New York On A Budget
There's no question that New York City can be an expensive town, but believe it or not, you don't need big bucks to get a taste of the Big Apple. There's another side to New York besides the trendy clubs, posh real estate and upscale restaurants. A cheaper side. A free side,
What's that, you ask, there's a free New York? Why, yes there is! There are plenty of free things to do in New York -- so many, in fact, you'd be surprised by what Manhattan has to offer.
For starters, there are plenty of free recreational activities. You can go skating around the city, try your hand at paddling a canoe and even participate in a wild adventure course. Meantime, there are free museums, free concerts and even free tours!
In a city as large as Manhattan, it can be overwhelming when you're trying to see everything and you keep having to spend money (trust me, it's even a little unnerving for us natives!). However, if you do your research, you'd be amazed by how little you actually have to spend -- that is, if you look in the right places. Here is a guide of some great free things to do in New York City, which will help you get started with your free New York adventure.
Alley Pond Park Adventure Course
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Great Free New York Activities
One great way to see New York is to simply walk around town and explore the neighborhoods. But if you're looking for something more adventurous in your quest to find a free New York, here are some heart-pumping free activities.
1. Alley Pond Park Adventure Course (Union Tpke at Winchester Blvd in Bayside, Queens): If a simple walk in the park isn't enough excitement for you, then this extreme sports playground may be just what you're looking for. This obstacle course invites daring participants to climb ropes, sail over zip lines, cross shaky bridges and jump from 40-foot-high platforms -- all meant to help build trust and character. Of course, each person is provided with safety gear, but you have to bring your own courage! Happily, you can do this at no cost on Sundays when the course is open for free on a first-come, first-serve basis from May-November at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
2. New York Outrigger (Pier 66 Boathouse, in Hudson River Park along the West Side Highway at West 26th Street): If you've always dreamed of paddling a canoe or being part of the crew team, here's your chance to get on the boat. The outrigger club offers free novice sessions every Saturday from spring-fall. Typically, a sessions lasts about an hour-and-a-half and before actually setting into the water, participants are taught the basics. Though I haven't done this activity myself, I've been warned by my friend Amy who tried it that it's fun, but tough. Expect to push yourself and get quite a workout from doing it!
3. Wednesday Night Skate (Union Square South at 14th Street): A very different way to explore New York City is to do it on Rollerblades. If you join the Wednesday Night Skaters, you'll have a chance to make some new friends as you skate through the city for two hours -- and all of this is free! What's really cool is that there is a new route each time, so if you go more than once, you may get to see a completely new area of New York. All you have to bring is yourself, your inline skates and your safety gear (which you are required to wear). And if it rains, don't worry -- the group still meets for drinks at Mumbles (at 17th and 3rd). Skating begins at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, April-October.
4. Staten Island Ferry (Whitehall Terminal, a.k.a. South Ferry, 4 South Street, Manhattan; from Staten Island, St. George Terminal, 1 Bay Street): There are plenty of wonderful boat rides and cruises offered in New York City, including my favorite, the three-hour Circle Line cruise. However, if you want a shorter, but still very impressive trip, then take the free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. During the 25-minute journey, you will see all of lower Manhattan in its glory, including great views of the skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue Of Liberty! It's a great opportunity to take some memorable photos and you'll get to do it with the ocean breeze in your hair -- all for free.
5. Museum Of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street, at 5th Avenue): MoMA is one of New York City's best museums and it's free on Friday nights from 4-8 p.m. Because attendees cannot order these free tickets in advance, the lines tend to be long as crowds hurry to get in. Also, Friday nights at the museum often have a "meat market" feel since many young singles use this opportunity to find dates and mates. However, the (no) price of admission makes it worth joining the enthusiastic crowds to see some fine art exhibits. And any trip to Mnahattan should definitely include a visit to this iconic museum.
6. Tour Of Grand Central Station Terminal (42nd Street and Park Avenue, in the lobby of the Altria building, by the sculpture court): This free activity comes highly recommended from my parents. As native New Yorkers, they've been through Grand Central a million times, but had never really known much about the terminal or neighborhood's history. On this free 90-minute walking tour, which is held on Fridays at 12:30 p.m., participants will learn all about Grand Central Terminal, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. The guide will also dissect the many legends surrounding the terminal. My folks say that it's one of the most interesting tours they've taken in the city -- and the price can't be beat!
7. The Juilliard School Concerts (various locations): If you're a classical music buff, then you'll certainly enjoy hearing students from the prestigious Juilliard School perform. Though Manhattan is filled with talented professional musicians (and concerts that will cost you a fortune), the Juilliard students are the cream of the crop -- and often perform for free! Many times, you will need to order these free tickets a couple of weeks in advance. Also, these concerts are held at different venues throughout the city. Therefore, it is is recommended that you check out Juilliard's Web site to see which performances are happening.
Free New York Links
- New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Info on Alley Pond Park
- New York Outrigger
- Wednesday Night Skate NYC
- Staten Island Ferry Information
- Grand Central Partnership
- MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art
- Juilliard School Concert Calendar