15 Fabulously Free Things to Do in New York City This Summer
Sure, New York is the home of the $100+ hamburger and the $1,000+ baseball game. But there's also no other city in the world that offers more first-rate freebies on a daily basis. From famous paintings to gorgeous green spaces, classical music to stand-up comedy, welcome to Free NYC!
We wish we could find you a free plane ticket to New York City—and a complimentary hotel room when you get here!—but once you're in town, NYC rolls out a never-ending supply of amazing activities that most travelers would be more than happy to pay for, but don't have to. Whether it's world-class Shakespeare, a refreshing boat ride, an unforgettable evening at a museum, or just stretching out on the lawn at a relaxing Midtown oasis, summer in the city has never been more affordable!
Shakespeare in the Park
The Bard's Comedy of Errors and a new musical adaptation of his Love's Labour's Lost give audiences the opportunity to hear Elizabethan drama presented in the open air, as it was in Shakespeare's day, at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. All tickets are free and are distributed in a number of ways, including a line at the theater and online ticketing. To find out how to nab your tickets, visit shakespeareinthepark.org.
Staten Island Ferry
Did you know that you can get a boat tour of New York Bay, complete with views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and cool off in the salty breezes? Stop—there's no need to reach for your wallet. New York's iconic Staten Island Ferry makes regular trips between lower Manhattan and the borough of Staten Island free of charge. For schedules, visit siferry.com.
New York Philharmonic
During the New York Philharmonic's regular concert season, you've got to pony up some bucks to dress up, sit quietly, and savor this major league orchestra in its home at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. But in summer, the band loosens its bowtie a bit, offering free concerts in some of the city's most beautiful parks. You should feel free to loosen up, too, with a blanket, a picnic basket, and music-loving friends. This year, "the Phil" will be playing Dvorak's Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in Manhattan's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park, and Queens's Cunningham Park. For locations and times, check out the orchestra's summer schedule.
The High Line
Psst! Lately when you mention how much you love, say, Central Park or Bryant Park to a New Yorker, they may reply, with just a touch of smug, "Well, have you been to the High Line?" This former elevated freight rail line has been converted into a unique public park that runs down the West Side of Manhattan from 30th Street to the West Village, with multiple access points, including wheelchair accessibility, along the way. Although you may not find free Shakespeare or a carousel up there, the chance to see the city from a different angle—included guided walking tours and Tuesday-night stargazing—is priceless. And free. Visit thehighline.org to learn more.
Big Apple Greeters
What if I told you that you could get your own personal friendly New Yorker to show you around town and share insider secrets? If I told you the service would be free, you might think my next offer would be a certain bridge to Brooklyn, right? Well, Big Apple Greeters have been delivering free personalized tours of the city for more than 20 years. You can expect a greeter to show you and your family (or small group of friends) around a neighborhood of the city, demystify New York's public transportation system for you, and maybe even divulge locals-only intel like where the find the best cannoli or matzo-ball soup in town. Request your own greeter at bigapplesgreeter.org.
New York Botanical Garden
All day each Wednesday, and from 10 to 11 a.m. each Saturday, the New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx, opens its grounds to visitors free of charge. You can hop a subway train or Metro North's Harlem line from Grand Central Terminal to get there, and walk the winding paths among the trees and flowering plants. You'll have to pay to get into the greenhouses or special events—but on a lovely summer's day, the grounds will likely offer more than enough flora to keep you satisfied. Learn more about the botanical garden's summer programs at nybg.org.
Children's Museum of the Arts
With a funky address in downtown Manhattan, the Children's Museum of the Arts keeps kids—and parents!—inspired and focused with hands-on activities and educational presentations by talented and kid-friendly staffers. Not sure if arts and crafts will be your little one's cup of tea? On Thursday afternoons from 4 to 6, you can pay whatever you like to gain admission. Learn more at cmany.org.