‘The Big Apple’ offers a sweet picking of unforgettable experiences, razzle, dazzle and iconic must-dos to tick off that bucket list. But if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, this famous metropolis can quickly leave a gaping hole in the hip pocket. Thankfully, some of the best experiences don’t cost a single George Washington-laden one-dollar bill. So don’t miss these fabulous free things to do in New York City.
Soak up the colourful and green surrounds, transport heritage and cascading city skyline along this revitalised piece of New York City’s past. An incredibly unique park fashioned along an historic freight rail line, The High Line winds its way over 20 blocks adorned with public art installations, blooming flowers and landscaped gardens. Elevated up to 30 feet above the bustling streets of Manhattan’s West Side, it comes complete with elevator access, water views and even sunbeds in sections along this enduring track.
Don’t let the marble lions out front or lack of a library card scare you off. Built in 1911, the New York Public Library was the largest marble building in the U.S. at the time and today, the endearing Beaux-Arts architectural style is equally as stunning. Wander beneath the ornate gold ceilings and vintage chandeliers past grand columns and arched windows to discover stunning murals, the Gutenberg Bible, an epic book collection and the original lamps lighting up the main reading room. Catch a free daily tour or one of many special events, from fashion shows to lectures.
Glimpse the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for zilch with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which cruises past this iconic crowned NYC attraction as it cuts across New York Harbor. It may not be a fancy dedicated sight-seeing cruise, but it does offer insight into the local life; 19 million people commute this way every year. Running from Battery Park to Staten Island, it also grants some pretty nice views of Lower Manhattan once you’re out on the water. Better yet, it runs 24 hours a day. For the most leisurely experience, try to avoid rush hour.
Home to over 10,000 tonnes of gold reserves, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers free 45-minute guided tours that’ll bring you face to face with the high-security vault protecting this hefty bounty huddled 80 feet below ground. Reserve a spot in advance for a fabulous introduction to the role the Federal Reserve plays in the American economy and to explore the grand halls of this neo-Renaissance building, from the trading desk and exhibits to a museum and one very serious coin collection.
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The green heart of Manhattan’s concrete jungle, Central Park stretches for blocks and blocks, all the way from 59th Street up to 110th Street. One of the most famous parks in the world, it’s also one of the most popular NYC attractions and within it you can discover a whole host of sights, from monuments and carousel rides to stunning lakes and restaurants. There are some famous movie filming locations to spot too. Climb on for a horse and carriage ride, hire a bike and pedal or simply find a grassy patch and unpack a picnic.
More than a buzzing transportation hub, Grand Central Terminal is a destination in itself. An historic NYC landmark decked out in beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture, there are over 65 shops and 35 places to eat. The terminal even has its own gourmet culinary market and touts a jam-packed events calendar. Peer up at the celestial ceiling mural above the main concourse, share a secret or two in the Whispering Gallery and explore the ‘secret’ elevated passageways. Free daily guided tours also offer behind-the-scenes insight.
For a taste of the happening New York City art scene, don’t miss the many exhibitions and artsy finds of the classy and colourful Chelsea district. There are more than 50 galleries within about six blocks here – with most of them cluttered around the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. Practically all of the galleries are free, and if you plan your gallery crawl in time for a Thursday night, you’ll also catch the free wine and cheese gallery events featuring emerging artists and plenty of creative and catchy atmosphere.
It’s one of NYC’s most iconic pilgrimages on foot to stroll the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Lower Manhattan to colourful, up-and-coming Brooklyn. The pedestrian walkway stretches for just over one-and-a-half-kilometres and if you take it easy with a few photo stops along the way, it takes about an hour to walk one-way. The views are fabulous at any time of day and span all the way to the Statue of Liberty, but there’s no denying the special magic of sunset, when dusky colours melt into the horizon and the city skyline starts to twinkle.
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