When I was a college student I decided to go to NYC, knowing it’s an expensive city. And knowing I can’t afford much. Meaning that as a lot of college students I haven’t had a lot of money myself. So I had to make the most out of it. That’s why I decided to look for things to do that are either for free or won’t cost me a fortune. If you are in the same situation feel free to read!
The best way to explore NYC on a budget is by joining freetoursbyfoot
When I made my plans about what I wanted to see I stumbled upon this service. Typically real New Yorkers will give you a free or what you can pay tour while giving you lots of info and insider knowledges. This is better than jumping on a tourist bus! And you can also make new friends.
Since I traveled by myself I felt a little awkward at first because my other group members weren’t solo travelers. But then another guy joined us. He was also a solo traveler. Originally from India but studying in the Netherlands to get his bachelors degree in a medical field, he decided to visit NYC as well. We started talking right at the beginning of the tour and basically talked all through the tour and spend some time together even after the tour.
In NYC they offer tons of different tours. Tours through the Lower East Side, exploring Brooklyn Graffiti Tours, tours through Manhattan, Central Park, Harlem, Chinatown and many more! I wanted to join another tour because I really liked the first one but somehow that never happened.
The great thing about freetoursbyfoot is that they not only offer free tours through NYC but also through other cities like London, Paris, Berlin, San Francisco and tons of others!
- Take the Staten Island Ferry
It’s for free and in my opinion, you will have the best view of NYC’s beautiful skyline and of course, you will the see the Statue of Liberty too, just not as close. To me, that didn’t matter. I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, yes – but not from up close.
When I went towards the entrance a security guard was so kind to take a picture of me 😀
If you want to take the Staten Island
Ferry too, all you need to do is hop on the ferry from Whitehall Terminal in Battery Park. Once you are on the other side, you can explore some more, or you just wait for the next ferry that takes you back to admire more of the view of Lower Manhattan.
- Governor’s Island
Take a sunny, breezy Sunday morning walk on Governor’s Island. The birthplace of New York and home to Castle Williams. You can easily reach it by a suspension railroad! Which is definitely a highlight!
- High Line Park
If you are up for another walk, take a stroll on an elevated railroad in the Meatpacking District. It’s a 2.3 km long urban park. For art enthusiasts a go-to spot. I loved it there and would go back in a heartbeat.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
If you love exploring different species of flowers and plants this place is for you! It is free on weekdays between December and February.
“But what about the other months?”
I gotchu girl, don’t worry.
I’m pretty sure you will be in Brooklyn sometime between March through November. Friday mornings before noon are admission free. See, I told ya, I gotchu!
- New York Public Library
I also got all you book nerds covered! Because visiting the public library in NYC is also free to visit. Here you cannot just find books but also exhibitions, performing arts or author talks.
Did you know that it’s the second largest library in the US? The largest library in the US is the Library of Congress in Washington.
- Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge you guys. Brooklyn Bridge.
Need I say more?
- Grand Central Terminal
One of the places I visited more than once. In my opinion, this place is breathtaking but also like a maze. Especially the food court area downstairs. Nonetheless, I can say that I loved visiting it. Hence, why I came back more than once.
Now let me tell you something:
I like watching people. Not in a stalking, creepy kind of sense, though.
So this one time I bought myself some Chinese take-out food, went back upstairs to the hall and decided to sit on the floor (as many others) to soak up the atmosphere of the building but also to check out the ceiling since it had beautiful paintings of constellations. What better way is there than to sit on the floor? I’m not ashamed and I don’t give a f*ck 🙂
Oh, and of course I also enjoyed watching people. Just saying.
- Bonus Tip
National Museum of the American Indians
I like the museum and luckily there are many museums that are for free in NYC. Hamilton Grange, Queens County Farm Museum, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and many more.
But the museum I wanted to visit was the national museum of American Indians since their culture has always interested me. I think it was a great museum that gave a deep insight into the culture of American Indians. I actually went back twice.
Once again it was also a place in which I met own of the museum guides who offered me to show me the Filipino district the next day. Unfortunately, that never happened but once a year on my birthday he sends his birthday greetings. While also asking me once a year if I was single or not. Thanks for being creepy, museum guy.
So there you go!
These were my favorite free activities you can do in NYC.
Of course, there are tons more. This is just an overview of what I enjoyed the most. If you know any other activities, let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!
Also if you are looking for more inspiration I have more for you to offer!
If it’s your first time ever in NYC check out my Ultimate Short New York City Beginners Guide.
And in case you DO want to spend some money then I have 10 things you must do in New York City!
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