The best free things to do in NYC today

Looking for a gratis event going down exactly the same time as you're reading this? We’ve got you covered! Discover the top free things to do right now.

So you’re pinching pennies and bored. We’ve been there. But that’s no reason to stay in your apartment—New York is full of opportunities to get outdoors, taste some delectable cheap eats or take a great walk. And while you're out there in the wilds of the city, check out these cool, free things to do in NYC right now.

RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Rink

Critics' pick

Bryant Park’s 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink is free and open late. Don’t get too excited—the admission may be gratis, but you’ll have to shell out $19 to rent skates (or BYO). Still, it’s a veritable winter wonderland: After your time on the ice, warm up at spacious rinkside restaurant Celsius. If you want to practice your lutzes and axels with ample spinning room, try visiting during off-peak hours. Through Mar 1. RECOMMENDED: More rinks for ice skating in NYC

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Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Midtown West Until Sunday March 1 2015 Free

Sugarcube

The winter pop-up art venue has free live music, film screenings, dance parties and craft workshops all month. Enjoy a weekly happy hour (Fri 16), screenings of films like Little Fugitive (Thu 15), art workshops such as Euphoria Records Presents: Paint the Music (Sat 17) and musical performances including Sun Ra Arkestra (Jan 31).

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South Street Seaport, Financial District Until Sunday February 1 2015 Free

Sam Falls, "Light Over Time"

Critics' pick

A process-oriented Los Angeles artist who works in a variety of media, Sam Falls has transformed Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons into a playground for his interactive art. Exploring the passage of time through light and color, Falls displays several sculptural works that are activated by the viewer and will physically alter over time. His Untitled (Thermochromic bench), for example, changes color due to heat generated by sitters or the intensity of sunlight. A maze has been painted with multicolored layers of powder-coated aluminum; one side has protective UV coating while the other doesn’t, so that the piece will partially fade from exposure. But as it does, another layer of paint will eventually emerge and regenerate the original color. A set of teeter-totters feature geometric forms that collect rainwater, thus changing the distribution of weight. A giant wind chime is too big for an ordinary breeze to move it, so visitors do the job instead by pushing the chimes around. A more solitary experience is provided by a pair of white, aluminum shelters with tiny entrances and stained-glass skylights. The ambience within each of these “light rooms,” as the artist calls them, will change with the weather. Playful and thought-provoking, these laboratories of fun seek to engage the curious child inside all of us.—Paul Laster

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Public Art Fund at MetroTech Center Commons, Downtown Until Friday May 29 2015 Free

Comedy at the Knitting Factory

Critics' pick

The smooth and delightfully understated Hannibal Buress—who fans will recognize as Broad City's Lincoln—introduces fellow stand-ups.

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Knitting Factory, Williamsburg Until Sunday December 27 2015 Free

Kenny Rivero, "I Can Love You Better"

Critics' pick

Garbage accumulates like repressed urges in Kenny Rivero’s show “I Can Love You Better,” where paintings with assemblage elements are installed alongside sculptures made from discarded debris. The former blends collage, Surrealism and folk art into cartoonish compositions, while the latter piles shards of glass, bits of broken records and scraps of paint into quasi-shamanistic objects. In both, art history is treated like a trash can to be picked through. Rivero, a Yale MFA graduate, grew up on the mean streets of Washington Heights in the 1980s, and memories of life there provide a theater where psychologically charged narratives play out. In three large paintings, It Happened on the Corner, El Pique and The Fire Next Time (all from 2014), confrontations, beatings and fires dissipate into pictorial snippets. Sidewalks are transformed into sacrificial altars, slabs on which figures are dismembered. But Rivero also employs a comic touch that blunts the impact of his images. He mixes body parts, architectural fragments, letters and numbers to create a playful confusion, complicating our relationship to urban brutality. Evocations of violence within the aesthetic realm are nothing new; they informed the figurative mutations of early modern art. But Rivero understands that actual assault isn’t symbolic or a mere transgression of someone’s space: It can leave wounds that are mortal. Rivero links the shedding of blood on the pavement to the smearing of paint on canvas and in doing

Read more
Shin Gallery, Lower East Side Until Saturday February 28 2015 Free

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Rink

Critics' pick

Bryant Park’s 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink is free and open late. Don’t get too excited—the admission may be gratis, but you’ll have to shell out $19 to rent skates (or BYO). Still, it’s a veritable winter wonderland: After your time on the ice, warm up at spacious rinkside restaurant Celsius. If you want to practice your lutzes and axels with ample spinning room, try visiting during off-peak hours. Through Mar 1. RECOMMENDED: More rinks for ice skating in NYC

Read more
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Midtown West Until Sunday March 1 2015 Free

Sugarcube

The winter pop-up art venue has free live music, film screenings, dance parties and craft workshops all month. Enjoy a weekly happy hour (Fri 16), screenings of films like Little Fugitive (Thu 15), art workshops such as Euphoria Records Presents: Paint the Music (Sat 17) and musical performances including Sun Ra Arkestra (Jan 31).

Read more
South Street Seaport, Financial District Until Sunday February 1 2015 Free

"Riding the Waves"

Not sure how you made it another year with your old iPhone? Stop on by Staten Island’s Museum of Maritime Navigation and Communication to see the choicest devices in a collection of 500 transmitter radios, receivers and radar, dating back to 1939.

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Conference House Park, Staten Island Until Thursday January 29 2015 Free

Guardians of the Galaxy

Watch Groot “express himself” in a more drink-friendly space at this special screening of the 2014 comic-book underdog turned huge hit.

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The Way Station, Prospect Heights Sunday January 25 2015 Free

TV Night

Sit back with a pint as you watch shows like Mad Men, Girls and Breaking Bad without giving into “homebody syndrome.”

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Sunday January 25 2015 Free

Comedy at the Knitting Factory

Critics' pick

The smooth and delightfully understated Hannibal Buress—who fans will recognize as Broad City's Lincoln—introduces fellow stand-ups.

Read more
Knitting Factory, Williamsburg Until Sunday December 27 2015 Free

Sam Falls, "Light Over Time"

Critics' pick

A process-oriented Los Angeles artist who works in a variety of media, Sam Falls has transformed Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons into a playground for his interactive art. Exploring the passage of time through light and color, Falls displays several sculptural works that are activated by the viewer and will physically alter over time. His Untitled (Thermochromic bench), for example, changes color due to heat generated by sitters or the intensity of sunlight. A maze has been painted with multicolored layers of powder-coated aluminum; one side has protective UV coating while the other doesn’t, so that the piece will partially fade from exposure. But as it does, another layer of paint will eventually emerge and regenerate the original color. A set of teeter-totters feature geometric forms that collect rainwater, thus changing the distribution of weight. A giant wind chime is too big for an ordinary breeze to move it, so visitors do the job instead by pushing the chimes around. A more solitary experience is provided by a pair of white, aluminum shelters with tiny entrances and stained-glass skylights. The ambience within each of these “light rooms,” as the artist calls them, will change with the weather. Playful and thought-provoking, these laboratories of fun seek to engage the curious child inside all of us.—Paul Laster

Read more
Public Art Fund at MetroTech Center Commons, Downtown Until Friday May 29 2015 Free

Kenny Rivero, "I Can Love You Better"

Critics' pick

Garbage accumulates like repressed urges in Kenny Rivero’s show “I Can Love You Better,” where paintings with assemblage elements are installed alongside sculptures made from discarded debris. The former blends collage, Surrealism and folk art into cartoonish compositions, while the latter piles shards of glass, bits of broken records and scraps of paint into quasi-shamanistic objects. In both, art history is treated like a trash can to be picked through. Rivero, a Yale MFA graduate, grew up on the mean streets of Washington Heights in the 1980s, and memories of life there provide a theater where psychologically charged narratives play out. In three large paintings, It Happened on the Corner, El Pique and The Fire Next Time (all from 2014), confrontations, beatings and fires dissipate into pictorial snippets. Sidewalks are transformed into sacrificial altars, slabs on which figures are dismembered. But Rivero also employs a comic touch that blunts the impact of his images. He mixes body parts, architectural fragments, letters and numbers to create a playful confusion, complicating our relationship to urban brutality. Evocations of violence within the aesthetic realm are nothing new; they informed the figurative mutations of early modern art. But Rivero understands that actual assault isn’t symbolic or a mere transgression of someone’s space: It can leave wounds that are mortal. Rivero links the shedding of blood on the pavement to the smearing of paint on canvas and in doing

Read more
Shin Gallery, Lower East Side Until Saturday February 28 2015 Free

Agustin Fernandez

Critics' pick

Algus has committed himself to showing forgotten or underappreciated artists, and Fernandez (1928–2006) is no exception. A Cuban artist who sojourned in New York, Paris and San Juan, Puerto Rico, he created paintings and drawings in a style mixing abstraction and Surrealism, with nonobjective forms rendered in an illusionistic manner. The result recalls the sort of ’50s sci-fi paperback illustrations that owed a heavy debt to Yves Tanguy. His work was engrossingly weird enough to attract the attention of director Brian De Palma, who featured one of Fernandez's pieces in his creepy classic Dressed to Kill.

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Mitchell Algus Gallery, Lower East Side Until Sunday March 1 2015 Free

KATSU, "Remember the Future"

This street artist takes a dystopian view of the rapidly evolving technologies (digital and not) that are both changing the world and enforcing its globalist order. But rather than simply inveigh against them, he employs them to create a sort of virtual graffiti, placing his tag, for instance, into the world-building game, Minecraft, and also creating a completely convincing—and totally fake—video of himself tagging the White House fence. He's also piloted small drones to spray-paint canvases. His gallery debut continues apace with candy-colored, 3-D–printed guns and drone-painted takes on Warhol's Marilyn.

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The Hole, Chinatown & Little Italy Until Sunday February 22 2015 Free

Nolan Simon, "Portraits"

Critics' pick

Simon's off-center paintings would have fit right in with MoMA's "Forever Now" show. They employ a light, ironic touch to depict random images—faces, cute animals, boats—in a series of realistic watercolors on canvas. Resembling stock photographs or commercial illustrations, these pictures are sometimes ganged together on a single canvas to enhance their weird sense of disconnection. Simon edges them with strips of trompe l'oeil masking tape, as if to suggest that they're fastened to a studio wall. But they could just as easily represent the result of a Google image search and the impermanence of the Internet age.

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47 Canal, Chinatown & Little Italy Until Sunday February 15 2015 Free

"David Weiss: Works, 1968-1979"

Critics' pick

Better known as half of Fischli/Weiss, the wry conceptualist duo whose work often questioned the nature of things, David Weiss (1946–2012) pursued his own art throughout his 33-year partnership with fellow Swiss artist Peter Fischli. Largely unseen during his life, Weiss's solo efforts are characterized by the same spirt of ironic whimsy found in the videos, sculptures and installations produced by Fischli/Weiss. The works on paper presented here provide a rare look at this aspect of his career.

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Swiss Institute, Soho Until Sunday February 22 2015 Free

Melissa Brown, "Four Play"

This show of new works by Brown—a painter and animator who often refers to money and games of chance in her work—was inspired by a trip she took to Foxwoods Resort Casino in nearby Ledyard, CT.

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Essex Flowers, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 22 2015 Free

Entang Wiharso

Critics' pick

An Indonesian artist who splits his time between his homeland and Rhode Island, Entang Wiharso explores social, cultural and political issues in a variety of mediums. Since 1995, Wiharso has exhibited his work internationally, which has cropped up with greater frequency in the last several years at such prestigious events as the 2013 Venice Biennale. For his first solo show in New York, Wiharso presents a solid selection of figurative paintings, sculptures and metal reliefs, all blurring boundaries between expressionism, surrealism and traditional storytelling. One large painting from 2014, Double Protection: Invisible Threat, depicts a man and woman coupling at the center of a nightmarish whirl of levitating bodies, severed heads and machinery with tubes snaking out of them, suggesting some sort of medical equipment. His massive 2013 aluminum relief, My Heart Is Bigger than You Think, connects contorted figures, weapons and word balloons (with texts like your brain is very delicious) into a modern-day version of Hieronymus Bosch’s hellish 16th-century masterpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights. While these works recall the oppression that Wiharso’s family suffered while the artist was growing up in Jakarta during the regime of former Indonesian strongman Suharto, his life-size sculpture from 2014, Inheritance, offers a different vision. A family portrait, it shows Wiharso with his American wife and child around a table, which is surmounted by a gigantic carp. Magical but th

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Marc Straus Gallery, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 8 2015 Free

Philip Taaffe

Critics' pick

Taafe's latest paintings follow the same approach he's taken over a 30-year career, creating works marked by vivid colors, dense decorative patterns (with shapes often borrowed from nature) and mixed-media techniques ranging from collage to silkscreen. Emerging in the 1980s, he's become one of New York's most reliably engaging artists.

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Luhring Augustine Bushwick, Bushwick Until Sunday April 26 2015 Free

"A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America"

The museum gathers selections from the Barbara L. Gordon Collection of folk art for this presentation of superb works—stilllifes, landscapes, allegorical and portrait paintings, and one-of-a-kind examples of homemade commercial art—created in rural regions of New England, the Midwest and the South between 1800 and 1920.

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American Folk Art Museum, Midtown West Until Sunday March 8 2015 Free

"Art & AIDS: Amor y Pasión"

Critics' pick

For the sixth year, Leslie-Lohman hosts multimedia pieces by artists living with HIV and AIDS whose work was created in therapeutic art classes at the GMHC's Volunteer, Work and Wellness Center. Proceeds from pieces sold during the show will go directly to the artists.

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Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Soho Until Sunday February 1 2015 Free

"Literary Devices"

References to books, libraries, stories and texts unite the works in this group show, with contributions by Donald Judd, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger and Shirin Neshat, among others.

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Fisher Landau Center for Art, Long Island City Free

Saira McLaren, "a day and the night"

Strong colors, gestural marks and a hazy or blurred surface quality, recalling the effects of airbrushing or the soaked-in colors of Louis Morris, are some of the hallmarks of McLaren’s abstract paintings, which sometimes evoke a vaguely remembered image. Ceramic sculptures of indistinct forms resembling rocks are also part of her repertoire.

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Sargent’s Daughters, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 8 2015 Free

Amalia Ulman, Stock Images of War

Though Ulman is known for being an artist-cum-Instagram star thanks to her numerous selfies posted online, her New York debut features an immersive installation: a darkened, curtained-off space where viewers encounter spotlighted wire-sculpture figures assuming combative poses. To this tableau, Ulman adds the surreal olfactory touch of filling the space with the overpowering aroma of baked apple strudel.

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James Fuentes, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 8 2015 Free

"flats"

Artifice is the theme of this group show taking its title from the partitions used to create sets for both movies and plays. The roster of artists includes Steven Baldi, Bruce Conner and Wolfgang Tillmans, among others.

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Team Gallery, Soho Until Sunday February 15 2015 Free

"Third Person"

This show pairs two Los Angeles artists: Jibade-Khalil Huffman and Anthony Pearson. Huffman's videos and performances upend the conventional structure of narrative, using multiple vantage points in real space (one multichannel work forces viewers to ping-pong their gaze between screens while taking in a story about a Hollywood location scout, playing movies in her head as she goes about her business). Pearson's sculptural reliefs, meanwhile, are abstract, and sometimes play switcheroo with materials (cast bronze appearing as white plaster, for instance). The two artists join forces on at least one collaborative piece.

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Boesky East, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 8 2015 Free

Tam Ochiai, "Everyone Has Two Places"

Ochiai's smallish painterly canvases each feature the names of two different cities (Hartford, Rome; Budapest, Detroit), brushed on by hand. They seem completely unrelated until a perusal of the titles reveals that the pairings represent the place of birth and death for well-known figures, both real (J.P. Morgan) and fictional (Humbert Humbert).

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Team Gallery, Soho Until Sunday February 15 2015 Free

Christopher Knowles

Critics' pick

On view are large versions of Knowles's "typings" series of drawings done on a typewriter, including pictograms that form progressions of the letter C (for Christopher). They remain the best-known work by this autistic poet and artist who provided the libretto for Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s 1976 avant-garde opera, Einstein on the Beach.

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Gavin Brown's Enterprise, Lower East Side Until Sunday February 22 2015 Free

Brooklyn Art Song Society

Critics' pick

On Jan 25, four vocalists and two pianists continue this organization's season-long investigation of France's Les Six collective by exploring works by Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger.

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Brooklyn Public Library, Dweck Center, Prospect Heights Sunday January 25 2015 Free

Suicide Sundays

Kelly King and Delilah Brooks performs songs selected by you, the all-powerful audience, at this weekly late-night shindig.

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Sunday January 25 2015 Free

UHaul Sundays

Wind up your weekend with a reasonably priced buzz at this queer party, featuring different performers every week.

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Sunday January 25 2015 Free

Comments

12 comments

@me

Must do ..

Annette
Annette

Had a great time. You can walk from gallery to gallery and feel welcome.

Regina
Regina

Sucks that you don't have the West Indian parade listed.

me
me

these seem fun! NOT!

AriellacomA
AriellacomA

Limelight is hosting fashion week- with free shows for the next 6 days... The designers are great and it's a nice crowd. Definitely worth it! RSVP@limelightshops.com

Jane C. Nicholson
Jane C. Nicholson

always like new things and I like your taste i almost everything.