20 Things to do in New York for $1 or Less
New York is notorious for sky-high skyscrapers and sky-high prices, but you don’t have to splash cash like a Rockefeller to get the most out of your trip to the Big Apple.
With a little local know how, it’s possible to see the finest acts on Broadway for free and kick back at open air cinemas without spending a cent.
So grab cheap flights to New York and make the most of NYC for $1 or less!
1. Money Saving at the Met
Most visitors to New York’s Metropolitan Museum end up shelling out to get in when the attendants inaudibly mumble it’s a suggested donation and not a flat out fee. Enjoy the art and donate a dollar instead.
2. Food on the City Streets
You might need an iron stomach to digest hot dogs and pretzels from certain street vendors in Manhattan, but the majority are risk free and cheap. For the best pretzels in town, take a stroll down Broadway at the cross section with Bleeker.
3. Broadway on Your Lunch Break
To experience some of the best Broadway acts without spending anything, check out Broadway in Bryant Park every Thursday. This annual event sees cast members from the city’s best stage shows descend on the park for snippets of Sister Act, Mamma Mia and more.
4. R&B Festival at Metrotech
For a complimentary shot of Rhythm and Blues, take a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge to the lawn at the MetroTech Commons, on the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle Avenues. The yearly midday concerts here span June, July and August.
5. Movies With a View
If you head down to the grassy lawn of Pier 1 on a Thursday night, you can enjoy Hollywood’s finest flicks for free – against the stunning backdrop of New York Harbour and Lower Manhattan. This weekly series kicks off with music from the DJs at Brooklyn Radio.
6. Make Money As You Drink
This sounds too good to be true but if you have an American Express credit card, you can sync up your four-square check in account and receive five bucks for every check in, at a promoted hot spot.
7. Tai Chi For Free
During the summer months anyone who goes down to Fort Tyron Park at 06.30 on a Wednesday can enjoy an hour of serene exercise led by top instructors.
8. Dance Class In The Park
A popular August and September tradition among New Yorkers is a free dance class in Bryant Park. Every Saturday morning you’ll find the Limón Dance Company on the lawn from 11.00, kicking up a storm with everything from Salsa to Ballroom.
9. The World Wide Web in the Great Outdoors
If you’re torn between making the most of the sunshine and updating Facebook, you can now do both thanks to the free WiFi scheme in 11 parks across the city. From Battery Park in Lower Manhattan to Madison Square Park, it’s now easy to top up your tan and your inbox.
10. Courtside Seats
If your travel budget won’t stretch to New York Knicks tickets, you can see still some of the best basketball in the city at the West 4th Street Courts. Here anyone can enjoy the rising stars of the NBA with a courtside view, free of charge every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
11. On The River
Boat trips out to the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island are worth every cent, but if you want a free ride with fantastic views of Lady Liberty, take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. Fares were waved in 1997.
12. Eat Out at Eataly
For free food samples galore go to the Flatiron District food-halls of Eataly. This 200 Fifth Avenue address serves up mini cheese wheels, bite size bruschetta, carvings of cured ham and more.
13. On Location
Instead of waiting for the Hollywood blockbusters to come to you – you can now skip the queue and be in them as they’re filmed. OnLocationVacations.com notifies you where your favourite movies will be filming in New York, up to three-weeks in advance.
14. A Sneak Peek Into Gracie Mansion
The traditional digs of the New York Mayor might cost most people $7 for the once a week tour, but if you check out Carl Schurz Park on East End Avenue, you can peer into the luscious lawns for free.
15. Roll on Central Park
New York hosts a free roller-blade marathon once a week. If the weather’s good you’ll find hundreds of skaters gathering at 19.30 on Thursdays at the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park. Led by the Central Park Skate Patrol, skaters follow the traffic-free, six-mile route of the park’s loop road.
16. Gallery Openings
If you dream of swanning around cutting edge art exhibits and rubbing shoulders with New York’s cultural glitterati, all you have to do is follow NYArtBeat on Twitter. This feed collects the city’s latest openings and notes those that are free.
17. Jazz It Up
Jazzmobile has been an institution for free jamming sessions and sweet riffs in the parks of New York City since 1964. The mobile concerts are funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts and you can keep track of their summer concerts online.
18. Free Beer
There’s no dressing this one up and why you want to? Tasting Tuesdays at Bierkraft showcase different beers every week and there are nibbles thrown in too. You’ll find Bierkraft at 191 5th Ave Park Slope, in Brooklyn.
19. Socrates Sculpture Park
A short trip to Long Island takes you to the fantastic Socrates Sculpture Park, an outdoor exhibition space where all the shows are free, 365-days a year. Expect interactive sculptures with views of Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side.
20. Walk the High Line
New York’s park in the sky runs the length of the former meatpacking railway line, with fantastic city vistas. Start at Gansevoort Street, and wander over the grassy tracks all the way to West 34th Street.
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Rob Savage is a London based travel journalist specialising in travel to Europe and the USA.