“New York is not a city, it’s a world” is probably the truest thing I’ve ever heard—it’s a magical place with endless amounts of adventure. In fact, I’ve visited the city many times and still find myself completely starstruck every time I go back. However, it’s not exactly known for being cheap. Traveling and sightseeing can be extremely expensive, which can make planning difficult if you’re on a budget. But worry not—while you can certainly spend big bucks on sightseeing and exploring, there are also tons of things to see and do in the Big Apple that don’t cost a thing. If a trip to the city is on your bucket list, keep reading for 25 things to do in NYC that are completely, wonderfully free.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is the perfect welcome to New York. The 25-minute boat ride includes passing by the Statue of Liberty, soaking up the amazing view of the Manhattan skyline, and it’s totally free.
Wander the Museum of Modern Art
Located at: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
There’s no doubt you will feel undeniably cultured after visiting the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA admission is free for all visitors on Friday evenings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and students get a discount as well. The Institute for Contemporary Art (MoMA PS1) is currently free for NYC residents also.
Eat at Chelsea Market
Located at: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Food + shopping = Chelsea Market. Browse through different clothing stores and food, a bookstore and a flea market in NYC’s meatpacking district. If you’re a foodie, this is your calling.
Stroll Through The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Located at: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
The Met is one of the largest museums in the world. For New York State residents and NY, NJ, and CT students, the amount you pay is up to you. So you can technically go for free—or at least pretty close to it.
Appreciate Some Plants at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Located at: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
This spot is Insta-worthy, to say the least. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is free on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and perfect for a sunny afternoon.
Browse the Glossier Showroom
Located at: 123 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013
Who hasn’t heard of Glossier?! Their stunning showroom is located between Howard and Canal. Although it’s free to look around, it might be hard to leave empty-handed.
Get Your Fill of Fashion at The Museum at FIT
Located at: 227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001
Attention all fashion lovers! If you’re a supporter of the arts, definitely stop by the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum. Admission to the exhibitions is always free.
Take in the Views South Street Seaport
Located at: 89 South St, New York, NY 10038
This is another cool place to hang outdoors that has scenic views. You can stop by Pier 15 as well which is open to the public that has two floors of observation decks. There’s indoor seating available, as well as many places to wind down and enjoy the views of the East River.
Get Some Fresh Air on the Brooklyn Bridge
Located at: New York, NY 10038
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of my all-time favorites to go to. Walk or ride a bike—either way, it’s great exercise and the views are gorgeous. You can enter the bridge from the Manhattan side from Centre Street, and if you walk all the way over you can explore DUMBO Park in Brooklyn. You can get back to the bridge from Adam street.
Pretend to be a Local in Central Park
Did you really go to New York City if you didn’t visit Central Park?! It’s beautiful during any season of the year and will make you feel detached from the city. You’ll discover gardens, statues, and more. This is one of the best places to sip coffee and people watch.
See the City on the High Line
Located at: New York, NY 10011
Escape the busy city for a little while and experience more greenery through a walk at the High Line. With views of Chelsea, access to shops and more, this public park is a must-see. Don’t forget comfy shoes!
Chill Out in Washington Square Park
Located at: New York, NY 10012
Experience the atmosphere of New York University with a visit to Washington Square Park. Relax in the sun and enjoy musicians playing close by. The public space is dog-friendly, has plenty of food options, and is near tons of nightlife.
Walk Around the Rockefeller Center
Located at: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
Stretching from 5th to 7th Avenue and from 47th to 51st Street, Rockefeller Center is a must-see at any time, but especially during the holidays. You’ll fall in love with the lights, holiday decorations, watching people ice skate and more. While it does cost money to tour, you can see the building and window-shop in the area (hello, 5th Avenue) for free.
Fill Up on Italian Food on Arthur Avenue
Also known as New York City’s real Little Italy, Arthur Avenue is a street in the Bronx in the Belmont section. Come for authentic Italian food like pasta, bread, pastries, and leave full.
Hang Out at The CF Clubhouse
Located at: 241 Centre St, New York, NY 10013
Your favorite NYC hangout is back! From June 5 through June 14, College Fashionista will be hosting a co-working hub for college students in NYC for the summer. Head to The CF Clubhouse after your internship to meet everyone you follow on Instagram IRL, attend intimate events with the fashion industry’s top talent, and get expert tips on your résumé or portfolio.
Take Pictures in Front of the Flatiron Building
The wedge-shaped Flatiron building is hard to miss and perfect for a solid NYC Instagram shot. Located at the intersection of 23rd Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue, it’s right next to Madison Square Park and Eataly if just seeing a building isn’t quite enough for you.
Visit the Friends Apartment
Located at: 90 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014
Calling all Friends fans! Get the chance to snap a picture outside of the apartment from one of the most beloved television shows of all time. The apartment is located at 90 Bedford Street at the corner of Grove Street in West Village.
See Times Square
Located at: Manhattan, NY 10036
There’s so much more to New York City than Times Square, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. This tourist attraction is often crowded, stretching from West 42nd Street to West 47th Street, but it’s one of a kind and nothing like you see in the movies.
Explore the Chelsea Galleries
Located at: Multiple locations
Featuring hundreds of art galleries, this art district is free to explore. The galleries are mostly between West 19th Street and 28th Street and 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue, and there’s a ton of artwork to observe. Visit on Thursdays for a wine-and-cheese night.
Tour the New York Public Library
Located at: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, also known as the most famous library in New York, has roughly 45 million items including books, maps, and more. You can take a free tour Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Find Your Zen in Industry City
Located at: 274 36th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Do you love yoga? Take a break from sightseeing and try out a free yoga class at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Industry City is along south Brooklyn’s waterfront, so the view won’t disappoint.
Peruse the Brooklyn Flea
Located at: 241 37th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Ranked one of the best flea markets in the U.S., you definitely need to fit this into your schedule. On Saturdays, the market is in Industry City, and on Sundays, it’s in Dumbo. It’s the perfect opportunity to browse through vintage clothing, art, antiques, and other hidden jewels.
See City Hall
Located at: City Hall Park, New York, NY 10007
Learn Something New at the Museum of the Moving Image
Located at: 36-01 35th Ave, Queens, NY 11106
Venture out of Manhattan and into Queens with a free tour of the Museum of the Moving Image. Tours are Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. TV lovers, this one’s for you.
Indulge in Some Reading at the Strand Bookstore
Located at: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Bookworm or not, this bookstore has plenty to explore with 18 miles of books—yes, you heard that right. Yes, the books do cost money (obviously), but it’s just as fun to browse if you’re a true literature lover.
Opening image by Dana Durante.