Free things to do in NYC
What is it? In the westernmost stretches of Chelsea, there are dozens of free-admission galleries showcasing groundbreaking paintings, prints, installations and sculptures.
Why go? While the shows frequently change, we recommend starting out with Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner and Pace Gallery. These are solid introductions to the gallery-hopping scene.
What is it? Every August, Lincoln Center Plaza hosts 10 alfresco HD screenings of past Met performances. In the past, we've experienced the passion of The Barber of Seville, L’Amour de Loin and La Traviata without ever lifting our fancy little binoculars.
Why go? If you have trouble affording even the uppermost balcony seats at Metropolitan Opera House, then enjoy the city’s greatest vocalists just outside the famed opera house for free.
What is it? This special programming brings big names in rock, indie, hip-hop, jazz and more to stages in parks across the five boroughs. Get there early to claim a free spot close to the artists.
Why go? Warmer weather in New York means red-hot concerts featuring top musical acts. Bonus: You don’t have to lay down money on high ticket prices for an amazing spot in the audience.
What is it? This internationally acclaimed annual tradition puts on superb productions of the bard’s classic plays at Central Park’s alfresco Delacorte Theater. A certain amount of free tickets are offered each afternoon to those that arrive early enough for the line in the morning or are lucky to win the online lottery or a spot on the standby line.
Why go? To see uproarious affairs and comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Comedy of Errors or get emotionally wrecked by tragedies like King Lear.
What is it? During the summer, Prospect Park Bandshell becomes one of the best concert venues in the city with this annual series.While there’s always a few ticketed benefit concerts, nearly all the shows are open to anybody on a first-come basis.
Why go? Legendary soul groups, all-star hip-hop artists and indie bands on the cusp of major mainstream success can all be found at the large amphitheater.
What is it? Though the venerable Brooklyn Museum of Art always operates with suggested-donation admission, during the first Saturday evening of the month, the institution offers both free admission and special programming.
Why go? To take part in movement and art workshops, gallery tours, movie screenings and live performances. Bring your wallet if you want to grab a drink as part of the happy hour, as well.
What is it? Bring a picnic blanket and snacks to this riverside park every Thursday night in July and August for screenings of an eclectic mix of Hollywood golden age classics, action blockbusters, cult-favorite comedies and family-fun animated features.
Why go? Though there’s no shortage of free outdoor movie screenings in Gotham, there are few that can boast as good a line-up—or as gorgeous a backdrop—as Movies with a View.
What is it? Take in the great outdoors while appreciating awe-inspiring large-scale sculptures and installations at this 4.5-acre public space.
Why go? Built over an old landfill, today the park has beautiful, lush green lawns overlooking the East River and boasts a reputation as a premiere outdoor location for artists to create site-specific wonders that use the landscape to inform their work.
What is it? As the city’s longest-running free public dance festival, Battery Dance has brought amazing companies from New York and around the world to downtown every August since 1982.
Why go? Choreographers specializing in international dance traditions from the Caribbean, South Asia, Africa and beyond create breathtaking performances staged in front of New York’s harbor.
What is it? Head to Governors Island for a full weekend of participatory art. Visitors become part of the creations, as artists encourage the watchers to engage in the work either by contributing to a large piece or by interacting with the process.
Why go? For the annual artist-designed mini golf course and the City of Dreams Pavilion, an annual competition that requires architects to create an environmentally friendly and evocative installation.