The "city that never sleeps," New York City, is renowned for its iconic landmarks, varied culture, and top-notch cuisine. The Big Apple is known for being an expensive vacation spot, though. Fear not, for this beautiful city offers a wealth of free or inexpensive things to discover. In this tour, we'll walk you through some of New York's top sights that won't break the bank but yet let you take in all it has to offer.
A must-see location in the centre of Manhattan is Central Park. This urban sanctuary, which covers 843 acres, provides a variety of free activities and attractions. Central Park is the ideal spot to unwind by taking a leisurely stroll, enjoying a picnic, or watching street performers while escaping the bustle of the city. To list a few:
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
- Alice in Wonderland statue
- Conservatory Garden
- The Great Lawn
- Bow Bridge
- Staten Island Ferry
A 25-minute free journey on the Staten Island Ferry rewards passengers with breath-taking vistas of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the magnificent Manhattan cityscape. The ferry leaves from Lower Manhattan's Whitehall Terminal every single day of the year. This affordable attraction offers departures every 30 minutes (or more frequently during peak hours), and it's a terrific opportunity to see some of the city's most well-known sites from the sea.
On top of a decommissioned train track in Manhattan's West Side, the 1.45-mile-long elevated park known as The High Line was constructed. There are numerous artworks, grassy areas, and vantage spots with stunning metropolis views in this distinctive urban park. The High Line is the ideal location for a leisurely stroll while taking in the city's stunning architecture and energetic ambience.
The hub of entertainment, retail, and dining in New York, Times Square is a must-see on any trip. Even though there are numerous expensive activities nearby, merely passing through this famous spot and admiring the enormous LED billboards, live street performers, and buzzing crowds is an affordable experience. Visit at night when the area is completely alive with its brilliant lights.
Museums and Cultural Institutions
Some of the most well-known museums and cultural institutions in the world are located in New York, and many of them allow visitors to enter for free or for a donation. These are some places you can go without spending a fortune:
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Suggested admission prices, but visitors can pay what they wish.
- American Museum of Natural History: Pay-what-you-wish admission available for New York residents and students from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
- The Museum at FIT: Free admission to this fashion-focused museum.
- The Brooklyn Museum: Pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Saturday of every month.
The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York's most recognisable sights, is a must-see destination that is totally free. Take in the sweeping vistas of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and the East River as you stroll the 1.3-mile-long bridge. The pedestrian trail is accessible every hour of the day and night and is a great cheap activity.
Grand Central Station
Historic transportation hub Grand Central Station is a stunning architectural wonder that is open to the public. Enjoy the classic four-faced clock, the magnificent marble staircases, and the breathtaking heavenly ceiling. The terminal also provides a variety of dining and shopping alternatives to meet different price ranges.
Free Outdoor Activities
During the year, New York City hosts a number of free outdoor events, including festivals, concerts, and cultural festivities. These are a few well-attended events that appeal to all tastes:
An annual performing arts festival called SummerStage is held in various parks all across New York City. Both well-known and up-and-coming artists perform at the festival's theatre, dance, and music events. The majority of events are free, making it a fantastic way to experience top-notch entertainment on a tight budget.
Shakespeare in the Park
A cherished New York custom is Shakespeare in the Park, which is presented at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. This free event features top-notch Shakespearean plays and draws thousands of spectators each year. Tickets are required and given out on a first-come, first-served basis even though admission is free.
Bryant Park Movie Nights
An outdoor movie series is held each week at Bryant Park throughout the summer. In this lovely park, watch old movies under the stars with a picnic and a blanket. The lawn opens around five, and the movies usually start at dusk.
Every weekend from April through October, a sizable open-air food market called Smorgasburg takes place. This gastronomic haven has more than 100 vendors and offers a variety of cuisines to suit all preferences and price ranges. It's not completely free, but it's still a cheap way to try some of the best dishes the city has to offer.
Brooklyn's Coney Island is a well-known seaside resort and centre for entertainment. Although if certain attractions, like the well-known Luna Park amusement park, charge admission, there are still a lot of things to do on a shoestring budget. Take advantage of the sandy beach, wander the boardwalk, or admire the Wonder Wheel's ancient structure and the recognisable Parachute Jump tower. In addition, Wednesday afternoons are pay-what-you-wish entry days at the New York Aquarium.
Coney Island is home to two main amusement parks: Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. Both parks offer a variety of rides and attractions for visitors of all ages. Here's a breakdown of pricing for each park to help you plan your visit:
Luna Park, the larger of the two amusement parks, features over 50 rides and attractions, including the iconic Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster and the high-flying Thunderbolt. Instead of a general admission fee, Luna Park operates on a pay-per-ride system with prices varying depending on the ride's popularity and thrill factor.
Individual ride credits can be purchased, with each credit costing $1.00. Rides typically range from 3 to 12 credits per ride. For those looking to enjoy multiple rides, Luna Park offers various packages and deals:
- Fixed-Date Fun Pass: Starting at $29.99 per person, this pass includes a specific number of credits and is valid only on the chosen date.
- Any-Day Fun Pass: Starting at $42.99 per person, this pass provides a certain number of credits and can be used on any operating day within the season.
- Season Pass: For $149.99 per person, this pass grants unlimited visits and rides during the park's operating season, with some blackout dates.
Keep in mind that Luna Park's pricing and packages may change, so it's always best to check their website for the most up-to-date information.
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is a family-owned amusement park best known for its historic Wonder Wheel, a 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel that has been in operation since 1920. The park offers over 20 rides, including kiddie rides and thrilling attractions.
Like Luna Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park also operates on a pay-per-ride system. Ride tickets cost $1.00 each, and rides typically range from 3 to 7 tickets per ride. The park also offers discounted ticket packages:
- 10-ticket pack: $10.00
- 25-ticket pack: $20.00
- 50-ticket pack: $35.00
The Wonder Wheel itself costs $10.00 per ride, while the other attractions vary in price. It's important to note that ticket prices and packages may change, so be sure to visit the park's website for the latest information.
In addition to the amusement parks, Coney Island also features the New York Aquarium, which has its own admission pricing. Adult tickets are $26.95, seniors (65+) are $24.95, and children (3-12) are $22.95. Children under 3 are free. Pay-what-you-wish admission is available on Wednesday afternoons, starting at 3 pm.
With a variety of pricing options and packages available, Coney Island can be an affordable and enjoyable experience for visitors looking to have fun in New York City.
New York Public Library
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, a work of art in architecture, houses the New York Public Library. Take a tour or explore the hallways at your own speed while viewing the gorgeous Rose Main Reading Room, elegant ceilings, and Beaux-Arts architecture. Also, the library offers free public activities like readings, seminars, and exhibitions.
Governors Island, a 172-acre island sanctuary in the middle of New York Harbor, is home to a wide range of activities, events, and stunning vistas of the Manhattan skyline. There is a little price for the ferry voyage to the island, but once you are there, you can explore historical buildings, rent bikes, and enjoy the park. Public access to Governors Island is available from May through October.
The Unisphere and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens served as the venue for the 1964–1965 World's Fair. The Queens Museum, the New York Hall of Science, and the famed Unisphere, a 140-foot-tall stainless steel globe, are all located in the park. Although it is free to stroll about the park and admire the Unisphere, some attractions may charge entry.
City Reliquary Museum
The City Reliquary Museum in Brooklyn is a must-see for people who enjoy the odd and unusual. This tiny museum is committed to preserving the commonplace artefacts and narratives from the history of New York City. The $5 suggested gift makes it a feasible choice for people on a tight budget.
You won't run out of things to do in New York City with all the affordable sights and activities available. Keep your wallet intact while taking in the city's rich history, cultural diversity, and beautiful architecture. So be ready to explore the city that never sleeps and grab your bags and camera!
Discovering these affordable attractions will show you that visiting New York City's enchantment is feasible without breaking the bank. Take advantage of the city's thriving culture, recognisable landmarks, and top-notch entertainment that make it one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.