New York City in Winter - Free things to do

December 2017

The Big Apple is not an apple. But it is big.

So big that knowing what to do as a first-time traveller, or even where to start, can be quite overwhelming.

I would really recommend starting with the free things.

On your walks you'll ride in yellow taxis, see steaming street drains, drink in Irish pubs and eat hot dogs from chirpy vendors. The things that make New York, New York.

Always free…

Rockefeller Center

Unusual, unexpected and always exciting, the Rockefeller Center is home to some of NYC’s most talked about free events, the best one comes at Crimbo though when the huge annual tree and ice-skating rink go up. Unmissable.

Walking Tours

The Big Apple can be a lot to get to grips with by yourself, so it’s a good thing that Big Apple Greeter and its NYC-native tour guides are around to help. With over 300 vastly knowledgeable volunteer guides, this “welcome visitor” programme has been chaperoning bewildered visitors across sights in New York City since 1992 — and, astonishingly, it’s completely free (though a tip is always appreciated).

The Statue of Liberty - Staten Island Ferry

The statue itself is free, but official ferry tours to get there cost upwards of $ 12. Instead, take New York’s favourite bargain – the free commuter service Staten Island Ferry. The trip takes in sweeping views of the harbour, the glittering Manhattan skyline and, of course, enviable Instagram-worthy views of Lady of Liberty herself.

Central Park

843 verdant acres in the heart of Manhattan, completely free of charge. Which is what you’d expect, given that it’s a park. But not every park is packed to the brim with free activities like this one. Yoga classes (might be a , fishing, nature walks, concerts and much more are held periodically throughout the year, yours to enjoy for the price of a smile.

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum

“What were we wearing?” Find that out, and more, at the free to enter FIT Museum. The museum’s permanent collection showcases “directional” fashion garments– i.e. the kind of fashion that makes history – dating from the 18th century to present. For the fashion-forward, the museum also holds rotating exhibits by current students and up and coming designers.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

A tour (free, six daily) is the only way to get in to the Federal Reserve Bank, where you can ogle at the mammoth, high-security vaults holding more than 10,000 tons of gold reserves. You’ll have Spandau Ballet ringing in your ears for days.

New York Public Library

Discover “Patience” and “Fortitude” at New York's most famous library (the names of the two famous marble lions fronting the building). The library includes a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenburg Bible, 431,000 antique maps, as well as regular rotating exhibitions and other free events. Free tours are held at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, and 2pm Sunday.


American Museum of Natural History

No matter where your curiosities lie (dinosaurs, gems or something else entirely), you’ll find plenty to be astonished by at this celebrated institution. The $22 listed admission price is just the 'suggested' price, you may pay what you wish. (However, it’s also free during its last hour, 4:45-5:45pm).

Bronx Zoo

With some 6,000 animals, the world’s largest urban zoo lets you get face-to-face with pandas, crocodiles, tigers, gorillas and more - Pay what you wish on Wednesdays.

Brooklyn Museum

One of the country’s largest art museums hold a huge variety of gems in its world-renowned permanent collections, including ancient Egyptian masterpieces like the remarkable chlorite head of sphinx. The suggest contribution is $12, though you can pay what you wish. Also, the museum is free on the first Saturday of the month (5-8pm), where there’s also wine, a DJ and pop-up gallery talks.

New York Historical Society

New York’s oldest museum offers a compelling look at the New York of yesteryear, with a range of interactive and immersive exhibits - Pay what you wish 6-8pm on Fridays.

New York Aquarium

King Neptune would approve. Ogle at the giant, 150,000 gallon reef tank, and catch sight of penguins, sharks, sea lions and walruses - Pay what you wish from 3pm Fridays (4pm in summer).


There are enough free trips here to jam-pack a long weekend. All you need to do it find cheap flights (Skyscanner) and use Airbnb. For Airbnb look across the river in Brooklyn, you'll get much more for your money and it's a great play to stay.

Let us know of any other free things in the comments section below and we'll add them to the list...

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