New York City has a reputation for being expensive, but there are plenty of free activities, especially in the summer. See concerts and movies outdoors, visit museums, go swimming and more — all without paying a penny.
Take your pick of free classes, activities and more throughout the five boroughs this summer. There truly is something for everyone.
See a movie
Although drive-ins may be a rarity, dozens of movie screens are erected outdoors throughout New York City for various free summer film series. Watch Psycho in Bryant Park, Kung Fu Panda along the Hudson River, The Lion King in Astoria Park in Queens and much more. Get the complete schedule here.
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Life’s a beach
Beaches may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think New York, but the New York City Parks Department maintains 14 miles of beaches, all free and open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day every year. From Brooklyn’s Coney Island to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, get the full list here. In addition, every public outdoor pool in the city opens its doors for all to use during summer. Find one near you here.
Go to a concert
It’s possible to catch a free concert nearly every night of the week during the summer months in New York. Watch the New York Pops perform at Central Park’s SummerStage or get energized with Das Racist in Red Hook Park in Brooklyn. From jazz to indie and from hip-hop to children’s concerts, there is a performance for every taste. Get the schedule here.
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Get in a little culture with a trip to the museum. Some museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Indian, are always free or by donation. Others, like the Museum of Modern Art (Friday after 4 p.m.) and the Guggenheim (Saturdays 5:45-7:45 p.m.), have a free or pay-what-you-wish night. Other fun places, like the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden, are pay what you wish on Wednesdays.
Take a tour
Learn about different areas of the city with free walking tours. The Grand Central Partnership offers free 90-minute walking tours of midtown Manhattan every Friday at 12:30 p.m. Free Tours by Foot offers tours by donation only in every corner of the city. And nature lovers will enjoy the free tours offered by the Central Park Conservancy.
Hit the park
Speaking of parks, New York City is home to more than 1,700 public parks covering some 29,000 acres, all of which are free for you to enjoy year-round. Of course Central Park is the most famous and one of the largest, but don’t overlook other gems like the trendy new Highline or the lovely Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Every park also is home to countless free activities all summer long, from concerts to movies and fitness classes to nature tours.
Whether you’re a beginner who’s always wanted to try kayaking or an advanced rower, you should check out the free kayaking on the Hudson River offered by the Downtown Boathouse. Located at three piers along the river, they offer free, walk-up kayaking every weekend as well as various classes and trips.
You don’t need a yacht to set sail for free in New York. Take the free ferry to Governor’s Island, which is open every Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 30. As the closest point on land to the Statue of Liberty, it’s the best free view of New York’s icon. The Staten Island Ferry is also free and makes for a lovely trip across the Hudson River with another great view of the Statue of Liberty.
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Summer is a great time to get in shape, and New York City offers all kinds of free ways to do so. Most yoga and martial arts studios will offer their first class free so you can check out a variety of options with no cost or commitment. Hudson River Park has weekly “Summer of Fitness” classes that are free on a first-come, first-served basis. The Parks Department also runs a number of other free classes across the city, from swimming to African dance.
You don’t have to spend a fortune (or even a dime) to admire the mesmerizing window displays at world famous department stores like Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman. For something a little different, explore Manhattan’s Chinatown or get out of the heat at indoor shopping and eating centers like Chelsea Market or the Time Warner Center.