Affordable Or Free Things To Do In New York City

Need budget-friendly ideas for things to do in New York? Ones which scream ‘Fun Vibes’? This is your place.

New York is a city with an ability to drain savings the moment you participate in daily living. However, from a tourist perspective, we can bypass this to some extent. It’s time to put the spotlight on free or cheap things to do in New York, without sacrificing entertainment. That part is crucial. You can still experience the vibes of a NYC Pinterest board, without even thinking about budgeting. A free ferry ride to see ‘The Statue Of Liberty’ during sunset hour is the level I’m talking about…

If you’re a person who enjoys catching orange sunsets, stuffing your face on pizza crawls, snapping sky-high views of the city, and unlocking nostalgic memories, this post will align perfectly with your ideal travel style. The type of moments which feel surreal, serve up major travel aesthetic and expose you to the very best of NYC. Let’s virtually fly out.

For something closer to home, if you’ve run out of annual leave, how about half a day in Barcelona instead? I’ve included an example template for maximising your time when landmarks aren’t your thing.

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Points To Keep In Mind + 10 Free Or Cheap Things To Do In New York.

If you’re visiting NYC for the first time, the below few paragraphs are essential reading! After all, you don’t want to be tricked into paying a ‘tourist tax’, amongst other things.

-One surprising element of my time in New York was noticing that the subways have very limited staff. If not zero, even, in smaller stations. When you find your valid ticket declining for some weird reason at the barriers, there’s very alternative other than jumping over. I mean, it’s pointless to buy another ticket when you know with full certainty yours should still function. Failing that, you might see someone open the gate for others to enter. Who said locals were cold-hearted here, eh?

-Tax isn’t included in the labelled price of goods, so what you see and the number you actually pay is quite different. Keep a mental note of this if you find yourself debating whether to use cash versus card.

-Speaking of the above, be careful of dodgy-looking charges in tourist hotspots. When I made the recent mistake of eating pancakes in the middle of Times Square, there seemed to be an additional 8 dollar charge added to the bill. It wasn’t the food, it wasn’t the drink, it wasn’t the tip, so what was it? Even seasoned travel bloggers can find themselves in situations like this it seems.

-Perfectionists, some of the ’10 for 1 dollar’ postcard stands sell altered images due to copyright. Perhaps this may not be a deal-breaker for you but seeing ‘Forever 25’ on a billboard, as opposed to ‘Forever 21’, is quite the intentional photoshop fail. If it seems too good to be true and all that…

Board The Free Ferry Towards Staten Island To See The Statue Of Liberty.

There’s very few things which activate goosebumps quicker than witnessing ‘The Statue Of Liberty’ for the first time.

No need to book onto a pricey tour to catch a glimpse though! Instead, you can hop aboard the free ferry heading towards Staten Island, from Whitehall in Manhattan. The boat is spacious, meaning you’re able to roam around to the upper decks and outdoor observation fronts. When the landmark appears in the distance that’s your cue to make your way outside.

A ferry ride is actually something a fair few tourists do, but we’re about to elevate your experience by suggesting a ride across the waters during sunset. Time it right, and you’ll also be able to welcome NYC fall into night on the journey back.

Note: To return to mainland NYC, you’ll be asked to get off the ferry whether you want to see Staten Island or not. That’s why you’ll notice people running to the Staten Island departure lounge to hop back onto the same boat.

Float Around In The Cable Cars To Roosevelt Island.

I’m sticking with the skyline views and impressive landscapes for a minute.

The cable cars to Roosevelt Island should be an absolute priority when you’re next looking for free or cheap things to do in New York. You see, if you’ve purchased an MetroCard pass then you’re able to use a swipe to reach the island from the entrance at 2nd Avenue and 60th Street. 

Once a former prison ground, Roosevelt Island has now become a location where New Yorkers flock to escape the hustling city life. The undisturbed riverside between Manhattan and Queens are definitely scenes you’ll want to get a camera out for. Oh, and if you visit during spring then there’s a solid chance you’ll be able to see the cherry blossoms!

Stopping by for food whilst you’re here? I was suggested by locals to try out ‘Granny Annie’s Bar & Kitchen’. It’s a cosy pub serving up a blend of both American and Irish cuisine, at an affordable rate. Generous portion sizes too.

A Suitcase In RIMOWA Might Be Unrealistic For Most Of Us, But Here’s Something We Can Get.

What, the luxury luggage store in the heights of Soho?

Hear me out. You don’t need to buy anything, unless you’ve got a grand to spend on a suitcase lol, to take advantage of the free passport photo service. Travel keepsake anyone? The process couldn’t be more simple, and only takes a few seconds from the minute you step inside the silver booth.

I visited on a Thursday morning, but by the time I had left the store a queue started to form. At that moment I just knew this place had done the rounds on Tik Tok! Word of warning though, the sales assistants weren’t particularly cheerful which kinda prompted somewhat of a sour tension when I asked if I could use the booth. A theme referenced in Google reviews for this particular branch. However, the passport photo opportunity* is displayed on a neon sign by the entrance so it’s not uncommon that people will enter based solely on this. You might as well pop by when you’re next walking down SOHO.

*To use the photo as a genuine passport picture might require some trial and error. I’ve noticed that the photos were much wider than the dimensions permitted in the UK, for example, and seemed to be overly filtered.

RIMOWA Soho Address: 99 Prince St, New York, NY 10012, United States.

Sign Up To An ‘At Your Own Pace’ One Dollar Pizza Crawl.

New York does pizza really well.

However, you won’t need to splash out every single time you’re craving a slice, as you’ll find perfectly edible pizza for just a dollar across NYC. Now, you may be wondering, is it really going to be anything much more than overly-greasy low-quality Margherita? But you don’t need to worry about that. The slices sell out within minutes, which tells you all you need to know. There’s always a fresh batch being cooked up, so no stale slices on this end. Backpacker-friendly lunches don’t get much better.

Okay buying pizza isn’t ‘free’, but it’s a cheap thing to do in New York during your time absorbing the big city life. I mean, multiple slices for less than 5 dollars isn’t a bad shout…

Find A Corner In Times Square And Snap Away Until Your Heart’s Content.

Times Square is going to be the place which makes you most emotional.

Allow me to explain…

We’ve been front-on with references to Times Square our whole lifetime. Regardless of where we all grew up. Whether that be through video games, film settings, re-watching concert gigs, or by word of mouth from the stories of travellers. For this reason, it’s fair to say, when you catch sighting of the first commercial, you’ll feel chills. The further up you go, the more you’ll encounter the cries of ‘hot dogs, get your hot dogs’, the flush of arms being raised for a selfie, and the chaotic feeling of flashing lights going at full force. That’s when it hits you. You’re standing in one of the most iconic plazas in the world.

Pop Into The Krispy Kreme Flagship Store To See The Donuts Being Dipped.

We mentioned pizza as being key to the New York experience, but you know what else deserves a shout out? Donuts.

Why Krispy Kreme? Well because, there simply aren’t as many stores as you’d hope in Europe. The recognisable logo, distinct packaging and glaze-dripping equipment will pull you in before the sweet scent of donuts do.

However, the best part is peeking through the glass screens to see the donuts come out on conveyer belts. No matter how many flavours you see, or try, Original Glazed remains supreme. It truly is the simple things, huh?

Krispy Kreme Times Square Address: 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, United States.

Get Close And Personal With, Potentially, Your Favourite Show.

If you’re prone to looping nostalgic TV shows on a regular basis, this is going to be TOP of your ‘free or cheap things to do in New York’ list.

Now, make no mistake, the Friends building is exactly that. A building. However, a sense of admiration arises when standing here. Whilst I’ve personally never been a fan of the show, I can definitely appreciate a key landmark to popular culture when I see one.

Friends Building Address: 90 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014, United States.

The Friends Apartment, But If You’re A True Fan You’d Know That Already!

Marvel The Grounds Of Radio City Music Hall + Rockefeller Center.

We’re onto the next impressive building.

Radio City Music Hall is home to entertainment, but there’s a two-in-one situation going on, as the venue is located within the legendary ‘Rockefeller Center’. To increase the quality of your time spent browsing the interior, it’s worth mentioning you can grab a free audio tour if you’re stretched for cash. A real gem when you’re keen to add some educational insight during your quest for free or cheap things to do in New York.

Both locations are equally impressive but don’t forget to check out the exterior too, for full glory.

Rockefeller Centre Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, United States.

A Fan Of Sports? Wander Into The MLB Flagship Store.

If you’ve been successfully convinced to capture postcard views from the above suggestion, you may have noticed an impressively-sized Major League Baseball store directly in front of Radio City Music Hall. The type of place which tempts you to enter, even if you don’t watch sports. At least, not the actual game part…

Browsing the racks of merchandise at this flagship is somewhat amusing, as are the unique little interest points. However, by making your way downstairs, you’ll see a cool range of locked-up collector’s items, retailing into the hundreds. Not a bad way to squeeze in a mini history lesson without the presence of a museum. Although, I can’t guarantee that you won’t be enticed by a baseball souvenir…

MLB Flagship Address: 1271 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020, United States.

Purposely Allow Yourself To Get Lost At Central Park.

Not to the extent that you fall into panic because you’re not sure how to exit.

You see, there’s something which continues to shock visitors about Central Park, and that’s the sheer size of the green space.

However, this makes for an appealing concept when you’re after free or cheap things to do in New York. Whether you participate in a walking tour (or embark on your own guided route), stop for a picnic, jog along the river, get into photographer mode near Belvedere Castle, sign up to yoga classes, or watch one of the many events at Wollman Rink, your options aren’t limited. The park is also an ideal spot to pick up beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The New York travel aesthetic is about to be sensational, with or without visual spoilers.

If you’re after more content though, I think you’ll like my vibe-y inspo posts on Instagram. I’ll catch you over there. You might also like my recent work on ‘Instagrammable locations in New York City‘. You know, seeing as we’re talking about IG.

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