NYFree: Events and attractions that won’t cost you a cent!
Whoever said nothing in life is free, hasn’t been to New York City. From free evenings at your favorite museums to open-air concerts in the park, there’s no end to the free events and attractions in this city.
Wait in line for free tickets to a performance of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Highly sought after, tickets to these star-studded performances every summer are also available online through a lottery system.
All summer long, the City Parks Foundation hosts the city’s largest free performing arts festival with a line-up of concerts and performances at Summerstage. While ticketed events on the Main Stage at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield raise funds for the program, the calendar is packed with freebies all over the five boroughs, from Hip Hop to classical, as well as live theater and storytelling events.
The popular River to River Festival in Lower Manhattan features free music, film, dance, theatre and art in a number of downtown waterfront venues. The 2011 calendar of events included such pairings as Rufus Wainwright with the New York City Opera, and Patti Smith and her band at the historic Castle Clinton in Battery Park.
Across the East River, Celebrate Brooklyn! hosts free outdoor concerts at the Prospect Park Bandshell all summer long.
The cultural heart of Manhattan, Lincoln Center also hosts a summer-long performing arts festival, running the gamut of musical genres, from soul to folk, dancehall to dubstep, as well as dance, film screenings and special family events.
Or grab a coffee and head over to the Today Show’s outdoor studio on Rockefeller Plaza for its free Friday morning concert series, which features megastars like Rihanna, Blake Shelton, and Aretha Franklin. Good Morning America also hosts a free Friday morning concert series at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield. The 2011 line-up included Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. Line up early for both (like, bring-a-lawnchair-for-catnaps early); these events are popular.
If you prefer opera to pop, check out the free recital series by the Metropolitan Opera, held beneath the stars on Central Park’s Great Lawn. Or book your free ticket to the New York Philharmonic’s performance with Andrea Bocelli in Central Park on September 15, 2011.
Communing with nature is not what you would expect in New York, but regular free days at the city’s best gardens make it possible to take a break from the bustle. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, known for its month-long Japanese cherry blossom festival each spring, is free on Tuesdays. Meanwhile the New York Botanical Garden, located in the Bronx but easily accessible via public transportation, is free to the public all day Wednesdays, and until noon on Saturdays. Pair your visit to the garden with a trip to the Bronx Zoo. Located across the street, the zoo is also free every Wednesdays.
Almost all of New York’s museums also offer regular free entry. Thursday nights are free at the New Museum on the Lower East Side and the Museum of Arts and Design, located at Columbus Circle Be prepared for large crowds at the Museum of Modern Art’s free admission hours on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Check out the Guggenheim Museum for free on Saturday nights, or take a trip to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, free on the first Saturday of every month. Or join the crowds of New Yorkers for the annual Museum Mile Festival, a one-day block party with free admission to nine different museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Museum of the City of New York and the Guggenheim.
Plan ahead to score free tickets to live TV show tapings. New York is home to a number of late-night and morning talk shows: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the Late Show With David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Regis and Kelly, The View, Martha Stewart, and more. All offer free tickets, but availability is limited.
New Yorkers love watching movies under the stars. How else to explain the proliferation of free film series? Get there early for Bryant Park’s Monday Night Film Series in July and August. Movies set in NYC are featured at the Brooklyn Bridge Movies With a View, which takes place Thursdays at sundown on the Harbor View Lawn at Pier 1. Or, for a really cool experience, enjoy a flick aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Bring lawnchairs, a picnic and blanket to enjoy classic family friendly films like E.T. and Jurassic Park from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
If you want to get out on the water without spending any money, the Staten Island Ferry is totally free and offers decent views of the Statue of Liberty. Walk on for a round trip that gives you a taste of New York Harbor. Or go for a 20-minute kayak around the inside of a protected embayment in front of the Downtown Boathouse. Available weekends and holidays from the middle of May to the middle of October, and on many weekday evenings, weather permitting. Locations at Pier 40, Pier 96 and 72nd Street in Riverside Park.