Free things to do in New York City, from live music to exhibits and more

An installation by the artist Bettina at LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island on Sep. 19. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/Corey Sipkin

There are tons of free events to check out in the city that never sleeps.

An installation by the artist Bettina at LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island on Sep. 19.
An installation by the artist Bettina at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island on Sep. 19. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Living in New York City comes at a hefty price, from rent to MetroCards to a cup of coffee, so why spend more than you have to?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy yourself. There are tons of free events to check out in the city that never sleeps.

Below is our freebie guide to NYC.

See:

Take a free workout class at Brookfield Place during the summer while you look over the river with the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
Take a free workout class at Brookfield Place during the summer while you look over the river with the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Photo Credit: Brookfield Place

‘Russ & Daughters: An Appetizing Story’ (through January 2020)

Russ & Daughters, a Jewish staple on East Houston Street, is celebrating its familial ties with a look back at its humble beginnings in 1907 via "Russ & Daughters: An Appetizing Story" at the Center for Jewish History. As you walk through the free exhibit, which was produced by the American Jewish Historical Society, look at black-and-white family photos of the original daughters — Hattie, Ida and Anne — and listen to their recorded memories, read letters from customers, and even don a white coat for a photo behind a replica counter. Check out the exhibit at the Center for Jewish History (15 W. 16th St.) from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

See the New York City Ballet’s designer costumes (Sept. 24-Oct. 20)

See this first-ever exhibition showcasing the artistry of the New York City Ballet’s costume shop through 26 costumes called "Design in Motion." It’s curated by the costume director Marc Happel, who worked with top fashion designers like Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta, Jason Wu and Valentino, to create the fashions. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily,  Intersect by Lexus at 412 W. 14th St.

‘Fastnet: Plein-air drawings at Freshkills Park’ (Sept. 13-Nov. 14)

Designed by James Powers, "Fastnet" is a free exhibit of Plein air drawings and ink studies made within a 20-foot shipping container in the center for Freshkills Park. Powers’ pieces are his impressions of the scenery at the former landfill park as a way to create a connection between past, present and future. They can be seen at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park (830 Fifth Ave.) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week.

The new LMCC’s Arts Center at Governor’s Island

This newly opened arts center is open year-round to artists in residence who will work in the arts center’s studios and to the public between May 1 and October 31, offering free access to performances, open studio visits, exhibitions, talks, a public program about ecology and sustainability and workshops, including two commissioned site-specific exhibitions by Yto Barrada and Michael Wang. The center is open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Do:

‘Hudson Square Canvas’ art

A new major public art initiative with large-scale street art, from murals to a 90-foot-long sculpture, has been kicked off and the Hudson Square BID is offering free tours of the artwork that will discuss the challenges and purpose of creating art for the public. The tour runs from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 5 with more dates to come.

Swing dance in Brooklyn

Learn fun moves and dips from professional swing dancers every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. in September at "Dance Around Downtown" with MC Dandy Wellington and his band and various DJs at MetroTech Commons. 

Climate Change Escape Room

Solve puzzles and find clues relating to solar and wind power, recycling and other sustainable actions to stop climate change in this free escape room inside Nolan Park House 4B on Governors Island.

Yoga in Central Park (Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Bring your mat to Strawberry Fields (at West 72nd Street) for a 60-minute, all-levels class that aims to strengthen, balance and relax you, by Carrie Asby Yoga. Donations are accepted but not necessary. Register online at eventbrite.com.

Classes at Union Square (Thursdays): Before you head to work or after a long day, exercise with the Union Square Partnership. You’ll find the following classes at the South Plaza in the morning and in the North Plaza in the evening:

  • 7 a.m. — Yoga
  • 8 a.m. — Boxing HIIT
  • 9 a.m. — Tai Chi
  • 5:30 p.m. — Dance Cardio
  • 6:30 p.m. — Cardio HIIT
  • 6:30 p.m. — Paragon Sports Run Club
  • 7:30 p.m. —  Sunset Yoga

Shape Up NYC fitness classes: The city offers free workouts and fitness classes across five boroughs, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba, dance, aerobics, sculpting, boot camps and more. Why pay for a class you can get for free? Check on nycgovparks.org to find the nearest courses. 

Watch:

Concerts at One at Trinity Church

The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY will be performing some of the works Trinity has helped to develop within the past 10 years, including three Pulitzer Prize-winning songs that deal with climate change, water justice, human trafficking and gender inequality. Check trinitywallstreet.org for more. 

Ongoing:

Greenwich Village Walking Tours: The Village Alliance gives free walking tours of Greenwich Village, which stops at its most important landmarks, including the former homes of Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and Jackson Pollock, and Jimi Hendrix’s studio. Tour guides also show the Greenwich Village of today, where people work, live and play — rain or shine, starting at 11:30 a.m. Meet at St. Marks Church-In-The-Bowery (at Second Ave. and E. 10th St.)

Take a free tour of Brooklyn Brewery: On Saturday and Sunday, the Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours every half-hour from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets are released on the day of the tour only, so check its website before you hop over. (79 N. 11th St., Williamsburg, brooklynbrewery.com)

Meet the neighbors at Queens County Farm Museum: This isn’t the countryside but it will feel like it. The 47-acre Queens County Farm Museum sits squarely within city limits and is the longest continuously farmed site in New York, which still includes the restored Adriance Farmhouse that was first built as a Dutch farmhouse in 1772. Visitors to the farm can hang out with the many animals on the property, including chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and cows, as well as purchase vegetables from the farm stand. Yarn culled from resident alpacas and Cotswold sheep is also for sale. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., queensfarm.org)

Visit the residents at Green-Wood Cemetery: Sprawled across 478 hilly acres in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, this cemetery is one of New York’s hidden treasures. Established in 1838, its roster of "residents" reads like a "Who’s Who" of great New Yorkers — political machine leader William "Boss" Tweed, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein and communications pioneer Samuel F.B. Morse are all buried at this National Historic Landmark. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 to March 31; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 1 to Sept. 30; 500 25th St., green-wood.com)

Search out public art: Find the city’s amazing collection of public art, from "Horses" at Central Park to The Vessel, which is a climbable sculpture at Hudson Yards, and others you can find out about here.

Free Flatiron Tour (every Sunday): The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) hosts free, 90-minute walking tours of the Flatiron District by professional guides each Sunday. You’ll stop by the famous Flatiron building, the New York Life Insurance Building, the MetLife Clock Tower and more. (11 a.m., meet at the tip of the Flatiron building at 23rd Street, flatirondistrict.nyc)

Free museum nights

Sept. 11 memorial Museum (Tuesdays): Free from 5 p.m. to close. Free always for 9/11 family members, rescue and recovery workers, active/retired U.S. Military. (108 Greenwich St. 911memorial.org)

Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays): Free all day. (2300 Southern Blvd. bronxzoo.com)

Museum of Jewish Heritage (Wednesdays & Thursdays): Free from 4 to 9 p.m. (36 Battery Place, mjhnyc.org)

New York Botanical Garden (Wednesdays & Saturdays): The grounds are free all day Wednesdays and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. (2900 Southern Blvd, nybg.org)

Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Fridays): Free before noon. (455 Flatbush Ave, bbg.org)

Whitney Museum (Fridays): Pay what you wish from 7 to 10 p.m. (99 Gansevoort St., facebook.com)

Bronx Museum (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 10 p.m. (1040 Grand Concourse, bronxmuseum.org)

Brooklyn Museum (First Saturday of each month): Free from 5 to 11 p.m. (200 Eastern Pkwy., brooklynmuseum.org)

Neue Galerie (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. The shop and cafe will be open until 9 p.m. as well. (1048 Fifth Ave., neuegalerie.org)

Noguchi Museum (First Friday of each month): Free all day through its extended hours, from 5 to 8 p.m., with a cash bar in the evening. (9-01 33rd Rd., noguchi.org)

Japan Society (Fridays): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. (333 E. 47th St., japansociety.org)

Morgan Library & Museum (Fridays): Free from 7 to 9 p.m. (225 Madison Ave., themorgan.org)

Museum of Modern Art (Fridays): Free from 4 to 8 p.m. (11 W. 53rd St., moma.org)

Rubin Museum of Art (Fridays): Free from 6 to 10 p.m. with happy hour and live music from 6 to 7 p.m. (150 W. 17th St., rubinmuseum.org)

Jewish Museum (Saturdays): Free all day. (1109 Fifth Ave., thejewishmuseum.org)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fridays): Free from 6:30 to 9 p.m. (1000 Fifth Ave., metmuseum.org)

Frick Collection (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. (1 E. 70th St., frick.org)

Queens Museum: Free for students of New York colleges and universities with current ID and NYC teachers. (New York City Building, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. queensmuseum.org)

Shaye Weaver