The best free attractions in New York City

Check out our roundup of free attractions and spend an afternoon exploring classic NYC landmarks on the cheap

Photograph: Luciana Golcman
Coney Island Boardwalk

Even the most seasoned New Yorker should revisit those essential tourist attractions (out-of-towners flock to them for a reason). Discover the best free attractions and NYC landmarks—including some of the best parks and museums in New York—in our guide.

RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC

Free attractions and NYC landmarks

Battery Park

This 25-acre green space is like Manhattan’s delicate fingernail, neatly plotted with monuments, memorials, gardens, sculptures and a farm-to-table café, plus killer waterfront views from the promenade. Though the area was named for the battery cannons it once housed, the fortified walls of Castle Clinton now protect little more than summer music concerts. If you prefer a quieter nook, seek out the stone labyrinth traced in the park’s lawns; it’s not actually a maze meant to confuse, but a prescribed stroll for meditation.

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Financial District Free

Bronx Museum of the Arts

Critics' pick

Founded in 1971 and featuring more than 800 works, this multicultural art museum shines a spotlight on 20th- and 21st-century artists who are either Bronx-based or of African, Asian or Latino ancestry. The museum sporadically offers family programming.

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The Bronx Free

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Some city parks—Central and Prospect, most obviously—were built to replicate rustic fields and preserve serene woodland. Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, was not—and that’s precisely why it has become so popular in the almost three years since it debuted. The project has transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse; several sections house unique attractions such as Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views.

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Brooklyn Heights Free

Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Promenade

It’s easy to forget that you’re standing atop the hectic Brooklyn-Queens Expressway while strolling along this esplanade, which opened in 1950. But the thoroughfare is inextricably linked to the Promenade’s existence: Community opposition to the BQE—which was originally intended to cut through Brooklyn Heights—led city planner Robert Moses to reroute the highway along the waterfront. He also proposed building a park atop the road to block noise.

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Brooklyn Heights Free

Central Park

Critics' pick

For your stroll, head to the 38-acre wilderness area on the west side of the park known as the Ramble. The area has a storied history (as a gay cruising spot dating back to the turn of the last century, among other things), and it was even proposed as a recreational area in the mid-'50s. Thankfully, the winding trails, rocks and streams seemingly remain waiting to be discovered.

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Central Park Free

Chrysler Building

We won’t argue if you want to call this glimmering pinnacle of Art Deco architecture NYC’s most eye-popping skyscraper. Triangle-shaped windows in its crown are lined with lights, creating a beautiful effect come nighttime. Oozing a moneyed sophistication oft identified with old New York, the structure pays homage to its namesake with giant eagles (replicas of ones added to Chrysler automobiles in the 1920s) in lieu of traditional gargoyles and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars, complete with chrome hubcaps.

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Midtown East Free

Coney Island Boardwalk

Critics' pick

Coney Island has had its ups and downs, but one thing has been constant for years: a series of dance parties on the boardwalk, with local veterans spinning soulful house, disco, reggae, Afrobeat, Latin rhythms and more.

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Rockaways Free

East River State Park

East River State Park, otherwise known as the Williamsburg waterfront, is not fancy: stage, concrete, water. But the view of Manhattan is breathtaking, and the neighborhood (even engulfed in new condos) is textbook Williamsburg. Families can relax amongst historic rail yard remnants, and in the summer, take in family-friendly music and film series. Be sure to leave Fido and your bicycle at home—neither are allowed in the space.

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Williamsburg Free

Flatiron Building

This 21-story Beaux Arts edifice once dominated midtown. Although it’s now dwarfed by other structures, when it debuted in 1902, the triangle-shaped monolith represented the threat and the thrill of modernity: Naysayers claimed it would never withstand the high winds plaguing 23rd Street, while revered photographer Alfred Stieglitz—who captured it in an iconic shot in 1903—wrote that it was “a picture of a new America still in the making.”

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Flatiron

Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

Give the city’s second-biggest park a day and it’ll show you the world: Its most enduring icon is the Unisphere, the mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair. But there’s also first-rate culture and sports at the New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citi Field (depending on how the Mets are doing). The rolling green fields also encompass a zoo, a boating lake, a skate park, a barbecue area, playfields, and a $66 million aquatic and hockey center.

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Queens Free
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Comments

3 comments
Monica M
Monica M

Does anyone know what the Lowline is or where I can find it?

armida t
armida t

I want to suggest some additional free things to do in New York as

Empire State Building

See the city skyline from the highest point – the Empire State Building. You will be forever changed by the breathtaking and awe inspiring view.

Bryant Park

Full of green lawns, lunch tables, fountains, sculptures and a beautiful lake, the Bryant Park is an oasis amongst concrete and glass buildings. Spread across approximately 9 acres, the park provides a serene environment to sit back and relax. There’s an ice skating rink at the Bank of America Winter Village, a reading room, a carrousel, chess and backgammon area, ping pong tables and a lot more to explore at the Bryant Park.

St. Paul's Chapel

A quaint building, the St. Paul’s Chapel is more famous because it is a place where George Washington used to worship. And, during the 9/11 attacks, recovery workers received round-the-clock care here. It is also the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan.

Little Italy

A coal oven pizza, a zeppole, a scrumptious pasta, a glass of Chianti, if you love Italian food, head over to Little Italy at Lower Manhattan, New York! From Italian food to Italian wine to Italian shopping, you’ll get it all in one neighbourhood. It also hosts the San Gennaro Festival in September every year.

Cathedral Church Of Saint John The Divine

The cornerstone for the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine was laid in the year 1892 and since then, the church has undergone major renovations and is still incomplete. Yet, it is the largest cathedral in the world, making it a global landmark. Boasting of a marvellous architectural structure, the Cathedral is an active house of worship and a vibrant community, arts, cultural and civic centre.

Bronx Zoo

The Bronx zoo is the country's largest urban zoo. Bronx Zoo comprises 265 acres of parklands and naturalistic habitats. More than 2 million visitors come to the Bronx zoo each year. The zoo puts $400million annually into the state’s economy.

Tee
Tee

Can't wait to check out what's free for the winter in NYC