Admission is free to the locations and attractions listed below except where noted otherwise. Details are subject to change; you are encouraged to verify costs, dates and times with each organization before planning your visit. If you discover any broken links, please let us know!
Battery Park (Financial District)
Within Battery Park, head to Castle Clinton for a dose of history. It became the world’s first immigrant depot in 1855, before Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty existed. For childlike glee, check out the SeaGlass Carousel ($5). For meditative walking, trace The Battery Labyrinth, created to commemorate the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy.
Spanning 843 acres, this is where to go when you need a wide-open space ASAP. It's the nation's first public park, designed in the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and designated New York City's first scenic landmark in 1974. You could visit daily and have a new adventure each time, with both self-guided tours and guided tours. On a beautiful fall day, read a book on a bench along the Mall and Literary Walk, see the beautiful Minton Tile Ceiling at Bethesda Terrace, or work up a sweat with a variety of sports: biking, tennis, skating, and many more. An officially designated “Quiet Zone” and the only formal garden in Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is on the east side of Central Park between 104th and 105th Streets.
Federal Hall (Financial District)
The footprint of 26 Wall Street holds great historical significance. This is where the Stamp Act Congress met in October 1765 to protest "taxation without representation," where the Bill of Rights was drafted and where George Washington was inaugurated as the country's first President in 1789. Stop by the visitor center, near the Pine Street entrance at the north end of the main floor, for site information. Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday.
Foliage Walk (Randall’s Island)
Check out the fall foliage on Randall’s Island with a guided walk through the gardens, woodland trail and wetlands.
Grand Central Terminal & Neighborhood Tour (Midtown)
Head to the iconic Grand Central Terminal Clock for an oasis of calm where you can stop to take in the artwork of the ceiling as commuters and tourists rush past. The original plans included a massive skylight but were abandoned when time and money began to run out. To finalize the constellation, French artist Paul Helleu consulted with Columbia University’s Dr. Harold Jacoby, professor of astronomy, whose research on medieval astronomical manuscripts informed the final figures and composition.
To fully appreciate the architectural and historical sights of the neighborhood, including the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Pershing Square, take the award-winning walking tour offered by the Grand Central Partnership, called the "Grand Tour." It meets on Fridays at 12:30 p.m. in the atrium at 120 Park Avenue.
Hamilton Grange (Hamilton Heights)
Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the home of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton commissioned architect John McComb, Jr. to design a Federal-style country home on a 32-acre estate in upper Manhattan. This house was completed in 1802 and named "The Grange" after his father's ancestral home in Scotland. Believed to be the only home Alexander Hamilton ever owned, the Grange has been moved twice but has always remained an integral part of the Harlem neighborhood. It was originally located a few blocks away but rests today on a property that he owned in the early 1800s.
The High Line (Chelsea and Meatpacking)
This 1.45-mile-long park is built on an elevated section of what used to be the West Side Line of the New York Central Railroad. It offers great views, art installations and a surprising amount of flora and fauna. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues.
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)–New York (Financial District)
Why not take a trip to the George Gustav Heye Center, home of the National Museum of the American Indian–New York, during Native American Heritage Month? The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions explore the diversity of the Native people of the Americas. It's located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, one of the most splendid Beaux Arts buildings in New York and a National Historic Landmark. You'll find it on the south side of Bowling Green, in lower Manhattan, adjacent to the northeast corner of Battery Park.
New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Midtown)
Like Columbia, this iconic library has lions for its mascots: Two massive Tennessee-marble lions, dubbed Patience and Fortitude, flank the main portal. Check out the cavernous Rose Main Reading Room, spanning almost 300 feet and outfitted with chandeliers and stunning ceiling murals. Free guided tours (at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Monday–Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays) stop at Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room.
Lincoln Center: Free Concerts and Performances (Upper West Side)
Free performances are offered each week in Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium. Performances feature national and international artists on tour as well as local performers hailing from all across the New York metropolitan area, and musical genres including hip-hop, pop, Latin, rock, soul, country, spoken word, jazz, world music, as well as classical and new music. Select performances also feature live music for social dancing including swing dance, salsa and tango.
Roosevelt Island Tram
It's the first tram to be used for mass transit and was meant to be replaced by the subway. However, residents had grown accustomed to and comfortable with it, and it's been in use ever since. Once on the island, go see the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a lighthouse built in 1872, the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital where patients were quarantined in the 1800s and other landmarks, art galleries and restaurants.
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Founded in 1971, the museum has helped to make art accessible to the entire community through its robust education initiatives and public programs. It is an internationally recognized cultural destination committed to promoting cross-cultural dialogues for diverse audiences and featuring 20th- and 21st-century artists who are either Bronx-based or of African, Asian or Latino ancestry.
Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum & Pelham Bay Park
The history of this beautiful estate dates back to the 17th Century, when Thomas Pell signed a treaty with the Siwanoy Indians to purchase what is now the Bronx borough. Re-opened as a museum in 1946, it now offers tours of its furnishings, carriage house and formal gardens. The museum is nestled Pelham Bay Park, which offers a 13-mile coastline, salt marshes, shady forests and sunny meadows, the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary, bridle trails, bike paths and Orchard Beach.
The Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the U.S. and among the largest in the world. It is world-renowned for its large and diverse animal collection and is home to more than 5,000 adorable and/or ferocious creatures in myriad exhibits, including an outdoor baboon reserve, a sea lion pool and a space dedicated entirely to Madagascar. General admission is free on Wednesdays, and student discounts are available when purchasing tickets on-site.
New York Botanical Garden
You'll find more than one million living plants, including a remarkable diversity of tropical, temperate, and desert flora at this National Historic Landmark. The garden cultivates a rotating roster of shows that nod to some of the world’s most cherished green spaces, such as the regal grounds of Spain’s Alhambra palace and Monet’s alfresco sanctuary at Giverny. Admission to the grounds is free all day on Wednesdays and from 9–10 a.m. on Saturdays. (Note that NYBG is closed on Mondays.)
Enjoy free admission on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–noon, to this spectacular 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx. Wave Hill's vibrant landscape is one of the most beautiful spots in New York City. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.
Housed in what was once a military residence at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this small museum pays homage to the historical significance of the former shipbuilding center—which, at its peak during World War II, employed close to 70,000 people. Visit the free-admission exhibits or purchase tickets for a Yard tour.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, founded in 1910, is an urban botanic garden that connects people to the world of plants, fostering delight and curiosity while inspiring an appreciation and sense of stewardship of the environment. Its 28 gardens and conservatories include multiple climates, from the tropics to the desert. Admission is free on Tuesdays and Saturdays 10 a.m.–noon (except festival dates), and regular admission is only $8 for students.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
One-third of a mile long, the promenade offers sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge and is lined with flower beds, trees, benches and playgrounds. You may recognize it from movies like Annie Hall and Moonstruck.
A true feat of 19th century engineering, this 1.3-mile long steel-wire suspension bridge was designed by famed civil-engineer John A. Roebling in 1869. When the bridge officially opened 14 years later in 1883, it was the world's largest suspension bridge and immediately became a sensation as more than 150,000 people crossed the bridge on that day alone. The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful at any time of day, but traversing it at sunset is particularly nice!
Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk
With courts for beach volleyball, handball and basketball as well as playgrounds and amusement rides, the beach and boardwalk can provide hours of entertainment. Coney Island is a great place to visit in the off-season, when the crowds are diminished. Stroll the nearly 3 miles of sandy beaches, while taking in the autumn sky and rolling waves.
Green-Wood's 478 acres of hills, valleys, glacial ponds and paths house 560,000 permanent residents, including Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Charles Ebbets, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Horace Greeley, Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers and inventors. This Revolutionary War historic site (the Battle of Long Island was fought on this location in 1776) is a part of the Civil War Discovery Trail and a registered member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System.
Flushing Meadows–Corona Park
Its most enduring icon is the Unisphere, the mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair. But there’s also first-rate culture and sports at the New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citi Field (depending on how the Mets are doing). The rolling green fields also encompass a zoo, a boating lake, a skate park, a barbecue area, playfields, and a $66 million aquatic and hockey center.
Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum maintains the nation's largest and most comprehensive collection of artifacts relating to the art, history, and technology of the moving image—one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. Begun at the Museum's inception in 1981, today the collection comprises more than 130,000 artifacts from every stage of producing, promoting, and exhibiting motion pictures, television and digital media, from pre-cinema optical toys to 21st-century digital technology. Admission is free from 4–8 p.m. on Fridays, and $11 with a student ID.
Socrates Sculpture Park
This is one of the few locations in the city specifically designated for outdoor works of art. The park looks out over the Manhattan skyline and is open 365 days a year. On site you'll also find a greenmarket, free yoga and tai chi classes and more.
Staten Island Ferry
Although this 24-hour ferry is a lifeline for commuters making their way from NYC’s southernmost borough, it’s also a boat trip that provides stunning views. As you approach Staten Island, look for Governors Island to the east, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the west and the Manhattan skyline behind you.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
This botanical garden and cultural center are surrounded by cobblestone streets and tiny paths of Victorian and Tudor homes. The Snug Harbor Cultural Center was once a home for retired sailors in the United States, now converted into a regional arts center. One of the most popular attractions in the garden is the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, fitted with magnificent rocks meant to resemble mountains inspired by the poetry and paintings of Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist monks, as well as a bamboo forest path and Koi-filled pond.