Hoping to visit New York City without blowing your budget?
Add these 5 free things to your NYC itinerary to help keep your trip budget-friendly.
1. Take the Staten Island Ferry
Want to take a boat ride with fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Lower Manhattan? Would you like to take that boat ride for free?
If yes, then the Staten Island Ferry is for you!
The Staten Island Ferry is a free ferry that shuttles people between Manhattan and Staten Island. Its primary purpose is to transport people who live on Staten Island to and from Manhattan, but the Staten Island Ferry provides a free ride to anyone who wants to hop on.
The ferry departs from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with departures every 30 minutes (and every 15 minutes during rush hour). The trip takes about 25 minutes each way.
If you want to return immediately to Manhattan after reaching Staten Island, you’ll need to disembark the ferry with everyone else. You can then join the rest of the crowd to re-board the ferry to head back to Manhattan.
TIP: When leaving Manhattan and heading towards Staten Island, try to stand at the back of the boat. You’ll see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to the west, and the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan to the north.
2. Pose with the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues
Looking for a great photo op in New York? Head to the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues!
The statues are located on Broadway in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, on the Bowling Green between Morris Street and Beaver Street.
The Charging Bull statue was originally installed without permission in 1989, but was kept as a fixture because of its popularity. The Fearless Girl statue was installed as a temporary fixture in 2017, but its stay has also been extended because of its popularity.
TIP: Expect to find the area around the Charging Bull extremely crowded. You can try to go early in the morning or later in the day, but be prepared for crowds no matter what time you visit. When we visited in November 2017, it was extremely crowded around the Charging Bull, but we were able to get some great power poses with Fearless Girl!
3. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge’s iconic architecture makes it a must-visit spot in New York City.
In addition to the beautiful bridge, you’ll also get a great view of the Manhattan skyscrapers.
The bridge is a little over a mile walk. Because of the volume of people walking across the bridge, expect the walk to take at least 30 minutes. If you like to stop and take pictures (like me!), plan for an additional 15-30 minutes.
TIP 1: At the beginning of the walk, expect the path to be extremely crowded. I recommend that you don’t try to stop and take pictures towards the beginning of the walk. Once you reach the bridge’s first tower, the crowds will have spread out and you’ll have some great photo opportunities there.
TIP 2: Beware bicyclists! The walkway on the bridge is divided in two – one for bicyclists and one for walking traffic. Walkers taking pictures or trying to pass people often stray into the bicycle lane, which is dangerous for both the walkers and the bicyclists.
4. Take a picture of the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn
After walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, you can walk 5-10 minutes more and get an amazing picture of the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn.
When you cross the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan into Brooklyn, exit the bridge and walk north on Washington Street. This is the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) area of Brooklyn.
Soon, an incredible view of the Manhattan Bridge will come into sight.
At the intersection of Water Street and Washington Street, you’ll be able to see the Empire State Building between the lower archway of the bridge. It’s a great spot for a picture!
5. Visit the New York Public Library Main Branch
Remember when the Ghostbusters ran into the library to deal with their first ghost in the 1984 version of Ghostbusters? Or when Carrier planned her wedding in the library in Sex in the City?
Both movies feature the New York Public LIbrary’s Main Branch, officially named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Its stone lions (nicknamed Patience and Fortitude) are instantly recognizable as you walk up the stairs to the library’s main entrance.
Although you can’t check out books from the library (it’s a research-only library), you can walk through its beautiful halls and take in the amazing architecture. The library offers free guided tours at 11AM and 2PM Monday-Saturday and at 2PM on Sunday (although the library is closed on Sundays in July and August). You can also take free self-guided audio tours. You can pick up an audio tour device at the visitor’s desk in Astor Hall.
And don’t forget to pose with the stone lions in front of the building!
The library is located at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. For hours, check out the library’s website here.
I hope these five free things to do in New York City help to keep your trip budget-friendly. Enjoy the Big Apple!