But even though it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are loads of completely FREE things to do in NYC. 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.
Fall is officially here, and we’re getting ready to do everything! The change of seasons is in full bloom and the air is crisp… meaning there’s so many things to do. Check out our favorite free activities to do during this fall below:
🦃 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!
🍁 Check out the fall foliage around NYC: Oranges, reds, and yellows, oh my! The leaves are turning color here in NYC, and there’s tons of places to see them. From Central Park to Brooklyn Botanical Garden, these are the best places to see fall foliage in NYC!
🥾 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.
👪 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!
🧺 Have a fall picnic: Grab some friends and have a picnic in one of NYC’s great parks!
🌉 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge…and think about all of the hidden fun facts while you’re doing it.
⛴️ Ride the Staten Island Ferry: This free boat ride has a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan! Find out the schedule here.
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 29, from 7 pm – 10 pm. 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!
⭐ 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 20. Be sure to stop by anytime after that date to get a glimpse of their iconic theatrical light show. Check out all of NYC’s holiday window displays here.
🎅 Meet Santa at Macy’s Santaland: The 8th floor of Macy’s in Herald Square will turn into a winter wonderland starting November 24. Explore the 13,000 square feet of festive decor and even get your photo taken with Santa Claus himself!
💡 Hudson Yard’s Shine Bright: Bask in over 2 million twinkling lights, alongside free photo opps with Santa and tons of activities at one of the coolest holiday light displays in NYC! Check out all of NYC’s holiday light displays here.
⛸️ Bryant Park Ice Rink: Skate anytime from 8 am – 10 pm daily and 8 am – midnight on select weekends and holidays for free. Be sure to hit the Bank of America Winter Village after! Rentals are available for a cost. Check out all of NYC’s ice skating rinks here.
🚆 Grand Central Holiday Fair: Browse the iconic hall of Grand Central… transformed into a lovely holiday market! 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 16. Even if you don’t want to purchase anything, it’s still a lovely market that’s decked out for the season.
15-27. Explore Free 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” admission days when entrance fees are waived completely. Plus, there are even some standalone free exhibitions to visit. Take a look:
🎛️ K2 Friday Nights at Rubin Museum: Check out the Rubin Museum on select Fridays in order to explore the galleries for free, take a guided tour, and enjoy cocktails and DJ sets after hours. Tickets are typically released on the 15th of every month and allow entrance between 6 pm – 10 pm. Learn more here.
🐘 First Thursday 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 for New Yorkers from 4 pm – 8 pm on 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.
🗽 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.
28-33. Celebrate Your Birthday in NYC with Free Perks
🧖♀️ Relax at the QCNY Spa: Need a refresh before your big birthday celebration? At QCNY Spa on Governors Island, you can enjoy free admission (on your birthday or within 7 days after your birthday) with a paying guest. This special birthday offer applies Monday through Friday.
🍩 Grab a free dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme: Chow down a free dozen donuts from any Krispy Kreme during your birthday month. Simply download their app and register an account with your birthday!
🚴 Take a free SOULCYCLE Class: Get a sweat on for your birthday at SOULCYCLE, where you can ride a class for free!
☕ Sip a free coffee from Paris Baguette: Earn a free coffee from Paris Baguette on your birthday with their app.
💄 Touch up your look with a beauty gift: For our beauty queens, both Sephora and Ulta Beauty offer free birthday gift sets on your birthday. Download their apps to get started.
🍣 Enjoy a trust me box from SUGARFISH: Eat a free “trust me box” of sushi for your birthday if you’ve dined at SUGARFISH at least twice during the year! Learn more about the rewards here.
34-38. 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.
Where: 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
39-42. 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.
43-63. Enjoy Free Things You’ll Only Find in NYC
📙 Get a Library Pass for exclusive perks: If you don’t have one already, grab a library card from the New York City Public Library System and enjoy free admission to all sorts of things around NYC! Some places you can go to include MoMA PS1, the Staten Island Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and more!
🛍️ FAD Market: FAD Market will be returning this fall to host pop-up across different NYC locations! Get ready to shop all kinds of brand new makers, artists, and designers with their unique, small-batch goods. There will be summer pop-ups in both DUMBO and Boerum Hill, as well as Governors Island and a one-off at Brooklyn Brewery. Check out all the dates and locations here.
Visit The High Line: This walkway sits atop an old railroad line running from the Meatpacking District to W 34th Street.
🎤 Biggie Smalls Mural: For the anniversary of his death, there is now a delightful and colorful glass mural of the iconic rapper Notorious B.I.G located in Brookyn. The coolest feature? You can walk up to it and view your reflection in a mirror where his head is. Check out the mural and learn more here.
🛍️ Browse one of NYC’s Sample Sales: With New York Fashion Week coming up, why not get trendy yourself? Stumble through SoHo and the surrounding areas to find sample sales from all sorts of brands! Check out this guide to see what sales are happening now.
📺 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.
🪴 Take a stroll through this hidden indoor garden in Midtown.
💣 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.
🍽️ 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.
🇺🇸 Step into the former home of American founding father Alexander Hamilton in Harlem! The Hamilton Grange National Memorial is his preserved 1802 home that is on display to see for all. You can even take a 25-minute, self-guided tour.
⚰️ 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 one of NYC’s gorgeous libraries for some peace and quiet with your newest book.
64-70. Eat and Drink!
🛒 Eat at an NYC night market: Eat your way through the very best NYC vendors at these tasty night markets! Options like the Queens Night Market and Uptown Night Market in Harlem make it easy to get a taste of the best NYC local food spots.
🎡 Stroll around one of NYC’s street fairs: Street fairs are constantly going on in NYC seemingly every weekend! Have some delicious bites and stroll through different part of the towns while you take in the sights and sounds of these one of a kind events.
🍺 Tour Brooklyn Brewery: Walk through 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!