Often called the Greatest City on Earth, New York is known around the world as a place to go and live the high life: Broadway shows, classy jazz bars, fine dining and a thriving arts scene. Although some of New York’s highlights do come with a premium price tag, there’s plenty for those staying in the city on a more modest budget to see and do. Here are 10 of the city’s highlights, which you can experience without spending a penny.
Staten Island Ferry
As well as being a vital link with Manhattan for thousands of commuters in the city’s southern district, the Staten Island Ferry offers a comfortable, 30 minute cruise down the Hudson Bay, taking in some fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty along the way. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s totally free to ride, although commuter times can get pretty crowded.
Once it reaches Staten Island, riders can simply get straight back on the ferry and head to Manhattan, or spend a few hours wandering around the pretty streets of New York’s southernmost borough.
New York’s most famous park takes up 843 Acres, at the heart of Manhattan Island, and boasts many points of interest to keep visitors entertained. Relax by the lake on a warm day, or watch locals glide around on ice skates during the winter.
Central Park is a vital part of the city’s history and one of its most beautiful attractions. The park is packed with features and monuments, including Strawberry Fields, a memorial to erstwhile New York resident John Lennon; Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle serving as a viewing platform; several lakes and a gorgeous 36 acre wild garden known as The Ramble. The park is open daily from 6am until 1am.
Coney Island Boardwalk
Coney Island is a fantastic place to take in the sea air and escape the hustle and bustle of the city center, even just for a few hours. The boardwalk has long been known for its party atmosphere, with parades, sideshows and other entertainment going on all year round. The beach has volleyball and basketball courts and regularly hosts major sports tournaments. Coney Island is free to visit all year round, although there is usually a bit more going on during the summer months.
Museum of Modern Art – Fridays 4-8
Moma, the Museum of Modern Art, houses one of the world’s premier collections of works from the 19th Century up to the present day, with pieces that are sure to impress collectors and novices alike.
Although the usual entry price is slightly steep at $25 for adults, the museum offers free entry on Friday evenings between 4 and 8pm. Many more of New York City’s top museums operate similar systems, with short periods of free entry, so do a bit of research before you go, and see what you can save.
Grand Central Station
Still a working train station and one of Manhattan’s major transport hubs, the impressive, early 20th Century Façade of the Grand Central Terminal is often thought of as one of New York City’s most beautiful buildings.
From the inside, the main concourse is a huge open space based on the decadent design of an ancient Roman bath. 12 storeys high, it features a ceiling adorned with an enormous map of the constellations. Narrowly saved from destruction in the 1970s, Grand Central is a fabulous monument to the booming city of the early 20th Century and offers a great insight into New York’s history.
For the best experience, avoid visiting at rush hour times, when the thousands-strong crowd will make appreciating the atmosphere a little more difficult.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Across the East River from Manhattan, on the shores of Long Island, Socrates Sculpture Park tells an intriguing story of community action and urban regeneration. Formerly used as an illegal rubbish dump, the park was converted in the 1980s into an outdoor sculpture studio, as part of a combined effort from artists and local community groups.
As well as a constantly changing collection of artworks, the park offers a fantastic view across to Manhattan. Local artists offer free guided tours all year round.
The High Line
This former railway line was once used to bring freight trains into the heart of New York’s industrial center. Now, it’s been converted into 2.3km of parkland, with more great views over the Hudson River and Manhattan, public art installations and beautiful spaces to sit and enjoy some people watching.
A great way to see this attraction is to start from the south end at the top of the West Village, grabbing materials for lunch from the colorful Chelsea Market along the way, and then grab a spot with a view for a lovely picnic.
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Since opening in 1971, as a small gallery within the Bronx’s County Courthouse, the Bronx Museum of the Arts has muscled its way onto the crowded New York arts scene with a series of provocative exhibitions. The art on show here is almost exclusively produced by local artists and much of it deals directly with social and political themes affecting the city’s inhabitants.
The Museum is located in the heart of the Bronx, a few minutes’ walk up from Yankee Stadium. Opening times are Thursday-Sunday, 11am until 6pm. Entry is free all day on Fridays, $5 at other times.
The complex built by the legendary family of oil billionaires is another unmissable part of the city’s history. Home to the world famous Christmas tree and ice rink during December, the center is worth a visit all year round for the imposing statues and installations, including the ‘Monument to American Progress’.
Many of the activities on offer here are not free, but wandering around the center, having picked up a visitor’s guide at the information desk, is more than enough for most to get a sense of the scope of the complex and its place in American history.
St. Patricks Cathedral
Although the United States typically lags behind Europe as far as jaw dropping Cathedrals are concerned, the Neo-Gothic façade of St. Patricks in Manhattan does not fail to impress. Since it’s opening in the 19th Century, the Cathedral has seen many of New York’s elite pass through its doors. The interior, particularly the intricately crafted altar, is well worth checking out.