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What are Some Free Things to Do in New York City?

Times Square is a popular destination in New York City.
New York City has several unique ethnic neighborhoods, including Little Italy and Chinatown.
The Statue of Liberty can be seen from the Staten Island Ferry.
Many visitors to New York City take tours of the United Nations Headquarters.
New York City offers several free walking tours.
Many street performance troupes perform on the streets of New York City.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 05 February 2015
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New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world. A typical tourist spends about 300 US dollars (USD) a day on the basics alone. However, when it comes to entertaining, New York City offers numerous attractions that are either free or close to it.

There are several free walking tours in New York City. If this is your first visit, a tour can be a great way to learn about the history and culture of the area. One of the most popular walking tours in New York City gives you an inside look at Times Square. It starts at the Visitor's Center on 46th Street, and it ends backstage at one of the Broadway Theaters. Another great free New York City tour is the Big Apple Greeter, in which you join a local on a four-hour tour of one of the boroughs. The Big Apple Greeter works with groups of two to four people only, so you're guaranteed a personalized tour.

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Why paid for a water tour when you can get the best views of New York City for free? The Staten Island Ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and offers breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. South Street Seaport comes in a close second. Not only do you get to explore one of the oldest areas in New York City, but you can also enjoy a maritime museum, three historic ships open for exploration, and a number of outdoor attractions, from bands to art exhibitions.

Many New York City museums are free, either all the time or on some nights of the week. A few of the most famous museums in New York City are in this group. You can get into The Guggenheim for free on Fridays after 6 p.m., which gives you two hours to tour the museum before it closes. The American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have no set admission price, which means you can get in for as little as 1 US dollar (USD).

Central Park is one of the most famous spots in New York City. Besides enjoying the 843 acres of hiking trails, lakes, and open meadows, you can visit the 1872 Belvedere Castle, catch an outdoor performance at the Delacorte Theatre, and see Strawberry Hills, the memorial to John Lennon.

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Mor
Post 4

@umbra21 - I've been there twice and both times I basically just spent days wandering through Central Park and was perfectly happy. It also helps if you know people living in the city, or somewhere close to it.

But I would also recommend you spend your money on things that matter to you. It would be a shame for a foodie to go to New York and not eat at some of the fabulous restaurants there, for example.

umbra21
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - It's usually not so bad on big tours, because if you really don't have much money you can just give whatever you can afford. The smaller, more intimate tours I wouldn't want to go on without a good-sized tip handy.

I actually didn't end up spending all that much when I was in New York City. I stayed in a hostel, which was more expensive than most of the other hostels I've stayed in, but still cheap enough, and offered free breakfasts and other perks. I mostly ate street food, which isn't too expensive and should be a part of a NYC experience anyway. And I networked a little bit among other backpackers, so I ended up doing lots of free activities, including the Shakespeare in the Park show that was on at the time.

New York can be expensive if you want to see all the famous New York City attractions, but there are plenty of things to do that don't cost anything.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

Be aware that on many of the free tours you are still expected to tip your tour guide. I know this is true in Europe, even though tipping isn't a universal thing there, so I'm sure it's even more true in a US city.

With that being said, every free tour I've ever taken has been completely worth it, especially if it's with a local or a local student. You get huge amounts of insight into the place and the people and often will learn things you would never have otherwise known or noticed.

When I was traveling around Europe I tried to do one of the free walking tours on the first day each time in order to orientate myself and help figure out what I want to do with the rest of my time there. Next time I'm in New York City I'll do it there as well.

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