Free Things To Do In NYC
New York is one of the best cities to live or visit, and it also is a city that offers many free things to do for kids and families. While the pandemic put many things on hold, NYC is opening back up and we found those spots, so bookmark this page as we have 32 free things you can do in and around the city now and throughout the year!
Psst… check out The 10 Best Bubble Tea Shops in NYC
Explore The Highline, one of the hands-down most fun-filled free outdoor spaces in NYC. This elevated park, built on top of abandoned train tracks, features child-based programs, camps, festivals, art shows, and nature tours, with the most offered in the spring and summer months.
It wouldn’t be summer without Bryant Park movie nights. Starting August 23rd, each week features a new movie to snuggle with your kids and watch beneath the stars of NYC. The lawn opens at 5 pm and the movie starts at sunset (8-9 pm). The Park is located in midtown between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
The Elevated Acre is where you can explore a hidden oasis right on top of the city with the Elevated Acre on top of 55 Water Street. This anonymous location is hidden from the outside world without signage or advertising, making it a perfect escape into greenery right on top of the city.
Visit the American Folk Art Museum and celebrate self-taught artists who honor their own American experience through stunning displays. Tickets are required for entry, but they are completely free of charge for you to enjoy. 2 Lincoln Square.
The Earth Room is a unique display looking at the material that makes up our world with 250 cubic yards of earth people can check out. Free timed tickets are available to purchase in advance to ensure you get to enjoy all the Earth Room has to offer. 141 Wooster Street.
Count on your local library for fun when it’s rainy, too cold, too warm, or just any old day! The Children’s Center at 42nd Street at the main branch of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park, the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights, and the Children’s Library Discovery Center in the Queens Library have phenomenal children’s events like reading, storytime, arts & crafts, and more. How lucky are we to have these amazing free resources in New York City?
Inspired by the landscapes of Central Park, the Billy Johnson Playground is one of the park’s most distinctive play spaces. Constructed primarily from natural materials, the playground includes bucket swings, a granite slide set into a hill, and a stone bridge. Lush plantings create ample shade and divide up the space, creating small play “rooms.”
Play:ground NYC is a 50,000 square foot playspace on Governors Island where kids can imagine a world of their own making and experience a self-directed play. Modeled after a junkyard, the adventure playground lets children shape their environment using various materials, tools, water, and dirt. A family play area, open to all ages, is adjacent to the Junkyard play area.
Kids 16 and under are always free at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA). Children can take part in tours, art workshops, enjoy interactive spaces, hands-on activities, art labs, and family films. 11 West 53 Street.
Sure, you can practice, practice, practice … but you can also just take your child and go to Carnegie Hall any old day. The prestigious hall offers family programming for families with children ages 3-10 in the form of interactive musical activities and performances starting April 10th, 2022. Located at 881 7th Ave.
Each summer, Hudson River Park offers Big City Fishing for kids as young as five to learn how to fish while also learning all about the Hudson River environment. Rods, reels, bait, and instruction are provided. The program also provides participants with a first-hand opportunity to learn about river ecology and the many fish species found in the river.
Visit the Little Island off of Pier 55 for a unique public park experience. This small island uses stunning architecture and landscaping to create a peaceful escape from busy city life. It will give your family a nice trip that feels completely separate from the city even though it’s right next door.
Learn how Native people were the original innovators of the Americas and explore Native scientific discoveries and inventions at the National Museum of the American Indian. Solve puzzles, perform experiments, and play state-of-the-art computer simulations. Some areas of the museum are temporarily closed, including the Mili Kàpi Cafe, the museum store, and the imagiNATIONS Activity Center and classroom. 1 Bowling Green.
Enjoy free weekends at the Seaport Museum, where kids can learn about the rise of New York as a port city, see its historic buildings and ships, and participate in interactive exhibits. While their indoor spaces remain closed, their historic ship Wavertree is open and free to the public starting May 21, 2021 running on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11am to 5pm located at Pier 16.
The Delacorte Theater transforms into the most enchanted forest in all of theater with an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, called Merry Wives, with special celebrity actors along the way. It’s a regular special summer treat.
Every kid deserves at least one summer trip to Coney Island to swim, lounge on the beach, visit Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and the infamous Cyclone. Top it off with bumper cars, arcades, boardwalk games, and lunch at Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.
The Prospect Park Alliance offers Pop-Up Audubon at Prospect Park’s Audubon Center in Prospect Park Alliance at pop-up locations around the park and surrounding neighborhoods with easy-to-borrow Pop-Up Lefferts and Pop-Up Audubon Play + Go Kits. Visit prospectpark.org.
In a long-standing tradition, the Brooklyn Museum offers free programming on the first Saturday of every month to make art available to everyone in the city. They will be hosting their events outside for the upcoming months to ensure safety and entertainment all summer long. 200 Eastern Pkwy.
Take a walking tour along with the Salt Marsh Nature Center and take in a hike, go bird watching or paddle a boat along Gerritsen Creek in this 530-acre grasslands ecosystem. The center is currently closed but the trails remain open every day.
Visit the Sahara or get up close and personal with a leopard habitat without leaving Staten Island! The Staten Island Zoo offers animals big and small: ostriches, a southern ground hornbill, and scimitar-horned oryx along with birds of prey, foxes, kangaroos, farm animals, reptiles, and an aquarium. Free admission from 2 pm to 4pm on Wednesdays. 705 Clove Rd.
Check out the many exhibits and programs at Staten Island Children’s Museum, including Big Games, Block Harbor, Portia’s Playhouse, Bugs and Other Arthropods, and Sea of Boats. Free admission on Wednesdays including a 2-hour session of free play from 4-6 pm plus a free performance from 6-7 pm.
Spend an active day at Clove Lakes Park and take part in their baseball diamonds, basketball courts, football field, soccer field, and multiple playgrounds. Or sign up for the Discovery Hikes: Muskrats and More and venture into the habitats that exist in New York City Parks.
It’s a rite of passage for every New Yorker, big and small, to take a round trip on the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry runs from St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan and provides service for 22 million people each year.
Drop-in for free events at Socrates Sculpture Park for kids can enjoy GROOVE NYC: Dance for Kids, where kids learn self-expression through dance and music.
The Hong Kong Dragonboat Festival is an annual treat at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Each August, kids and parents gather at this family-oriented festival to watch boat races, cultural performances, foods, arts and crafts, and more.
Alley Pond Park has multiple bike paths for your family to journey through together. The beautiful scenery will keep your spirits up as you bike along the trails. You can also stop and enjoy the other free things to do in the park, including playgrounds, picnic areas, and sports fields.
Take your little science buff to the New York Hall of Science for free on Fridays, 2 – 5 pm. Tickets must be reserved day-of. Live daily science demonstrations take place such as cow’s eye dissection, cool chemistry, and airplay. Learn how to make ice in just seconds, crush a can without touching it, and how hot air balloons really work.
Visit the Animal Room at Alley Pond Environmental Center and see over 80 animals of all kinds, including mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, arachnids, and more. Then walk the center’s Yellow Trail, which spans 2.2 miles. 224-65 76th Ave.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has tons of free things to do with your entire family. You can spend your day on the playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields, or the tennis center all within the park. With so much to do, you can easily spend a full day here without ever getting bored.
You won’t think you’re still in New York City once you step into Wave Hill, a spectacular 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx. Family Art Project lets kids draw, write, and play together. Admission is free on Thursdays, 10am- 5:30pm. 4900 Independence Ave.
It might take more than one day to fully see everything there is to see at the Bronx Zoo! From the most popular exhibits like Tiger Mountain, Himalayan Highlands, Congo Gorilla Forest, and World of Reptiles to Treetop Adventures and the Children’s Zoo (with more animals than you can imagine spread across its 265 acres), the zoo is free every Wednesday. 2300 Southern Blvd.
Bronx Little Italy provides tons of free things to do with your whole family along their beautiful streets. Little Italy is full of fun shops you can browse through, and just walking through the fun scenery makes for a great day trip experience. Arthur Avenue.