Free Things in NYC

Yesterday, we had a blog about budgeting one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Today, why not focus on the most expensive city on that list, the one that everyone wants to see at least once, the one that stands as the center of cultural, financial, and commercial America: New York City.

Let's face it, New York is ridiculously expensive. All the best things in NYC cost money to see, right? Nope! You can tour the city on a budget and still experience the best parts of the Big Apple. Educational student groups, field trips, graduation trips, what have you, will all be delighted by their fun-filled, sight-seeing packed getaway to New York!

New York Public Library: Of course, the top of the list is something educational, right? Well, more than that, the New York Public Library is a national institution, it's a historical landmark that speaks to the ages. Filled with the words of centuries worth of wise and truth-seeking humans, the NYPL has more than 53 million items in its possession, second only to the Library of Congress. The building itself has been featured in many a TV, film, and popular book such as Sex and the City, Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, and several episodes of Seinfeld among others. Aside from its extensive literature collections, the library also supports exhibitions of art and photography, historical artifacts, and more. Docent-led tours are always free but you can also take part in a self-guided free audio tour as well.

Staten Island Ferry: Most visitors to New York are under the impression that the only way to see the Statue of Liberty is to take the Liberty Cruises and traipse the island for a big chunk of change. While you can go inside the statue this way, it does cost a lot of money. And honestly, the Statue of Liberty is perhaps best seen from a distance when you can truly appreciate her majesty set against the backdrop of the New York skyline. The Staten Island Ferry is your alternative - and a free one at that! Hop on board one of the oldest ferry systems in the country and glide right past Liberty Island, seeing the glorious beauty herself (at a distance, mind you). If you're still wanting to climb up into the statue, tickets can be purchased through Statue Cruises and you can also add Ellis Island into the admission price if you like.

Free days: Many of the city's top museums and attractions have "free" days throughout the month where they don't charge admission for several hours. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, one of the best in the country, admits visitors for free all day on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9am-10am. The Bronx Zoo has free Wednesdays, Eldridge Street Museum is free Mondays 10-noon, the celebrated Museum of Modern Art is free Fridays from 4-8pm, and El Museo del Barrio is free every third Saturday of every month. There are a ton of other museums that have "free days," however, so it's recommended that you check them out before you plan your trip.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace: A lovely brownstone set between Park Avenue South and busy Broadway, Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace has stood as a national landmark since 1962. You might not realize, upon first visiting, that the house you tour is not actually the exact house in which Teddy Roosevelt lived. That original house was demolished in 1916 to make room for retail space but upon the former President's death, the site was bought and a full scale replica of the house was built by the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association. The replica exactly recreates the house as it was in 1865 and is furnished with period decor, down to the wallpaper and sconces. Operated by the National Parks Service, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace and the museum next door are free to tour daily.

National Museum of the American Indian: Part of the Smithsonian collection of museums, this New York based national treasure is fully dedicated to the preservation and education on Western Hemisphere Native Americans and their culture. The New York satellite of the museum (there are also museums in Washington, D.C. and Maryland) covers over 20,000 square feet of exhibitions, films, special presentations and more. Situated in the stunning Beaux-Arts building of the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the National Museum of the American Indian is a phenomenal reminder of Native American culture, history, art and inspiration. Exhibits range in topic from native Hawaiian culture to Native American contemporary art, treaties between the U.S. and American Indians, and spotlights on various tribes throughout history.

Live TV Show Tapings: Who doesn't love TV? And, it makes it that much better that the TV show tapings are free! The many studios and shows throughout the city are always looking for energetic studio audiences and all you need to do is pick up the tickets beforehand. Some of the top shows in New York City include Saturday Night Live, Live with Kelly and Michael, Martha Stewart, Late Night with Seth Myers, and Good Morning America.

Queens County Farm Museum: In the heart of Queens, you'll find this idyllic 47-acre colonial country farm. The historic site dates all the way back to 1697 and occupies the city's last remaining tract of undisturbed farmland - quite a feat! The grounds are open daily and are free to all visitors (except during public events) who delight in touring the working farm, exploring the agrarian tools and trades, meeting the animals, and learning about farming in history and now. Animals kept and cared for here include cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, hens, and even honeybees! There are even plenty of educational programs for students and adults!

Central Park: One of the country's oldest and largest urban parks, Central Park also has the added benefit of being one of the most recognizable. It's a New York landmark in and of itself, with hundreds of acres of lush greenery, strange yet wonderful sites, a zoo, and plenty of options for a day's worth of touring. There are even free tours available through the Central Park Conservancy (be careful you're not signing up for the paying tours, though).