Free Things to Do in New York City

New York City is a ridiculously expensive city to live in and visit, that is unless you are in the know on some of the fun and popular free things to do in NYC.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known at The Met, has a policy of pay what you wish, so it’s theoretically free but it wouldn’t hurt you to drop a couple bucks in the bucket when you visit. The Met is simply gigantic and looks to cover every aspect of art through more than 5,000 years and from every country currently existing and long since gone. The Met’s size makes it a challenge as it’s hard to find your way around and it’s almost impossible to see everything in one day.

Federal Reserve Bank Tour

The Federal Reserve Bank Tour in New York City is open to the public and is free but the space is limited so you should come early, you’ll also have to go through security which will take at least 20 minutes. The tour gives you a look inside the Federal Reserve with some interactive exhibits, a look behind the scenes, a video, and narrated tour. There is also a trip five stories below street level where the Gold Vault is kept.

American Museum of Natural History

New York City’s American Museum of Natural History also follows the pay what you wish rule when it comes to admissions, and again it’s nice to give at least something when visiting. Note that special exhibitions, the IMAX, and other events may require an additional fee. Another huge museum, the American Museum of Natural History is comprised of 25 buildings with 46 permanent exhibit halls, laboratories and a library. Of the museum’s 150 million species only a fraction can be displayed at once so the museum does a good job of rotating exhibits and keeping the experience fresh.

Times Square Tour

Get a look behind the scenes and learn the history of New York’s noted Times Square with a free Times Square Tour. Every Friday at noon guides from the Times Square Alliance gather at the Times Square Information Center to give a free behind the scenes walking tour. The tour takes you through historic theaters, new sites, and gives you the little insider tips that make your visit so much more interesting.

Central Park Walking Tour

The Central Park Conservancy offers about a dozen different free walking tours. Each tour lasts about an hour to an hour and a half and is led by a knowledgeable guide. The tours are all a little different but you will glean more interest in the park’s history, ecology, design and many interesting little facts along the way. If you are looking for a more in depth tour, you can even arrange to have a custom tour created for you and your group.

Free Music in the Parks

The park system of New York City has created an incredibly varied free concert series across the parks to give a little bit of everything to locals and visitors. Check out the schedule to see what concerts interest you, when they’re performing and where. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the outdoors while taking in some good free music.

Piano in the Park

Bryant Park brings some of the best pianists in the city to the park for Piano in the Park. The music tends to lean more toward ragtime and jazz and is always an exciting event filled with the enthusiasm of a toddler bopping along to a favorite song. The concerts are regularly scheduled from noon until 1:45 pm unless inclement weather prohibits.

Classes in the Park

Bryant Park also offers a series of free classes throughout the year and everyone is welcome. The Tai Chi class is one of their most frequent classes but there is also yoga, knitting, and other events throughout the year. The free Tai Chi classes are a good way to warm up in the morning and experience NYC in a different way.

Free Summer Movies

Once again the New York City Parks department is to thank for the free summer movie series. These outdoor films occur at a variety of parks throughout the city and at differing times and dates. For added interest, explore the Cinematic Parks website to learn about NYC parks that have been the setting for many films from Hitchcock to Hitch. Create your own tour of the parks, taking note of what movies where filmed where.

Free Summer Theater

But you can see movies anywhere, it’s the theater that people come to New York City for, so why not enjoy some of the best theater in the world for free. The New York City Parks Department has gathered a slew of theatrical productions from kid-friendly farce to gut wrenching romantic drama and bundled them up into a free summer theater series. The free theater events happen in different parks throughout the city and change regularly so check online to see what is playing during your stay.

Free Galleries

New York City is known for its great art scene but it’s the smaller galleries that have some of the best up and coming artists’ works on display. A number of galleries are free to the public and a wonderful way to view the local art scene. PaceWildenstein has been a staple in the New York art scene since its opening in 1960 and has hosted more than 500 exhibitions and 200 artists. Cheim & Read is another noted gallery in New York City although its history only reaches back to 1997. The focus of Cheim & Read is international contemporary artists who specialize in painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. Another gallery that is a must is Gagosian Gallery which is one of the biggest in the city. Here you will see some of the more famous artists such as Warhol, Picasso, Lichtenstein and other noted greats. Something to keep in mind, the Gagosian has eight locations across the globe so it may become a stop you frequent on other travels as well.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: aturkus