A big part of what makes New York so great is its atmosphere, and you can soak it up for free just walking the city streets. The changing feel as you move through the city’s neighborhoods – from the Upper East Side and Shoo to Chinatown and the Meatpacking District – makes it almost like visiting lots of different cities. And that’s before you get out of Manhattan into the city’s other boroughs.
There are plenty of places you can visit for free, like Times Square, the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station and St Patrick’s Cathedral. There are also the parks – as well as huge Central Park there’s the High Line on a old elevated railway track, Brooklyn Bridge Park and lots of smaller neighborhood parks.NYC Parks hold free or low-cost events in the parks throughout the year, like concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and tours. Friends of the High Line also run free tours Tuesdays at 6.30pm between May and September where you can learn about the park’s history, design and horticulture.
For other New York tours, Free Tours by Foot run a variety of walking and cycling tours. They cover lots of different neighborhoods as well as themed tours like a Greenwich Village food tour, Gramercy thrift stores or subway art tour. Tours are free but you tip your guide what you think it’s worth. Partnership also run a 90-minute free walking tour of area around Grand Central Station at 12:30pm every Friday. Or you can get your own private guide through the Big Apple Greeter scheme, which matches tourists with local volunteers who show you around their personal New York (book 3–4 weeks in advance).
If you want to visit big-name attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, then it might be worth investing in a New York City Pass. They cost $116 per adult ($92 aged 6–17) and cover six different museums and attractions – if you plan to visit them all you can save $77 on entrance fees.