Free Things to do in New York City

October 5, 2019 in - 5 min read
Times Square

Visiting the Big Apple is pretty much on everyone’s dream list. Understandably so, it is a city with so much diversity and so much to experience but of course the downside of it all is that being in NYC can potentially cause some damage to your pocket. What some people don’t know is that New York City is split into 5 boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Every borough has something special about it although Manhattan seems to be the most popular of all 5. 

I have been living in New York for 7 months now and very Saturday or Sunday, you will find me roaming around in NYC mainly because you could never run out of things to do in NYC. In as much as activities can be quite expensive, there are numerous places you can go to and activities to do for free and still have the ‘NYC experience’ of your life.


I recently found out that Central Park was the first public landscaped park in the whole country of the US and has been featured in over 200 movies. Central Park is so big I once got lost in it and accidentally bumped into Alicia Keys and H.E.R rehearsing for the Global Citizen Festival and that’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to anyone when they’re lost. The park has a zoo (admission fee – $20), a carousel, a mini hiking trail, a castle, the statue of Alice in Wonderland, a lake where you can hire a boat, fields to have a picnic on, an ice-skating rink and much more. You could even dedicate a day to exploring just the park.


The NY public library is by far the most beautiful library I have ever seen. The interior sort of has Hogwarts aesthetics and if you are a real Harry Porter fan you actually might not see that. Although the library is a tourist attraction, it is not just open to tourists, it still serves its purpose by being a regular library with real study rooms, meeting rooms for students and reading rooms too so while you tour the building, remember to respect the known library rule – be quiet.


The most popular place in NYC is probably Times Square. You know what it actually is? Just a huge space with huge advertisements projected on huge screens, that’s all is it but it’s a vibe you do not want to miss out on. In Times Square you can also find groups of people performing, people filming, men proposing to their partners and mascot superhero characters. It’s the best place to just sit and watch people, everyone is always happy in Times Square.


To navigate your way around Manhattan all you need to familiarize yourself with are the street numbers and avenues and you will never get lost. 5thAvenue is a long strip of shops like Versace, Louis Vuitton, Lindt, Victoria’s Secret, Bvlgari, Armani, Rolex and pretty much all the fancy, expensive brands you can think of. You might not buy anything from any of these stores but it’s always fun to window shop and see how every shop is designed and how they market their products.


People usually mistake the Manhattan bridge with the Brooklyn bridge, they are very close to each other but are completely different – the Manhattan bridge is blue while the Brooklyn bridge is tan. Brooklyn bridge connects the 2 boroughs; Manhattan and Brooklyn and it takes about 45 minutes for one to go from one end of the Brooklyn bridge to the other by foot, depending on your pace. Be careful you don’t walk on the bicycle lane which is with the pedestrian lane. As you come up towards the middle of the bridge, you can faintly see the Statue of Liberty from the island and that’s almost like a reward for making it halfway across the bridge.


Chinatown is like a mini China in NYC. There are endless Chinese shops and restaurants and the beauty of it all is that these shops and restaurants are run by Chinese themselves, so it really gives you the illusion of being in China.


The vessel is one of the latest tourist attractions in NYC. It is a building of stairs that is made in the form of a vessel, there isn’t much to it besides the fact that it’s a bunch of stairs, but it is definitely an interesting building that you would want to check out. Also, you can get free tickets to go up the stairs, however you have to make your booking early because tickets run out quickly. 


On Eventbrite you can find all sorts of events happening in and around where you are or even where you are planning on going. Whenever you are free on a weekend night, search ‘Free Comedy show’ on the site or the app and plenty of free comedy shows will pop up and some may require you to buy something from the bar even if it’s water but some just want you to be there. Depending on which comedy show you go to, you get comedians who have appeared on Comedy Central and watching a live comedy show is one of the best ways to end the night.


Yes, in NYC there are actually fancy rooftop bars that don’t require you to pay like $20 at the door. Rooftops bars are the best vibes you can get from NYC at night, especially ones in Manhattan, the views of all the skyscraper lights are just spectacular. You can also find these bars on Eventbrite, maybe head over there after a comedy show.


Admission fees for museums in NYC are between $20 – $30 but, if you go there on the right day and at the right time you could explore them for free or pay what you wish. To see which museums and galleries are free on what day and what time head over to NYC – The Official Guide and plan your visit.

There is a whole lot more you can do and see for free in the city but I have summed up the popular areas and activities you might want to do. Also, I recently recorded a video showing A Day in New York City which shows all the places I have mentioned above and more. You can watch it below, that’s it for now 

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About Me

About Me

Hi and welcome! My name is Mbalenhle K but everyone calls me Mbali for short (say: mm-bah-lee). I am a freelance copywriter who loves all things art, experiences and aesthetics (big time Pinterest gworl 🧚🏽)! I am the founder of Budding Regardless where I talk about mindfulness, self-development and self-nurturing for creatives. Read More

Mbalenhle K.

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