Top Things to Do in NYC for Cheap (or Free)

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Top Things to Do in NYC for Cheap (or Free)

There’s no reason the Big Apple has to come with a big price tag. In a city this massive and with so much going on 24/7, it’s easy to find authentic experiences on the cheap (and sometimes free!). Read on …
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1. Eat Pizza
Grab a slice of that famous New York pizza for $1 or so – the 2 Bros. Pizza joints are a good place to eat on the cheap, as well as other indie pizza parlors around the city. (Comparatively, you can expect the top-rated pizza places to charge more than $4 a slice.) We promise, you won’t notice a difference!
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2. Visit the Met or MoMA
Are you a resident of New York state? Are you a student in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut? You’ll pay what you want for admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the suggested ticket price is $25. Kids under 12 get in free. Over at MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), you can get in free from 4 to 8 PM every Friday. Just get in line early or go after 6 PM.
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3. Go Back in Time
Just as famous as The Met, the Museum of Natural History also offers a suggested ticket price (or pay what you want). The planetarium, the Hall of Biodiversity and the gigantic dino skeletons are the big draws here. Plan to spend the better part of a day exploring it all – a great bang for your buck!
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4. Tour a Brewery
Weekend tours at the renowned Brooklyn Brewery are free. Tour starts on the half-hour on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 1 PM and 6 PM.
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5. See a Comedian Before They’re Famous
Check out the Sunday night 9:30 PM show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea. The “Asssscat 3000” performance features both famous and on-the-rise comedians. Be forewarned: you’ll typically have to stand in line for a few hours before the free tickets are handed out.
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6. Don’t Plan Ahead for a Music Concert
That’s right – if you’re not a planner, and you’re flexible, you can enjoy a heavily discounted performance at Carnegie Hall. The theater sells $10 tickets to students and anyone else the day of. Plus, you’ll receive a discount if you’re a member of the military, a first responder, a Bank of America cardholder or don’t mind a partial-view seat.
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7. Eat at the Market
Join the masses who head to Brooklyn every weekend for Smorgasburg, the largest weekly open-air food market in America. There’s no admission price at any of the three market locations, but you’ll definitely be spending something as you graze your way from booth to booth, sampling food from at least 100 local vendors.
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8. While You’re in Brooklyn, Shop the Flea Market
Browse the famous Brooklyn Flea for vintage clothing and jewelry, one-of-a-kind antiques, homeware and furnishings, local delicacies and more. Look for it year-round in Industry City and from April through October in Williamsburg (Saturdays) or DUMBO (Sundays).
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9. Watch the Talented Students at Juilliard
With more than 700 performances showcasing the talents of its dance, music and drama students, the Juilliard School is a great place to see a fantastic cultural show – inexpensively. Most of the performances are free or greatly reduced. Head to Juilliard box office to get your tickets.
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10. Watch an Outdoor Movie
Grab picnic fixings and a blanket and join the movie-going crowd at Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Rockaway Beach or other local spots for a free outdoor movie. You’ll feel like a native New Yorker! The shows run during the summer until late August or early September.
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11. View Art for Free
Stop by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, with a permanent collection of more than 1,000 contemporary pieces. It’s always free to visit.
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12. Stroll the High Line
Another activity sure to make you feel like a chic Manhattanite, walking along the High Line is a favorite weekend time passer. This former elevated rail line was converted to a pedestrian walkway that runs down the West Side from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. You’ll find a ton of free options as you stroll, including meditation and tai chi sessions, garden tours, movies and more.
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13. Get Lost in the New York Public Library
Bookworms will love this free stop – check out the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the main branch) in Midtown. Don’t miss the restored Rose Main Reading Room. Ask about the free docent-led tours to see all the nooks and crannies or this magnificent library.
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14. See the Statue of Liberty for Free
Don’t feel like battling the crowds, or paying ticket prices, to visit the Statue of Liberty? Head to the Whitehall Terminal to take a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry. It’s a 25-minute journey and you’ll pass right by Lady Liberty.
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15. Dive into Dumplings
Move over pizza by the slice – consider a dumpling dinner instead! Many of Manhattan’s dumpling houses offer their best for less than 50 cents each. Look for the best on Mulberry Street, Eldridge Street and in Flushing, Queens.
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16. Spend a Day in Central Park
From the Shakespeare in the Park festival to New York Philharmonic classical music concerts, Central Park offers a plethora of free events each summer. Plus, you can spend hours just wandering around this massive green space – either on your own or through a free tour with the Central Park Conservancy. For a nominal fee, you can rent a fishing rod or rent a model sailboat. The playgrounds, gardens, bird-watching walks and sprinklers are all free.
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17. Get in the Audience of a TV Show
You’ll have to reserve your tickets ahead of time – although you can always try your luck with standby day-of tickets – for the free tickets offered for several NCB Studios shows. You might get to sit in the audience of “America’s Got Talent” or Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show. A super-fun, quintessential NYC experience.
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18. Graze at a Gallery
Get cultured and enjoy free wine, beer and snacks at Chelsea’s many art galleries. The galleries open new exhibits each Thursday at 6 PM, so head on over and end a full New York City day with an artistic angle.

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