5 (Almost) Free Things to Do in NYC

When I’ve got friends visiting from out of town/state/country who are trying to see New York on a budget, these are the top things I recommend.

The View Lounge – Skip paying $27 for Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. The lines are long and you’ll be cranky by the time you reach the top. Instead visit the View Lounge at the Mariott Marquis hotel. The lounge revolves, so you get 360-degree view of the city. Go as soon as the lounge opens (at 5:00pm most days) and you won’t feel rushed or squashed by a crowd. For the price of a cocktail, you get to sit, relax, and look out at a spectacular view.

Governor’s IslandGovernor’s Island is only open from Memorial Day until the last weekend in September. Last year it became one of my favorite places to go to get away from the insanity of the city. There is a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan to the island for $2. It used to be free, but they are going to begin charging in 2014.

View from Governor's Island

View from Governor’s Island

Besides having great views of the city and a lot of green space to have a picnic, Governor’s Island is home to a fort built prior to the War of 1812, Castle Williams, which is free to explore. There are quite a few events that take place on the island over the summer:

Free Summer Movies – Over the summer, a few of New York City’s parks offer free outdoor screenings of movies:

  • Bryant Park rotates between classic and contemporary movies on Monday nights.
  • Riverside Park offers free movies on the pier on Wednesdays.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park has a “Syfy Movies with a View” series on Thursdays in July and August.
  • Central Park has a 5-day movie festival in August.

Shakespeare in the Park – This one takes a little patience and some luck. The Delacorte Theater is an outdoor theater in Central Park that hands out free tickets the day of each performance. The tickets go fast so, depending the popularity of the show, you may have to wait in line for hours to get tickets. If you are impatient and lucky, there is also an online lottery. As I have stated before, I am not so lucky, so I’ll be waiting in line.

Walk Around – Boring to some, maybe, but I’m quite fond of walking. There is so much to see in New York by foot. My favorite places to walk are the Highline, across the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and through the crooked and character-filled streets of Lower Manhattan. You could walk for weeks and not see all there is to see. I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time for the past three years walking around New york and I am not even close to seeing all of the hidden gems in the City.

If you end up going way over your budget during your trip to NYC, never fear! You are never more than a few blocks away from a 99 cent pizza slice.

6 thoughts on “5 (Almost) Free Things to Do in NYC

  1. Paul Cortez

    I’ll remember this for my next trip to NYC; particularly your recommendation for the View Lounge. Always eager to hear NYC residents’ suggestions. Thanks for the follow, too. You’ve got a good-looking site here.


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