Gratis Fun: 9 Free Things to do in New York City By Aaron Leizerovici

Travelling and exploring New York City — one of the most expensive cities in the world — can definitely become costly. According to The Economist’s 2016 Worldwide Cost of Living report, New York City ranks 7th in priciest cities to live in.


So how can you have fun in this big, expensive city? If native New Yorkers can have a blast on a budget, you can’t too! We’ve put together a list of nine free activities in New York City that’ll satiate your wanderlust.​


1. Outdoor Summer movies

Nothing beats free — except when it’s a free outdoor film paired with a cool summer breeze. The best part of these outdoor films? Show times start when the temperature and the sun sets.


Grab a cozy blanket, some snacks, and see a free flick in any of the five boroughs. Check out these two calendars to see where select films are playing, without paying for high-priced movie tickets.

2. Coney Island Beach

Photo Credit: Ben Mautner

When people visit New York City, towering buildings and concrete come to mind, not beaches. To their dismay, this beautiful (roughly) 3-mile beach, paired with sunny skies and tranquil waves are a perfect pause for the city that never sleeps.


Insider tip: The beach is as beautiful in the night as it is in the day.

3. Coney Island Boardwalk

Photo Credit: Pietro Izzo

It can be crowded at times, but its picturesque view is worth the travel (and occasional crowd). There aren’t many places in New York City to go and slow down, but this is one of them. Take a stroll, walk your dog, or even meditate on the beach as the sun sets.

And if you’re one who likes to constantly stay active, there are plenty of recreation courts for beach volleyball, handball, basketball, and kid-friendly playgrounds.

4. Coney Island Fireworks

Photo Credit: Zohn

Watch them from the beach or boardwalk on the 4th of July. You can also see them on Friday nights, starting the last weekend in June; the last day to watch them is the Friday before Labor Day.

5. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Photo Credit: New York Show Tickets

You can snag free tickets to a live taping of The Daily show, starring South African comedian, Trevor Noah.


To enter, you must be 18 years or older and present a government issued photo I.D. (driver's license, passport, military I.D., etc.) that shows proof of your date of birth. Additionally, you must present ownership of the online reservation.


It’s important to note that a reservation doesn’t guarantee entry. The online reservation essentially lets you stand in line to receive a ticket. However, tickets are a first-come, first-served basis.


Here’s more information on reservations and tickets. 

6. Mini Golf on Governor’s Island

Photo Credit: Aaron Leizerovici

Engulf yourself in fun and nostalgia, with mini golf at Governor’s Island. A military base in its past life, Governor’s Island is now saturated with lush greenery, a space for concerts and family activities. The best part: it’s a short ferry ride from Battery Park and Brooklyn.


Free* mini golf is offered by the part volunteer-run art event Figment on the Island. The course is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm, and during the week from 10am to 5pm. The island stays open seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day.


*$5 suggested donation


Ferry information:


Round-Trip Adult: $2

Round-Trip Senior Citizen: $1

Children Under 13: Free

IDNYC Holders: Free

Season Pass: $20.00

Passengers ride free on Saturdays and Sundays until 11:30 AM

7. Brooklyn Art Library 

28 Frost Street Brooklyn, NY 11211

Home to The Sketchbook Project collection, the Brooklyn Art Library’s shelves hold tens of thousands of sketchbooks, created by artists from around the world. The library also serves as a reading room and you can spend some time creating your own sketchbook to add to the collection, with the help of their librarians.

Fun fact: They host private events, weddings, parties and more!

8. National Museum of the American Indian

One Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004

A free museum located in the financial district, The National Museum of the American Indian–New York, is located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions explore the diversity of the Native people of the Americas.


Discover their Native American culture through art, music and dance performances, films and seminars.

9. Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Photo Credit: photos11201

One of the most romantic locations in New York City, Brooklyn Heights Promenade offers a view of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the majestic Brooklyn Bridge. Being one-third of a mile long, it’s a great place to walk, run, bike or jog.  And with plenty of greenery on this stretch of land, it’s no wonder locals and tourist flock to this historic location.

Who said you can’t have fun for free? With the right people (and the right list from BetterThanBrunch), you can have a blast with little to no cash!