Free NYC events, festivals and activities

Living in New York City is beyond expensive. From rent to MetroCards to a cup of coffee, everything adds up quickly.

Luckily, there are tons of free events to check out in the city that never sleeps.

Here's our freebie guide to NYC.

Dyker Heights holiday lights opening (Nov. 25)

You have been waiting for this all year. Locals in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights will start decorating their homes with extravagant lights, blow up characters and fake snow this weekend if you want to catch a whiff of holiday season spirit. (82nd Street, Dyker Heights, facebook.com)

Free Black Friday hikes (Nov. 24)

Queues, crowds and shopping not so much your thing? Here is an excellent alternative to the insanity that is Black Friday in the city. Lace up your hiking boots and spend a few hours outside in nature with the Urban Park Rangers on one of five free Black Friday hikes, offered in each borough.

Manhattan: Central Park South to North, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Doris Freedman Plaza, Central Park, 60th Street and Fifth Avenue

Brooklyn: The Midwood Trail, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Audubon Center at the Boathouse, Prospect Park, near the Lincoln Road / East Drive entrance

Queens: Nature Exploration, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Winchester Boulevard under Grand Central Parkway, Alley Pond Park

Staten Island: North Shore Greenbelt, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Franklin Avenue at Arnold Street, Jones Woods Park

Bronx: Hunter Island Hike, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Orchard Beach Nature Center, Pelham Bay Park

nycgovparks.org

'Whiteout' installation

Nine hundred spheres glowing with discreet LED lights are being suspended from a square grid of steel poles and cabling over the Oval Lawn at Madison Square Park. The twinkling orbs light up in patterns that wash over the lawn. The installation is part of Mad. Sq. Arts and will be up through March. (6 a.m. to midnight daily, between Fifth and Madison avenues, and 23rd and 26th streets, madisonsquarepark.org)

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'Wheel of Fortune' exhibit (Nov. 15-Dec. 3)

A free exhibition featuring memorabilia, Vanna White's designer gowns, scale models and production plans and a number of photos and videos about the show over the years will be on view at the Paley Center for Media. The exhibit opens Wednesday with a discussion by white. Pat Sajak and executive producer Harry Friedman. That event is $32 and starts at 6:30 p.m. (Otherwise free, Wednesdays to Sundays, noon to 6 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m., 25 W. 52nd St., paleycenter.org)

Try out the TimesSquare_Portal exhibit (Oct. 10-Nov. 21)

Get a glimpse of life in another country in the middle of Times Square in this public art installation. Each portal is a storage container with a video screen inside. Via that screen, people can talk with others who are in other portals across the world. Each week will feature a different theme, including "public space," "food," "migration" and "performance." (Free, but RSVP online, Broadway Plaza, between 46th and 47th streets, https://www.sharedstudios.com)

Tour City Island via 'land ferry' (1st Fridays)

OK, it is, in fact, a minibus, but play along with City Island's nautical history and board this land ferry. Do so, and you'll get a tour of the 1.5-mile-long Bronx island, with stops at cultural sites including the mid-19th century Bartow-Pell Mansion. Offered on the first Friday of the month -- when many local businesses extend hours and/or offer special programming with the ferry in mind -- from April to December, you can hop on starting at 5:30 p.m.; it makes hourly loops until 9:30.

Get some laughs at NYC Broken Comedy at Bar Matchless (Mondays)

Enjoy laughs every Monday from NYC Broken Comedy, hosted by comedians Mike Denny, Michael Che and Nimesh Patel at Bar Matchless in Greenpoint. You may even catch a set by a familiar face, like Hannibal Buress from "Broad City." (Bar Matchless, 557 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, doors open at 8:30 p.m., facebook.com/NYCBrokenComedy)

Stroll through Chelsea's art galleries

Take yourself on a totally free art tour of the city by visiting Chelsea's gallery scene. Start at 25th Street and 10th Avenue and weave in and out of the streets on the West Side. Entry is free to all galleries and you don't even have to be a prospective buyer. Pro-tip: Visit Thursday nights when many galleries have openings (and free wine!).

Watch local filmmakers' flicks or screen your own (monthly)

If you're looking for an "open mic" for filmmakers, head to "Bring Your Own Film," a monthly screening event held at Shoestring Press in Brooklyn the third Wednesday of every month. View short films and videos -- under 10 minutes long -- and discuss the work of local creatives in a casual environment. Want to BYOF? Be sure to head over early to submit -- the screening lineup goes fast. (663 Classon Ave., Brooklyn, third Wednesday of every month, bringyourownfilm.com)

Take an art walk through Socrates Sculpture Park

This Long Island City park is home to seasonal exhibitions of impressive sculptures (including this functional bench piece) from a slew of internationally renowned artists. A complimentary LIC Art Bus takes passengers between local art destinations The Noguchi Museum, SculptureCenter and MoMA PS1. 32-01 Vernon Blvd. (32-01 Vernon Blvd, Queens, socratessculpturepark.org)

Catch a free comedy show at Friends & Lovers (Mondays)

Head to Crown Heights bar Friends & Lovers on Mondays to see "Side Ponytail," a free comedy show featuring hilarious performers like Brian Parise, Drew Dowdey and more. (641 Classon Ave., Brooklyn, 7 to 9 p.m., facebook.com/sideponytailcomedy)

Show off your rock 'n' roll singing chops at Arlene's Grocery (Mondays)

This downtown music venue hosts a rock 'n' roll karaoke night weekly, where attendees can choose from a selection of hits to perform with a live band. Bring your friends and have a moment in the spotlight while performing your favorite rock song. (95 Stanton St., Manhattan, 10 p.m., arlenesegrocery.net)

Learn about Central Park

Sure, you've been to Central Park more times than the cast of "Friends" hung out at Central Perk, but do you really know the history of Manhattan's largest green space? Learn about the secret gems (including Glen Span Arch, pictured), lesser-known folklore and your new favorite picnic spot with free tours led by the Central Park Conservancy. Tour upper Central Park, iconic movie spots and more, all for free. Check out centralparknyc.org for meeting places and times for guided tours or just download the Central Park app and guide yourself.

Meet New York's cutest residents at the Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays)

The 265-acre Bronx Zoo isn't something you can cover in one day, but it's worth a try. Zero in on the exhibits where your personal spirit animals live -- maybe it's Tiger Mountain that calls to you, or perhaps the Himalayan Highlands -- and be sure to keep an eye out for the many baby animals who reside on site. And while a donation is appreciated, Wednesdays are free of charge all day. (2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, bronxzoo.com)

Catch free improv at UCB from your favorite comedians (Sundays)

Both Upright Citizens Brigade Theatres in New York offer a selection of free improv comedy performances, but one show at the Chelsea location gives you the opportunity to see some of your favorite comedians for a lot less than their headlining shows. "ASSSSCAT 3000," which is performed every Sunday at 9:30 p.m. for free, has been known to host special guests (including Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch). Though tickets are complimentary, be sure to get there early -- we mean early -- as fans line up for hours before the show to snag a seat. (307 W. 26th St., Manhattan, ucbtheatre.com)

Make it big at QED's open mic (Wednesday-Sunday)

Head to QED Astoria for free open mic nights featuring comedy, poetry, storytelling, music and more. Whether you want to sit in the audience and relax or practice your performing chops in front of a small audience, this is the space to do it. (27-16 23rd Ave., Queens, qedastoria.com)

Tour the Brooklyn Brewery

OK, so the beer isn't free (unless you're super nice to the ticket takers), but wait in line for a timed, 30-minute tour of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg -- it's totally free. The scent of beer is complimentary, too. (79 N. 11th St., brooklynbrewery.com)

Get literary at the Franklin Park Reading Series (second Monday of each month)

This Crown Heights beer garden brings all the nerds to the yard the second Monday of every month. Both established and new writers will read at this acclaimed and completely free event. Enter a free lottery to win some literary swag or take advantage of $4 drafts during the event. (8 p.m., 618 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, franklinparkbrooklyn.com)

Take a self-guided tour at Pelham Bay Park

Find nature in the Bronx via Pelham Bay Park's Kazimiroff Nature Trail, which gives hikers long and short self-guided paths. (nycgovparks.org)