5 Free Must-Dos in New York City

by Sandra Scott

Free is good? Right? I think so and when there are free things to do in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., life is good. Here are my favourite Big Apple freebies.

1. City Tour

My all-time favourite freebie is the city’s volunteer greeter program. For more than 20 years Big Apple Greeters have been sharing their love and knowledge of New York City with visitors from all over the world. There is no cost and no tipping. My guide would not even let me buy him lunch. Big Apple Greeters offers a variety of tours including one of Victorian Flatbush and another of Coney Island. They use the term visits, not tours, as there are no preset itineraries or start times. From the online request form, submitted four weeks in advance, visitors are matched with a Greeter who works with the visitor to provide many personal New York minutes. (Online donations are appreciated.)

2. Romantic Boat Ride

Every time I visit the Big Apple I try to fit in a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The free five-mile, 25-minute ride offers majestic views of the New York skyline, including the Statue of Liberty. I try to plan it so I can see the skyline in daylight and then wait for the city lights to come on to return. In the evening, with the lights of the city ablaze, it could be considered the most romantic free boat ride in the world.


Credit: Sandra Scott

3. Park Time

Central Park is an amazing place. Walk, bike, visit a the zoo, enjoy the view from Belvedere Castle, check out the many statues and memorials. Put a rose on the memorial to John Lennon and “Imagine.” Or, take one of the free, year-round walking tours sponsored by the Central Park Conservancy. No reservations are required for individuals and most tours last an hour or two. Visitors are also free to wander and discover the diversity of the park on their own.


Credit: Sandra Scott

4. Museums

The American Folk Art Museum at Columbus Ave. and 66th Street is always free and so are the Museum of American Illustration and the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Others such as the Museum of Modern Art are free on specified days or evenings. Some museums, such as the New York Aquarium, are free but suggest visitors “pay as you will.” Check the website of the museum you want to visit to see when and if they have a free admission time.

Scott: NYC for free

Credit: Sandra Scott

5. Looking is Free

Act like a tourist. Slow down, stop and look up. The city is home to incredible architecture and statues. As an example, before visiting the New York Public Library—also free—admire the Beaux-Art style façade and check out the two iconic marble lions named Patience and Fortitude. Walk the High Line, a park with great city views built on a former elevated railway. The stretch of greenery runs from Gransevoort Street to West 34th between 10th and 11th Streets. And don’t forget to window shop, especially along Fifth Avenue.

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