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Free Things To Do in New York City

If you have extra time, New York Public Library is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city's most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travelers insist that you shouldn't just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre green space is a favorite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.
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Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Central Park
This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city's most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travelers insist that you shouldn't just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre green space is a favorite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.
... more

#9

#9 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
At this beautiful train station, you can eat some lunch or shop till you drop, but recent travelers most enjoyed just taking in the scenery. Before you enter, be sure to snap a few shots of the ornate beaux-arts neoclassical architecture outside. Inside the celebrated main concourse, you're treated to glimmering marble floors, gold and nickel-plated chandeliers and a sky-themed ceiling. Food options range from the upscale (Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. or The Campbell Apartment) to the legendary (the Oyster Bar or the gourmet kiosks at the Grand Central Market) to the fast and easy (Starbucks). As mentioned, there are also plenty of shopping options, though most travelers suggest you leave most of Grand Central's pricey merchandise in the store. If you want a train-themed souvenir, visit The New York Transit Museum Store in the shuttle passage.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Grand Central Terminal
At this beautiful train station, you can eat some lunch or shop till you drop, but recent travelers most enjoyed just taking in the scenery. Before you enter, be sure to snap a few shots of the ornate beaux-arts neoclassical architecture outside. Inside the celebrated main concourse, you're treated to glimmering marble floors, gold and nickel-plated chandeliers and a sky-themed ceiling. Food options range from the upscale (Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. or The Campbell Apartment) to the legendary (the Oyster Bar or the gourmet kiosks at the Grand Central Market) to the fast and easy (Starbucks). As mentioned, there are also plenty of shopping options, though most travelers suggest you leave most of Grand Central's pricey merchandise in the store. If you want a train-themed souvenir, visit The New York Transit Museum Store in the shuttle passage.
... more

#11

#11 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
This main branch, officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, attracts plenty of book lovers, history junkies and architecture aficionados. Most people swing by the Bryant Park landmark to say hello to Patience and Fortitude (the famous stone lions guarding the entrance) and to admire the lovely beaux-arts design.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
New York Public Library
This main branch, officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, attracts plenty of book lovers, history junkies and architecture aficionados. Most people swing by the Bryant Park landmark to say hello to Patience and Fortitude (the famous stone lions guarding the entrance) and to admire the lovely beaux-arts design.
... more
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#12

#12 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
Set on an abandoned rail track on Manhattan's West Side, this sprawling nearly 1½-mile-long landscaped park stretches over three of the city's most lively neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. Standing 30 feet above street level, the High Line offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and Manhattan's cityscape. But the vista isn't the only reason visitors and Manhattanites flock to this manicured green space. Here, you'll find continually changing public art installations, a handful of food vendors and a sprawling picnic and sunbathing area (known as the 23rd Street Lawn).
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The High Line
Set on an abandoned rail track on Manhattan's West Side, this sprawling nearly 1½-mile-long landscaped park stretches over three of the city's most lively neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. Standing 30 feet above street level, the High Line offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and Manhattan's cityscape. But the vista isn't the only reason visitors and Manhattanites flock to this manicured green space. Here, you'll find continually changing public art installations, a handful of food vendors and a sprawling picnic and sunbathing area (known as the 23rd Street Lawn).
... more

#13

#13 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
One of many signature landmarks of New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is also one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. Its six-lanes (and one pedestrian and bicycle walkway) span the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. Walking across the bridge remains a tourist pastime.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Brooklyn Bridge
One of many signature landmarks of New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is also one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. Its six-lanes (and one pedestrian and bicycle walkway) span the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. Walking across the bridge remains a tourist pastime.
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#14

#14 in New York City

Local Pick: Must-see ? Free
It's fitting that St. Patrick's Cathedral would be on the same street as stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. That's because for many people, shopping is a religious experience, and here between 34th and 59th streets you'll find the holy grail. Even if you're not planning to put your credit card to work at high-end stores, travelers say a stroll along Fifth Avenue is a must. It's one of the top places top shop in the city, according to local experts.
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Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Fifth Avenue
It's fitting that St. Patrick's Cathedral would be on the same street as stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. That's because for many people, shopping is a religious experience, and here between 34th and 59th streets you'll find the holy grail. Even if you're not planning to put your credit card to work at high-end stores, travelers say a stroll along Fifth Avenue is a must. It's one of the top places top shop in the city, according to local experts.
... more

#15

#15 in New York City

Local Pick: Recommended ? Free
Just south of Times Square lies some of the most beautiful 4 acres in Manhattan – Bryant Park. Though its lush green space has existed for more than 150 years, Bryant Park was a revitalization project of the 1990s that made it a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. This is the preferred place for midtown Manhattan professionals to come eat lunch, for fashionistas to strut during fashion week and for performers to showcase their talents during Broadway in Bryant Park and Piano in the Park.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Bryant Park
Just south of Times Square lies some of the most beautiful 4 acres in Manhattan – Bryant Park. Though its lush green space has existed for more than 150 years, Bryant Park was a revitalization project of the 1990s that made it a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. This is the preferred place for midtown Manhattan professionals to come eat lunch, for fashionistas to strut during fashion week and for performers to showcase their talents during Broadway in Bryant Park and Piano in the Park.
... more

#19

#19 in New York City

Local Pick: Recommended ? Free
This iconic plaza has it all – beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is an experience that's worth having at least once. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don't fret if your New York adventure doesn't take place during the cold months. There's plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the "Today" show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck
This iconic plaza has it all – beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is an experience that's worth having at least once. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don't fret if your New York adventure doesn't take place during the cold months. There's plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the "Today" show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.
... more
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#20

#20 in New York City

Local Pick: Recommended ? Free
Some say that Times Square is like a five-block metaphor for New York City itself – it's exciting, colorful and always jumping. Others describe this area of midtown Manhattan as artless, overpriced and congested. Perhaps this commercial stretch from West 42nd to West 47th Street is a little of both, and though locals would advise you to avoid it, you should at least catch a glimpse of its neon lights. Most travelers recommend visiting the area after dark to see the marquee displays. Many add checking out Times Square before or after a Broadway show is the perfect time to fit it into your schedule.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Times Square
Some say that Times Square is like a five-block metaphor for New York City itself – it's exciting, colorful and always jumping. Others describe this area of midtown Manhattan as artless, overpriced and congested. Perhaps this commercial stretch from West 42nd to West 47th Street is a little of both, and though locals would advise you to avoid it, you should at least catch a glimpse of its neon lights. Most travelers recommend visiting the area after dark to see the marquee displays. Many add checking out Times Square before or after a Broadway show is the perfect time to fit it into your schedule.
... more

#23

#23 in New York City

Local Pick: Recommended ? Free
This sprawling cathedral sits amid the hustle and distinctively secular bustle of Rockefeller Center. But that doesn't take away from its otherworldly vibe. Whether you're religious or just making an architectural pilgrimage, you can't help but be impressed by St. Patrick's. 
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
St. Patrick's Cathedral
This sprawling cathedral sits amid the hustle and distinctively secular bustle of Rockefeller Center. But that doesn't take away from its otherworldly vibe. Whether you're religious or just making an architectural pilgrimage, you can't help but be impressed by St. Patrick's. 
... more

#26

#26 in New York City

Local Pick: If Time Allows ? Free
Technically, the Chrysler Building is an office building open Monday through Friday, but you don't need to go inside to appreciate its aesthetic appeal. Recent visitors praised the building's unique architectural style. Built in 1930, the Chrysler had a short-lived run as the tallest building in the city, before it was usurped of its title by the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, this 1,046-foot high skyscraper remains a favorite of New Yorkers for its classic art deco style. And unlike the Empire State, at this site you won't need an expensive entry ticket, a strong stomach to stand soaring heights or patience for long lines to see what all the fuss is about. You can behold the building's menacing gargoyles and triangular openings from many spots in Manhattan. If you do have a chance, however, go inside to see the lobby's ornately painted ceiling or the beautiful woodwork on the elevators.
... more
Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Chrysler Building
Technically, the Chrysler Building is an office building open Monday through Friday, but you don't need to go inside to appreciate its aesthetic appeal. Recent visitors praised the building's unique architectural style. Built in 1930, the Chrysler had a short-lived run as the tallest building in the city, before it was usurped of its title by the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, this 1,046-foot high skyscraper remains a favorite of New Yorkers for its classic art deco style. And unlike the Empire State, at this site you won't need an expensive entry ticket, a strong stomach to stand soaring heights or patience for long lines to see what all the fuss is about. You can behold the building's menacing gargoyles and triangular openings from many spots in Manhattan. If you do have a chance, however, go inside to see the lobby's ornately painted ceiling or the beautiful woodwork on the elevators.
... more
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