America’s largest city might seem expensive, but visitors may be surprised to discover that many attractions are free or discounted. Indeed, with the exception of transportation, visitors can spend an entire day in Central Park, explore Times Square or take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge without spending a dime. While some attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Empire State Building cost upwards of $30 to visit, there’s no charge to view them, even if it’s at a distance. In order to keep costs low when visiting the Big Apple, here are some other ways to save on sightseeing in New York City.
Take Public Transit
The easiest and most efficient way to get around New York City is the subway. Basic fare on the MTA subway is $2.50 for a single ride. By purchasing a $10 Pay-Per-Ride card, the cost goes down to $2.38 per ride. Other MetroCard options include a 7-Day Unlimited for $30, which can drop the cost down to $2.33 for 13 trips and $1.20 for 25 trips. Also not to be missed is a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry, providing some of the most spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.
Free New York Museums
Many New York museums and monuments are absolutely free. Top choices include a guided tour of the Federal Reserve, featuring a visit to the gold vault, the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, five blocks south of Penn Station, the Museum of Biblical Art near Central Park and the General Grant National Memorial, along the Hudson River near West 124th Street. There is no cost to visit the 9/11 Memorial but tickets to the 9/11 Memorial Museum is $24 for adults, $18 for seniors, military veterans and college students and $15 for youth ages seven to 17. The admission is free for the Forbes Gallery at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street a few blocks from Union Square and the public art at Rockefeller Center is also worth a visit.
Many free concerts are held during the summer all over the city. Top upcoming shows include the Motown Gospel Revue at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield on August 9, Rosanne Cash at Damrosch Park Bandshell on August 9 and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival August 23-24. The most popular events are the free concerts outside the Today Show at Rockefeller Center with upcoming appearances from Neon Trees on August 15, Hunter Hayes on August 22, Ariana Grande on August 29, Maroon 5 on September 1 and Usher on September 5.
Free Outdoor Movies
Free outdoor movies will be screened at locations all over New York City, such as Bryant Park, Coney Island and Hudson River Park. Upcoming movies are “The Shining” on August 18 at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, “Dirty Dancing” at Coney Island’s Flicks on the Beach on August 11, “Independence Day” and “On the Waterfront” at Valentino Pier in Brooklyn on August 19 and 29, “The Birds” at Brooklyn Bridge Park on August 21 and “The Wizard of Oz” on August 22 at Hudson River Park at Pier 46 in Greenwich Village.
Visitors can enjoy a free tour of many of New York’s most famous attractions. Each Friday, the Grand Central Partnership offers a free, 90-minute walking tour of the Grand Central neighborhood. Visitors can also request a tour with a Big Apple Greeter into some of the city’s neighborhoods, like Coney Island, Harlem, SoHo and Tribeca. Other free events include walking tours of Greenwich Village sponsored by the Village Alliance through September 27, Garden Tours at Battery Park through October 15 and free tours of Brooklyn Brewery on Saturdays.
Visitors can embark on their own free tour of the city. Among the best spots to visit are Central Park, Times Square, the Financial District and Wall Street, Little Italy, Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. Other popular spots to visit are the South Street Seaport, City Hall, New York Public Library and High Line.
Free Television Show Tapings
Many of America’s favorite shows are taped in New York City and tickets to be an audience member are free. The best shows may be sold out but information is periodically updated online. Shows include “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show with John Stewart,” “The View,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with Seth Myers,” “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” No tickets are necessary to attend a live taping of “The Today Show” at Rockefeller Center although guests are encouraged to arrive early since taping begins at 7 a.m.
The New York City Pass allows visitors to see several of the city’s top attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Museum of Modern Art and the Empire State Observatory. But at $109 for adults and $82 for children, it’s not cheap. Other options for multiple attractions are the New York Explorer Pass starting at $79.99 for adults and $57.99 for children, the New York Pass and the Downtown Culture Pass at $25 for adults and youth ages seven to 17 are $8 and under age six are free. But the best discount seems to be through Costco currently offering a discounted Explorer Pass for $63.99 for adults and $49.99 for children. For visitors who insist on watching a Broadway show, tickets can be purchased for a discount at any of the city’s three TKTS booth locations at Times Square, South Street Seaport and downtown Brooklyn, with same-day discounts of up to 50 percent on many of the most popular shows.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.