I Love New York graffiti

Last Updated on November 7, 2021 by Larissa

There are so many free things to do in New York it’s tough to know where to begin. Here are a few involving entertainment, nature and culture. And you’ll be able to find places to stay in New York near what you’re looking to see and do.

1. Watch a TV show or movie being filmed

Golden Boy tv show taping New York

This realistic looking press conference at the Manhattan courthouse is actually a taping for the upcoming TV series Golden Boy.

If you have a favorite show that films in NYC, you can find daily filming locations info on http://www.onlocationvacations.com/ (look a the once-a-day locations post). Their twitter @olv also posts updates throughout the day.

Stars I’ve stumbled on filming include: Julia Roberts, JLo, Pierce Brosnan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the cast of Gossip Girl. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll also see celebrities just walking around. I always do.

 2. Attend a free taping of The View

The view TV show studio

Wait on line outside the studio.

Going to TV show tapings is a combination of fun and torture. There’s a lot of waiting and you’re likely to be cramped and hot. But, it’s exciting to see how TV is made. My favorite taping was seeing the ladies of The View. (I don’t recommend going to a taping of a half hour TV show because the ratio of waiting time to action isn’t worth it).

For The View, you can request tickets in advance or try standby tickets. Since I live outside the US, I can’t sign up for advance tickets, so I ended up going standby. I’ve tried 4 times and got tickets twice. Both times I got up very early to be first, or close to first, in the standby line. I got there by 6am. The studio is 320 W 66th St.

If you’re trying standby, you can increase your chances by doing the following: go on a day with a less popular guest, when it’s raining, or a day they are taping two shows (you’ll need to swing by the studio at the beginning of the week to ask which is their two show day as it changes from week to week). The View typically tapes 4 days a week. And you know never what free gift they might be giving out that day.

3. Attend a free reading by your favorite author

I love seeing authors on book tour. Since NYC is the publishing capital of the world, there’s always an author event scheduled.

The best location for big name authors is the flagship Barnes and Noble on Union Square. Sometimes independent bookstores also host big names or authors who have a cult following. Try McNally Jackson (see their event calendar) or Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore. The Skint  lists author events, and lists many other free or cheap activities that well off the tourist trail.

4. Take a moonlight bike ride around Central Park

An environmental group called Times Up organizes a free 10PM nighttime ride around Central Park.  It’s only held once a month but it’s an amazing experience! Check their calendar here. If you’re not in NYC at the right time for the moonlight bike ride, you can take various free walking tours of sections of Central Park. Details here.

5. Bryant Park

Bryant Park New York CityBryant Park is on 42nd street, just a few blocks from Times Square. In winter there’s an ice skating rink that’s free if you bring your own skates. Any time of year Bryant Park is just a lovely place to sit out and people watch. If you need to do any work, you can also step inside to the reading room at the next door NYC public library (ye,s the famous one). Hundreds of desks are equipped with laptop points and free wifi, all in a historic setting. Authors, and aspiring ones too, often go there for inspiration.

6. Free Friday nights at the Museum of Modern Art

Admission to MOMA is free on Fridays from 4pm till 8pm.  It’s better to go later as it’s less crowded. The normal adult rate is $25 so this is a great saving. It’s the perfect way to start your weekend in the city that never sleeps!

Kate of 30traveler writes a blog about travel beyond backpacking, featuring short and long trips with a focus on  vegan/vegetarian travel. Check it out or follow @30traveler onTwitter orFacebook.

What free activities do you recommend in New York?