Family Fun On The Cheap
Whether you’re a resident of New York City or just a visitor, you'll be delighted to know about our top 10 free activities and events available in this vibrant area. Yes, you read that right: They're all 100 percent free.
Sunday Jazz for kids
The Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra (JSYO) -- 25 talented musicians between the ages of 11 and 18 -- performs jazz classics such as Cherokee, How Insensitive and Billie's Bounce every Sunday afternoon. These student musicians get the opportunity to play new arrangements of big band classics, and families reap the benefits as they connect with the music in a lively environment. In lieu of a cover charge, guests may donate $5 to benefit the Jazz Standard Discovery Program.
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
At more than 900 feet long, with limestone ceilings and walls, granite floors and hundreds of stained glass windows, this is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It also boasts one of the largest Aeollian-Skinner pipe organs ever built. Visitors can take a vertical tour to the top of the cathedral and see the structure that holds up the roof as well as get up close to the Tiffany Rose Window. Families can attend weekly organ concerts, choir recitals, performing arts exhibitions and a Family Medieval Arts Workshop (select Saturdays 10 :00 AM to 12 :00 PM), where they'll explore the arts of the Middle Ages through stone carving, weaving and sculpting.
The High Line
Built in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, the High Line is a public park built on a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street on Manhattan's West Side. In partnership with the City of New York, the Friends of High Line (a non-profit group formed to prevent the park's demolition in 1999) preserved it as an elevated public park -- the only one of its kind in the US. The group holds free and low-cost programs such as walking tours and stargazing, as well as public art and education programs. A trip to the High Line allows you to see the city from a different perspective: 30 feet in the air.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
This four-story, interactive museum is a great way to introduce your kids to the world of modern technology in a hands-on setting that nurtures their curiosity. Through sci-tech workshops, screenings and associations/affiliations with local non-profit and educational institutions, SWTL aims to educate and cultivate the next generation of visionaries who will help shape the future of media, entertainment, science, technology and the arts. Kids learn about everything from how to make an animated show to how one's hand can transform an image on a Sens-Tile wall. Book at least a week in advance or get there early to score tickets.
Madame Alexander Doll Factory
As part of this 45-minute tour, kids go behind the scenes to see how these dolls are made -- how the hair is rooted, the faces painted and the tiny clothing made. Plus, they get to see how everything is mended at the doll hospital. More than 600 dolls created over a span of 80 years are on display in the Heritage Gallery, where kids get a lesson in the history of these dolls and the role they played in New York City's past. All ages are welcome, but this is a better experience for girls.
The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
This museum houses an extensive collection of Native American arts and artifacts representing more than 12,000 years of history and more than 1,200 indigenous cultures throughout the Americas. Families can get up close and personal with a moccasin display; wood, horn and stone carvings; painted hides; archaeological objects; carved jade; elaborate feather work; and paintings by contemporary artists. Kids can try hands-on activities at the Resource Center, which has reading material, objects to handle and computer stations equipped with interactive programs on different aspects of Indian life and history.
Staten Island Ferry
Families looking to see New York City's waterfront and the Statue of Liberty will enjoy this free ride across the New York Harbor. The ferry line runs 24 hours a day between lower Manhattan and Staten Island and offers glimpses of Governor's Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan and Wall Street, Ellis Island and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. You have to get off the ferry and reboard once it reaches its destination if you would like to make a full loop.
Long Island City
The Fisher Landau Center for Art
Just a quick trip over the Queensboro Bridge, the Emily Fisher Landau Center for Art is packed with three floors of more than 1,500 contemporary works by the most famous artists of the past 50 years. Situated in a former parachute factory, the white building is uncrowded, and families will feel as if they are walking around in their own private museums. Kids enjoy the fun educational touches (such as the sheep that greet them at the entrance) and have a blast running around funky contemporary sculptures and seeing unusual, wild-looking art .
Queens County Farm Museum
Owned by the New York City Department of Parks, this museum encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York state. It includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles, planting fields, an orchard, an herb garden and a new fiber farm. It is also home to Cotswold sheep, heritage breed pigs, 200 red laying hens, a dairy cow, goats and honey bees. Kids can take a hay ride and enjoy events such as the annual Pow Wow or the Queens County Fair. Animal feed for the sheep and goats can be purchased daily in the gift shop.
The Brooklyn Bridge
The oldest suspension bridge in the United States, this connects two of New York City's most well known boroughs; Brooklyn and Manhattan. Families can walk across this masterpiece and take in breathtaking views of the city, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge features a wide pedestrian walkway open to walkers and cyclists at its center, which is higher than the automobile lanes.