Updated: Dec 17, 2019
New York is known as an expensive place to visit, and it can be. You’ll find every level of accommodation here, starting with not cheap. People come here expecting that it’ll be hard to squeeze by on a tight budget, and they’re probably right, but there are also many worthy places to visit and things to do that cost ZERO. Some of these activities may sound familiar, but I include them because they are well worth doing, whether you’re familiar with it or not.
Everything mentioned here is a free, uniquely New York experience.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Or just halfway, but do it. It is one of the greatest structures in America. You see all of Manhattan, waterfront Brooklyn, the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, the ships, and the the spider web of cables which holds it all up.
Walk along Brooklyn Bridge Park , a 1.5 mile ribbon of landscaped, post industrial riverfront with ferry landings, playing fields, lawns, bike paths, art installations, and quietly out of the way designed refuges. It is a master lesson in urban design.
In lower Manhattan go to Federal Hall, where Washington became our first president and where Congress first met. The building is not the original, but the displays and artifacts inside are, and they tell an impressive story.
While in the Wall Street area , visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Bowling Green. Not only is this a premiere showplace of Native American art and history, it is also a magnificent building. Its original purpose was as New York’s Customs House. The second floor rotunda and the WPA murals surrounding it are worth a visit alone.
Take the subways! That’s what we all do. It’s the fastest, most efficient way around. Millions of stories of the city start down there. Look for the unique tiles and reliefs at individual stations. It’s one hallmark of the stations’ aesthetic.
Stroll the colorful back streets of Chinatown. You need only bring your appetite for the dumpling and noodle joints that serve a terrific meal for the cost of a frappucino. Manhattan’s Chinatown is only one of 3 Chinatowns we have in New York, the others being in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens
Take the free Staten Island ferry at The Battery, where you cruise by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, sailing north in return to the classic water view of Manhattan. This has got to be one of the best boat passages in the world.
Walk the High Line, the formerly abandoned elevated railroad bed turned park, which snakes through west Chelsea. It’s an innovative urban park design that has transformed the environment and the entire neighborhood.
In midtown, don’t miss the New York Public Library headquarters at 42nd street and Fifth Ave. and especially the Rose Reading Room on the upper floor. This is one of the great interior spaces on New York.
Grand Central terminal is one of the finest Beaux Art masterpieces in the country. You can spend a lot of time simply exploring that complex.
These ideas are only a start, but they are all iconic New York experiences.