1. African Burial Ground
This is one of Lower Manhattan’s most fascinating, and controversial, stories of recent years which is circulated around the new African Burial Ground National Monument site. This began in 1991, when a construction project uncovered a burial ground of slaves, resulting in finding 400 caskets, from an age when New York had more slaves than any other American city outside Charleston.
Outside, now you can see part of the site enclosed by buildings, and the compact visitors centre does a masterful job at retelling African-American history in the city.
2. Brooklyn Brewery tours
On the hours from 1-5pm Saturday, 1-4pm Sunday, free tours of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery are held.
3. Central Park
You do not have to be a genius for you to know that you can visit a park for free. Central Park is filled with free events, statues, people-watching and sites like Strawberry Fields, amongst many others. Another famous site is ‘the Pond’, found at the southeastern corner, where Holden Caulfield kept turning to in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.
4. Chelsea galleries
This is New York’s most concentrated area for a gallery crawl. Mostly in the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. Make sure to try timing for wine-and-cheese openings on Thursday evenings.
5. City Hall
Since 1812, City Hall has been home to New York City’s government. Its’ tours take in its cupola-topped marble hall, the governor’s room together with the spot where Abraham Lincoln’s coffin lay in state around 1865. If you are planning to purchase a tour, make sure to reserve it in advance.
6. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum
In the FIT Museum, it is always fashion week. It features rotating exhibits made by students and a surprisingly interesting and detailed collection of the country’s first gallery of fashion which is taken from a collection of 50,000 garments which dates back to the 18th century to present.
7. Federal Hall
Two presidents were inaugurated in NYC. The first was ‘Dubya’ – George Washington, who in 1789, took the oath in Federal Hall, back when New York was the first capital. While the second was Chester A Arthur. A nice statue is found outside which overlooks the New York stock Exchange across Wall Street, and a small, recently renovated museum on post-colonial New York inside.
8. Federal Reserve Bank of New York
If you plan to visit the Federal Reserve Bank, then reserve it at least a week ahead. It is most rewarding just to gaze at the facility’s high-security vault which is useful considering the fact that more than 10,000 tons of gold reserves reside here, 80ft below ground. There is also exhibits on counterfeit currency together with a serious coin collection of the American Numismatic Society. A tour is the only way to get in.
9. Forbes Collection
Various curios from the late Malcolm Forbes’ collection is found in the lobby galleries of Forbes magazine with most notably early versions of Monopoly boards.
10. General Ulysses S Grant National Memorial
It is also known as ‘Grant’s Tomb’, the $600,000 structure which is made from granite, holds the remains of the Civil War hero and 18th president is the largest mausoleum in the United States. It is patterned after Mausolus’ tomb at Halicarnassus, which makes it a plagiarized version of one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
11. Governor’s Island.
The ferry to Governor’s Island is free. It is access to the 172-acre island which, in 2003, was opened to the public. There is a 2.2 mile bike path, mini gold, a picnic area and also military sites such as Admiral’s House and a ‘ghost town’ of sorts at Nolan Park.
12. Grand Central Partnership walking Tours
Every Friday, two historians lead free 90-minute walking tours, hitting places like Grand Central Terminal’s ‘whispering gallery’ together with the Chrysler Building
13. Green-Wood Cemetery
The Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is the eternal home to approximately 600,000 people. It is leafy and lovely which features Brooklyn’s highest point at Battle Hill. This is a site from the Revolutionary War which now marks a seven-foot statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva.
14. Hamilton Grange
If you get a grange, you know you’re important. Hamilton Grange reopened in 2011 after renovation. It is the Federal-style country retreat where Alexander Hamilton spent quieter New York days.
Highline is a park, thereby, it is free. The expanding Highline project has the impact and feel of a real-live attraction, completed with its own opening hours. It is created from an abandoned stretch of inclined railroad track. Hudson River views can also be seen.
16. Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library
The largest collection of Spanish art outside Spain fills the ornate Beaux Arts space of the Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library on the peaceful Audobon Terrace in far north Manhattan.
17. Japan Society
The gallery exhibits at the Japan Society are free on Fridays 6-9pm. However, the films and lectures usually involve a ticket.
18. National Museum of the American Indian.
This Smithsonian ex-pat, just off the historic Bowling Green and Battery Park, is found next to frenetic commuters and travellers heading to the Statue of Liberty, but it often gets missed. It is situated in the spectacular former US Customs House, the national Museum of the American Indian is one of the country’s delicate collections of Native American art. The focus is not on history, but on culture.
19. New York Earth Room
It is something completely extraordinary. It is Walter De Maria’s 1977 art installation, consisting of a single room which is filled with 280,000 pounds of dirt, and combines the framework of an ordinary office with the scent of a wet forest.
20. New York Public Library
It is New York’s most famous library, which in 2011 turned 100. It is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts icon east of Times Square. It is fronted by lions made of marble named ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude’, and is simply a jaw-dropper to walk through. Exhibited also, is a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenburg Bible including also 431,000 old maps.
21. Old Stone House
This is a Breuckelen legacy from Brooklyn’s Dutch origins, and a survivor from the ill-fated Battle of Brooklyn. It features a small exhibit on the battle. Its upper floor is sometimes rented out for the likes of sample sales. Entry is by a suggested donation of $3.
22. Public boathouse kayaking
Boathouses such as the downtown Boathouse and Long Island Community Boathouse in Queens offers kayaking for free.
23. Rockefeller Centre Public Art
It was built in the 1930s Great Depression. The 22-acre Rockefeller Centre is more than the setting for NBC’s Today Shows and a giant Christmas tree in December. The pieces pack a big punch namely the statue of Prometheus which overlooks the skating rink or Atlas holding the world at 640 Fifth Avenue.
24. Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture
It is part of the city’s library system, the country’s greatest collection of documents, books, recordings, and photographs all related to the African-American experience. The Schomburg Centre also hosts free exhibits and self-guided tours. Guided tours are free, but must be booked at least one month in advance.
25. Socrates Sculpture Park
This park is found on the East River, overlooking Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side. The Socrates Sculpture Park is a former dump site which now has interesting art installations, light shows and movies on Wednesdays in summer.
26. Staten Island Ferry
The ferry tours start at $12, but the Staten Island Ferry for commuters, which takes you across the New York Harbour, is totally free and has long held the distinction as the single greatest free attraction on the Eastern Seaboard. Since 1905, the ferry carries around 19 million passengers across the harbour yearly. Technically, for transport in between Staten Island and Manhattan, most tourists simply hop back on to get back to New York.
Free Attractions at specific Times
27. American Museum of Natural History
Its last hour is free, 4:45-5:45pm, and admission price is ‘suggested’ at all other times
28. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
It is free on Tuesday, 10am to noon Saturday and weekdays in winter (November to February)
29. Brooklyn Museum
It is free first Saturday of the month, when there’s big wine sipping and DJ parties that attract half the neighbourhood.
30. Bronx Zoo
Pay what you wish on Wednesday
31. El Museu del Barrio
It is free on the third Saturday of the month.
32. Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum
Pay what you wish, first Friday of the month.
33. Museum of Modern Art
Entry is free from 4-8pm on Friday.
34. Museum of the Moving Image.
Free from 4-8pm on Friday.
35. Neue Galerie
Free from 6-8pm the first Friday of the month
36. New York Botanical Garden
Free Wednesday and 9-10am Saturday.
37. New York Historical Society.
Pay what you wish, 6-8pm Friday.
38. New York Aquarium
Pay what you wish from 3pm Fridays and 4pm in summer.
39. Studio Museum in Harlem
Free on Sunday.
40. Wave Hill
Free 9am to noon Tuesday and Saturday.
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