NYC For Free, My Favorite Free Attractions in New York City

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NYC For Free

NYC For Free, My Favorite Free Attractions in New York City

New York City is an amazing city and it is near the top of a lot of people’s travel list.  But it is an expensive city.  We can defray that cost with miles and points but what about when you get there.  Doing NYC for free is about spending a weekend checking out all the free sites that New York City has to offer.  This list will be focused on Manhattan since that is the area most people visit.

I find that NYC can be a very inexpensive trip once you get there, if you play it right.  That is assuming you stay away from the bars, which will blow up your budget in a heartbeat. I recently wrote about using CityPASS in NYC which is another way to save money on the pricier attractions.

NYC For Free – Attractions

New York City has a lot to offer in the way of free attractions.  The amazing NYC subway system means that you can get to all of them inexpensively.  Here are a list of my 5 favorite free attractions.  I will also tell you the 2 I hope to do in the future.

NYC For Free

NYC For Free
Central Park – 

Every list has to begin with Central Park.  The contrast that you get, a huge green space in a concrete jungle, is magical. It is massive, spanning 843 acres of prime real estate, and it can take up an entire day if you want it to.  My favorite spot in NYC, and Central Park, is the conservatory water area. I could watch the small sailboats all day.  If you feel like splurging you can even rent one yourself.  You can get a list of the many attractions HERE. I have been 5 or 6 times and still have only seen half of the park.

NYC For Free

NYC For Free

Staten Island Ferry – 

During my CityPASS review I mentioned that the lines were very long to go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  We were under a time crunch and decided to do the next best thing, see it from the Staten Island Ferry.  The Staten Island Ferry is provided free of charge to all who ride.  If you get a good spot on the boat then you will get a great view of the Statue of Liberty.  A bonus perk is that they sell beer on the boat and in the ferry terminals.  That is something you don’t get on the paid tours ;). Make sure to leave yourself a few minutes to walk around beautiful Battery Park afterward.

NYC For Free NYC For Free

High Line

The High Line is an old, raised rail track that was turned into a walking garden/park area.  It is pretty amazing to be immersed in the plants and flowers while walking above some of the busiest streets in the world.  I would avoid it if it is really hot out since there isn’t a ton of shade.  It was something interesting to do before checking out the Chelsea Market.

NYC For Free

9/11 Memorial – 

While the museum comes with a fee you can visit the two beautiful water features that were created in memory of the tragedy without a ticket.  They are located on the site where the Twin Towers used to be located. The place is breathtaking and very somber at the same time. I encourage everyone to visit and pay their respects.  The 9/11 Memorial is located a few blocks away from the Staten Island Ferry terminal so you can visit both on the same day.

NYC For Free

NYC For Free

Bryant Park & The New York Public Library

Take a break from checking out the amazing window displays on 5th Ave and take a rest in Bryant Park.  Located behind the New York Public Library, which is worth checking out for some beautiful architecture, lies a tiny oasis.  Bryant Park has free entertainment most weekend evenings.  I have seen a hoe down dance festival and a free play for kids the two times I stopped by.  It is also surrounded by a few different restaurants and patio areas that are a perfect option for lunch or an evening cocktail.

Honorable Mentions –

Those are my 5 go to attractions when I want to do NYC for free. You will notice that I left Times Square off the list.  That was not a mistake, I can not stand the place.  But it is a place everyone should check out one time.  I tried to stick with places that you would want to return to more than once.

Two free attractions I have yet to check out but want to are Roosevelt Island and Governors Island.

You can get to Roosevelt Island via a tramway which is supposed to have some of the best views of the city. The tram is paid for with your metro card and it costs the same as a subway ride.

You can get to Governors Island free on Saturday and Sunday if you ride before noon.  It is a car free haven located off the southern tip of Manhattan that has amazing views of the Statue of Liberty.

NYC For Free – Dining Tip

While free food is hard to come by in New York City, unless you are in the Brooklyn Bridge Park on Saturdays this summer, there are some cheap food options.  My favorite one is one of the many 99 cent pizza places.  Scattered throughout the city these pizza joints are open 24 hours.  Walk in and ask for a slice and a water and walk out moments later for under $2!


There are dozens of free attractions in New York City but these are the ones I find myself going back to on a regular basis.  As you can see it is possible to do NYC for free when you are talking about attractions.  I hope you enjoyed my list of favorite free attractions in New York City, share your favorite ones in the comments section below!


Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. amazing NYC subway system
    I guess it is better than none. But it is night and day compared to the subway in Asia.

  2. Mark – some places you left out:

    1) Chinatown: not a great place to visit, but food is cheap! $4 – $6 for roast pork over rice (try Wah Fung Fast Food – a lot of YouTubers went there); street food in the area is around $1 – $2.
    2) The Gantry at Long Island City. Great view of Manhattan; playground for kids and there are great seating areas
    3) Brooklyn Bridge/Brooklyn Promenade – walk over Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan (after visiting WTC) and then hit up Brooklyn Promenade for a great view of lower Manhattan

    • Those are some good options as well! I was trying to stick to Manhattan to simplify things. Little Italy is another place that is fun to walk around. I should do an outside Manhattan list to for Dumbo etc.

    • That is a good one. I left it out since it is restrictive on when you can use it but if you are in NYC the first weekend of the month it offers amazing value!


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