New York may be famous for singing “Money, Money, Money!”, but it doesn’t always have to be all about the Benjamins. Manhattan offers visitors an unexpected number of things to do for free, from museums to monuments to art — and more. This guide will give you an idea of ways to take a bite out of the Big Apple without dishing the dough.
1. Visit Central Park
In such an industrial city, Central Park is a welcome spot of green to inhabitants and travelers alike. And when we say “spot,” we mean over 800 acres of trees, grassy fields, flowers, pathways, benches, and various attractions. Check out Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon tribute that brings in hundreds of visitors a day and acts as a beautiful reminder to live life in peace. Also around the park are other sculptures, a bouldering rock, and a few stages for concerts. Remember that all tourist areas are pick-pocket magnets, and this is no exception, but don’t let that deter you from visiting the famous park. If nothing else, come to simply sit and watch the flowers grow while you relax before another big excursion.
2. Summer Concerts and Performances
Not everyone makes it to the Big Apple in the summer, but those who do can benefit from the free concerts and performances offered nearly every week. From Jason Mraz to the Metropolitan Philharmonic to scenes from Mamma Mia!, these free shows vary in genre and style, but all will be sure to please the culture-hungry traveler.
3. Museum Freebies
Museums are an integral part of New York’s vast cultural diversity, and any visitor should try to make a trip to at least one of them. While many offer free admission to New York students, a few of the most popular also offer special free entry to any visitor, under certain circumstances. To make matters better, some are free 24/7!
4. Lady Liberty
Although entrance to both Liberty Island (home of the famous statue) and Ellis Island (site of a famous holocaust memorial) is always free to the public, the roughly $12 ferry ticket can make a significant dent in your funds, especially if you’re traveling with others. And while some areas of the island are open for visit, others may require pay on top. For those who are simply interested in seeing Lady Liberty, even if from afar, there is another option that allows visitors to view her completely for free. Your photos won’t be compromised, and neither will your wallet.
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5. Immerse yourself in Times Square
Times Square is the heart of the city, and part of the fun in exploring this bustling New York landmark is enjoying each new site as it comes along. Admire the neon signs, the unmistakable NY trademark inviting travelers to shop, eat, watch, and enjoy. Check out some of the unique spots, such as the M&M store, the Hard Rock CafÃ©, the 2-story glittering McDonald’s, and the Times Square tower, home to the annual New Year’s ball-drop. Look for street performers and specialized vendors, selling things such as name artwork done in record time. During the day you’ll find yourself surrounded by suits, color, language, and full-blown American diversity. At night you can’t help but admire the breathtaking City of Lights.
6. Spend an afternoon in a Manhattan neighborhood
Where New York City has five distinctly different boroughs, Manhattan itself houses a plethora of diverse neighborhoods. Some are hardly on the map, yet others have been featured for years in sitcoms, movies, and literature. Check out SoHo, Harlem, Upper Manhattan, Little Italy, and Hell’s Kitchen, to name a few. In Chinatown, you’ll come out of the Subway sure you’ve just stepped off the plane in another country. For a true New York experience, visiting at least one neighborhood is a moment that can’t be missed.
7. Admire the architecture of the Concrete Jungle
In an urban jungle you can bet on seeing some fascinating architecture, and New York doesn’t fail to impress. Some, such as the Empire State Building, require admission to go further than the main floor, yet it’s worth it to simply admire the sky-scrapers from where you can. Consider stopping by Trump Tower, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, Central Station, and more. The main floor will at least be open, and others may have information stations or historical markers.
8. Window Shop along 5th Ave.
Anybody who’s heard of Manhattan has heard of 5th Ave. The sophistication, the glamour, the name brands, and the price tags to boot. Yet for those who can’t shell out more than their rent on a pair of shoes, consider the age-old tradition of window shopping. As one of the fashion capitals of the world, the city prides itself in creating style that becomes art rather than simple couture. The storefronts are made to look like gallery displays, showing off each incoming line in a way that only New York could manage. Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll get the chance to view an aspect of Big Apple art.
9. Ground Zero
Although the World Trade Center memorial site is still a few years from completion, travelers can still visit the site of the Twin Towers, known as “Ground Zero.” Photos and information surround the site, to remind visitors of the violence and honor the victims and their families.
Photo credits: 1 by sarahtate, 2 by sarahtate