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Free Things to Do in New York City

If you’re thinking about planning a trip, don’t instantly rule out New York City based on the high cost of living alone. Sure, a hotel isn’t going to come particularly cheap (though you can often find rentals through sites like Airbnb for less), but this city is actually chock full of things to do without spending a dime. From entertainment to cultural attractions, the Big Apple has no shortage of interesting and free things with which to fill your visit.

Times Square
No visit to NYC would be complete without a stop by this famous block. While there’s plenty for sale, don’t waste your money on the overpriced souvenirs and restaurants. Instead, just take in the sights and enjoy one of the most visited tourist attractions in the entire world. From street performers to costumed characters, there’s plenty of entertainment to go around.

Central Park
Hours upon hours can be spent exploring New York City’s Central Park. Originally opened in 1857, this park covers more than 840 acres. It features playgrounds, lakes, meadows, trails, a carousel and theaters. You’ll often find a free festival being held here as well. Don’t miss iconic spots like Strawberry Fields, the Great Lawn, Central Park Zoo and Bethseda Terrace.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This gorgeous cathedral in the heart of Manhattan features beautiful neo-gothic architecture. Millions of people visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral every year to view it’s towering interior with massive stained glass windows and bronze doors. You can even download an app to help you tour the building.

New York Public Library
In addition to being the largest marble structure ever built in the U.S., the Stephen A Schwarzman New York Public Library building also has tons to offer visitors. Located in Manhattan not far from Times Square, you’ll be able to explore exhibitions, self-guided audio tours and a children’s center all for free. Don’t miss the exquisite Reading Room with its breathtaking architecture.

National Museum of the American Indian
Most of NYC’s famed museums are quite pricey when it comes to admission, but the National Museum of the American Indian allows visitors to explore the exhibits for free. The museum houses a number of important artifacts and pieces of art which represent the culture of the American Indians.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Admission is always free to this unique museum filled with technology and entertainment exhibits. Located in Midtown Manhattan, it features 21 exhibit areas and 69 interactive stations that explore the creativity and potential in the latest technology. Kids and adults alike will be filled with wonder and enjoy fun activities at this museum.

TV Show Tapings
One way to experience the excitement of entertainment in the Big Apple is to attend a TV show taping. Most are free, though you’ll have to register online or stand in line in order to secure a ticket. From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to Good Morning America to Saturday Night Live, you can be a part of the studio audience for some of the most interesting and iconic NYC shows without spending any money on a ticket.

Julliard Performances
Expensive Broadway musicals aren’t the only way to see an amazing live performance in New York City. You can also get free tickets to some student performances at the world-famous Julliard School. From drama to dance to music, some of the greatest young talent can be seen in these shows. Call the box office to find out about free performances, or check for standby tickets on the day of a performance.

Battery Park
Central Park isn’t the only wonderful green space this city has to offer. Check out Battery Park to see another incredible outdoor area in the Big Apple. Located at the southern tip of Manhattan, this park features incredible waterfront views of New York Harbor. You can view the Statue of Liberty from the park’s gorgeous green space and flower gardens.

Brooklyn Bridge Park
This picturesque park hosts tons of free events and activities year-round. From beaches to volleyball courts to jungle gyms, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Pier 6, which is located in the park, is an especially fun attraction for families and kids. It features Slide Mountain, Sandbox Village, a water lab and other unique features that kids won’t find in your typical playground.

Grand Central Station
This gorgeous building in Manhattan is not to be missed. Walk in for free to watch the hustle and bustle of daily commuters while taking in the arched mural ceiling and giant glass windows. There are some free walking tours available where you can learn all about the building’s history. Don’t miss the Whispering Gallery which features a unique acoustical feature which allows you to hear whispers from one end of the room to the other.

Brooklyn Brewery Tours
See the inner workings of one of the city’s most popular breweries. Located in the popular Williamsburg neighborhood, the Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours on the hour every Saturday from 1-5 p.m. and every Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

Governor’s Island
Take a free ferry to and from this incredible 172-acre island. It’s only been open to the public since 2003, so even return visitors may have never seen this unique attraction before. It features a bike path, picnic area and a number of military sites. Plus, you can enjoy fun activities like mini golf during your visit.

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