50 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

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BIG APPLE, SMALL PRICE TAG


New York City is among the most expensive places in the world to live in or visit, but it's also among the richest in free or inexpensive things to do -- resulting from a mix of philanthropy, loss leaders, and a mass of artists, musicians, comedians, foodies, curators, and other creative types who want to share their work with the world. Try one of these diversions while in the Big Apple.

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ENJOY A SLICE

Some of the top-rated pizza shops charge more than $4 a slice, but it's easy to get $1 classic slices around the city from one of the many 2 Bros. Pizza locations and other independent joints.
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VISIT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART


One of the most famous museums in the world, the Met has a suggested ticket price of $25, but many people don't realize they can pay what they want. Pick a price that seems fair and affordable.

Related: 25 Places to Enjoy Rooftop Views Without High Prices
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FREE WINE AND SPIRIT TASTINGS

Astor Wines and Spirits in Greenwich Village regularly hosts free wine and spirit tastings in the evenings. Sometimes there are even multiple events in one day. Those who like something they taste can get a bottle of wine or sake for 15 percent off the day of their visit.
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TOUR THE BROOKLYN BREWERY


The Brooklyn Brewery has grown to be one of the city's best known. Small group tours Monday through Thursday require $15 tickets, but weekend tours are free. They start on the half-hour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Related: 10 Brewery Tours That Feature Free Craft Beer
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SLURP $1 OYSTERS

Happy hours across the city offer raw oysters for $1 each, and some even extend into the weekend. There's an entire website devoted to oyster happy hours, with a breakdown by borough and neighborhood and links to each restaurant.
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CATCH AN IMPROV SHOW

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre offers improv comedy classes and performances. On Sunday nights, the UCB Chelsea hosts "Asssscat 3000," an improv show that often features famous comedians. The 9:30 p.m. show is free -- although getting the free tickets usually requires standing in line for several hours before they're handed out.
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TAKE IN A SHOW AT CARNEGIE HALL

Known worldwide for A-list music performances, Carnegie Hall sells tickets for $10 each to students, or to anyone the day of a concert. Discounts are also available for members of the military, Bank of America cardholders, members of the music-appreciation group Notables, and for partial-view seats.
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EXPLORE THE BROOKLYN FLEA

Wander through hundreds of booths selling vintage clothing, antiques, jewelry, furniture, artisanal foods, and more. Visit the Brooklyn Flea year-round in Fort Greene on Saturdays or DUMBO on Sundays.
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ATTEND THE KNITTING FACTORY'S FREE COMEDY SHOW

The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg hosts free comedy at 9 p.m. on Sundays. It's smart to arrive early (doors open at 6 p.m.). This is a popular event, and the venue can fill up before showtime.
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KAYAK FOR FREE

From May through mid-September, the Downtown Boathouse, a volunteer-run nonprofit on Pier 96, offers kayaks, bike locks, lockers, and sunscreen to the public free of charge -- but use of kayaks is limited to 20 minutes at a time.
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RELAX AND STRETCH IN THE PARK

Bryant Park is in its 13th year of hosting free yoga classes. There are morning and evening classes from mid-May through the end of September led by different teachers.
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WATCH OUTDOOR MOVIES

New York hosts free outdoor movie series at Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Rockaway Beach, and more. Many of the parks have their last showing in late August or early September, but the Habana Outpost in Fort Greene is ending its series on October 30 with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
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STOP AT THE BRONX MUSEUM OF THE ARTS

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is a contemporary art museum that is always free to visit. The museum's permanent collection has more than 1,000 pieces, plus rotating exhibits and educational programs.
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TAKE IN THE VIEW AT BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK

Brooklyn Bridge Park's six piers offer panoramic views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor, along with free movies and concerts during the summer, a playground for children, a roller rink, bocce, handball, and more. The Wednesday night tour series continues through the end of September, with hour-long talks and walks with guest lecturers. Tickets are $10 ($5 for Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy members).
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STROLL THROUGH THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Like the Met, the American Museum of Natural History has a suggested ticket price of $22 but allows visitors to pay what they want. Permanent exhibits at the family-friendly spot include giant dinosaur skeletons and the Hall of Biodiversity. Don't miss the planetarium!
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TAKE IN FIRST SATURDAYS AT THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM

The Brooklyn Museum has a free night on the first Saturday of each month (except September). Enjoy free shows and music, grab a bite or drink at the Norm restaurant, and explore the museum's many exhibits.
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WALK THE BOARDWALK AT CONEY ISLAND

Coney Island's historic rides and boardwalk are at their best during the summer, when the amusement park (open with limited hours on September and October weekends) is bustling and there's a long line for hot dogs at Nathan's Famous. But even when it's cooler out, a walk along the boardwalk is pleasant.
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VISIT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY'S MAIN BRANCH

More than a century old, the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is a landmark in Midtown. The Rose Main Reading Room is usually a highlight but is closed for restoration until later in 2016. The library hosts free exhibits and free docent-led tours Monday through Saturday.
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HOP A FREE RIDE ON THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY


Ask New Yorkers the cheapest way to see the Statue of Liberty and they are likely to point you to the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan. A free ride on the Staten Island Ferry takes passengers right by the statue on a 25-minute trip.

Related: 18 Scenic Ferry Rides
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HEAR FREE JAZZ NEAR CENTRAL PARK

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center hosts late-night jazz performances on the cheap. Doors open at 11:15 p.m., and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the cover is just $5.
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EAT A DUMPLING DINNER

Manhattan boasts several well-known dumpling shops that are especially cheap. Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry Street and Vanessa's Dumpling House on Eldridge Street serve up dumplings for less than 50 cents each. There are also several cheap and well-known dumpling houses in Flushing, Queens.
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MARVEL AT THE LIGHTS IN TIMES SQUARE

It is a tourist trap, but this landmark is known around the world. Standing in the lights of Times Square can be magical, especially for those who have not visited before.
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WALK ALONG THE HIGH LINE

An elevated-rail-line-turned-pedestrian-walkway, the High Line hosts meditation practices, tai chi, stargazing, garden tours, movies, and more throughout the year, all free. The park runs down the West Side from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the summer (beginning in June), it closes an hour earlier in May and November; winter hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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REST IN WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

Washington Square Park is often packed with NYU students during the school year but can be a nice place to sit down and take in the city. When the weather is warmer, acclaimed artist Joe Mangrum often can be found creating one of his sand paintings just north of the fountain.
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KICK UP YOUR HEELS AT A DANCE PARTY

Every Wednesday, the nightclub Cielo hosts Roots NYC. Resident DJ Kevin Hedge along with visiting DJs and performers put on a dance party that lasts all night. Admission is free before 11 p.m. ($20 after), and there's often an open vodka bar (two drinks for free) from 10 to 11 p.m.
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GET CULTURED FOR FREE AT MOMA

The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday. It's not uncommon for there to be a long line to get in when the evening begins. Wait out the crowds by going after 6 p.m.
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WALK THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Locals and tourists alike walk, jog, run, and bike this New York icon. It's best on a warm day, but pedestrians make the 1.1-mile trip throughout the year.
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PLAY BINGO

Fridays and Saturdays are bingo nights at Le Poisson Rouge. Starting at 7:30 p.m. (after happy hour from 6:30 to 7:30), drag queen and veteran bingo hostess Linda Simpson takes the stage alongside a DJ and a helper. Entrance is free, and bingo boards are $2 a pop.
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STEP INSIDE ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL

The cathedral recently underwent restorations and shines with a freshly cleaned exterior, repaired stained glass, and a painted ceiling, but the inside remains largely untouched. Regardless of your religious affiliation, St. Patrick's is worth visiting.
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GAZE AT GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL

Guided 75-minute tours of Grand Central's main concourse, topped by an iconic roof, start at 12:30 p.m. each day and cost $25 for adults; $20 for students, seniors, and children under 10. An audio version is available for $7 to $9, and an app with the tour costs $5.
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WANDER CENTRAL PARK

The park has served as a backdrop to many movies and books and hosts events throughout the year. The Central Park Conservancy offers free tours of different areas within the park. Listen to a self-guided audio tour by calling numbers found on placards throughout the 843-acre park or with the Central Park App.
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VISIT THE 9/11 MEMORIAL

The attached museum costs $15 to $24 to visit, but the 9/11 Memorial is free and open to all. Two large reflecting pools mark the footprints of the Twin Towers and honor the lives lost.
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STOP BY UNION SQUARE

In the summer, take a minute to sit down in this popular park and enjoy the city's energy. There's a greenmarket on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays throughout the year, and a holiday market opens in November.
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TAKE A PEEK AT THE FLATIRON BUILDING

The iconic triangular Flatiron Building is a landmark on Fifth Avenue. After snapping a picture, enjoy a burger and shake at the nearby Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or peruse the offerings at Eataly.
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TOUR A CHOCOLATIER


There are several places in New York where chocolate lovers can sample the goods and watch small batches be poured and cut. At environmentally friendly and vegan Raaka Chocolate in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a 45-minute tour for $10 includes tastings of raw cocoa and samples of the company's finished bars.

Related: 10 Chocolate Meccas Across America
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FROLIC IN A CHILDREN'S MUSEUM

Families with little ones can take advantage of free days at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of the month) and Brooklyn Children's Museum (2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month).
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PAY WHAT YOU WANT FOR TOURS

Free Tours by Foot offers more than 30 pay-what-you-want tours of the city. Reservations are required, and there is often a minimum group size. Foodies can sign up for one of the food-focused tours, and bike tours traverse Central Park or the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.
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JOIN THE AUDIENCE AT A TV SHOW

NBC Studios offers free tickets to several shows, including "America's Got Talent," "The Voice," "American Ninja Warrior," and late-night shows with Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon. Tickets must be reserved, but some of the most popular shows also have standby tickets the day they're shot.
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WANDER THE STACKS OF THE MORGAN LIBRARY

The private collection of one of New York's most well-known financiers, the Morgan Library and Museum is free from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays. A section of the museum is also free to the public from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
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PLAY POOL AT HUDSON NEW YORK

The drinks and food can be expensive, but the chessboards and billiards table are free at the hotel's Library Bar. Sit and relax by the large fireplace and take in views of the Hudson River from the rooftop terrace, weather permitting.
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SIP FREE BOOZE AT CHELSEA GALLERY OPENINGS

Starting at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, Chelsea's art galleries open their new exhibits. Spend an evening hopping from one to the next while sipping on the wine or beer that's often provided.
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RELAX IN PROSPECT PARK

Brooklyn's Prospect Park shares the same designers as Central Park. It hosts free shows at the bandshell in the summer, and there's a greenmarket at the north end of the park open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays year-round. The Prospect Park Zoo houses animals from around the world and tickets are just $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children.
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EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH ECONOMY CANDY

The Lower East Side's Economy Candy is not the largest candy store around, but the selection is vast and prices are low. Many candies are sold in bulk, and customers rave about finding treats that make them nostalgic for childhood.
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TOUR GREENWICH VILLAGE

The Village Alliance offers free tours of storied Greenwich Village on Saturdays from June through the end of September. Led by a licensed guide, the 90-minute tours start at 11:30 a.m. at Second Avenue and St. Marks Place. There's also a free Village Alliance walking tour web app with 27 self-guided tours available all year.
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ATTEND A FREE BOOK OR POETRY READING

Bookstores, universities, and libraries often host free book or poetry readings. Some days there are three or four starting at the same time, and choosing one can be hard. Club Free Time keeps an up-to-date list.
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HIT A HOLE IN ONE ON THE HUDSON

The 18-hole miniature golf course at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park features waterfalls, sand traps, and a cave. Hours are flexible based on the weather -- it officially closes at 6 p.m. but may stay open until 10 p.m. Games are $5 for children and $6 for adults.
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TUNE IN TO CLASSIC CINEMA

Williamsburg's Nitehawk Cinema often shows cult classics while serving up food and a variety of beers, wines, and cocktails. The ground-floor bar and screening room hosts the Simpsons Club, a free weekly screening of three "Simpsons" episodes in their original form -- complete with commercials.
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ELECT TO VISIT GOVERNORS ISLAND

Open May 28 to Sept. 25, Governors Island has a food court, bicycles for rent (including tandem bikes and quadricycles), a farm, a beach, and historic houses. Hour-long bike rentals are free from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays. The ferry ride -- usually $2 round trip -- is free weekend mornings from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
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SEE THE ANIMALS AT THE BRONX ZOO

The Bronx Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the world, is open year-round. Tickets usually range from $12.95 to $19.95 but are pay-what-you-wish all day on Wednesday.
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KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST EVENTS

Keeping track of the latest deals and free or cheap events in the Big Apple is a never-ending process. Follow The Skint, Time Out New York, and NYC & Company to stay on top of the offerings.