Ride the Staten Island Ferry: The Staten Island Ferry is used daily by thousands of commuters. Ride it for a great view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York Harbor, and the lower Manhattan skyline. You can’t beat the price: free.
- Visit a museum for free (or nearly free): A number of museums allow free entry on Fridays. The Museum of Modern Art is free from 4 to 8pm on that day as is the Museum of the Moving Image. The Rubin Museum’s free Fridays run from 6 to 10pm, the New-York Historical Society from 6 to 8pm, and the Whitney Museum from 6 to 10pm. Remember that a number of museums—most prominently the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History—charge a “suggested donation,” meaning you could, without shame, pay just a nickel for entrance.
- Attend a TV taping: You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at how Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and other NYC-based TV stars work their magic. And you won’t pay a cent more than you would to see the show on TV in your own home.
- Take a tour with a Big Apple Greeter: Volunteers who love their hometown and love showing it to outsiders even more lead these unique tours. You’ll need to sign up well in advance, but when you do, you’ll be assigned a local with similar interests to yours who can show you the neighborhood of your choice. Possibly the best tours in the city and absolutely free.
- Kayak the Hudson River: From May through October, the Downtown Boathouse organization (www.downtownboathouse.org) offers both lessons and boats, gratis, to anyone who’s interested. It’s a thrilling, remarkably easy-to-learn activity, and a great way to get a bit of exercise.
- Gallery Hop in Chelsea: Go in the early evening hours, and you may score free wine and nibbles at a gallery opening. But even if you don’t, wandering through these galleries—the biggest concentration in the world—is an intriguing, intellectually rich experience, as you’ll see what the current zeitgeist of the art world is, as expressed by hundreds of would-be Picassos.
- Walk. Everywhere: New York City is one of the world’s greatest walking cities. Since most of it is planned on the grid system, it’s hard to get lost (except below 4th street, where getting lost is part of the fun). Avenues go north and south, streets go east and west. You can actually walk the entire length of Manhattan—a walk that, done briskly, takes upwards of 6 hours. That’s a 13 1/2-mile hike, by the way!
- Get Festive: NYC's calendar is crammed with special events, performances and celebrations, most of them free. That includes the dance parade in May, Shakespeare in the Park during the summer months, and much more.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.