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Free and Inexpensive Things To Do in New York

Four days and three nights staying in New York City (USA) were not enough to explore the city. I was overwhelmed by its size and how busy it was. It reminds me of the hectic life of my hometown, Jakarta (Indonesia). The public transport was as confusing as to Jakarta’s (but in Jakarta, you don’t get as much information as in New York City!). I was lost several times, but that was the adventure part of traveling.

I was traveling solo in New York aiming to meet my dear long-term friends from my study in the Netherlands and a WordPress blogger and nature photographer, Sherry Felix, Port4U. The combination of the meetup and exploring the city was truly delightful. While New York City is known to be an expensive city, I managed to experience free and inexpensive things to do in New York, thanks to the tips from New Yorker friends. Now, it’s my turn to share the tips with you 😉

Staten Island Ferry & the Statue of Liberty
Cost: FREE

The Statue of Liberty is a famous icon of the New York City. It is located on Liberty Island which is not far from New York’s mainland. The tour to visit the monument in Liberty Island is around 25 USD, and it will take you around three hours. I didn’t have time for a long hour tour. Thus I decided the shortcut way to see the Statue from Staten Island Ferry. I took the ferry from Whitehall Terminal (New York) to St. George (Staten Island). The statue is on the right side as you leave from New York. Don’t forget to look at the back of the boat to see the Manhattan.

Tips: (1) avoid taking the ferry during office rush hour; (2) check the schedule, the ferry leaves every 30 minutes, (3) if possible, travel during the sunrise or sunset time for more remarkable sky view.


Enjoying the art performance & cultural events in the parks
Cost: FREE

Central Park in New York is without doubt known worldwide. Some people even get engaged or married in the park. Additionally, New York City has more parks to enjoy than just the Central Park. Bryant Park, located just behind of New York Public Library – Schwarzman Building, offers arts, music and theater performances from time to time. During my visit to this park, I saw a Shakespeare’s theater performance in the evening. It was remarkable.

Another park to see is the High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets. It is located on Manhattan’s West Side. The park also offers cultural events and art performance. Sherry took me to this park, and I loved it! She told me the park looks impressive in the evening with the traffic lights from below shine up to the park.


Exploring the world cuisine in Lower East Side (Manhattan)
Cost: From $

The neighborhood offered the world’s cuisine from African cuisine to Asian’s (there was an Indonesian restaurant too!) with a reasonable price compared to the rest of New York’s neighborhood. Lower East Manhattan used to be considered overcrowded with cheap housing. However, it has changed to a fashionable neighborhood with the urban atmosphere. If you were into street photography, this neighborhood is a good place to start.  More about the neighborhood, please visit Guide to Lower East Side Manhattan.


Visiting historical landmarks and museums
Cost: FREE or Pay What You Wish (PWYW)

Some landmarks in New York are displayed for public and free, such as crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, National September 11 Memorial, Times Square, New York Public Library – Schwarzman Building, Grand Central Terminal, 30 Rockefeller Plaza or the newest one: the Oculus.

Additionally, some famous museums are as well offering free entrance or PWYW on specific day and hour. These applied to Guggenheim Museum (PWYW on Saturday 5;45 to 7:45 pm); Metropolitan Museum of Art (PWYW every day); and National Museum of the American Indian—Smithsonian Institution (free). Be warned, the line to entering could be a long one!

List of free or PYWY museums in New York City, please visit NYC Arts.


Tramway to Roosevelt Island
Cost: $

Roosevelt Island is often called as Forgotten Island of New York. Its location is pretty much close to Manhattan and can be reached through a tramway. Some famous movies have featured the tramway, such as Now You See Me and Spider-Man. You can use New York’s metro card in this tramway. It’s only a five-minute ride but you will see the aerial view of the east part of Manhattan and river.


Joining the (almost) free walking tour
Cost: Pay What You Wish (PWYW)

I was alone on the first night of arrival thus I decided to join an evening walking tour from Free Tours by Foot. The tour options are varied on a daily basis from morning to evening and we don’t have to pay on specific price but do tip the guide after the tour (PWYW). We walked through New York’s landmarks and famous places, and the tour guide gave some insights about the places. One thing for sure, we will not get lost during the tour!


Shake shack burgerLastly, taste the NYC’s Burger Chain, Shake Shack
Cost: $$

Forget McDonald’s and Burger King when in New York! Try Shake Shack burger chain and you will taste a good burger as it supposed to be.

They have a vegetarian burger too, and it is delicious. The burger chain starts from a hot dog cart in Madison Park and grows into burger chain across the country. The chain also offers fresh-baked biscuits to bring for our dogs at home 😉


Do you have more tips on free or inexpensive things to do in New York? Please share it with us in the comments section..



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