Heading to the Big Apple and looking to save money while you’re there? Hostelworld.com’s Rebecca Keenan takes a look at fifteen things to do for free in New York which include everything from being in the audience of a TV show to free pizza...
1. Spend some time in Central Park
Attracting a staggering number of visitors (upwards of 25 million people) each year, Central Park is one of New York’s most popular attractions. And when you consider how much you can see here completely free of charge, it’s not hard to understand why this place is so well-loved. Here you’ll be able to visit the Imagine monument, a heartfelt memorial dedicated to John Lennon from the Beatles. The Park is also home to the stunning Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, a popular meeting spot which you’ll recognise from a number of movies. During the winter, Wollman Rink is a fantastic spot to see skaters whizzing along the ice. You’ll find plenty more attractions inside Central Park, a gigantic green space covering 843 acres at the heart of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.
Location: Extends from 5th Avenue to Central Park West & from 59th to 110th Streets.
Opening hours: Daily 6am-1am.
2. Pay your respects at Ground Zero
Ground Zero is the former location of the World Trade Centre towers which were destroyed in the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Today, the site in Lower Manhattan is a poignant reminder of those who lost their lives on that day. A memorial and museum are currently in the works, and hope to open onsite in 2011.
Location: Liberty Street at Church Street, Lower Manhattan.
3. Take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry
For a cheap and cheerful way to see some of the main sights here in NYC, hop on the Staten Island Ferry. From the deck of this free ferry you’ll see stunning views of Manhattan’s towering skyline, plus the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and plenty more. So be sure to make this 50-minute round trip to get a remarkable look at New York.
Location: Whitehall Terminal, Lower Manhattan.
Opening hours: Daily, services operate almost every half hour throughout the day (with more service during peak times) and on the hour during the night.
4. Have a look inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral
One of the most stunning examples of Gothic architecture in New York, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Catholic place of worship found close to the Rockefeller Center and a whole host of other attractions. Inside the cathedral, you’ll be able to marvel at the colourful stained glass windows along with a collection of impressive art works including a Pietà sculpture. Construction began in 1858 and today this cathedral remains one of the city’s top sights. What’s more, it won’t cost you a cent to visit!
Location: 5th Avenue between 50th & 51st Streets, Midtown.
Opening hours: Daily, 6.30am-8.45pm.
5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
For some of the most stunning views of the New York skyline that you’ll get during your stay in the Big Apple, head on down to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk across the pedestrian walkway. A one-way trip over the bridge will take you about 20 minutes; however, with all the stopping you’ll be doing to snap pictures of New York’s towering buildings you might want to allow a bit more time for the trip. Stretching across the East River, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan with Brooklyn. At almost 6,000 feet long, it’s one of the longest suspension bridges in the US and was first opened in 1883.
Location: Manhattan side – Park Row & Centre Street; Brooklyn side – Tillary Street & Adams Street.
6. Laugh yourself silly...for free!
You’ll find numerous free comedy shows taking place on different nights throughout New York. Here we’ve picked out a couple of the best for you to check out and get your giggle on.
Upright Citizens Brigade
Top local comics take to the stage here for Whiplash, a free comedy session held every Monday night from 11pm.
Peoples Improv Theatre
Also known as PIT and also located in Chelsea, this spot holds a Sketch Lab each Monday night from 11pm. If you head along you’ll be able to hear lots of different comics trying out their new sketches. This venue also has its own open mic night called Bring It! It’s on every Tuesday night from 11pm for those brave enough to give the jokes a go from the other side of the microphone.
Location: Upright Citizens Bridge – 307 W 26th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenues, Chelsea; Peoples Improv Theatre – 154 W 39th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues, Chelsea.
7. Listen to some free tunes at the Red Lion
Over on Greenwich Village’s famous Bleecker Street, the Red Lion is a cool bar which plays host to a wide variety of live music acts from well-known bands to up and coming local acts. To enjoy this great live music for free show up before the cover charge comes into effect (usually around 9pm). Popular with NYU students and a cool crowd, the Red Lion is the place to go to hear rock acts, singer songwriters and so much more.
Location: 151 Bleecker Street at Thompson Street, Greenwich Village.
Opening hours: Daily 10am-4am.
8. Go to see a TV show being filmed
If you’ve always wanted to sit in the audience of a TV show but you don’t want to pay to do so then New York is the place for you! Here you’ll be able to get free tickets for a mind-boggling array of shows including everything from Good Morning America to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to Saturday Night Live. Whether it’s a chat show, political commentary or belly-aching laughter you’re looking for just head on over to www.nytix.com to get your hands on these freebie tickets!
9. Bask in the bright lights of Times Square
Times Square is a surreal electric circus filled with people, bright lights, flashing billboards and noise. One Times Square is where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, an event visited by staggering numbers of people. On a more usual day in Times Square you’ll see a mix of people rushing about and tourists standing around with their heads craned upwards to take in the huge scale of the buildings lining the square. Music fans will probably want to pay a visit to the gigantic Virgin Megastore on the Square. Other attractions here include the TKTS booth which sells discounted tickets for Broadway shows. Times Square is also home to probably the world’s most famous busker – the unmistakable Naked Cowboy. Not really a place to spend your entire time in New York, it’s still definitely somewhere to visit at least once.
Location: 43rd Street & 7th Avenue, Midtown.
10. See where the magic happened at a multitude of movie locations
Lots of places around New York are instantly recognisable for a reason – we’ve seen them up on the big screen in all their glory. So, if you’re in New York why not put yourself in the frame by checking out some of the following locations:
8 Hook & Ladder, 14th North Moore Street off West Broadway, Tribeca
Chances are if you remember the screeching siren, the proton packs and Slimer, you’ll also recognise this as the fire station converted by the guys in Ghostbusters to serve as their headquarters.
66 Perry Street, West Village
Fashionistas take note, this is where they shot the exterior shots of Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and the City.
Parking lot on West Broadway at North Moore
The gas station seen in the film might not be there anymore but you might still recognise this spot as the place where ill-fated Brint, Rufus and Meekus had their ‘freak gasoline fight accident’ in Zoolander.
Katz’s Deli, 205 E Houston Street at Ludlow Street, Lower East Side
Seen in When Harry Met Sally, Katz’s Deli is where Meg Ryan’s Sally fakes an orgasm prompting an impressed onlooker to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton Street by Orchard Street, Lower East Side
This popular bar and live music venue is where the crazy adventure to find ‘Where’s Fluffy?’ really begins in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
To find out where your favourite New York movie moment was filmed, head on over to www.newyorkinthemovies.com.
11. Head to the Crocodile Lounge for free pizza
Owned by the same crowd as the similarly successful Alligator Lounge and Capone’s bars over in Williamsburg, the Crocodile Lounge is a funky spot where you’ll get a free pizza with every drink! And we’re not talking about a measly slice! Here you get a free 6-slice personal pizza with every drink ordered. You’ll get a token for the pizza with your drink which can be redeemed later if you’re not feeling particularly peckish right at that moment. Popular with a younger crowd, many of whom are students at NYU, the Crocodile Lounge has a trivia night each Wednesday where the prizes are free drinks. There’s also a games room complete with skee ball, a photo booth and plenty more.
Location: 325 E 14th Street, between 1st & 2nd Avenues, East Village.
Opening hours: Daily, noon-4am.
12. Check out the Sony Wonder Technology Lab
'Ooh' and 'ahh' at the Robot Zone, find out how Sony tech including phones, PSPs and digital cameras work, shake what your mama gave you in the Dance Motion Capture area and have a go at some of the latest PS3 games. That’s just some of the free stuff you’ll be able to do in the 4-storey Sony Wonder Technology Lab. Walk-up visitors are welcome but to be sure of a spot then book your free ticket a day in advance.
Location: 550 Madison Ave at 56th Street, Midtown.
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm, closed Mondays.
13. Visit MoMA on a Friday night
To save yourself $20, hold off on visiting New York’s incredible Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) until Friday night between 4pm and 8pm when the usual admission fee is waived. You can’t book tickets in advance for these hugely popular Target Free Friday Nights. Instead, just show up at the museum and join the queue for admission which is given on a first-come first-served basis. Don’t worry though, even if there’s a pretty big crowd there before you the line tends to move quickly as the whole thing is really well-organised. When you get inside, join the steady stream of visitors marvelling at the modern and contemporary art on display here which includes paintings, photography and lots more. Here you’ll see works of art by many famous artists including Dalí, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh.
Location: 11 West 53rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues, Midtown.
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 10.30am-5.30pm. Friday 10.30am-8pm, closed Tuesday.
14. Take a tour of the NY Fed Gold Vault
If you want to see the NY Fed’s hugely impressive Gold Vault which is located 50 feet below sea level, just sign up for one of the free tours offered here every day of the week. This is a really popular tour so it’s best to book your spot online about a month in advance. The NY Fed is one of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the US so show up about 20 minutes earlier than your tour time to go through the security screening process and make sure to bring your photo ID. Once all that’s out of the way, your tour of the Gold Vault will take about an hour.
Location: 33 Liberty Street between Nassau and William Streets, Downtown.
Opening hours: Tours take place Mon-Fri at 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm.
15. Go kayaking on the Hudson River
Thanks to the New York Downtown Boathouse, you can go kayaking on New York’s Hudson River without parting with a cent. This volunteer organisation provides the kayak, paddle, life jacket and some tips - all you have to do is show up (and be able to swim!). The trips last about 20 minutes. You’ll also be able to take free kayaking classes here on Wednesday mornings, and the organisation also runs 4/5-mile guided kayak trips out along the Hudson.
Location: Pier 40, W Houston Street; Riverside Park, 72nd Street; Pier 96, Clinton Cove Park, 56th Street.
Opening hours: Mid-May to mid-October, weekends 9am-6pm (Pier 40 & 96); weekends 10am-5pm (72nd Street).