Start spreading the news: a trip to New York City doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you’re in the market for free and low-cost things to do in the Big Apple, you’re in some serious luck. Once you’ve found an affordable apartment to cozy up in, hitting the town on a shoestring budget is easy.
It’s no secret that New York contains plenty of culture, history, bars, eateries, and sightseeing — but did you also know that much of it can be enjoyed for roughly $100 or less? Read on for a few ideas about what to see and where to go for a memorable trip to New York City without breaking your bank.
Free Activities in New York City
- Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
At 1.3 miles long, a walk over the East River courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge takes an average of 25 minutes. Along the way, walkers can expect to enjoy breathtaking views of the city on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides of the river, as well as the busy harbor, which plays home to watercraft of all kinds. On a clear day, schlepping from the Brooklyn to Manhattan side is guaranteed to give a lovely sunset view, but foot travelers can pretty much expect a satisfying view 24/7.
- Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Located at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is one freebie that visitors shouldn’t miss. Running 24 hours a day with rush hour and off-peak schedules, the ferry takes passengers five miles from Manhattan to Staten Island. Passengers can expect a 25 minute ride that brings them past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as giving them a view of the city skyline.
- Go Skating in Bryant Park
During New York’s crisp, chilly fall days, Midtown’s Bryant Park offers up the opportunity for skaters to take to the ice free of charge at its Winter Village. Skaters are allowed to stake for up to 90 minutes, and can get warm afterward at The Lodge, which offers food and drink options like Pierogi Boys and The Stackery.
- Stroll Through Central Park
At 843 acres and 1.317 square foot miles, this famous public park packs a lot of free options within its gates. Whether it’s walking the trails, finding a spot for a picnic, watching the sailboats, or taking in a show at Shakespeare in the Park, these freebies are sure to please. The park is also home to dozens of free concerts and independent entertainers.
If you happen to get hungry while you’re there and haven’t packed a picnic, not to worry. There are low-cost vendors selling items like hot pretzels, hot dogs, and ice cream around each corner, in addition to several spots within the park to sit and dine in style (for a fee, of course).
New York Attractions Under $50
- Tour the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
From 10 AM to 5 PM each day, visitors to the gigantic-ship-turned-museum docked at West 46th Street’s Pier 86 can expect a serious show alongside an informative tour about air and space that does not disappoint. Whether it is a guided tour, education demonstration, or taking a trip courtesy of its simulator, visitors can get into the spirit of the ship. On weekends, the museum also offers programs for children. Plus, there’s an opportunity for visitors to take a tour of a spacecraft, the Enterprise.
- Climb Aboard the W.O. Decker
If you’ve ever wanted to experience life on a tugboat, the W.O. Decker, located at the South Street Seaport as part of its museum family, is definite must-see. The old-fashioned, well-preserved tugboat offers 60 minute rides that take everyone onboard out into the harbor for views of three boroughs of the city that can’t be beat. While on board, visitors can also take a tour and learn about the history of the boat.
- Visit One World Trade Center
For those who want to know what it feels like to stand on top of the world, this 104 floor marvel known as One World Trade Center has got you covered. Completed in 2013, the vibrant building and its surrounding amenities offer plenty of dining, fun, and shopping opportunities well below 50 stories, and at the 100th to 102nd floors, guests have the opportunity to gaze at the city from high above. The Observatory also offers dining and exhibits. Tickets start at $35 and go up from there.
Other Activities Under $100
- Catch A Discounted Broadway Show
If there’s one thing New York is known for, it’s the bright lights of Broadway, but at upwards of $140 a pop, catching a musical can really put a dent in your vacation budget. Enter the various entities selling the same Broadway tickets that get you into the seats, but at a discount. Check out the TKTS website, which offers up same-day discounted tickets for popular shows like Chicago and Frozen starting at $70 to $80 for top notch seats.
- Feast Yourself on a Chinatown Gourmet Food and Walking Tour
With a reputation for being America’s largest Chinatown, this iconic neighborhood in New York City thrives on its spices, wares, and palate pleasers. With a fee of $65 a person, the three-hour food and culture tour involves walking about the zone and enjoying three sit-down tastings. Past trekkers have enjoyed dumplings, custard, and freshly carved peking duck.
- Bake Dessert at Milk Bar
Since 2008, Milk Bar has made itself famous for shaking up the dessert world, giving the vibrant bakery the cult following it has enjoyed for over a decade. Visitors to the Williamsburg shop in Brooklyn can take it one step further from tasting the delectable sweets, to enjoy a lesson in baking their popular menu items, which includes techniques for frosting and crumbs.