Like any major Western metropolis, New York City is expensive. From Cab rides, to hotels, dinning on the town and theater entertainment, it’s easy to spend a small fortune. However, acquiring a New York experience doesn’t have to put you into credit card debt. If you’re a backpacker, runaway or an open minded tourist, there are plenty activities that won’t cost you a thing.
Though most of the following suggestions probably wouldn’t be considered quintessentially New York things to do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. In fact, if you follow this list, you will have a New York experience few can tell of.
Disclaimer: Some of these suggestions are morally questionable and even illegal. Read at your own risk.
Free Cultural Fun In NYC:
1) See a Broadway show for free
Most of you probably think that a night at the theatre can’t possibly be done for free. And if you have checked the ticket prices recently, which range from 40$ to 130$, you would be right. However, if you don’t mind seeing only half a show, you can experience the wonder of Broadway for the price of a pebble.
Here’s how you do it. First decide which show you want to see. Be sure to dress up nice and head over to the theatre at exactly 9:00pm. Why 9 you ask? At this time almost every show will go on intermission. And during intermission, all the smokers come out for a smoke. Try and work your way into the crowd and maybe even strike up a conversation about the show. Play the part of a theatre goer and when you are called by the stage hand to return to the show, walk in among the mass of people returning to their seats. Tickets are almost never rechecked after intermission.
Inside, look for an empty seat, but wait until most people have returned before claiming it. You don’t want to go through the embarrassment of being accused a seat stealer. Your safest bet is watching from standing room in the back. And that’s it, enjoy the second act of your show.
2) Visit A Museum For Free
Almost all museums in NYC are pay by donation. Meaning you can decided how much you want to pay. Although you can pay as little as a quarter, if you don’t want to get an embarrassing “cheapo” look from the staff, you might want to go on a free museum day. See your preferred museum website for their free days and nights.
3) See a concert, play, or film for free
If you are still in need of a cultural fix and are in New York in the summer, head over to Central Park for free performances of Shakespeare, opera, dance, jazz and even classical by the Phil Harmonic. To learn when these performances occur, check out The City Parks Foundation website . Additionally, if you are more interested in film, Bryant park often hosts a free film festival, check out it at Bryant Park.org.
4) Check out the street performers
Head over to Washington Square park or Central Park for New York City’s best street performers. From musicians to acrobatics to comedy duos, you are sure to be entertained.
Health Conscious Free Fun:
5) Get tested at a free STD clinic
Head up to 2238 Fifth ave and 137th street for a free and confidential STD test. Not only is the check free, but you can also pick up as many trade mark NYC condoms, female condoms, and packets of lube as you wish. More, you will have the chance to converse with the drug addicts, dealers, pimps and hoes of Harlem. An experience few others can compete with.
6) Take a swim
Swim in the Hudson river for free. However, if you’re not partial to bathing in the poop ridden waters of the Hudson, visit one of NYC’s many free public pools. Such as the Abe Lincoln Pool on 135th st and fifth ave or The Fredrick Douglas pool on Amsterdam avenue between 100th and 102nd st.
Dine Out For Free In NYC:
7) Go dumpster diving
With thousands of markets in close proximity to one another, NYC dumpsters are a gold mine of produce and goods only a day or two past their expirations. For general information on dumpster diving, check out one of my older guides entitled, How To Eat On The Cheap. For more specific info on NYC dumpster diving, see this website, Freegan.info. Here you can find out about where you can take free introductory classes in Freeganism, including Dumpster Diving 101.
Miscellaneous Free Fun:
8) Take a ride on the Staten Island ferry
Take the 1 or 9 subway down to South Ferry station and hop on board a free ferry to Staten Island. With views of the Statue Of Liberty and downtown Manhattan, this is a free boat ride that you won’t want to miss. When the ferry gets to Staten Island, just get off and then get right back on.
9) Hang out in hotel lounges
Head over to the W hotel in Times Square to experience one of the hippest lounges in the city. All you need to do is enter the building, take the elevator up to the first floor and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s one of the coolest hotels in New York.
10) Ride in a glass elevator
One of my favorite things to do for free in NYC is to ride the glass elevator in the Marriott in Times Square. 48 floors in around 35 seconds makes this elevator ride an adrenaline rush. If you’re scared of heights, this is not for you. Check out this clip to see what I mean,
Whoever said nothing in this life is free is sorely mistaken. From free condoms and free dumpster dining to free cruises and theatre, free fun, especially in NYC, is abundant.
For more free and cheap fun, check out my friend Becky’s post, New York City On A Budget.
If you know of any other fun free things to do in NYC that you feel should be on this list, post them below.
Good luck and safe travels,
Let Me Know What You Think!
Tom Edwards says
Awesome tips, Leif! I’ll be heading to New York next month to kick off my first overseas journey. I’ll be sure to take advantage of this stuff :)
The Runaway Guide says
Thanks Tom, enjoy NYC!
LOL!!! My favourite thing to do is ride the glass elevators at the Marriott too! I always go to the bathroom there too :D
The Runaway Guide says
Niceee! It’s one of the best rides and it’s free.
hey leif, thanks for the info. will check out nyc when im in the area ;P
You could go freerunning that’s free and a rush
There’s often a free happy hour in the summer once or twice a week, it’s super packed though. last summer it was on the upper west side. kinda unrelated, but i have taken megabus from nyc and other locations a couple of times and they don’t check tickets
The Runaway Guide says
Sweet, thanks for the tips! Fantastic. Where is this free happy hour and where do you get the megabus from?
i know what you mean when its in your blood to travel i will be in nyc soon!! I LOVE NY
Sofia - As We Travel says
Great and fun tips, I love the first one about going to a broadway show for free…sneaky!
I’m not sure if getting tested at an STD clinic is on top of my list of things to do when visiting NYC though… :P
The Runaway Guide says
The STD clinic is a real NYC experience though and the condoms make great souvenirs :)
Bob Crunch says
Some great tips and some funny ones as well. Great article.
crazy sexy fun traveler says
That’s a lot of things to do for free :D Will check it out once I go to NY, thanks :)