Part II of New York City for Free – The Weekend and Anytime Edition
Before I delve into more free things to see and do, let us take a moment to acknowledge that not everything in New York can be free. That being said, if you are looking for a good place to spend your hard earned dollars, the list is endless so choose wisely.
Get the one-week unlimited subway pass. For $30, it is the single best investment you can make.
- Strangely enough, maybe, the subway experience was nearly my favorite thing about New York. It is living, breathing, dancing, eating and noise producing ART! The underground has a pulse! Oh the stories you will tell. The music, the art and the performers you will discover – some good enough to stop even the hardiest of New Yorkers in their tracks (like the Drumadics, often found at Union Station.)
- Subway stations and trains can get you almost anywhere you want to go.
- Take the Downtown #6 Brooklyn Bridge (green line) and stay on at the last station: train will loop around for a glimpse of Old City Hall.
- Count the rats. They do exist. It is not a myth. And they are large. Other than people watching, it is the best way to pass the minutes until the train arrives.
- Enjoy the crowds. You are lucky you don’t have to live the stress of a rush hour in the underground, but take the time to appreciate the commotion (standing out of the way of course). It can leave you feeling entertained and thankful.
- The Subway is my Broadway.
* Need more evidence? Watch the film: https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/06/01/new-york-city-sightseeing-collage-a-film-by-april-beresford
On the subject though, you could in fact take in a Broadway show.
#TravelSkills Forget paying full price. You may have even heard about the half-price tickets at Times Square (behind the iconic Red Steps– 46th and Broadway). Warning! Be prepared to spend HOURS waiting in line even if your get there before 3pm. So here’s my little New York secret for you: Head down to The South Street Seaport TKTS® Booth (at Front Street and John Street) or The Downtown Brooklyn TKTS® Booth (at 1 MetroTech Center) for those same day-of tickets at half price without the lineup. Better yet, they also sell matinee tickets the day before the performance.
Start your day like a real New Yorker with brunch in Chinatown: Dim sum!! Check out the very affordable Hop Shing. Fed 3 people very well for $15! (9 Chatham Square, New York. www.hopshingNYC.com)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge. (Try one in the daytime and the other at night!) Crossing Manhattan Bridge will add stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge to your panoramic photographs and then delivers you into the tiny neighbourhood Down.Under.Manhattan.Bridge.Underpass. aka DUMBO. Carved out of old warehouses and factories, it is now hip and cool. Better yet, it also home to some of New York’s best pizza: Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria (Front and Old Fulton Streets). This is not a secret though, so once again, expect a line up. Make sure you sneak over into Brooklyn Heights waterfront area (www.brooklynbridgepark.org for weekly events).
More free things in Brooklyn every Saturday? Why yes!
Head up to East River State Park for Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg! Over 100 food, drinks and flea market styled vendors open rain or shine from 11am-6pm. No purchase necessary.
Saturday is indeed shaping up to be all about food (unfortunately not free), so let me at least make it up to you with a drink. From 1pm to 5pm at the Brooklyn Brewery, free tours on the half hour. No reservations. (79 North 11th street. www.Brooklynbrewery.com)
If you stick around until the evening, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will reward you with a free at nights serenade on select Friday and Saturday nights, featuring rock, jazz, R&B, world music, pop, and more from Brooklyn and beyond. (www.bam.org)
Saturday nights are another excellent option for enjoying Coney Island (if you didn’t go on Friday – Free Aquarium day, see Part I: New York Weekdays for free. The rides and circus attractions are filled with frights and lights.
Even more free Brooklyn throughout the week:
Prospect park (Prospectpark.org)
Greenwood cemetery (green-wood.com) Free entrance and maps provided. Stroll the grounds on your own, or use our self-guided walking tour books and mobile app.
Back in Manhattan,check out B.B. Kings Blues Club for free entrance Saturday nights starting at 9pm or so I’m told. Cannot confirm this one as I did not make it there myself. (237 West 42nd Street, New York. http://www.bbkingblues.com/)
Sunday mornings belong to Central Park. Open from 6am to 1am and free since 1858, this park is New York City’s backyard. Masses form for endless entertainment, sporting events, relaxing on the open lawns, kite flying, and so much more.
Studio Museum of Harlem offers free admission to all their exhibits every Sunday. (12 – 6pm at 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell, New York. http://www.studiomuseum.org/ )
Whether you do so on your own or with the help of a free-walking-tour-guide, find inspiration and education in Harlem’s dramatic history and the powerful men and women that emerged from this neighbourhood. (http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/new-york-tours/walking-tours/harlem/self-guided-harlem-walking-tour/ has all the maps and info.)
ANYTIME Free Stuff!
Every single Monday to Saturday at 11 AM and 2 PM, The New York Public Library offers free tours. (http://www.nypl.org/ Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street New York, NY 10018)
Parks, parks, parks!
Not your typical backyard kids park. Manhattan designs their outdoor spaces with the same over-the-top style you will come to expect from this concrete jungle. Whether they are a cosmopolitan oasis like Central Park or miles of white sand beaches on the edge of the city, New York parks offers so much more than just open space or a bench to sit the afternoon away. Dozens of free activities, even pop-up movie theater and summer concerts happen EVERY WEEK! http://www.nycgovparks.org/
For week to week listings on free activities like parades, music/art/alternative events and free movie nights at the park, go to www.Timeout.com.
People-watching in New York is endlessly perplexing, jubilant and entertaining without fail.
Don’t shun the stores just because you aren’t in the market for new digs. Specialty food stores like Godiva and any shop carrying fancy soaps, lotions and such will nearly always score you free samples. We even managed to fill up on wine and cheese at free galleries 🙂
#TravelSkills and #TravelFreeTips
The shoestring traveler world extends beyond low budget destinations like Cambodia and Guatemala. Use your resources!
- Couchsurfing is your best friend and gives you immediate access to local knowledge, culture, and further connections.
- Try work-exchange programs like HelpX and Wwoofing to cover all your meal and shelter needs in exchange for a few hours of your day. (Yes, there are insurmountable opportunities within cities too).
- Want to stay longer? Try house-sitting or home-swapping.
- Most importantly, put on your walking shoes. There is no better way to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the experience that is New York. So start putting on the miles because the selected segments above can all be easily covered in a single day each without breaking a sweat.
* Pay-what-you-can means exactly what it says. If you cannot afford the suggested admission cost, you may offer your own price or nothing at all. Just remember to tip your tour guides and street/subway performers for the outstanding job/entertainment they are providing.
I welcome you to add any new ideas and opportunities to this list of free NYC activities. If you try out any of my daily guides I would also love to hear how it went. Please leave your comments below and I’ll be sure to reply.
~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~
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For more on New York make sure you read Part I and Gotham takes a lifetime.
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