By Maureen Guilbot
There is SO much to do in New York City that it can be hard to know where to start. But there is so much free stuff in the city that you cannot miss out on (helloooooo it’s free!). Here are just some things you can do.
1. Visit Times Square
You know you HAVE to visit Times Square, located in Midtown Manhattan. The lights and the enormous neon signs are perhaps one of NYC’s most iconic areas. Be prepared, however – there will be a lot of people here. Times Square is home to sites such as the M&M store, Disney store, and lots of Broadway shows. You will also see lines of people taking photos with Spider-Man, Thor, and more! A fun fact about Times Square is that you can actually see it from space because it is so brightly lit!
2. Visit The Vessel
Next up is the Vessel. Located in the Hudson Yards, the Vessel is a fairly new attraction to NYC – it recently opened in 2019! At the moment, the Vessel is closed to all visitors, but tourists can still walk around and take photos outside of the building. The shape of the Vessel is one that many people are interested in taking pictures of, and it makes for a very nice Instagram photo! When the Vessel opens up to the public again, tickets are free from 10 am – 11 am to tour inside, and for the rest of the day, it is $10 per person! Hours of operation are 10 am – 8 pm.
3. Visit The Highline
The Highline holds a very special place in my heart because it was one of the first places that I went to when I became a student at TC. We visited the Highline at night to take pictures and get to know the area. It was wonderful! Visiting the Highline at night or during the day is quite the experience. It is a very scenic walk that people can go on and look out towards the busy city or admire nature (there is a lot of greenery on this path, too).
4. Walk around Central Park
Whether it’s to just walk around and look at the beautiful foliage or to paint/draw, Central Park is a really nice spot to hang out! A special mention here is the famous Balto statue (you do need to go hunting for it, but I promise you it’s there!). Some TC clubs also organize fun meditation/intramural sports activities here too that you can be a part of, where you can hang out with friends and then watch the sunset.
5. Visit the Oculus
This is also a new favorite in NYC, designed by Santiago Calatrava. A fun fact about the Oculus is that the design was inspired by a bird taking flight, symbolizing hope. Personally, I always see a Pokemon when I look at the building, which I feel is pretty hopeful too. At the moment, it is the most expensive train station to ever be built – costing around four billion dollars – but you can visit it for the very low price of $0! It is home to lots of stores, which makes it a convenient place for you to grab a little souvenir along the way. With all these wonderful fun facts, it is an absolute must-visit item on your trip to NYC!
6. Visit The NYC Public Library
Have you ever seen Ghostbusters? How about Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Or Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman? All of these movies have one thing in common: they were filmed at The New York Public Library! With branches located across Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, you will find that it is very easy to find a branch of the NYC Public Library. If you would like to visit the most known location, that would be the New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building!
7. Walk around Little Island NYC
Little Island NYC is also a fun spot to visit! It is a cute little park that opened in 2021 (we have a lot of new attractions to see in New York City if you can tell!). The structure of the park makes it look like a floating island – hence its other name, Floating Island! This is a great place to visit if you want to walk around and see the greenery. You can also attend concerts and events – most of which are free too!
8. Visit Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is THE place to be if you want to ice skate in the city. Most known for the Christmas tree lighting, this place really pops in the winter. And there are a lot of pop-up events that occur throughout the year – such as the Dia de Los Muertos event – that make it fun to visit! This is also a really cute Instagram-worthy spot, as it is one of the most frequented areas in New York City.
9. Free Fridays at the Intrepid Museum
We also have Free Fridays at the Intrepid! While you will need to check which days these fall on, this is definitely worth a visit. Free Fridays run from April to September on select Fridays. They frequently have Astronomy nights where you can hear from guest speakers and go stargazing! Often they will also have movie nights where you can watch a cool movie under the stars.
10. Watch some of NYC Free Parades
a. Feast of San Gennaro Italian Festival – occurs in September
b. Halloween Parade – occurs in October
c. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – occurs in November
d. Santacon – occurs in December
e. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop – occurs on December 31st / January 1st
f. The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade – occurs in March
A must-see is all of the free parades around New York City. I have listed some of the major ones above! You will want to go early and in comfy shoes because there will be a lot of walking–it is a parade after all! However, the moments are very memorable. I attended the Halloween parade, and while there was a large crowd, it was a fun experience being able to dress up and see others dressed up too!
Additionally, a really good tip I got when I first moved here: follow @nyc_forfree on Instagram. They always post events / pop-up shops and more that are going on around the city that are 100% free. They also do weekend freebies, where they tell their viewers what will be going on for free in NYC for that specific weekend. I found out Insomnia Cookies was doing a promotion where if you wore pajamas you got a free cookie and some swag – and I can indeed say it’s true!