New York City may not be the most budget-friendly destination in terms of accommodation and dining options. If you’re headed to the Big Apple with your kids and don’t necessarily want to break the bank, there are plenty of offerings in the city that are absolutely free for families to enjoy.
From splendid art galleries to brilliant parks, here’s the ultimate list of all the best things you can do in New York City with kids, without spending a dime.
15 Free Things To Do In NYC
1. See The Statue of Liberty from a ferry
If you want to get the chance to see the Statue of Liberty without paying for a tour, you can hop on the ferry to Staten Island from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. This ferry runs every 15 minutes 24/7 and is free for passengers!
From here, you’ll get to cross the river and see the Statue of Liberty from pretty close, not to mention unbeatable views of Manhattan!
2. Check Out The Parks
Images of skyscrapers and neon lights may be the first things to pop to mind when you think of the Big Apple, but the city has a fair share of green landscapes contained within over 30,000 acres of public parks.
Of course, strolling through Central Park is a must (and absolutely free) activity, but if you’re up for more park hopping, there is plenty more on the menu.
A few of the best public parks in the NYC are:
- Battery Park – A historic park in Lower Manhattan where you won’t just get to spend time outside but also stand at a pretty historical place. This was the first place where the first immigrants to the United States arrived before Ellis Island was created. You’ll also get to see the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, and several memorials while here.
- Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) – This park is three times the size of Central Park and is a wonderful place to head to in order to forget about the hustle of the city for a while. You’ll find golf courses, sports fields, hiking trails, and even a beach here.
- Prospect Park (Brooklyn) – Prospect Park was designed by the same people who created Central Park. During your time here, you’ll be able to see plenty of historical attractions, a lake, and even a zoo.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park (Brooklyn) – Spend the day playing basketball, strolling through the greenery, or ice skating, all with beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline in the background.
- Bryant Park – A green square in Manhattan that is not just a beautiful place to hang out, but it also happens to be a mecca for free activities. During the summer months, plenty of events are held at the park, including outdoor movies, classes, and more.
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park – Set in Queens, this beautiful park offers two gorgeous observation towers. If you’re visiting during the spring, Flushing Meadows becomes a haven for cherry blossom trees!
3. Visit The Art Galleries In Chelsea
Chelsea is a mecca when it comes to art galleries. This part of the city was once an industrial area in downtown Manhattan, but over the years, it has turned into a pretty upscale neighborhood favored by artists and creatives.
Despite its swanky status, Chelsea residents still remain pretty loyal to the neighborhood’s roots. While here, you’ll get plenty of free activities on offer, including tons of admission-free art galleries where you can spend several hours browsing and discovering new artists.
A few of the best galleries include (but are not limited to) the David Zwirner Gallery, the Wilensky Exquisite Mineral Gallery, Agora Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, and High Line Nine.
4. Go To The Beach
Coney Island is probably the most famous of New York City beaches, but if you want to visit a few lesser-known ones, we recommend Brighton Beach, Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay, and Rockaway Beach.
5. Walk Over The Brooklyn Bridge
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most quintessential things to do in New York City. This is the largest suspension bridge, and it connects Manhattan to Brooklyn, providing gorgeous views of the two most iconic areas of the city.
Doing it is absolutely free, but due to this activity’s popularity, we recommend an early wake-up call to get there before the crowds start coming in!
6. Stroll Brooklyn Bridge Park
Once you’ve crossed the bridge you Brooklyn, you can continue the adventure by hanging out at Brooklyn Bridge Park. From here, you can get views of Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty from afar and even catch a free open-air movie during the summer months,
7. Visit The 9/11 Memorial
Set where the World Trade Center once stood, the 9/11 Memorial is a museum that pays homage to the 2,983 victims who perished during the 9/11 and 1993 attacks.
Here, you’ll get to see multimedia exhibits, monumental remains, and archives in order to learn about the historical implications of one of the grimmest days in the history of the United States. Aside from paying tribute to the victims, the museum also makes an effort to honor survivors as well as those who helped in the aftermath.
After the museum, head over to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. This is another free New York City attraction that houses two Twin Memorial Pools in the exact spot where the original ones once stood. Moreover, you can also walk across the 8-acre park where you can see plenty of oak trees and two of the largest manmade waterfalls in the country.
8. See Shakespeare In The Park
Seeing a theatre show is a must on any New York City itinerary, but if you don’t necessarily want to splurge on a Broadway ticket, Shakespeare in the Park is a great alternative if you’re visiting the city during the summer.
Held every summer, Shakespeare in the Park is an open-air theatre show hosted in Central Park. The play isn’t free, but they do give away free tickets every single day.
9. Walk Over The High Line
Built over what was once a historic freight rail that was meant to be demolished, the High Line is a public park that is elevated over the streets of Manhattan’s West Side.
The best way to experience the High Line is to wander around simply. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of interesting attractions, including gardens, passages, street art, viewpoints, and more.
As a bonus, Friends of the High Line give free tours year-round so you can get a better insight into the park on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. They have limited availability and work on a first-come-first-served basis.
10. Enjoy Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Located right next to Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a perfect place to take a respite from the city.
Here, you’ll get to walk amid meandering paths as you explore plenty of gardens displaying different types of plants from all over the world. A few favorites for visitors are the Water Garden for hibiscus, Fragrance Garden for wonderful natural scents, and the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden for its waterfall and architecture that will make you feel as though you were transported to Japan.
As a note, this attraction isn’t free every day, but they offer admission-free entry on Tuesdays.
11. Take a Snap at The Vessel
As one of New York City’s newest landmarks, the Vessel is quickly gaining popularity as Instagram’s favorite NYC spot.
Visiting this 150 feet high architectural wonder in the Hudson Yards is free, especially if all you want to do is take a picture. Inside it, you’ll find food, shopping options, and the Edge Sky Deck (visiting here isn’t free, unfortunately).
The Vessel is connected to the High Line in Chelsea as well, another free attraction in New York City.
12. Stroll SoHo To See Beautiful Street Murals
SoHo is one of the best neighborhoods in New York City, and while it’s got plenty of attractions worth exploring, one of the best ways to make the most out of a visit to this area of Manhattan is to stroll around in search of art murals simply. Two favorites include the Color Factory Wall outside of the museum and the Flower Mural by Jet Martinez.
13. Coney Island Boardwalk
Coney Island is a favorite destination in New York City for those looking to spend a day at the beach when the weather is warm.
Aside from enjoying the sand, walking over the Coney Island Boardwalk is another NYC favorite free activity. Here, you’ll get to see a more local side of the Big Apple, all while getting beautiful views of the coast and the chance to stop at a few classic restaurants like Totonoo’s Pizza.
14. Experience Times Square
You don’t need to be attending a Broadway Show to soak up the best of Times Square. Its free to peruse some of the most popular stores like the M&M shop, enjoy street performances and have your photo taken at 42nd and Broadway – a New York City must!
15. Little Island NYC
One of the newest public parks in NYC is well worth a mention of its own – this 2.4 acre park actually stands over the Hudson River! Located at Pier 55, Little Island is an urban oasis that has transformed this part of the city to be a new home for arts and nature.
Its the perfect break from the city skyscrapers for your little ones, the park is dotted with fun little instalments like optical illusions, Instrument for All and Ferraphone music makers, or kids can take a roll around in a spun chair – all completely free in NYC!
Whilst certainly not everything in NYC is free (don’t get us started on parking costs!) there are plenty of ways to soak in the Big Apple without having to part with a dime. We do recommend you leave your wheels behind for a visit to NYC; public transportation is cheap and there are a plethora of fun ways to explore on foot for a city trip of a lifetime with your kids!
Continuing Your Journey In New York – Beyond NYC!
Once you’ve soaked up the highlights of NYC, it’s time to grab your wheels and hit the road to see some of the more spectacular highlights of New York and New England! Next up, why not get inspired by:
- Incredible Family Day Trips from NYC
- The Best Scenic Drives in New York
- Unique Places to visit In New York
- Take a coastal journey from New York City to Maine with our road trip itinerary
- Find the best places to connect with nature beyond NYC
- Try a weekend trip to some of the most beautiful sunflower fields near to NYC
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