Know New York!
Things to do in New York for free (or almost for free).
Guide to a low-budget tour in the city of dreams.
08 October 2022
What is this page about
Who doesn’t dream of visiting New York and feel this magical movie atmosphere? But what if you really want to visit the city of dreams, but your budget is limited? Then my guide will help you!
Eating in New York. Restaurants in New York are, as you would expect, quite expensive, but! Note that prices can vary even in the same area. So, for example, we had dinner in a decent Chinese restaurant near Times Square for just 12$ a dish. Take into account that you are not going to the USA for a gastronomic tour, if you are used to European food. Don´t forget about tips (minimum 10%), although, as it turned out, they are not obligatory (and no one will run after you yelling at you, as I was told), but very recommendable, as we pay salaries to waiters.
Accommodation in New York. Accommodation is expensive, that is true. Expect to spend at least 120$ per night in a decent hotel and it will likely have a very low rating. This is where AirBnb comes in useful. If you’re lucky, you can find a comfortable room for 90-100$, for example, in Harlem. Don’t worry, Harlem is no longer dangerous nowadays, and you can quickly get from there by metro to the center.
Public transport. When, after a long flight, we went down to the New York City subway, the atmosphere there simply terrified us. Dirty, ugly, overcrowded subway cars, it was hellishly hot on the stations. But the first negative impression caused by fatigue turned out to be an exaggerated reaction. It is a subway like elsewhere. And it is not dangerous at all at night (at least until 00.00). You will find a friendly staff everywhere who is willing to guide you if they notice you are lost. I haven’t seen that in Europe! A public transport pass called Metrocard for a week will cost you 33$ + 1$ for the card. It can be purchased at the metro machine. Note: the machine does not process payment from a debit card, pay by credit card or cash.
Central Park is a non-profit organization that delights New Yorkers and city visitors with a variety of free activities. You can just take a walk in the park, or also organize a pleasant pastime, for example, in the discovery center of Charles A. Dana. The center organizes tours and offers various activities (free of charge, but a $20 deposit is required):
- Rents children’s discovery kits
- Rents fishing rods so you can fish in the pond on a catch-and-release basis. Over 16 years old fishermen are required to have a fishing license issued by the NYS. You can’t fish with your own fishing rod.
- Rents lawn game sets
Rooftop Bar 230-Fifth
Lifting to any observation deck of any skyscraper in New York starts from 50$. But there is an almost free alternative to contemplate the Empire State Building. The rooftop bar 230-Fifth offers great views of Manhattan and all you have to do is buy a small drink for $15. On Fridays and Saturdays entrance fee is 20$ plus drinks. The bar organizes various disco parties and live music concerts. The program can be viewed here.
Green Wood in Brooklyn is not just a cemetery, it is a whole park of hills, paths and ponds, filled with beautiful sculptures, architectural masterpieces and mausoleums of the XIX-XX centuries. The cemetery is a National Historic Landmark which was founded in 1838. Green Wood was one of the first rural cemeteries in the US. By the early 1860s, the cemetery had already gained huge popularity and had become a prestigious cemetery as a burial place. Greenwood attracts over 500,000 visitors a year and is the second most popular tourist attraction after Niagara Falls.
You can discover Green Wood Cemetery on your own by downloading a map with all the important objects.
Cruise to Staten Island
Many use this ferry, as it is completely free! You will pass just in front of the Statue of Liberty and enjoy beautiful views of Manhattan. Take the ferry from Whitehall Terminal to Staten island. The ferry takes 25 minutes to reach its destination and goes every 30 minutes. You can also spend a budget time on the island itself, but we will come back to it later.
Entrance to St. Patrick's Cathedral (like to any else)
The relatively recently built neo-Gothic St. Patrick’s Cathedral was finished in 1879. It is so beautiful both outside and inside. Entrance to the cathedral (like to any else) is free. You can also visit the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in lower Manhattan, built between 1809 and 1815.
Yes, you heard well! If you are a jazz lover and don’t want to spend 50$ for a concert, then there is a completely free alternative. Free jazz concerts are organized in New York daily, you can find a suitable one here.
Free (or almost free) museums of New York
National Museum of the American Indian
This museum definitely is worth your visit and it is absolutely free. You can learn a lot about the life of the native Indians here. The museum can be perfectly seen in half an hour.
9/11 monument and museum
A visit to one of the saddest monuments in the world is free, and the museum dedicated to the events of September 11, 2001 can also be visited for free on Mondays from 15.30 to 17.00.
In general, the entrance to this museum of modern art costs 25$, and for me, it is not worth it. The museum can be visited on a pay-what-you-wish basis (minimum 1$), tickets can be purchased on Monday at 12 pm of New York time on their website. Visit would take place on Saturday from 18.00 to 20.00. The museum can be walked around in 15 minutes.
Museum of the City of New York
The recommended admission price for this museum is 20$. But there is a secret: do not buy a ticket online, purchase it at the cashier taking advantage of the “Pay what you wish” system.
The Brooklyn Museum contains interesting collections of American art, ancient Egypt, Assyria, Asia, the Islamic world, and more. According to the information on their official website “The price of the general admission ticket is the recommended fee” – “Pay what you wish”. Pay at the cashier an amount you consider.
Staten Island Museum and Zoo
Let’s get back to how to spend time on Staten Island. According to our favorite “Pay what you wish” system, you can visit the museum of Staten Island. It contains collections of natural sciences, modern art and history. The zoo can be visited for free on Wednesdays from 14.00 to 16.00.