To get the most out of your vacation dollar, take advantage of all the free events (www.nycgo.com/free) that take place in New York City all year long. Here's a sampling of some free rides that will help you experience and enjoy the city in a whole new light.
For the times when you don't feel like walking another step, here's where to hop on a bus, ferry, or trolley and where you can rent kayaks, canoes, or bikes -- all for free.
New York City Sightseeing Tours: Where to Get a Free Bus or Ferry Ride
The Downtown Connection Bus (www.downtownny.com) Free, year-round
Here's a convenient - and absolutely free -- way to explore downtown Manhattan. A little bus, run by The Downtown Alliance, connects the South Street Seaport with Battery Park City, making several stops from river to river. Hop on and off to check out the interesting shops, restaurants and attractions along the route.
Consider this glorious 25-minute ride a mini-cruise with some of the world's best views --the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, and lower Manhattan. On Staten Island (www.visitstatenisland.com), get out and explore all the wonderful sights, such as the Alice Austen House Museum (www.aliceausten.org), the Tibetan Museum (www.tibetanmuseum.org), and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Garden (www.snug-harbor.org).
Governors Island Ferry(Battery Maritime Building, 10 South St.; www.govisland.com) Free, accessible only on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays; June 5-Oct 8, 2010
Travel to Governors Island on a free, 7-minute ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn. For 200 years, Governors Island was a military base for the U.S. Army and Coast Guard. Now, it's a public recreational area. The former barracks make it look a bit austere, but there's lots of redevelopment in the works and the views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty are spectacular. Almost every weekend, there are activities, concerts, and events.
Create a fun, free ferry loop of your own. First, go from Manhattan to Governors Island. Then, take the free ferry from Pier 101 on Governors Island to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org). Do the loop in reverse to return to Manhattan.
While in Brooklyn, do a little exploring. From Pier 6, walk up hill on Joralemon St., take a left on Hicks St. to Montague St., which leads to the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights for stunning views of Manhattan. Walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge for more great views.
Free Shuttles and More Free Ferries: Shop Till You Drop
Free Shuttle Bus - IKEA Elizabeth, NJ (Port Authority Bus Terminal, 42nd St. & 8th Ave.; www.ikea.com) Free, Saturdays & Sundays
On the weekends, take advantage of New Jersey's low 3.5% Sales Tax. A free shuttle bus runs from Manhattan's Port Authority Terminal (Gate #5, lower concourse, near Academy Bus line) to the massive home-goods store, IKEA in Elizabeth, NJ.
Free Ferry - IKEA Brooklyn, NY (Pier 11, Gouverneur Lane & the East River; www.nywatertaxi.com) Free, Saturdays & Sundays
From Pier 11 (just a short walk from the South Street Seaport) take the IKEA ferry to Red Hook, Brooklyn. The store is right in front of the pier on Beard St. You can shop if you must, or take a lovely stroll along the waterfront, then head to the nearby Fairway Market (480 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, NY; tel. 718/694-6868; www.fairwaymarket.com). The market has a dining patio with views of New York Harbor. Pick up something to eat at the salad bar (mid-store) or at the deli counter right before the exit to the patio.
Free Trolley Tours: Where to Catch Up on Culture
The HOB Connection Trolley -- Brooklyn (www.heartofbrooklyn.org) Free, 1st Saturday of each month, 5pm-11pm
At the Brooklyn Museum, free admission and entertainment is provided in the evening on Target First Saturdays (www.brooklynmuseum.org). The Heart of Brooklyn HOB Connection Trolley runs between the museum and local spots in the surrounding neighborhoods. At each stop, tour guides suggest nice restaurants, shops, and bars. The guides also provide maps, discounts, and tips.
Bronx Culture Trolley (www.bronxarts.org) Free, 1st Wednesday of each month (except Jan. & Sept.), 5pm-8:30pm & on select Saturdays
The Bronx Council on the Arts provides a cultural loop of the lower Grand Concourse and other sections of the Bronx. The old-fashioned trolley is a free, innovative way to explore the area's wonderful cultural attractions, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Hop on and off at stops along the route for art exhibits, poetry readings, music, and dance performances. Discover the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, or Pregones Theater. The trolley leaves from the Longwood Art Gallery (Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse & 149th St.).
Free Kayak, Canoe, and Bike Rentals: Where to Get Some Exercise
Kayaking on the Hudson -- Manhattan (3 locations: Pier 40, 353 West St., at W. Houston St.; Pier 96 at W. 56th St. & Clinton Cove Park; W. 72nd St. & Riverside Park; www.downtownboathouse.org) Free, weekends & some weekday evenings
On the weekends, the New York City Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking on the scenic Hudson River at three locations. The equipment -- boats, paddles, life jackets -- and instructions are free. Wear shorts or a swimsuit. (You must know how to swim). Everything is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early.
Can You Canoe? -- Brooklyn (Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club; tel. 718/243-0849; www.waterfrontmuseum.org) Free, weekends & weekday evenings
The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club is dedicated to providing free waterfront access. They offer canoeing on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn as well as on the waterfront in Red Hook, Staten Island, and Long Island City. (You must know how to swim).
This summer, they've teamed up with the Village Community Boathouse to offer free kayaking and rowing from Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (www.brooklynbridgepark.org).
Row Your Boat -- Manhattan (Village Community Boathouse, Pier 40, Hudson River Park, at W. Houston St.; www.villagecommunityboathouse.org) Free, every Sunday and Tues. & Thurs. evenings
The Village Community Boathouse offers free, group rowing sessions. The aim is to provide safe, public access to the city's waterways and to introduce people, especially kids, to the joys of rowing, sailing, and boatbuilding. (You must know how to swim).
For all these boating activities, the equipment is provided for free. No training or prior experience is needed but as noted, you must know how to swim. Boating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early.
Free Bike Fridays -- Governors Island (www.govisland.com) Free bikes only on Fridays, June 5-Oct. 8, 2010
Car-free Governors Island is a pleasant place for picnicking, walking, jogging, and biking. Bike rentals are free on Fridays. At other times, bring your own bike or rent one out there from Bike and Roll (www.bikeandrollnyc.com).
Bike - Summer Streets -- Manhattan (www.nyc.gov) Three Saturdays: Aug. 7, 14, 21, 2010
On select Saturdays in August, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, Park Avenue--and connecting streets -- will be closed to traffic and opened to people for biking, walking, strolling, etc. At Rest Stops along the route, you can rent free bikes and take part in other fun activities.
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