Free things to do in NYC

For free things to do in NYC, check out these events and explore the city’s top attractions for the price of nada
The company Srishti Dances of Indi a performing in the Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dan ce, curated by the Indo- American Arts Council (IAAC) as part of the 2014 Downtown Dance Festival
Photograph: Darial Sneed
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New York is the greatest place in the world (yes, we’re biased), but holy cow, is it expensive. Lucky for us, the city offers a prime list of free things to do (and free attractions) because finding the balance is important, dammit! Seeing Broadway shows or dining at one of the city’s most buzzed about restaurants will cost you a pretty penny, but you can take your pick of legitimately cool things to do in NYC without spending a cent below. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.


RECOMMENDED: Full guide to our best things to do in NYC

Free things to do in NYC

1
Broadway in Bryant Park
Photograph: Courtesy iHeartMedia New York/Steve Prue
Theater, Outdoor theaters

Broadway in Bryant Park

What is it? At this annual summer tradition, actors from current Broadway and Off Broadway shows wow audiences with song-and-dance numbers.

 

Why go? Having trouble winning the Hamilton lottery? Come see talented triple threats from Broadway's hit shows at lunchtime for the price of nada.

2
Chelsea art galleries
Photograph: Courtesy Greene Naftali
Art, Contemporary art

Chelsea art galleries

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.

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3
Metropolitan Opera Summer HD Festival
Photograph: Chris Lee/The Metropolitan Opera

Summer HD Festival

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.

4
SummerStage
Photograph: Courtesy Nick Childers
Music

SummerStage

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.

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5
Shakespeare in the Park
Photograph: Courtesy Tammy Shell
Theater

Shakespeare in the Park

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.

6
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!
Photograph: Courtesy Ryan Muir
Music

Celebrate Brooklyn!

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.

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7
first friday
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Art

Target First Saturdays

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.

8
Purple Rain shown at Movies with a View
Photograph: Etienne Frossard

Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park

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.

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9
Socrates Sculpture Park
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Socrates Sculpture Park

icon-location-pin Astoria

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.

10
Battery Dance Festival 2016
Photograph: Courtesy Darial Sneed

Battery Dance Festival

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.

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11
Figment NYC
Photograph: Jena Cumbo
Art

Figment NYC

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.

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