighborhood in Manhattan? So you have to head to Chelsea, where there are dozens of galleries with groundbreaking works and free admission. Its galleries come in all shapes, sizes, and even virtual reality.

Take the Grand Walking Tour

The Grand Central station in New York

Free walking tours aren’t exactly free but they cost what you want. At the end of the tour, you tip what you find fair or what your wallet allows you to. In New York, as in any other major city, there are always many options of this kind. One of the best walking tours in New York will take you to discover the architecture and history of the Midtown East area around the Grand Central Terminal. Every Friday at 12:30 pm urban historians Peter Laskowich and Madeleine Levi welcome people for a 90-minute guided tour. The Grand tour meets in the atrium at 120 Park Avenue, located at the southwest corner of East 42nd Street and Park Avenue directly across from Grand Central Terminal. No reservations required.

Enjoy the SummerStage

This is  New York’s largest, free outdoor performing arts festival, taking place in Central Park and in 15-18 neighborhood parks around. In 2021 the Summer Stage program brings big names in hip-hop, Latin, indie rock, contemporary dance, jazz and global. Admission to all free performances (not benefit concerts) is on a first-come, first-served basis, no tickets required.

Become a pro about beers at the Brooklyn Brewery tours

brooklyn brewery logo

You love beer? So this is for you. The mythical Williamsburg’s brewery offers tours of its facilities the whole week but they are free on weekends! On Saturdays from 1-5 pm and Sundays from 1-4 pm you are guided around the place and get to know its history. On the paid tours, you taste 4 beers. On the free ones, you don’t, but if you’d like to try them, pay $5 each or five for $20.

Its iconic logo was designed by none less than Milton Glaser, the creator of the famous “I love New York” logo.

The Brooklyn Brewery is at 79n 11th St, Williamsburg. It’s not necessary to book, just show up there. 

Learn with FIT, a fashion museum

Right there in the Chelsea, there’s a perfect free plan for fashionists: The Museum at FIT. With a free entrance to all exhibits, it belongs to the Fashion Institute of Technology. The museum generally has three exhibits running at the same time and a number of events, like conferences, symposiums, and talks.

Let your jaw drops with the gold at The Federal Reserve Bank

Would you like to visit the largest known depository of monetary gold in the world? So this is for you. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers a daily 1-hour tour to its premises and a visit to the Gold Vault. There is where are stored 497,000 gold bars of foreign nations and international organizations. It’s more than 6,000 tons in the precious metal safely kept at 80 feet below street level.

The FED’s building in NY is at 33 Liberty Street in the Financial District in the southern part of Manhattan. The tours run from Monday to Friday from 1-2 pm, and generally have a 3-4 week wait. It is necessary to book in advance and get there half an hour before the tour starts. No pictures are allowed and there is no storage for bags. Check the Gold Vault Tour website for more information and reservation. 

Take a free walking tour

This is probably the best way to know New York City, make some exercise, and ask all your doubts to someone that knows the right answers. With Guruwalk, the traveler has 5 options of free walking tours in New York, from the “essentials” of the city to the street art in Bushwick.

free things in nyc

Note: Free Friday evenings at the MoMA are suspended

The Museum of Modern Art is a must-see in New York if you want to see the great masters of modern and contemporary art. The museum has a collection of around 200,000 works! However not everyone can afford a $25 admission fee, right? If you are in this group and are in NY on Fridays, you should know that, in normal times, the museum offers free admission from 4 p.m. to 8 pm. Besides, the sculpture garden is free every morning from 9:30 to 10 am. However, during the pandemic, these free Friday evenings at the MoMA are suspended.

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