Free things to do in New York City, for the broke international student
One of the most recognisable parts of the New York City skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge has been featured in many movies and on television shows. Source: Spencer Platt / AFP

Known as the city that never sleeps, New York City has lively streets with a seemingly endless list of things to do — but it’s mind-numbingly expensive.

Lucky for the broke student, there are lots of free things to do in New York City.

Although you can save $116.69 with the 2 Day Adult Sightseeing Pass — which gets you into the Empire State Building and on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty — you still have to fork out US$189 (the normal price without the pass is US$305.69).

A ticket to a Broadway play averages around US$113.29 and a ticket to the Museum of Modern Art is US$14. That’s close to US$128 already — an entire month’s food budget.

Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t afford to enjoy New York. All it takes is knowing where to look for free things to do in New York City.

From free museum tours to outdoor activities, the budget-conscious international student can still enjoy the best of New York’s history and culture without breaking the bank. 

free things to do in New York City

Don’t ditch your plans to visit this expensive city yet. If you know where to look, there are lots of free things to do in New York City, like taking in the beauty of Central Park. Source: Timothy A. Clary / AFP

Here are five free things to do in New York City:

Riding the Staten Island Ferry

While visiting the Statue of Liberty may be at the top of your list when studying in New York, this tourist attraction doesn’t come cheap. 

Luckily, there is the Staten Island Ferry which is the perfect way to see the statue up close without having to pay for the pricey ticket. The best part is that it is completely free.

So hop onboard and take in the skyline and an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty as the boat heads away from Battery Park. You can even choose to hop off and explore Staten Island. 

Taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most iconic attractions in New York, with many appearances in movies, is the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time of its completion in 1883, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. 

Renowned for having the best view of the downtown skyline, the bridge has now been recognised as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. 

Visiting the 9/11 memorial site 

One of the most tragic incidents took place in New York City back in 2001. Since the 9/11 accident, a memorial site has been built where the Twin Towers once stood. 

The site was created to honour those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks.

Each person’s name is inscribed on the edge of the memorial pools. The site is free for visitors to come and pay their respects. 

Or visit the National September 11 Museum, which allows free entry every Monday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

free things to do in New York City

The Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library is lined with huge windows and 18-tiered chandeliers. Source: Michael M. Santiago / AFP

Take a tour of the New York Public Library

Visiting a library isn’t at the top of the list of activities for many, but this is one library you do not want to miss out on. 

Ranked as the third largest library in the world, the New York Public Library is renowned for its beautiful marble architecture and huge book collection.

The Rose Main Reading Room is lined with huge windows and 18-tiered chandeliers with clouds painted on its ceilings. 

Even if you aren’t a bookworm, this room will make you want to pick up a book and enjoy a good read as you take in its beauty. 

The museum features temporary exhibits that are free to the general public, ranging from vibrant fashion shows to historical lectures.

Watch a movie in Bryant Park

If you are a movie buff, this is for you. A popular activity among New Yorkers is lying on a blanket under the stars and enjoying a movie.  

Held at Bryant Park every summer since 1992 is a free screening of popular movies. Movies start playing at 8 p.m., but as it is so popular, people gather by 5 p.m. to get a seat up front.

Bring along your friends and some snacks to enjoy this outdoor movie experience that is completely free.