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5 Ways to Have a Fun Day in New York City Without Breaking the Bank

Updated: Jan 11

Visiting NYC on a budget

New York City is a bustling metropolis with plenty of attractions and activities to keep you entertained.

But if you’re on a budget, it can be hard to find fun things to do while still sticking to your spending goals.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to fill your day in the city as budget travelers with the many free things this amazing city has to offer.

You can explore iconic landmarks such as Central Park or discover some lesser-known gems at various museums.

No matter what type of adventure you seek, there is something for everyone here that will create memories worth cherishing forever - so start planning now!

Here are 5 free things to do and have a great time in New York City without spending too much money.

1. Take a free walking tour of the city

Exploring a new city can be an expensive endeavor, but if you're looking for something to do in New York City without the hefty price tag, why not take a free walking tour of the Big Apple?

Free walking tours are perfect for those on a budget – they provide an easy and affordable way to get acquainted with the city and learn about its most fascinating NYC attractions.

Some of these free tours work on the classic "Pay what you wish" model, so it can be really easy on your travel budget.

Here are a couple of examples of some of the destinations you can explore for free with your family:

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge

Cross the historically featured Brooklyn Bridge for the first time while stopping to learn about NYC's history while being guided.

Take a look at FreeToursByFoot to schedule a free walk tour of New York City and save cash big time while keeping your family entertained.

TIP: Additionally you can use one of their GPS-Led Audio Tour if you don't feel like going alone with your family or group.

Exploring Harlem

This world-known location is one of NYC's hidden gems with its landscape of street art and culture. Full of theaters and restaurants this is a must-see while visiting NYC neighborhoods as a group or family.

Harlem is full of street art, and many of the galleries in the area offer free tickets to enter. There are also some great street performers to check out while touring the neighborhood on foot.

2. Visit one of the free museums in New York City

Many of the city's greatest museums offer free admission, giving tourists and locals alike the chance to explore and learn something new at no cost.

From world-class art collections to interactive science exhibits, NYC has plenty of great museums that won't break the bank.

Not only are museums educational, but they're also great places for parents and kids to have fun while learning.

They usually offer interactive exhibits that make the experience more exciting for children by bringing the exhibits to life with a hands-on approach.

This can be perfect for children who want to learn about art, history, and culture, especially topics they might not cover in school or at home.

Additionally, adult visitors can appreciate all of the valuable information provided about key historical moments, events, and people from different parts of history.

Here's a list of free museums in NYC.

Queens County Farm Museum

An incredible historic site that allows tourists to step back in time.

Queens Farm offers plenty of fun, free activities for those living in the NYC area.

Queens County Farm Museum is a hotspot amongst local families looking for something to do on the weekend.

Programs offered include field trips for school groups and adult education, site tours, volunteer farmer days, and corporate & private site rentals.

The farm dates all the way back to 1697 and is still fully functioning which makes it one of the longest continuously farmed sites not only in New York City but also in North America.

It's no surprise that this incredible feat has made Queens County Farm Museum a national landmark that captures people's attention from all around the world.

The museum also holds a wealth of free events that are always sure to draw a crowd.

Queens Farm is just one of many fun and free things to do year-round in New York City! You can plan your visit here

Plan your visit

With the exception of special event days and holidays, their 47 acres are available Daily, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM for you and your family to explore.

The farm store sells maps that will help guide you as you walk through our growing fields, and gardens, and see heritage-breed livestock.

Say hi to the goats, sheep, alpaca, steer, and hens. You can also check out the Today on the Farm page to see what's happening today!

Come by the farm any day of the week all year long from 10 in the morning to 5 at night (except on special admission days).

If you need help finding your way around or want to know what's new that day, stop by the Farm Store / Welcome Center for a site map.

What do at the Farm

The farm features a variety of activities for families, including:

  • Explore the farm and its historic buildings: You and your family can take a self-guided tour of the farm and its buildings, which include a greenhouse, a colonial-style farmhouse, a blacksmith shop, and a barn.

  • See animals and participate in farm chores: The farm is home to a variety of animals, including cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. You and your family can help feed and care for the animals, or just watch them roam around the farm.

  • Enjoy seasonal events and festivals: The farm hosts a number of special events and festivals throughout the year, including a fall harvest festival, a pumpkin patch, and a Christmas tree farm.

  • Go on a hayride: The farm offers hayrides around the property, giving you and your family a chance to see the farm from a different perspective.

  • Play games and have picnics: The farm has a large grassy area where families can play games and have picnics. There are also picnic tables and grills available for use.

  • Shop at the farm stand: The farm has a farm stand where you can purchase fresh produce and other locally grown products.

Overall, the Queens Farm Museum is a great place for families to spend a day exploring, learning about farming, and enjoying the outdoors.

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for free on Friday nights

Who said free entertainment was hard to find? You don’t need to wander too far if you are looking for something free to do, especially when visiting New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the free museums in New York City, offers free admission on Friday nights.

From 4 to 8 pm the museum opens its doors to visitors and allows them free access to some of the most iconic pieces of contemporary art.

Plan your visit

On Friday nights, the museum offers free admission to all visitors, making it an excellent opportunity to explore the museum at no cost.

What to do in the Museum

Here is a list of tips for planning your visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Friday night:

  • Check the museum's hours: The Museum is open on Friday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Be sure to check the museum's website to confirm the hours of operation before you plan your visit.

  • Purchase a ticket in advance: While admission to the museum is free on Friday nights, you can still purchase a ticket in advance. This will allow you to skip the lines and go straight to the museum's galleries.

  • Plan your route: The Museum is a large museum with a vast collection, so it's a good idea to plan your route in advance. You can use the museum's website to browse the galleries and create a customized itinerary.

  • Take a guided tour: This museum offers a variety of guided tours on Friday nights, ranging from overview tours of the museum's collections to specialized tours focusing on specific artworks or themes. Guided tours are a great way to learn more about the museum and its collections.

  • Explore the museum's special exhibitions: The Museum frequently hosts special exhibitions featuring works from specific artists or periods. These exhibitions are often ticketed, but on Friday nights, they are included with your free admission.

  • Visit the museum's cafe or restaurant: This Museum has a number of dining options, including a cafe, a restaurant, and a bar. These spaces are a great place to take a break and relax during your visit.

  • Attend a Friday night program: The museum offers a variety of Friday night programs, including lectures, films, concerts, and performances. These programs are a great way to learn more about the museum's collections and engage with the museum's community.

  • Shop at the museum store: This Museum features a large store with a variety of books, gifts, and souvenirs. The store is open on Friday nights, so be sure to stop by and check out the selection.

  • Take advantage of free Wi-Fi: The Museum offers free Wi-Fi throughout the museum, so you can easily share your experience on social media or look up more information about the museum's collections.

The experience is unforgettable as attendees explore ancient artifacts and splendid paintings.

Enjoy hours of gazing at captivating pieces and learn about the art’s history that spans thousands of years in culture and tradition.

It's an exciting way to spend a free evening filled with culture and fun!

Visit the Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), located on Midtown Manhattan’s west side near Central Park is another outstanding free museum experience in NYC.

Boasting a collection of over 150 thousand objects from around the world - ranging from visual artworks such as prints, photographs, sculptures, and architecture –

Plan your visit

MoMA strives to be “committed to being inclusive and accessible by offering free tickets to enter every Friday evening between 4:00 pm-8:00 pm to visitors aged sixteen years or younger with their adult guardians/caregivers”.

MoMA also hosts numerous events such as film screenings, interactive installations as well as talks throughout the year that are both fun and educational

What to do in the Museum

Here are some suggestions for things that families can do at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City:

  • View the museum's collection of modern and contemporary art: The MoMA has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works of art from the modern and contemporary periods. Families can take a self-guided tour of the museum and view works by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

  • Attend a family workshop or tour: The MoMA offers a variety of workshops and tours specifically designed for families. These programs allow families to learn about and engage with art in a fun and interactive way.

  • Participate in a drop-in art activity: The MoMA has a drop-in art studio where families can participate in art-making activities inspired by the museum's collection. These activities are free with museum admission and do not require advance registration.

  • Visit the MoMA Design Store: The museum's store offers a wide variety of design-themed gifts, books, and other merchandise. Families can browse the store and find unique and memorable souvenirs to take home.

  • Eat at one of the museum's dining options: The MoMA has several dining options, including a cafe and a full-service restaurant. Families can enjoy a meal while taking in the museum's architecture and design.

If you want more information on the best free or "pay what you wish" Museums in NYC check out our article on the Best 3 Free Museums in NYC.

3. Check out one of New York's many beautiful parks

If you're looking for free family fun activities, there's no better place to look than New York City's parks.

Whether it be the iconic Central Park or the lesser-known Prospect Park, visitors won't regret taking a stroll through these lush green spaces.

Not only are these parks public (Free) and open to the public every day of the year, but they also offer free events such as outdoor concerts and free grownup fitness classes like Zumba that can keep any family entertained throughout their stay in the city.

And just when families think they have seen it all, they find plenty of benches and fields full of children laughing and smiling while playing tag, kicking around a soccer ball, and throwing frisbees.

Central Park

Central Park is one of the top NYC attractions that offers something for all types of visitors, making it an ideal family destination.

Located in the heart of New York City, this public park is free to explore and open year-round. Regardless of the time of year, you can find a variety of activities to enjoy with your family.

What to do in Central Park

There is something for all ages, ranging from free performances to boat rides across the lake. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll or participate in any number of free activities, Central Park offers plenty to see and do.

Make sure your kids have their cameras with them as you visit Central Park is full of photo ops that will preserve the memories for years to come.

Bryant Park

Bryant Park is a 9.6-acre oasis located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

It’s nestled between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets, just a stone's throw away from some of the city's most iconic landmarks, including the New York Public Library and Times Square.

The park is teeming with natural beauty, featuring over 350 types of trees and plants, as well as lush gardens and meandering pathways.

This park has become an iconic space for many to relax and enjoy their favorite pastimes, from enjoying the outdoors to reading a good book.

What to do in Bryan Park

One particularly remarkable feature this park offers is the chance to watch outdoor movies in the park under the stars - entirely free of charge.

With chairs already placed around your screens, Bryant Park offers moviegoers a unique way to relax and take in a classic film with friends or family, all while enjoying New York's famous skyline as a backdrop.

Whether it be an old favorite or something fresh out of theaters, Bryant Park provides an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the city; one of the top free NYC events.

Prospect Park

Located near Brooklyn, is an outdoor oasis in one of the most bustling cities in the world. This park is a free escape for NYC families to explore, bond, and simply enjoy all that nature has to offer, just like Central Park!

What to do in Prospect Park

Enjoy free activities with the family such as picnicking in Long Meadow or the Second Lake, strolling along its 150 acres of greenery and playgrounds to keep kids entertained and busy, partaking in live music shows, or just sitting back and peacefully observing nature.

Visiting one of New NYC's many beautiful parks will leave lasting memories that both adults and kids alike can cherish forever.

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is a beloved public park located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

The park is a popular gathering place for both tourists and locals and is known for its iconic arch, which was built in 1892 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States.

What to do in Washington Square Park

There are many things to do and see in Washington Square Park.

Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the park and enjoy the beautiful landscaping and natural scenery.

The park is also home to a number of sculptures and works of art, including the iconic Washington Square Arch, which serves as a popular backdrop for photos.

In addition to its historical and artistic features, a park is also a great place for recreational activities.

There are several playgrounds for children, as well as a dog run for furry friends. The park is also home to a number of benches and tables, making it a perfect spot for a picnic or just to sit and relax.

On any given day, you may also find performers, musicians, and other entertainers showcasing their talents in the park.

Whether you're looking to relax and take in the sights or participate in a fun activity, this park has something for everyone.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park is a sprawling, 85-acre huge park located along the East River in Brooklyn, New York.

The park offers a wide range of activities and amenities for families, including playgrounds, sports fields, and a skating rink.

What to do in Brooklyn Bridge Park

One popular attraction for families is Pier 2, which features a large roller rink, a basketball court, and a bocce ball court.

The park is also home to a number of cultural and educational programs, including nature walks, kayaking, and stargazing events.

Families can also take a stroll along the park's 1.3-mile waterfront promenade, which offers breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.

In addition to its recreational and educational offerings, Brooklyn Bridge Park is home to a number of food vendors, making it easy for families to grab a bite to eat while enjoying the great outdoors.

Battery Park

Battery Park is a popular destination for families visiting NYC, with a number of free and cheap things to enjoy.

Located in Lower Manhattan, the park offers breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Hudson River.

What to do in Battery Park

Families can take a leisurely stroll along the park's waterfront promenade, or spend some time in one of the park's many green spaces, including the Greenwich Street Garden and the State Street Garden.

The park is also home to a number of free cultural and educational events, including guided tours of the park's monuments and public art installations.

For a budget-friendly outing, families can take a free ferry ride from the park to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, or visit the nearby South Street Seaport Museum, which offers discounted admission for children.

With its rich history and abundance of recreational and cultural activities, this park is a must-visit destination for families in New York City.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park is a unique and family-friendly destination located in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York.

The park is free to visit and offers a variety of activities for families to enjoy. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the park's outdoor gallery, which features a rotating selection of contemporary sculptures and public art installations.

What to do Socrates Sculpture Park

The park hosts a number of free events and workshops, including artist talks, music performances, and hands-on art-making activities.

Children can also have fun exploring the park's green spaces, which feature playground equipment and a variety of plantings.

In addition to its artistic and recreational offerings, Socrates Sculpture Park is a great place to enjoy a picnic, with a number of tables and benches available throughout the park.

With its beautiful waterfront setting and abundance of free activities, this park is a must-visit destination for families in New York City.

4. Head to Chinatown and explore the markets there

Taking the trip to Chinatown in NYC is an experience like no other.

The markets offer so much more than just merchandise; wander through and explore the stalls with interesting products and restaurant vendors, each representing a different part of the Chinese culture as you move through the streets.

Spend time with friends or family, as adults can discover new flavors while kids can enjoy free tastings of pastries and bubble teas.

Whether looking for trinkets and souvenirs, knick-knacks, or artsy items, Chinatown promises something original you won't find anywhere else in cities around the world.

So grab your closest family members, young or old, and take some time to explore Chinatown and all its colorful offerings!

Plan your visit

Chinatown in NYC is the oldest one in America, and visiting it feels like being transported to another country – or even another era!

Though it might feel a bit touristy at first glance, if you look closely you’ll see evidence of China among the locals, their traditions, and the authentic (and inexpensive) restaurants and food shops.

When in Chinatown, one must stroll down the tiny roads lined with old tenement buildings.

As you walk, contemplate the area's part filled with experiences of Irish gangs from 1830 and the mass Chinese movement during the 1900s.

Be sure to window shop along Canal Street for "designer" sacks or mementos. And most vitally, chow down!

What to do in Chinatown

Here is a list of 10 things to do as a family in Chinatown, New York City:

  • Explore the neighborhood: Chinatown is a vibrant and colorful neighborhood with a rich cultural history. Take a walk through the streets and explore the colorful storefronts, bustling markets, and delicious food stalls.

  • Visit the Chinese Scholar's Garden: Located within the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, the Chinese Scholar's Garden is a beautiful and peaceful oasis within the city. The garden features traditional Chinese architecture, landscaping, and rock formations, as well as a koi pond and a teahouse.

  • Go shopping: Chinatown is home to a variety of markets and stores selling everything from traditional Chinese clothing and crafts to modern gadgets and souvenirs.

  • Eat your way through the neighborhood: Chinatown is known for its delicious and diverse food scene. From dim sum and dumplings to noodles and BBQ, there's something for every member of the family to enjoy.

  • Visit the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA): MOCA is a museum dedicated to preserving and promoting the history, culture, and contributions of Chinese Americans. The museum offers a variety of exhibits and programs for all ages.

  • Take a food tour: Chinatown Food Tours offers guided tours of the neighborhood's food and culture. The tours include tastings at various restaurants and food stalls, as well as a chance to learn about the history and culture of Chinatown.

  • Go on a walking tour: A walking tour is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Chinatown. Several companies offer guided tours of the neighborhood, including Chinatown Walking Tours and Big Onion Walking Tours.

  • Visit the Mahayana Buddhist Temple: The Mahayana Buddhist Temple is a beautiful and ornate temple located in the heart of Chinatown. Visitors are welcome to tour the temple and learn about Buddhism.

  • Check out the Chinatown YMCA: The Chinatown YMCA offers a variety of programs and activities for families, including swimming, basketball, and martial arts classes.

  • Go to a movie at the AMC Loews: The AMC Loews theater in Chinatown shows a mix of Hollywood and Chinese films. It's a great place to catch a movie as a family.

Overall, Chinatown is a vibrant and exciting neighborhood with a rich cultural history and a variety of activities for families to enjoy.

Whether you're interested in exploring the markets, trying new foods, or learning about the history and culture of Chinatown, there's something for everyone in this colorful and vibrant neighborhood.

5. Visit the High Line

A popular and family-friendly destination in New York City, offering a variety of free activities and amenities.

Located on an elevated former railroad track in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the High Line is a 1.5-mile-long park that offers breathtaking views of the city and the Hudson River.

It offers more than just an elevated walk with stunning views of the city skyline. This park is a great way for traveling families on a budget to get out and explore without breaking the bank.

Whether you explore on foot, by bike, or even by Segway, the High Line has something to offer everyone in the family.

Plan your visit

The High Line hosts numerous events throughout the year including music performances, talks, and educational programs for kids. These events offer unique ways to experience both art and nature while connecting visitors with their local community.

Plus they’re all free! On certain days of the week, it’s possible to find food vendors offering snacks or meals at reasonable prices – perfect for busy parents looking for a quick bite while exploring with their kids.

What to do at the High Line

Families can take a leisurely stroll along the park's landscaped walkways and enjoy the various art installations and public seating areas.

The park is also home to a number of free events and activities, including guided tours, music performances, and public art workshops.

Children can also have fun playing in the park's playground, which features climbing structures and water features.

With its beautiful setting and abundance of free activities, the High Line is a must-visit destination for families in NYC.

New York City is full of things to do that don't require spending money - from visiting parks and museums to exploring art galleries - there's something for everyone here a subway ride away from your location!

So next time you're looking for something fun but don't want it to cost an arm and a leg, try one of the free things ideas instead - you won't regret it!

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