50 Best Free + Cheap Things To Do In NYC

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50 best free cheap and fun things to do in new york city top nyc attractions where are those morgans

New York City has many free and cheap attractions, including parks, museums, observation decks, landmarks, neighborhoods and foods. The best things to do in NYC include seeing the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge. But there’s much more to see and you might be surprised by how affordable New York really is.

In this guide we show you the 50 best free and cheap things to do in NYC based entirely on our own experiences.

Our NYC Experience

Mark and Kristen enjoying Central Park in the snow

What do we know about NYC? And how can we help you create your bucket list of New York attractions?

Well, Kristen is an Upstate NY native, we lived in New York City in 2021 and we’ve visited countless times both before and after. So we know a thing or two about NYC! We’ve done every single thing in this list ourselves and you’ll find our own photos within each attraction.

We use NYC as a meeting point when Mark’s family or friends come over to visit us from the UK. And the attractions listed in this guide are what we use to show them around the city. Read more about us.

About This Guide

Our favorite thing about New York is that many of the iconic attractions are free. There’s some things you should do that you’ll have to pay for, but they’re definitely worth it and they’re not too expensive.

Attractions in our guide are listed in order of cost. The first 30 are free, then you’ll get into cheap attractions and you’ll finish with one awesome luxury tour. Stick around until the end for our attractions map and a special deal we have exclusively for our readers.

Let’s kick things off with the legendary Brooklyn Bridge!

1. Brooklyn Bridge

Walking over Brooklyn Bridge during the day towards Manhattan with few people on boardwalk
Kristen walking over the Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of those classic NYC experiences you simply can’t miss. We’ve walked both ways at least a dozen times and it’s still one of our favorite things to do. It’s free, romantic, family friendly and exceptionally photogenic.

The bridge is quiet if you walk across earlier in the morning, but it gets much busier throughout the day and it’s packed full of tourists at sunset. By night, you’ll get one of the best Lower Manhattan skyline views as you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

READ: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge at night

2. Central Park

The Mall bench close up in Central Park one of the most popular places to visit in New York City
The Mall in Central Park

Central Park is the crown jewel of city parks and it’s another of those truly unmissable NYC attractions. You’ll find cherry blossoms in spring, emerald green leaves in summer, vibrant fall foliage in autumn and a white snowy wonderland in winter. It even has its own mini-list of things to see!

Here’s the exact order you should walk around Central Park:

  1. Wollman Ice Rink
  2. The Mall
  3. Bethesda Terrace
  4. Bow Bridge
  5. Wagner’s Cove
  6. Strawberry Fields
  7. The Ramble
  8. Belvedere Castle

According to Tripadvisor, Central Park is the number 1 attraction in New York City. It’s definitely one of the most romantic places to visit in NYC, so don’t miss it if you’re traveling with your loved one.

READ: The 12 best places to visit in Central Park in winter

3. Times Square

Couple taking photo with arms outstretched in Times Square NYC with bright lights and no people
Mark and Kristen alone in Times Square at 5:00am

Times Square is one of those places you’re going to love or hate. Either way, it still has to be included in your first time NYC itinerary purely because it’s so famous. Make sure you visit Times Square at night when the flashing lights are bright and the crowds are heavy for the full experience.

Take extra care with your belongings when walking around Times Square. We’ve never had any problems but Times Square is known as a hotspot for pickpockets.

Best things to do in Times Square:

  • Watch a broadway show
  • Buy treats at M&M’s world, Hershey’s and Krispy Kreme
  • Grab a slice at Joe’s Pizza
  • Visit attractions like Madame Tussauds or Rise
  • Watch the ball drop on New Years Eve
  • Sit on the red steps and watch the chaos unfold
 

4. Chelsea Market

Ornate and colorful curtains leading through Chelsea Market with people looking at shops and a big clock
Walking through Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is a hugely popular place to visit on a typical first time NYC tourist itinerary because it’s filled with lovely independent stores and tasty foods from around the world. Take a slow walk through the market and make sure you arrive hungry!

5. The High Line

Crowd of people walking High Line next to old railway line and toward Edge at Hudson Yards
Old railway line leading to Hudson Yards

The High Line is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. You can pick up the beginning near Chelsea Market and follow the elevated path all the way to Hudson Yards.

Walking alongside the old railway line is free, scenic and pedestrian friendly because you don’t have to use crosswalks. Just know that The High Line may well be busier than the streets below on warmer days in summer!

6. Vessel

Vessel building with metallic orange coloring against blue sky one of the best things to photograph in New York City
The incredibly photogenic Vessel in Hudson Yards

Vessel is one of our favorite pieces of NYC architecture. We couldn’t get enough of the beehive shaped structure because it’s just so unique, eye catching and photogenic. You can walk around the ground level next to Vessel but you can’t walk up to the top level.

You’ll find Vessel at the northern end of The High Line in Hudson Yards. We typically go to Chelsea Market, walk The High Line, see Vessel and then go up Edge NYC.

7. Grand Central Terminal

Famous four sided clock in Grand Central backed by the US flag
Famous clock in Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is an iconic New York City transit hub with a spectacular interior hall. You’ve more than likely seen Grand Central in movies, but it’s so much more impressive to see it in person.

From the ornate arched bridge outside to the special exhibits on rotation inside, Grand Central Terminal is another free thing you can’t miss in NYC. If you’re planning to watch a Yankees game, this is where you’ll get the train.

Things to do in Grand Central:

  • Head up the stairs to grab a photo looking down on hundreds of people in a hurry
  • Go down to the Whispering Galley, whisper something to your friend or partner through a pillar and they will hear it from the pillar opposite
  • Take a Metro North train from Grand Central to Yankee Stadium
  • Walk through Grand Central market to find cheeses and other tasty foods

8. Brooklyn

Typical row of 5 story buildings joined together in Brooklyn New York
Quintessential row of houses in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is the most populated borough of New York City and it covers over 3 times the land area of Manhattan Island. You’ll find diverse residential neighborhoods, a bustling social scene and a few top attractions you should consider visiting such as the New York Transit Museum and Dumbo.

With more time you can explore further into Brooklyn, which is where you’ll leave the tourists behind and begin to mix with the locals. NYC is widely regarded as one of the best places to visit in the US and we think a huge reason for its success as a tourist destination is its diverse neighborhoods like Brooklyn.

Areas to explore in Brooklyn:

  • Prospect Park
  • Red Hook
  • Greenwood Cemetery
  • Downtown Brooklyn
  • Coney Island
  • Brighton Beach
  • Sunset Park
  • Cobble Hill

9. Dumbo

Famous Dumbo photo from Brooklyn overlooking Manhattan Bridge at dawn through buildings with cars on roadside
Quintessential NYC photographers spot in Dumbo

Dumbo is the one place in Brooklyn that should be on every first time NYC itinerary. It’s the first neighborhood you’ll reach after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and it has a perfect set up for tourism. There’s loads of places to eat while you enjoy some of the best NYC skyline views.

This place is always busy with pro photographers and Instagram photo shoots. We were only able to get the photo above with nobody in it because we arrived at the photo spot for sunrise.

Things to do in Dumbo:

  • Walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park for amazing NYC skyline views
  • See the Lower Manhattan skyline from Old Pier 1
  • Eat at legendary Grimaldi’s Pizza or Juliana’s Pizza
  • Explore Time Out Market and stand on the roof for Brooklyn Bridge views
  • Get the Instagram photo at the Washington Street Manhattan Bridge View

10. Friends Apartment

Apartment from friends tv show in Greenwich Village nyc
Apartment block exterior from friends tv show

Do you recognize the building in our photo above? The modest looking building at 90 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village is used throughout the popular sitcom Friends as the apartment block exterior.

The cast filmed Friends over 2,500 miles away at Warner Bros studio Hollywood in Los Angeles, but all outdoors scenes were shot in New York City. At the bottom of the building you’ll find the highly rated Mediterranean restaurant The Little Owl.

Need help planning your visit to NYC?

Our popular New York City travel guidebook will help you with planning every aspect of your trip, including airport links, the subway, top attractions, itinerary ideas, restaurants, hotels and map!

View NYC Guidebook
Where Are Those Morgans NYC travel guidebook

11. Macy’s

Macy's store with people cycling and crossing the road
Macy’s Department Store

You can’t visit New York City without shopping at Macy’s, the world’s largest department store. Ride the old wooden elevator to the 11th floor and explore each floor of the shoppers paradise on the way back down.

Best times to visit Macy’s:

  • Thanksgiving – Famous Thanksgiving Day Parade is the third Thursday in November
  • Christmas – November and December for festive Christmas decorations

12. Flatiron Building

Flatiron building with gold clock and flowers on a sunny day in new york city
Flatiron Building with Rolex clock

The Flatiron Building is an iconic triangular shaped architectural gem in the heart of Manhattan. It had scaffolding around the entire structure the whole time we lived in NYC but it’s due to be converted to luxury apartments so it should lose its ugly construction coat.

We wouldn’t say the Flatiron Building is essential on every first time NYC itinerary, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into architecture and famous buildings.

13. Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge green blue color with snow on the ground in Brooklyn at dusk
Manhattan Bridge at dusk from Time Out Market

Most visitors to NYC will walk the Brooklyn Bridge and not even give the Manhattan Bridge a second look. And that’s a mistake. From the Manhattan Bridge you get a stunning view overlooking Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

Now, the walk itself is certainly not as attractive as the Brooklyn Bridge and we recommend walking it during daylight. But you also benefit from a popular photo spot known as hole-in-the-fence which looks down a Chinatown street. This is definitely in our hidden gem list of free things to do in New York City.

READ: How to walk the Manhattan Bridge

14. New York Public Library

NY Public Library on an overcast day
New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is one of the most prominent buildings along Fifth Avenue and it’s the fourth largest public library in the world. The ornate statues named Patience and Fortitude flank a wide stone staircase leading into the structure and the interior design work is magnificent.

15. Strand Book Store

Strand bookstore red banner and flag with huge line waiting
The Strand Book Store in NYC

Strand Book Store is New York City’s incredibly popular independent bookstore. It’s located near Union Square in a quieter part of Manhattan but that doesn’t keep the crowds away so expect a line to get inside.

What will you find inside? Oh, just the 18 miles of book shelves filled with new, old and rare books!

16. NYC Skyline

New York City skyline from Pier 1 at night buildings lit up with office lights
NYC Skyline from Pier 1 in Brooklyn

New York is home to one of the most iconic urban skylines in the world. As travel photographers, we can’t think of many better ways to spend our time in NYC than taking photos of the extraordinary skyscrapers. One of our favorite spots is Old Pier 1, which you can see in our photo above.

Best places to see the NYC skyline:

  • Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (free)
  • From Brooklyn Bridge Park and Old Pier 1 (free)
  • Boat tour looking at NYC from the Hudson River and East River (below $30)
  • Standing on top of observation decks ($30+)
  • Helicopter tour looking down from the sky (expensive)

17. Time Out Market

Brooklyn Bridge as seen from Time Out Market at dusk with dark clouds
Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the roof of Time Out Market

Time Out Market is a small shopping and dining experience located in Dumbo. It sits on the shores of the East River and offers upscale stores with a riverside restaurant directly overlooking Brooklyn Bridge.

Don’t miss the roof of Time Out Market, which rewards you with wonderful elevated views over both Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.

18. Wall Street + NYSE

Statue of George Washington on Wall Street with Trinity Church in background
George Washington Statue next on Wall Street

Wall Street is one of the most famous financial centers in the world. You can see the George Washington statue standing tall outside Federal Hall, look up at the NYSE with the Fearless Girl and visit Trinity Church.

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the sound of money being made as you walk along the narrow, winding and cobblestoned streets of Wall Street. Spend an hour exploring the rest of the Financial District in Lower Manhattan because there’s loads more to see.

Places to visit around Wall Street:

  • Federal Hall
  • George Washington statue
  • NYSE
  • Fearless Girl Statue
  • 40 Wall Street (Trump Building)
  • Trinity Church
  • Charging Bull

19. The Bushwick Collective

French bulldog purple against green background wall art mural in Bushwick new york city
Awesome mural of a French Bulldog in Bushwick

Bushwick is a popular artsy neighborhood to the east of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The world’s top street artists and local graffiti artists have adorned several Bushwick street walls with outstanding wall art.

Head for Starr Street, Troutman Street and Jefferson Street between Wyckoff Avenue and Cypress Avenue for the main clusters of art. Alternatively, you can explore the Bushwick Collective as part of this popular guided tour, where you will learn about the artists and murals.

20. Oculus

Inside Oculus brilliant white architecture with stands and people walking below
Inside Oculus transport and shopping hub

Oculus is a transport hub and shopping center, but it’s also one of our favorite examples of unique architecture in NYC. Above ground, the structure looks like an elegant dove with curving white wings spreading. But step inside and you’ll be blown away by the cavernous brilliant white hall.

21. SoHo

SoHo New York street with cobbled bricks and cars parked along narrow row of shops one of the popular places for tourists to visit in NYC
Cobbled shopping street in SoHo

SoHo, which stands for South of Houston Street, is a bustling high end shopping neighborhood filled with picturesque cobbled streets and colorful high rise buildings. It’s a trendy and hip place to walk around, but you’ll need a healthy bank balance for SoHo’s boutique stores.

Things to do in SoHo:

  • Shop ’til you drop (better if you have a few thousand dollars spare in your NYC travel budget!)
  • Check out the Museum of Ice Cream
  • Enjoy the people watching with a beer
  • Visit the Drawing Center
  • Eat a cronut at Dominique Ansel bakery

22. Seaport Sunrise

Brooklyn Bridge sunrise from Pier 17 in Seaport District
Sunrise over Brooklyn Bridge from Seaport

How do you feel about waking up early to watch the sun rising over New York City? We’ve tried a few places over the years but our favorite is from Pier 17 in Seaport, which overlooks Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge as you can see in our photo above.

The best way to do sunrise is to start at Pier 17, watch the skyscrapers glow a gorgeous orange color, then walk across Brooklyn Bridge when it’s quiet and the sun is beginning to rise, before finishing at Brooklyn Bridge Park so you can watch as Lower Manhattan illuminates with soft morning light.

More things you can do in Seaport:

  • Relax on the public esplanade at Pier 15
  • Shop in unique independent stores
  • Visit the South Street Seaport Museum
  • Check out Bowne & Co stationers

READ: Best way to see sunrise at Brooklyn Bridge

23. Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge street leading through buildings without the sunset
One of the famous Manhattanhenge photo spots but without the elusive sunset

Manhattanhenge is a famous sunset event that only happens twice a year. At the end of certain Manhattan streets like 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 54th, you can watch as the sun sets on the horizon bang smack in the middle of the rows of buildings.

You can witness one of the most unique things to do in New York City if you visit around 3 weeks before or after the summer solstice. It’s not exact each year but aim for June 1st and July 12th.

24. Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island ferry crossing between new york and new jersey
Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island ferry is a free passenger transporter carrying New Yorkers from Manhattan to the southernmost borough of Staten Island. Look out for the gigantic orange ship in Hudson Bay and you’ve spotted the Staten Island Ferry.

Many first time visitors to New York take the free Staten Island ferry to get close up views over the Statue of Liberty without having to pay. It’s a great idea if you’re traveling on a frugal budget but we have to say it’s nothing like taking the tour of Liberty Island.

Things to do in Staten Island:

25. Penn Station

Escalators running up through a globe in Penn Station
The Penn Station escalators

Located beneath the world famous events center Madison Square Garden, Penn Station is New York City’s major transportation hub. You’ll likely pass through Penn Station if you’re taking a train from JFK or Newark, watching a concert, or seeing the Knicks and Rangers play.

There’s a really cool photo spot on 34th street at the entrance to the newly refurbished Moynihan Hall area within Penn Station. It’s one our favorite hidden gem Instagram photo spots in NYC.

26. Radio City Music Hall

Radio City music hall lit up at night against the dark sky in New York City
The legendary Radio City lit up at night

Radio City Music Hall is one of the most famous entertainment venues in NYC. You can of course watch a show, but even if you don’t make it inside you should at least check out the exterior when it’s lit up at night.

Stand on the corner of 6th avenue and 50th street after sunset for one of NYC’s most iconic night photos. The perfect way to see Radio City is right as you leave Top of the Rock after sunset.

Shows at Radio City:

  • General – Comedians, opera singers and artists
  • Christmas – The amazing Radio City Rockettes

27. Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Christmas Tree with ice rink and top of the rock behind
Famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Seeing the Rockefeller Christmas Tree from Home Alone 2 is about as festive as it gets in NYC. This is one thing you simply can’t miss if you’re visiting New York City at the end of November or any time in December.

The iconic Christmas tree is typically 75-80 ft tall, so it’s a bit bigger than the one in your living room!

Rockefeller Tree information:

  • The tree is located outside the Rockefeller Center in Rockefeller Plaza
  • It goes up the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and goes down in early January
  • You can ice skate on the rink in front of the tree for the most romantic (but costly!) experience

28. Greenwich Village

Bleecker Street in greenwich village nyc buildings restaurants cars daytime
Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is one of Manhattan’s most appealing residential neighborhoods. New York’s bohemian capital is home to a spirited, artistic and friendly community. It’s one of our favorite parts of New York to take a slow and aimless stroll.

The tree lined streets host cafes, bars, restaurants and a big party scene, particularly along Bleecker Street. Washington Square Park is at the heart of Greenwich Village, and you can expect to see live music, chess games and a diverse mix of age ranges.

Things to do in Greenwich Village:

  • Relax in Washington Square Park
  • See the Friends apartment
  • Enjoy the stunning rows of residential houses
  • Eat, drink, party and repeat

29. Chinatown

Colorful lanterns hanging across the road with restaurants and cars parked in Chinatown NYC
Colorful display in Chinatown NYC

Chinatown is sandwiched between Lower East Side, Tribeca and Little Italy. It has a high population density, which means dozens of amazing places to eat, drink and party.

You can expect vibrant hanging lanterns, exceptional Asian food, temples, bakeries, galleries, museums, bars and nightclubs. It’s more gritty and less attractive than the likes of SoHo or Greenwich Village but you’ll get a real feel for working class Manhattan.

Things to do in Chinatown:

  • Visit the Museum of Chinese in America
  • Explore the best of Canal Street shopping
  • Drink cocktails in Apotheke Bar (famed for its chemistry lab theme)
  • Eat at some of the best south east Asian places in NYC
  • Explore the modern natural history museum called Mmuseumm

30. Fifth Avenue

Window displays in Saks fifth avenue around Christmas time in New York City
Festive window display in Saks on Fifth Avenue

Is there a more iconic shopping street in the world than Fifth Avenue, New York City? Groups of friends and shopaholics won’t be able to stay away from Saks and the huge flagship stores for several famous brands.

We expect families visiting NYC from abroad with teenagers in tow will likely gravitate towards Fifth Avenue very early in the itinerary!

That’s the end of our best free things to do in New York City. Now, let’s move onto the best cheap things to do in NYC!

31. Statue Of Liberty + Ellis Island

Close up of the Statue of Liberty holding torch aloft from below and to the side in nyc
The iconic Statue of Liberty

Lady Liberty is the poster girl of NYC and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. We’ve seen it from various boat tours, helicopter tours and lesser known parts of Brooklyn, but taking the Liberty Island and Ellis Island ferry is by far the best way to see the Statue of Liberty.

You can learn about her history, construction and unveiling before moving onto Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which is incredibly thought provoking. Many Americans reading this guide may have grandparents or great grandparents who once entered the US through Ellis Island.

Ticket information:

  • Basic tickets cost $23.50 per adult
  • Additional fees for pedestal or crown access
  • Buy on the day or in advance with Statue Cruises or Get Your Guide

READ: How to get the ferry to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

32. Museums

Woman stood looking at huge painting in The MET museum one of the best things to do in New York City
Kristen looking at Washington crossing the Delaware in The Met

Museums in New York City are on a level you can only find in a handful of cities around the world. Are you interested in art, fashion, architecture, transport, history or the military? You’ll find some of the most prestigious museums for all interests in New York.

Our personal favorites are The Met and 9/11 Memorial + Museum. Obviously they’r very different, but both blew us away in their own right. The NY Transit Museum in Brooklyn was closed when we lived in New York, but it is top of our list for the next time we visit.

Some of our favorite NYC museums include:

READ: The best museums to visit in NYC

33. New York Subway

NYC subway station with no people
New York City subway station completely empty

The New York subway system is one of the most famous on the planet thanks to popular culture. You have to ride the subway at least once, if not to get around then at least for the experience!

We always walk as much as possible in new cities because you can see more. But Manhattan is massive and you’ll need to use the subway to cover longer distances between attractions.

Tips for riding the New York City subway:

  • Download this subway map pdf
  • Each ride costs $2.90
  • Buy a subway card when you arrive
  • Fill your card with multiples of $2.90 (eg. $29.00 for 10 rides)
  • Use #4 green line Lexington Ave Express for a quicker ride top to bottom in Manhattan

34. Governors Island

Governors Island in new york bay from helicopter
Governors Island in New York

Once a revolutionary war military installation, Governors Island today is a public green space floating in Hudson Bay and it’s perfect for tourists to explore in the warmer months. 

The US army and coastguard have both used Governors Island for training purposes but it was ultimately opened to the public in 2005. This might not sound like the most exciting thing to do in NYC but it’ll get you off the beaten path for an hour or two!

Things to do on Governors Island:

  • Free public arts and cultural events take place on the island
  • Walk around historic buildings such as Castle Williams and Fort Jay
  • Enjoy the relaxing gardens

Ticket information:

  • Tickets are just $3.00 return
  • Ferry leaves from Battery Maritime Building slip 5
  • Here’s more Governors Island ferry information

35. Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz's Delicatessen popular place for lunch in lower east side new york city building exterior with sign
Katz’s Delicatessen in Lower East Side

Want to taste the best pastrami on rye in New York City? Head over to Lower East Side and step inside Katz’s Delicatessen. You’ll get a ticket upon entry, then you need to pick your sandwich from a large menu on the wall and eventually make your order at a booth.

Katz’s is famous among locals and tourists but it has also featured in movies like When Harry Met Sally. A sandwich will set you back around $20-25 because of the higher quality ingredients used. And maybe its fame has added a few extra bucks to the bottom line!

36. Williamsburg

Williamsburg Brooklyn pedestrian friendly streets with bars and restaurants in three four and five story buildings
Restaurants and bars aplenty in Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a trendy and hipster residential neighborhood north of Brooklyn and across the East River from Midtown Manhattan. This is where you’ll find the younger crowd enjoying a vibrant and bustling social scene with pubs spilling out onto streets.

We love eating and drinking around Bedford Av and Berry St in Williamsburg. If we were to move back to NYC, we would definitely spend more time exploring this area.

Things to do in Williamsburg:

  • Eat and drink at trendy cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs
  • Hang out in Domino Park
  • Take the L Train to Bushwick Collective
  • Listen to music at Brooklyn Bowl

37. Roosevelt Island Tramway

Roosevelt Island Tramway cable cars heading over the East River in nyc
Cable cars crossing to Roosevelt Island

The Roosevelt Island Tramway costs less than $3 and it gives you one of the best views in New York City as it passes over the East River from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. In the purest terms of bang for your buck, this is up there with the very best cheap things to do in NYC.

Hop on the tramway at the corner of 2nd Ave and 59th Street in Midtown East. You’ll pass over the East River close to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge set down in the center of Roosevelt Island.

Things to do on Roosevelt Island:

38. New York Botanical Garden

Stunning colors in New York Botanical Garden pink and yellow flowers with a glass diamond reflecting water
New York Botanical Garden

The NY Botanical Garden is one of our personal favorite places to visit in the city. Not only are the gardens beautiful to walk around, but they’re also much quieter than the usual NYC attraction because you have to take the Metro North train all the way up into The Bronx.

A special orchid show runs annually between the very end of February and the beginning of May. But the most magical time to visit the New York Botanical Gardens is in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. We think this is the best place to see cherry blossoms in New York City.

READ: What you need to know about visiting New York City in April

39. NYC Pizza

three slices of classic new york pizza with pepperoni on paper plates
Classic NYC style pepperoni pizza slice

If you’re only going to eat one thing when you go to New York City, it has to be a slice of classic NY style pizza. Those old famous 99¢ slices are hard to come by these days, so you’ll likely pay somewhere around $3-4 a slice, especially in the popular tourist neighborhoods.

We ate so much pizza when we lived in New York City that when we left we couldn’t face another slice for a few months. Pizza cool off period!

Some of our favorite pizza places include:

READ: Where to get the best pizza in NYC

40. NYC Bagels

Classic NYC bagel cut in half with spread falling out
Delicious breakfast bagel in NYC

Breakfast in New York City can only mean one thing, bagels and coffee. Our advice is to try a new bagel place each morning throughout your trip. You’ll find breakfast bagels with egg, bacon and sausage but you’ll also discover a whole host of tasty cream cheeses and flavored bagels.

Make sure you spend time exercising before you visit NYC to clear up space for pizza and bagels every day!

Some of our favorite bagel places include:

READ: Where to get the best bagels in NYC

41. Hotdog Stands

Woman buying hotdog from stand on the street in new york city
Kristen buying us a hotdog each from a stand on Fifth Avenue

Does anything scream NYC tourist more than snacking on a hotdog from a mobile hotdog stand?! Who cares, you have to try at least one during your visit to New York. You’ll find hotdog stands pretty much everywhere around the streets of Manhattan.

And guess what? They’re really good. All that shopping and exploring works up an appetite, so the perfect way to refuel and crack on with your itinerary is to scoff down a hotdog every now and again!

Where to try a New York hotdog:

  • Any of the major sports arenas, concerts or theater shows
  • Around any major tourist areas like Times Square or Fifth Avenue
  • At City Hall, the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge walkway

42. Cronut

The cronut pastry found in SoHo new york city
You have to try the unique Cronut in SoHo

The Cronut is a unique and innovative creation from pastry chef Dominique Ansel. It’s a half croissant and half doughnut pastry, filled with a new flavor each month. And it’s so good!

This place is so famous that you’ll inevitably face a line to get inside, but it’s well worth it. We each had a Cronut and a chocolate chip cookie shot filled with milk at Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo.

What you need to know:

  • Dominique Ansel Bakery is located on Spring St in SoHo
  • It’s touristy and expensive but delicious
  • The line inside leads through a very narrow galley-style interior
  • There’s two small tables out front and a full outdoor dining area out back

43. Observation Decks

Stunning sunset beaming through glass windows at the top of summit one vanderbilt observation deck with views of empire state one of the best things to do in nyc
Sunset bursting through glass windows at Summit One Vanderbilt

If pushed, we’d say that standing on top of observation decks is our favorite thing to do in NYC. They’re not the tallest, but New York City’s famous skyscrapers provide some of the best urban views on the planet. Our advice is to go up in time to watch one of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see.

We’ve done them all more than once, and we’d go for Top of the Rock and Edge as our top picks. But you should definitely look at each option to make sure you pick the right one for you. If there’s one thing you splurge on in New York, make it one or two observation decks. You won’t regret it!

Here’s our guides to each of the 5 NYC observation decks:

READ: Comparison of the best NYC observation decks

44. Broadway Shows

Large crowd gathered outside a broadway show venue in NYC
Large crowd outside a broadway show

London’s West End and New York’s Broadway are home to the two most prestigious theater environments in the world, so you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see a world class Broadway show during your visit to NYC.

The beauty of watching a theater show is that they’re perfect for everyone from couples to families and groups. We watched the Lion King on Broadway and it was incredible. Tickets for Broadways shows aren’t exactly cheap, but for what you get we think they’re a bargain.

Popular shows on Broadway:

45. River Cruises

Woman standing on a boat looking out across river to buildings in nyc
Kristen looking at the Empire State Building from a river cruise

River cruises and harbor cruises are a fantastic way to sit back, relax and get a completely different perspective of the New York City skyline. You’ll see things you otherwise wouldn’t see as you loop around the island of Manhattan or drink champagne in the harbor at night.

You’ll find a handful of companies offering river and harbor cruises but Circle Line is the most popular. We’ve personally taken a full loop tour of Manhattan Island with Circle Line and the guided tour was great.

The different Circle Line Cruises:

46. Rooftop Bars

View over Empire State Building from a rooftop bar in manhattan
View over Empire State Building from a rooftop bar in Manhattan

Rooftop bars are perfect for combining stellar views with tasty cocktails. You’ll certainly pay higher than average prices for food and drinks at a rooftop bar, but it’s worth it for the elevated vantage point.

Some of the best hotels in New York actually have rooftop bars of their own, so you might not need to venture out for those views. It’s important to know that you might have to pay a cover charge just to enter a rooftop bar, especially in the evenings.

Popular NYC rooftop bars:

47. Nightclubs

Yes nightclub in Brooklyn painted bright colors during day
Yes nightclub in Brooklyn

If you can somehow manage to get your name on a VIP list for a nightclub, you’re in for one hell of a ride. Having local friends or people who know people will help your case significantly!

Popular party spots in NYC include Meatpacking District, Lower East Side and Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

48. Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea tray with three tiers of scones sandwiches and desserts at the whitby hotel in nyc
Afternoon tea at the Whitby Hotel in NYC

For a more luxurious or romantic experience, who not try a spot of afternoon tea in New York City? Sandwiches, scones, desserts and tea on tap in beautiful and relaxing surroundings is a perfect break from the non stop action in NYC. You can even upgrade to champagne for an extra special celebration!

The Whitby Hotel has sky high ratings and they serve up a wonderful afternoon tea with impeccable service. Mark’s a Brit and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to devour scones with clotted cream and jam!

READ: Review of our afternoon tea in NYC

49. Yankee Stadium

new york yankees stadium from high above helicopter photo
New York Yankees stadium

Whether you’re a big baseball fan or you’re visiting from abroad with no idea how the game works, you know who the New York Yankees are. Going to watch a Yankees game is one of the more iconic sporting events for first time visitors to NYC.

Families or groups of friends visiting the US will love going to an American sports game. It doesn’t even have to be the Yankees. It’s all about the experience, the atmosphere, the hotdogs and the beers!

Major sports teams in New York City:

  • Football – Giants and Jets
  • Baseball – Yankees and Mets
  • Ice Hockey Rangers and Islanders
  • Basketball – Knicks

50. Helicopter Tour

Woman with thumbs up and sunglasses in a helicopter in nyc
Kristen giving our helicopter ride over NYC the green light

As promised, you’re finishing with one awesome luxury tour! Taking a helicopter tour is the ultimate splurge in New York City. Imagine soaring high above the iconic landmarks and buildings of Manhattan’s skyline. Our 18 minute Heli NY tour was pricey, but it was worth every cent.

Certain helicopter tours do open door rides and others do rides directly over Manhattan at higher price points. Other providers offer cheaper rates but they’re closed door and go up the Hudson River rather than over Manhattan.

Top rated helicopter tours:

READ: Review of our NYC helicopter ride

NYC Attractions Map

Click or touch the map of New York City below to activate.

Map key:

  • Red – Free attractions
  • Blue – Cheap attractions
  • Green – Luxury tour

You can zoom in and out, move around and tap on the icons to reveal each attraction. We’ve annotated the mapped attractions with a number which corresponds to the same number in this guide.

New York City Attraction Passes

One of the easiest ways to save money on attractions in NYC is to buy a pass that bundles attractions for a discounted price. We use them every time we visit a new city because they actually work.

You can choose between a specific number of attractions or a specific number of days on which you get unlimited entry to participating attractions. For example, you pick a pass with 5 attractions or a pass with 3 days. Either way, you will save money.

CityPASS, Sightseeing Pass and GoCity are the best New York attraction passes. They offer different ways to help you save, so we advise you shop around to find the pass that works best for you.

You can read our reviews here:

And we’re delighted to be able to offer an exclusive 5-10% discount for our readers on any NY Sightseeing Pass.

Want To Save Money In NYC?

Use the button below to claim 5-10% off any NY Sightseeing Pass.

Best Free Things To Do In New York City

Are you visiting NYC on a tight budget? Here are the top 5 things you should do:

  1. Walk around NYC’s diverse neighborhoods
  2. Soak up the best NYC skyline views
  3. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
  4. Find the best photo spots
  5. Walk around Central Park

Top Things To Do On A First Trip To NYC

Is this your first visit to New York City? Here are the top 5 things you can’t miss:

  1. Explore Central Park
  2. Visit the Statue of Liberty
  3. Go up to observation decks
  4. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
  5. Visit world class museums

In Conclusion

There are dozens of free and cheap things to do in NYC. In fact, some of the most iconic New York City attractions are completely free. It’s one of the greatest urban attraction destinations in the world and it isn’t as expensive as it’s made out to be.

We adore New York City. It’s one of our favorite cities on the planet and we always look forward to visiting, even when we do the same attractions we’ve done many times before!

More From NYC

Want more New York City content? Head to our New York Travel Guides to explore more from the Big Apple as well as beautiful upstate NY.


We hope our list of the best things to do in New York City helps with planning your visit to one of the greatest cities in the world!

Please leave us a comment below if you have any questions about any of the things to do in this guide or if you need help planning your trip to NYC.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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