New York City is simply filled to the brim with amazing free things to see and do – you just have to know where to look! If you’re on holiday in the Big Apple, it’s a lot of fun to try off the beaten path activities such as a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery or a kayaking trip on the Hudson River. To save you the time of looking for great free things to do in the city, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 free things to see & do in New York City!

1. Take a Free Ride on the Staten Island Ferry

Picture of the Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty
You’ll get great views of the Statue of Liberty from the free Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry runs between Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Staten Island across the New York Harbor. A ride on this commuter ferry is a great way to get amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry departs from Manhattan at least every half hour, so you won’t even have to plan the trip in advance. As you board the ferry, be sure to pick a seat or stand at the railing on the starboard (right) side of the ship, so you’ll have the best view of the Statue of Liberty as you pass it. On the way back to Manhattan from Staten Island it will be the other way around.

Another great free ferry is the IKEA water shuttle, which runs from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan to IKEA’s own Red Hook dock in Brooklyn. You can ride the ferry for free during weekends, and the shuttle departs three times per hour.

2. Visit New York City’s Museums for Free

To visit some of the best museums in New York City for free, you’ll have to read the admission rules pretty carefully. Many of the best-known museums in the city organize special days or evenings when you can visit for free. For example, you can visit the Museum of Modern Art for free every Friday between 4 pm and 8 pm. Do prepare for long lines, as you can’t get free tickets in advance!

Furthermore, not everyone knows that the Metropolitan Museum of Art only asks for a recommended admission, which means you’re free to pay what you like and will be allowed to enter regardless. The same rule applies for the permanent collections of the American Museum of Natural History.

There are several museums in New York City that are always free to visit. To just name a few, there’s the American Folk Art Museum, Sony Wonder Technology Lab, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the Brooklyn Museum.

3. Enjoy a Tour of the Brooklyn Brewery or Chelsea Brewery

Image of the Brooklyn Brewery
Tour the Brooklyn Brewery for free
At the Brooklyn Brewery you will learn all there is to know about the art of beer brewing, and it’s completely free! On Saturdays and Sundays, free tours start every hour on the hour between 1 pm and 4 pm. You’ll find the Brooklyn Brewery on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint on 11th Street & Wythe Avenue.

For a brewery tour in Manhattan, head to the small but cozy Chelsea Brewery on Pier 59. Free tours start on the hour between 2 pm and 6 pm on Saturdays. You’ll even get a free beer sample during the tour!

4. Discover the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Fancy seeing a real gold vault? Book a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. On the tour you’ll learn all about the role of the New York Fed and the economy, and you’ll get to see the interior of the beautiful building that occupies a whole block on Liberty Street between Nassau Street & William Street. Free tours are organized every weekday, except on Bank holidays. To go on a tour, please book in advance online on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

5. Take a Free Grand Central Walking Tour 

Picture of Grand Central Station
Go on a free Grand Central Walking Tour
If you’re into history and architecture, the Free Grand Central walking tour is the one for you. Organized by the Grand Central Partnership, this completely free walking tour takes you in the Grand Central neighborhood. On the tour, you’ll discover the secret of the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Station, and visit the original Lincoln Memorial statue, to name just a few destinations. The tour starts every Friday at 12.30 pm in the sculpture court of 120 Park Avenue, just across the Grand Central Terminal. The tour takes about 90 minutes, and no reservations are necessary.

6. Go Kayaking at The Downtown Boathouse

Image of people kayaking on the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan
Go Kayaking for free on the Hudson River in Manhattan
Imagine you’re paddling across the waters of the Hudson River, the amazing view of the Manhattan skyline rising up in front of you. This is not only possible at The Downtown Boathouse, but it’s also completely free! This nonprofit organization is run by volunteers and organizes free kayaking trips on the Hudson River. You’ll find The Downtown Boathouse at Pier 40 and Pier 96 in Manhattan. You can find the Downtown Boathouse at the piers on Saturdays and Sundays between 9 am and 6 pm. In the summer they also organize free classes during the week.

7. Enjoy a Picnic in one of New York City’s Amazing Parks

That you can visit New York City’s parks for free shouldn’t come as a surprise, but several parks in the city are just so amazing we simply had to include them on the list! Central Park is truly a safe haven of tranquility in the busy hub that is Manhattan. Prepare a picnic basket at home and head out to one of the park’s many lush meadows. Spending a sunny afternoon in this park will have you feeling completely rejuvenated. To find the best spots for a picnic, check out Explore Central Park in Manhattan!

Other parks in the city that are definitely worth a visit include the High Line, Bryant Park and Prospect Park.

If you’re staying in a vacation rental apartment in New York City you can easily prepare your own lunch for a picnic, as you’ll have access to your own fully-equipped kitchen! Besides saving money on dining out, the apartments also provides plenty of room for family and friends, so it’s easy to bring the whole family on a city trip.

8. Peruse the Books at the New York City Public Library

Picture of the New York City Public Library
You can visit the beautiful New York City Public Library for free
Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in Manhattan, the New York City Public Library makes for a wonderful visit. It’s completely free to enter the building, and you can stroll through the different reading rooms and marble halls at your own leisure. If you’re planning to stay in New York for a longer period, you can even get a library card for free! You’ll find the landmark building on 41st Street & 5th Avenue right next to Bryant Park.

9. Pay a Visit to Saint Paul’s Chapel

New York City’s Saint Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan
Saint Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan, New York
Most churches in New York are free to visit, and Saint Paul’s Chapel is no different. This beautiful, intimate church is the oldest religious building in Manhattan, and was built in 1764. It played a big part after the attacks of 9/11, as the Chapel served as a place of refuge and rest for the recovery workers. It is located on the east side of the World Trade Center site. In the church you can still see the memorial banners and cards that were originally put up on the fence surrounding the church in the months following 9/11. Saint Paul’s Chapel is open from 10 am to 6 pm Monday to Saturday, and from 7 am to 6 pm on Sundays.

If you want to view the 9/11 Memorial, visitors are advised to reserve a pass online at the 9/11 Memorial website. While admission to the Memorial is free of charge, you do have to pay a $2 fee to reserve a pass. For more information about the 9/11 Memorial and Lower Manhattan, see The Revival of Lower Manhattan: A Tour of the New World Trade Center.

10. Soar through the Sky on the Roosevelt Island Tram

The last attraction on the list isn’t technically free, but if you have an unlimited Metro card, all you have to do is swipe it at the ticket stand to ride the Roosevelt Island Tram. The aerial tramway runs from 60th Street & 2nd Avenue in Manhattan across the East River to Roosevelt Island. The tram was featured in the movie Spider-Man and offers amazing views of the Midtown Manhattan skyline. See our New York for Free video for more free views of New York City!

For a truly free alternative, visit one of New York’s many amazing bridges! A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge guaranties spectacular views of the East River, Brooklyn, and the Lower Manhattan skyline. Check out our Top 5 Bridges in New York for more information.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of free things to see & do in New York City! What’s your favorite free landmark in New York?