Cheap and Free NYC

Anyone who lives in NYC can you tell you it’s not cheap (I’m looking at you, $8 beers.) However, there are plenty of ways you can save a buck and still have a fantastic time. Whether you live in the city or are just coming for a visit, the tips below will help you have some fun AND keep a bit more money in your pocket.

Museums, Art, and Culture

  • Museums: Many museums in NYC are free all the time, offer a day or night where they are free or have a policy that allows you to pay what you wish any day of the week.  Here’s a great list that outlines which museums are free and when.  
  • Art: There is art all over NYC.  Public art. Galleries. Street art. You name it.  Many galleries have free exhibitions and Chelsea galleries often have free openings on Thursday nights.  
  • Tours: NYC has a fascinating history, but you don’t need to pay for one of the double-decker bus tours to learn all about it.  Instead, try one of the many free tours offered throughout the city instead.


  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: For breathtaking views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and
    The Roosevelt Island Tram

     NY Harbor, take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Do it at sunset and walk back after dark to see the city all in lights.

  • Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram: For the price of a subway ride, take the Roosevelt Island tram over the East River and spend the afternoon wandering the island.
  • The High Line: An elevated park built on old train tracks, New York’s High Line offers a unique way to experience the outdoors and take in the city’s magnificent architecture.
  • The Staten Island Ferry: Take this one-hour, round-trip ride from Manhattan to Staten Island for stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

Theater, Movies, TV, and Music

  • Broadway: Many Broadway shows offer student rush tickets, lotteries, and standing-room-only access. Check the website of the show you’re interested in to see what their policy is.  Or you can try to snag discounted seats at one of the TKTS booths in Times Square, Lincoln Center, Downtown Brooklyn, or the South Street Seaport.
  • TheaterMania Gold Club: For $100 a year, Gold Club members get free access to a wide variety of theater, concerts, comedy shows, and more.  There is a $4.50 surcharge for each ticket purchased, but your membership usually pays for itself within the first 1-2 shows you see.
  • Movies and Concerts: Many parks throughout NYC offer free concerts and movie screenings through the summer.  Just bring a blanket and a picnic.
  • Live TV Show Tapings: Is TV more your thing?  Get free tickets to be part of a live studio audience at one of your favorite shows!

Food and Drink

  • Happy Hour and Lunch Specials: Many bars and restaurants across the city offer inexpensive lunch deals and great happy hours.  Try places outside of major tourist centers or near NYU and Columbia where the deals can often be better.
  • BlackboardEats:  Discount sites also offer great deals on dining. For example, BlackboardEats will offer around 30% off your entire bill at select NYC restaurants.
  • Beer Books: If you live in or frequently visit Brooklyn or Queens, try out a Beer Book, which, for $30, offers you a free beer at 30 different bars.  
  • Brooklyn Brewery Immersions: From spring through fall, Brooklyn Brewery sponsors “immersions” in various neighborhoods across the city.  For $15, you get one Brooklyn Brewery beer at four different bars.  For $10 more, you can add on lunch. You also get a bunch of other coupons and discounts to use at various businesses within the neighborhood, making it a great way to explore a new neighborhood on the cheap.

Sports and the Outdoors

  • NYC Parks, Pools, Beaches, and Greenways: Whether you want to take a walk, have a picnic, take a dip, or take a ride, it won’t cost you a penny to visit any of NYC’s many parks, pools, beaches, and greenways throughout all five boroughs (most have free public restrooms, too!)
  • Baseball: Can’t afford a ticket to the Yankees or Mets?  Go and see the Staten Island Yankees or Brooklyn Cyclones instead!  Both stadiums offer beautiful views, cheaper tickets, and smaller crowds.  Check their schedules for free fireworks nights, too.
  • Kayaking: If being a spectator isn’t enough, though, get some exercise yourself at one of the many free kayaking locations across the five boroughs.

And More

  • NYC ID: If you’re an NYC resident, you can sign up for an NYC ID, which gives you free annual memberships to more than 40 cultural institutions, as well as additional benefits and discounts for sporting events, transportation, fitness centers, and more.  
  • Goldstar: If you’re looking for discounts on Broadway show tickets, tours, comedy shows, boat rides, and more, is a great place to start.
  • The Skint: The Skint offers a great daily digest of a wide variety of cheap and free activities happening all across the five boroughs.  You can subscribe to get a list of events in your mailbox every day.

As you can see from this list, sticking to a budget in NYC doesn’t mean you can’t get out and have a great time.  For more ideas, check out my favorite free NYC attractions!

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