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Free Tourist Attractions in New York City

By Edited Sep 30, 2014 4 6
Guide to Free Tourist Attractions in New York City
Credit: Francisco Diez

New York City is filled with hundreds if not thousands of sites to see; however, New York City is also one of the most expensive cities in the world.  Hotels, travel, and food can all get very expensive, but budget conscious travellers don’t need to worry about breaking the bank to see the Big Apple.  You can check out these free tourist attractions in New York City to help make the most of your trip to NYC without breaking your budget.

Times Square

Times Square

One of the iconic images of New York City is Times Square.  Every year, over 26 million people visit Times Square, to enjoy the lights, famous billboards, and nearby restaurants and shows.  While taking in a Broadway show and nearby dinner can be extremely pricey, enjoying the lights and billboards is free.  Much of Times Square is now a pedestrian plaza with no traffic.  Visitors can sit and take in Times Square at one of the multiple tables installed for tourists to relax and enjoy the sites. The best Times Square experience is after sunset when the glowing lights and din are at their most impressive.  You can take the following subways to Times Square: 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, R, A, C, E.

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is 843 acres of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle.  This beautiful oasis has several gardens, open spaces, lakes, and pathways.  The land that makes up Central Park is said to be worth over $1 trillion, but it costs nothing to stroll through the park and enjoy the beautiful nature, that ironically is completely man made.  If you visit New York City during the warmer months, you can enjoy free performances at the Central Park Summerstage, 830 Fifth Avenue (212) 360-2765.

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry
A trip on the Staten Island Ferry is 100% free.  Hundreds of New Yorkers use the Staten Island ferry to commute to work everyday, but tourists can use the Staten Island Ferry to experience amazing views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York Harbor for free.  The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is located at the tip of Lower Manhattan.  You can get to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal by taking the 1 to South Ferry, the R to Whitehall, or the 4/5 to Bowling Green.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal was built in 1913 and is a gorgeous, historic structure in Midtown Manhattan.  Grand Central Terminal is a National Historic Landmark and a beautiful architectural structure that has been painstakingly preserved.  Everyday Grand Central Terminal serves hundreds of commuters traveling on the Metro-North Railroad to Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York State, and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut.  There are also stops for the 4, 5, 6, 7, and S subways.  However, Grand Central Terminal is more than just a hub for transportation -- there are shops, dining and more available to visitors. Grand Central Terminal offers group tours as well as free tours for individuals on Wednesdays and Fridays. 89 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

At the time it was built in 1911 the New York Public Library was the largest marble building in the United States.  Built in the Beaux-Arts style, the New York Public Library is an impressive architectural structure.  Visit the New York Public Library to enjoy the extensive book collection, impressive architecture, or the popular stone lions outside.  There are free tours at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday. 455 Fifth Ave at 42nd Street(212) 930-0800

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York was built in 1924 and is a beautiful neo-Renaissance building.  When visiting, you will see the gold vault, trading desk, and a multimedia trading exhibit.. Tours are free and offer a great introduction to what the Federal Reserve does and the role it plays in the economy.   However, access to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is only available by guided tour and with advanced reservations so if you want to visit the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, plan ahead. 33 Liberty Street (212) 720-5000

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is the site of New York City’s annual Christmas tree and a very popular spot during the holidays when you can see the tree and watch people ice skate in front of it for free. However, Rockefeller Center is free to enjoy year round.  Early mornings on weekdays you can catch a taping of the Today show for free in Rockefeller Center.  You can also enjoy the famous statues of Atlas and Prometheus. Fifth Avenue between 49th Street and 50th Street.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Regardless of religious orientation, St. Patrick’s Catherdral is a site to see.  It is the largest decorated Gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States and seats 2200 people.  After over 20 years of construction, St. Patrick's Cathedral first opened its doors in May 1879 and has been open to the public for free ever since.  Feel free to go check out the beautiful structure or take in a mass.  460 Madison Avenue

High Line

High Line

New York’s latest park is completely unique and unlike any other park in the nation.  It was created on an abandoned stretch of elevated railroad track and is therefore, 30 feet in the air.  The High Line runs from New York’s Meatpacking District to Chelsea and offers views of the Hudson River.  The High Line frequently offers public-art installations and events.  

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

The George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian opened in 1994 in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan, this space is also shared by the Bankruptcy Court.  The National Museum of the American Indian is a branch of the Smithsonian Institute and offers free admission.  The museum’s permanent and rotating exhibits contain Native American artifacts dating back hundreds, and even thousands, of years. Music and dance performances as well as films and symposia are also available. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. One Bowling Green (212) 514-3700

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

The Sony Wonder Technology Lab features interactive exhibits and hands-on technology for children and adults.  At Sony Wonder Technology Lab, visitors can tinker with robots, experience the latest PlayStation video games, learn how high-tech gadgets work and even perform virtual surgery.  Although admission to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is free, a ticket is required and there are a limited amount of tickets.  Tickets are available same-day on a first-come, first-served basis.  Tickets typically run out quickly. 550 Madison Avenue (212) 833-8100

Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial

The Federal Hall National Memorial is where George Washington took the oath of office as America's first president. It was also home to the first Congress and Supreme Court.  It is now a free museum that chronicles New York's role as the first capital of the United States. Popular features include the Bible used by Washington while taking the oath of office and the stone floor of the balcony where he actually stood for the momentous occasion. 26 Wall Street (212) 825-6990

Chelsea Galleries

The typical tourist knows that New York City is filled with some of the greatest museums in the world, but art lovers know that the place to see the latest artwork is at galleries.  New York’s most concentrated area to go “gallery hopping” is Chelsea.  You can go from gallery to gallery in the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenue for free and observe a variety of different art in all different mediums--and don’t worry, there’s no pressure to buy!  If you time your trip right, you can try your luck at a gallery opening and score some free wine-and-cheese.  Gallery openings are typically on Thursday evenings.

Walk Around New York City

City Walks: New York: 50 Adventures on Foot
Amazon Price: $14.95 $8.31 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 30, 2014)
One thing that all New Yorkers do is walk. New Yorkers walk everywhere! Another free way to enjoy the City is to walk around the different neighborhoods and get a feel for what the City has to offer.
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Comments

Oct 13, 2011 10:21am
Introspective
Wow! I always heard how expensive New York was, but I didn't realize there were so many great places to go for FREE! Nice article and great photos!
Nov 1, 2011 6:37am
KrisSigeti
Great article! I want to say something about each listing, however, I would have an article, not a comment.
Nov 2, 2011 12:03am
BohoGypsyArtist
Great article, voted up. I've always enjoy our visits to New York. It's such a vibrant city.

KrisSigeti, I'll look forward to that article then. I'm sure you've got some very helpful and interesting insights to share.
Nov 6, 2011 6:51pm
CharlotteZ
The Metropolitian Museum of Art can also be super cheap. They post a "suggested donation" of $20/adult (that's what it was when I was last there in 2010) but it's just that. You can pay as little or as much as you want. We paid half of that and got in and a friend of ours said he goes there weekly, paying just $2 a visit. A friend of his, once, only had a quarter on him and went in.
Dec 3, 2011 1:55am
JadeDragon
Amazing resource you created here. Had no idea the Stanton Island Ferry was free. It inspires me to create a similar article for Vancouver.
Dec 8, 2011 9:53pm
astonerattnet
This is great information. We visiting New York in the near future and I've been looking for some cheap things to do.
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