But even though it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are loads of completely FREE things to do. If you’re paying the rent to live in a city this fantastic, you must take advantage of all there is to do and see.
1-4. Enjoy the last days of fall
Beautiful colors have taken over NYC and the last days of fall are upon us as we head into the colder months. There’s a still a few ideas to get the best out of the last cool, breezy days. Check them out!
🍂 Peak foliage at Central Park: Reds, oranges, and yellows, oh my! Central Park’s fall foliage is in full bloom and you have to take a stroll through and check it out. It’s stunning, and perfect for your last fall photo opps for the year!
🥾 Go for a fall hike: Strap up your boots and get a fall hike in while you can! Nature is at its most beautiful peak right now, and it’s a perfect time to get some altitude and go for a picturesque hike.
🦃 Attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: NYC’s greatest Thanksgiving tradition will of course be back this year and it’s free to attend! The 2.5 mile parade is first-come, first served so if you go be sure to show up a bit early!
👪 Volunteer for Thanksgiving around NYC: The holidays are a time of giving, and nothing’s more heartwarming than giving back to the NYC community. Be sure to check out your local charities, food kitchens, and shelters to see how you can make a difference this year! They could always use help passing out free turkeys or preparing meals!
5-8. Take in the holiday sights and sounds
Although it’s only November, holiday season is already in full swing and that means everything from tree lightings to winter wonderlands!
🎄Watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting: Be sure to bookmark the date of November 30, from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. This is when the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be illuminated in all its glory. It’s first-come, first-served and also being streamed on NBC!
🎅 Meet Santa at Macy’s Santaland: The 8th floor of Macy’s in Herald Square will turn into a winter wonderland starting November 25. Explore the 13,000 square feet of festive decor and even get your photo taken with Santa Claus himself!
🌟 Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show: The jaw dropping light show on the windows of Saks Fifth Ave is an NYC tradition, and its returning this year on November 22. Be sure to stop by anytime after that date to get a glimpse of their iconic theatrical light show.
🎶 Hudson Yard’s Shine On Celebration: On Friday November 29, this celebration will happen for the first time, and will include live performances (Brooklyn Ballet, Backtrack acapella group, New York City Gospel Choir, and more), cookie decorating, live ice sculpting, and more!
❄️ Visit The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park: Go ice skating, browse the cute shops, or hang out in “The Lounge” at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, which is now in full swing. Grab your scarfs, coats, and maybe even a hot chocolate if you’re looking for a quick warmup.
☃️ Swing by Governors Island Winter Village: Opening on November 17, this village is perfect to play lawn games, hang out by a cozy fire pit, and enjoy the holidays with friends and family!
🚆 Grand Central Holiday Fair: Browse the iconic hall of Grand Central when it transforms into a holiday market starting November 14. Of course if you do want to spend cash, there will be vendors selling food, drinks, and holiday gifts!
🦌 Union Square Holiday Market: Stroll through a sea of unique gifts created by local craftsmen, artists, and entrepreneurs at this market starting November 17. Even if you don’t want to purchase anything, it’s still a lovely market that’s decked out for the season.
🎁 Borough Hall Holiday Market: For our Brooklynites, this market coming November 28 is perfect for window shopping and getting gift ideas for the holiday season!
⛸️ Bryant Park Ice Rink: Skate anytime from 8 am – 10 pm daily and 8 am – midnight on select weekends and holidays. Be sure to hit the Bank of America Winter Village after! Rentals are available for a cost.
🥶 Ice Rink at The Seaport: A free ice rink is coming to Seaport on November 22! It’ll also include festive music, impressive light art installations and seasonal programming.
🧊 The Rink at Brooklyn Commons: On November 30, bring your skates to the Brooklyn Commons for their “Light Up The Commons” event which includes free skating, a tree lighting, live ice carving, and so much more!
17-29. Explore Museums & Free Art Exhibitions
New York is full of the most prestigious art and history museums, but sometimes their entrance fees don’t feel quite accessible enough to the everyday New Yorker. Luckily, most have special “free” days when entrance fees are waived completely. Plus, there are even some standalone free exhibitions to visit. Take a look:
🧳 Louis Vuitton’s 200 TRUNKS, 200 VISIONARIES: THE EXHIBITION: To celebrate Louis Vuitton’s bicentennial birthday, a free new exhibit consisting of 200 trunks designed by LV visionaries will be on display. Franky Zapata, Willo Perron, Francesca Sorrenti, Peter Marino, and Brooklyn Balloons are just some to name a few, but it’s a great experience for both fashion and art fans alike.
🐘 DUMBO Gallery Walks: Stroll through 14 different art galleries in DUMBO for free on the first Thursday of every month! You’ll see art, artist panels, and even live tours with guides. They happen at 6 pm – 8 pm on the first Thursday each month.
📚 Morgan Library & Museum: For some a little more quiet, take advantage of the “Free Friday Evenings” program at this library and museum. There are rotating art exhibits that you can view from 5 pm – 7 pm.
🏛 The Museum of Modern Art (First Friday of every month): Thanks to clothing store UNIQLO, museum admission to the Museum of Modern Art is free the first Friday of every month!
🖼 Bronx Museum of the Arts (Free everyday!): This uptown museum known for its innovative contemporary art exhibitions houses over 2,000 pieces of artwork in a variety of mediums.
🎨 Brooklyn Museum (First Saturday of the Month, 5-11 pm): Head to the outer boroughs to experience this historic museum whose roots trace all the way back to 1823.
🖌 El Museo del Barrio (Pay What You Wish): More casually known as simply “El Museo,” this museum specializes in the art of Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures through comprehensive collections and exhibits.
🇪🇺 Guggenheim Museum (Pay What You Wish on Saturdays 6 pm–8 pm): Step into a world of modern and contemporary art at the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side. The museum is typically $25 for adults, but hosts a “pay what you wish” program on Saturdays from 6 pm – 8 pm.
✨ Neue Gallerie (First Friday, 4-7 pm): For a more specialty European cultural experience, the Neue Gallerie’s main collection features German and Austrian art created between 1890 and 1940. There is also a Viennese-inspired café in-house! This museum is also pay-as-you-wish until November 10.
🧑🎨 Noguchi Museum (First Friday of Month): You may recognize the name of this museum from that line in the iconic film “The Devil Wears Prada,” but the museum is definitely worth an in-person visit. Depending where you live it could be a little out of the way in Queens, but the museum has many interesting sculptural works and performance art pieces you can experience for free on the first Friday of every month.
🚜 Queens County Farm Museum (Everyday, 10am-5pm): Say hello to farm animals, take part in a scavenger hunt to learn about the farm’s plants, animals, and history, or, weather permitting, hop on a hayride.
🗽 Chelsea Art Galleries: The Chelsea neighborhood has a rich cultural history for art and his home to tons of galleries. Spend a day crawling through famous galleries like the Gagosian Gallery and David Zwirner Gallery.
🚢 Intrepid Museum: Learn about nautical history and astronomy at the Intrepid Museum which hosts “Free Fridays” on select days. Check the schedule on their website to see when the next one is.
30-31. Spend Some Time Exercising
With the holidays coming up it’s time to get into your best shape! Exercising is a great way to get out and about and improve your health. Here in the city, there are so many out-of-the-box ways to break a sweat instead of going to a normal gym. Take a look!
🏃 Go for a Run: Of course you can always create your own running path throughout the park, but these ones have dedicated tracks: Riverside Park, Randall’s Island, Astoria Park and Van Cortlandt Park.
🚲 Biking: Grab your bike and hit one of NYC’s bike routes to grab a scenic view of the city during your ride. You have so many options between parks, beaches, and more where you can ride!
32-36. Tour Street Art Galleries
Besides museums, did you know there’s a ton of one-of-a-kind art to be seen right on the streets of NYC? Here are the best spots for street art in the city:
📸 First Street Green Art Park (this is where the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Mural Popped Up): This special park on the Lower East Side celebrates art with murals, music, sculpture, workshops, photography and installations.
Address: 33 E 1st St.
🏙 The Bowery Wall: The history of this mural wall goes back to 1982, when Keith Haring created his first public work there. It moved back and forth between artistic endeavors and advertising space over the years, but now is reserved for murals by new NYC artists. Currently there is a mural that reflects the graffiti roots and history of NYC.
Address: 76 E Houston St.
🚶 Wellington Art Mural Project: This display in Astoria hosts over 100 murals by local and international artists alike spanning multiple blocks. See a full map on their website here.
Address: 11-98 Welling Ct., Astoria
🌆 The Bushwick Art Collective: This Brooklyn outdoor street art gallery is likely the largest in NYC, totaling about 100 blocks of art displays.
Address: 427 Troutman St., Brooklyn
⚡ Freeman Alley: You might pass this little alley, also on the Lower East Side, without a second glance, but it actually holds some of the most interesting layered displays of local artwork and graffiti. And, there’s even a restaurant hidden at the end of the alley!
Address: Between Bowery and Chrystie St. on the Lower East Side
37-40. Jump On a Walking Tour
Tours in NYC are known to be pricey, but there are actually a variety of walking tours given by volunteers that are completely free.
🍎 Flatiron District: If you’re interested in learning more about NYC’s most iconic triangle-shaped building, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership sponsors free 90-minute walking tours around the neighborhood on Sundays at 11am. Meet on the southwest corner of Madison Square Park.
🚂 Grand Central (Suspended until further notice but will hopefully be up and running again soon!): Similarly, the Grand Central Partnership hosts a 90-minute guided walking tour led by an urban historian in and around Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhoods. They meet Fridays at 12:30pm.
🌃 Free Tours By Foot.com: Though not completely free, these walking tours are unique in the fact that you pay-as-you-wish. There is no upfront cost and after the tour, you decide how much to give the guide based on the quality of the tour/what you think it was worth.
🌳 Central Park Conservancy: The Central Park Conservancy offers a few free tours. They are: The Southern Welcome Tour, which highlights the noteworthy aspects in the southern part of the park, admiring the Pond, Gapstow Bridge, and the Dairy Visitor Center which used to serve children fresh milk in 1871; the Memorial Tour, which showcases monuments and statues in the park honoring veterans; and the Discovery Walks for Families, which is perfect for children of all ages. Plus they have a few virtual tours to choose from, all which have a suggested donation of $5. See more on their website here.
41-63. Enjoy Free Things You’ll Only Find in NYC
🗳️ Vote and earn goodies: Today’s election day! If you’re voting in NYC today, you can use your “I Voted” sticker to score some freebies around the city. Participating offers include Krispy Kreme, Lyft, and so many more.
🔮 Snap a photo at a Broadway “Show Globe”: Located in the heart of Times Square is life-size snow globes of themed plays including The Lion King, Wicked, and Aladdin. Be sure to stop by and take a picture after the show!
📺 Attend a TV show taping: NYC is home to tons of big-name TV shows including Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, and of course SNL. Tickets for these shows are free and are done through a lottery, so try throwing your name in the hat!
10 Extraordinary Places You Wouldn’t Even Believe Are in NYC: (a few of these are museums that cost a *suggested* admission to enter, but you can still walk around the grounds for free!).Check out
🤸🏻♂️ While we’re speaking of childhood fun, ride on these giant swings at Pier 35 on the Lower East Side.
🛤 Visit The High Line, a park atop an old railroad line running from the Meatpacking District to W 34th Street.
🪴 Take a stroll through this hidden indoor garden in Midtown.
🦒 Pay a visit to your furry friends: The Bronx Zoo offers free admission on Wednesdays.
💣 The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park is also always free to enter, Monday-Friday from 9-5 p.m.
🏢 While you can no longer climb the wacky Vessel at Hudson Yards, access to the ground-level base is open to the public.
🏞️ Relax at Little Island: This floating island is one of our favorite spots to relax, and the views of downtown Manhattan are killer too. Bring a friend, a blanket and stay awhile!
🌉 Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge…and think about all of the hidden fun facts while you’re doing it.
🍽️ Stroll through Chelsea Market, a food hall located in the Chelsea neighborhood.
🍴 Visit the Union Square Greenmarket open year-round to peruse goods from regional farmers, fishermen, and bakers.
⛴️ Ride the Staten Island Ferry: This free boat ride has a great view of the Statue of Liberty! Find out the schedule here.
🌿 Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is not necessarily *free* but offers pay-what-you-wish daytime admission.
🎭 Attend Shakespeare in the Park, the 60-year-old tradition in Central Park.
⚰️ Visit General Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb in Morningside Heights. Who knew we had such a rich piece of history right here in the city? It’s also the largest mausoleum in North America.
🪦 Another rich piece of history, the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was founded in 1838 and is 478 acres!
🌭 Walk the Coney Island Boardwalk: Take a trip to Coney Island to Brooklyn to grab a Nathan’s hotdog, play carnival games, and ride rollercoasters. It’s the perfect day trip!
🇺🇸 Explore 9/11 Memorial: Learn about the events of 9/11 at the Memorial Pools and 9/11 Museum. The pools are open to the public and the museum offers free admission on Mondays (need to reserve tickets online).
🛍️ Go window shopping in SoHo: Walk around the streets of SoHo and bask in the beauty of brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton!
📖 Grab a book from an NYC library: In need of a good read? Head to New York Public Library for some peace and quiet with your newest book.
64-70. Eat and Drink!
🎡 Stroll around one of NYC’s street fairs: From now until the fall, all 5 boroughs are having street fairs consisting of food from tons of different vendors. Try out samples and bounce around street fairs like Harlem’s Uptown Night Market or the Ferragosto Festival.
🍺 Tour Brooklyn Brewery: Walkthrough the Brooklyn Brewery and learn how beer is made with a free tour every Sunday from 1 pm – 6pm. We can’t promise you won’t buy a beer on the way though!
🍕 Technically not free, but $1 comes very close! Find out our top picks for NYC’s dollar slices here.
🍦 Tour the Ample Hills ice cream factory/museum in Brooklyn.
🍫 Hershey’s World in Times Square routinely hands out free sample chocolates when you enter the store.
☕ Grab a free coffee at Blank Street: Need a kick of caffeine? Earn a free coffee at any Blank Street Coffee location when you download their app!