Are you looking for inspiration on what there is to do in New York? Are you maybe on a small budget and don’t want to spend any money on attractions in New York? You can still visit New York, but you don’t have to break your bank balance to do it! It is a simple as, visiting the free things to do in New York City.  

If you don’t have a lot of money, but you just want to get away for a short trip, then New York is still possible. There are so many free things to do in New York City, making it possible to still get away at an affordable price. 

New York City is surrounded by skyscrapers that tower over you. It’s strange how small you feel in this large city.  We have visited New York on two occasions, and still find the city massive. 

New York City skyline
New York City

Free things to do in New York City 

A city that is so big, there are surprisingly a large number of places you can visit for free. We discovered these free things to do in New York City.  

Grand Central Station 

A commuter station located in Midtown Manhattan, transporting passengers to and from the city. If you plan to take a train to other areas of the USA, you are likely to travel via Grand Central Station.  

A landmark destination due to its unique design and architecture, making this one of the worlds most visited locations. In the main concourse of the station is the gorgeous clock balancing on the top of the information center. But it doesn’t stop there! Just put your gaze up to the roof to witness the magnificent celestial ceiling.  

The Clock in Grand Central - Free things to do in New York City
The clock above the Information desk in Grand Central

In the lower concourse of the station, is the food hall, serving a variety of budget friendly meals. If you’re feeling hungry, we would recommend Shake Shack, they have a variety of fast food meals at affordable prices.  

Flatiron building 

This quintessential, iconic building gets its name from its shape resembling a flat iron.  On its completion back in 1902, it was the tallest building in New York city.

The Flatiron seen from Broadway and Fifth Ave
The Flatiron

This unusual shape, makes it even more interesting to visit, and stands out from the other regular shaped buildings in the area. The best spot to see its shape, is at the traffic island between Broadway and Fifth Ave.  

Street Art 

We love exploring a city, and just stumbling upon street art! There are some fantastic works of street art out there. The best in our opinion has to be the mural project that is in the area of the Oculus, One World Trade Centre Metro Station, and the 9/11 memorial.  

Street art is one of the free things to do in New York City
Street art at the World Trade Centre

The colours and designs are just amazing, and it would be quite simple to stand here and watch the time go by. 

Times Square 

Times Square is often referred to as the center of the universe, and the busiest pedestrian area in the world. It sees an estimated 330,000 visitors a day.  

Times Square in New York
Times Square

The bright sparkling lights from the billboards are the main attraction, but many are not just stopping for the lights. Many are passing through Times Square to see a famous Broadway Theatre Show.  

It was previously named Longacre Square until 1904 when the New York Times moved into its headquarters. Since its first New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in December 1907, Time Square have held it here on an annual basis, with millions of people watching all over the world.  

Central Park 

This large expanse of Parkland known as Central Park is the most popular in New York, yet it is only the 5th largest park in the city.  

Free things to do in New York - Central Park
Central Park

It is ideal to spend an entire day at the park, with so much to see and do. Suitable for all ages, with play parks for children, exercise junkies can go for a run or use one of the sports courts, or you can take the more relax route, and walk around admiring some of the statues.  

If the weather is glorious, you could follow the many other locals and tourists, by laying back and soaking up the sun on the famous large green.  

While visiting New York City, you may want to check out some of the Best Festivals and Events in the city.

Brooklyn Bridge 

Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn, and was the longest bridge in the world when it was first built in 1883. It was originally built to carry horse drawn vehicles, and trains, but has since been reconfigured to allow motorised vehicles to cross. 

To get the best view of Manhattan skyline, walk the nearly 1600-foot bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It can get very busy and congested, but it is worth it, admiring its grand design.  


This was a real surprise for us on our second visit. Our first visit was 10 years prior, and only a few years after the devastating 9/11.  

The Oculus with the One World Trade Centre behind
The Oculus with the One World Trade Centre behind

On our first visit, we saw rubble from the collapse of the World Trade Centre inside the Path station below. At ground level a massive hole was left in the skyline.

Our second visit saw this bright white, fresh design of the Oculus. The interior is so spacious with shops and food outlets. On ground level, it really isn’t possible to think there is something so large beneath your feet. 

Visiting the Oculus is one of the free things to do in New York City
Inside the Oculus

Beneath the Oculus is the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub, providing links to New Jersey, and Hoboken, with further links via the subway.  

Shopping and eating are aplenty, as you make your way around the Oculus. 

National September 11th Memorial 

This is a real somber and emotional place to visit, but the new design has done it justice. 

The twin towers once stood in the middle of Lower Manhattan, until that unforgettable day on 9/11, when the terror attacks left many families without their loved ones.  

9/11 Memorial pools
9/11 Memorial pools

Two memorial pools have been designed exactly where the original Twin Towers once stood. Surrounding the memorial pools are the names of the people who lost their lives. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t lost a loved one from that terrible day, but you will want to visit just to pay your respects.  

We spent about half a day here, just taking in the area, reading many of the names on the plaques around the pools, and explored the surrounding area. You can get a good view of the entire memorial from Liberty Park. Look out for the World Trade Centre Sphere!  

Admire the sphere as a free thing to do in New York City
The sphere

This sphere survived the collapse of the Twin Towers. Although visibly damaged, it was removed, cleaned up, and placed in Battery park, before it was moved to Liberty Park, where it remains as it’s home. 

We love New York, and would easily visit again, and with all these free things to do and more, it can really be that simple. 

9/11 Memorial, New York City

Did you know there were waterfalls in New York? If not, there are other ways to explore New York and not just the city. To find out more about the best waterfalls in New York, then head over to this complete guide to finding waterfalls in New York. 

A memorial on the side a fire station in New York
A memorial on the side a fire station in New York

Have you visited New York City? What was your highlight? Would you recommend anywhere else that is free that we haven’t included in this list? We would love to hear from you, simply leave a comment below.

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