NYC is the greatest city in the world, but holy cow can it be expensive. There’s no reason to panic, though, because there are still hundreds of free things to do here, too. We’ve rounded up the best free concerts, free art exhibitions, free comedy shows and much more to keep you going out gratis every night of the week.
Don’t scoff, jaded New Yorker—there are a lot of free things to do in NYC today. We understand: When you live in one of the most expensive cities in America, it’s hard to imagine how anything in this town could be gratis. But guess what? Every event on this list is free, and actually awesome! That’s right, we found the best concerts, free art exhibitions, comedy shows, cultural celebrations and events happening in NYC parks, so you can have the time of your life without paying a dime. Whether you’re looking for free date ideas or something to do with visiting relatives, we got you. Do you want more great stories about things to do, where to eat, what to watch, and where to party? Obviously you do, follow Time Out New York on Facebook for the good stuff.RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC
Museum-going in New York can be an expensive proposition, but luckily, most institutions—including the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art—offer free museum days and hours where admission is pay-what-you-wish (which can pretty much amount to the same thing). The trick is knowing when to take advantage of these bargains. To find out, look no further than our complete guide to the best free museums and discount hours in New York. After all, the city has the greatest concentration of museums in the world, so what are you waiting for?
Treat your inner child with a trip to see more than 300 model trains and antique handmade toys. Four large multimedia screens, theatrical lighting, and eight overhead choo choos make the immersive experience all the more magical.
In a city famously known as a concrete jungle with crowded streets, astronomical property rates and few green spaces, the High Line is a key example of New York’s willingness to transform, adapt and innovate. When it first opened to the public in 2009 the 1.45 mile long park, which was created entirely on an abandoned elevated train track, beautified the otherwise industrial West Side neighborhoods (Meatpacking, Chelsea, Hudson Yards) it snakes over. Today millions clamour for the dazzling views of the Hudson River, downtown New York’s skyline and, for some voyeurs, the guest rooms at the Standard Hotel. Artists, who were already flocking to Chelsea’s gallery scene, have found an appreciative audience with massive murals, abstract sculptures and a few performance pieces cropping up around and within view of the park. Recently one of the city’s most distinguished cultural institutions The Whitney Museum of American Art recently moved within view of The High Line. The spot is most popular during the warm months. While the flowers and plants–a selection that is mostly indigenous to the region–are in bloom, the wood lounge chairs are coveted. Something about the smell of fresh greenery makes treats from artisanal vendors selling ice cream and original sodas taste all the more refreshing. During certain evenings the Amateur Astronomer Association leads free star gazing nights and lively cultural happenings like latin dance nights. The best part, however, has to be the people watc
When it was founded in 1899, the BCM was the country’s first museum specifically made for children. Today it’s one of the most comprehensive, with a permanent collection of 30,000 objects, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils. Kids have fun while learning (sneaky!) at interactive exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where young’uns can weigh ingredients and knead pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery.
How does getting your nails done, sipping some of the finest spirits and snacking on tasty treats while watching this year’s Academy Awards sound? Pretty freakin’ great right? Well you’re in luck! This free event is taking place at the Viceroy Central Park Hotel’s rooftop bar, The Roof. Viewers can fill out a pre-ceremony ballot for a chance to win some awesome prizes.
The CMA's new, 10,000-square-foot home has more than enough room to house its 2,000-piece collection of international children's art, including a huge center gallery to display it in. Artists lead workshops in classrooms, studios or media lab—that has a sound station, clay bar and video-making equipment. Kids can work their bodies as well as their minds on the museum's second floor, where they'll find interactive art displays and a ball pit.
Considering the MoMA’s reputation for having one of the world’s finest collections of art from the 18th century through today, it’s no surprise that around nearly every corner of the venerated museum is a seminal piece by an artist trumpeted in art history or coveted by contemporary collectors. During the height of tourist season, around Christmas and again in late spring and summer, expect a shoving-match just to catch a momentary glance at Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Special exhibitions, including retrospectives of masters like surrealist René Magritte and large installations like the blockbuster Rain Room, have enough draw that some people will wait for hours just for the one exhibit. Meanwhile, no matter the time of year or temporary display, cash-strapped New Yorkers come in droves at the end of the work-week for free friday nights (4pm-8pm). If you really want to experience the museum and all it has to offer go on a weekday and buy your all-inclusive ticket online ($25). You’ll skip the line and find yourself unencumbered as you stop to contemplate the meaning of time in front of Salvador Dali’s melted-clock painting The Persistance of Memory or checking out the movie times in the attached theater.