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12 Completely Free Things to Do in New York City This Spring

Friday nights at the Met include free booze.

There’s a longstanding joke amongst New York City residents that a simple walk around your neighborhood will run you $100—and that’s often true. But while dinners are expensive and concert tickets even more so, rest assured that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy life in the Big Apple. Here’s a list of fun and free activities to do this spring that won’t involve swiping your credit card.

 

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Schedule Date Night at the Met

Live music, free drinks, and light snacks are available at The Met on Friday and Saturday nights. This ongoing weekend series is dubbed “date night” by the museum because visitors get to know the artwork they’re surrounded by more intimately, all thanks to gallery chats hosted by expert guides. All events are free with Museum admission, which is always pay-what-you-wish for New York State residents, as well as NY, NJ, and CT students with valid ID. Pay-what-you-wish tickets can only be reserved in person and can be as low as a penny.

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Create Your Own Literary Tour

New York City is packed with tiny bookshops that are easy to miss, so if weekends spent flipping through pages old and new seem like heaven, we recommend a self-guided book crawl.  Check out rare editions at Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks, the stunning constellation-speckled ceiling at Albertine Bookstore, glossy coffee table hardcovers at Bookmarc, and the cozy Three Lives & Co off Waverly Place.

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Star Gaze at The Intrepid Museum

Good news: The Intrepid Museum offers free admission on Friday nights. The better news: It provides a rotation of free programming, including Flight Deck telescope viewing on the rooftop, NASA panels, live music, and pop-up demonstrations. On April 28th, for example, be sure to catch the “Poof! Life in a Vacuum” demonstration, where museum experts use a bell jar and vacuum pump to showcase why astronauts need to wear spacesuits.

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Ditch Diagon Alley in Favor of Harry Potter New York

Potterheads will be hard-pressed to find a better wizarding experience than Harry Potter New York. The two-story flagship may be a shopping haven, but it also serves as an interactive exhibit that you can walk through without spending a dime—think a gallery full of Quibbler and Daily Prophet covers, a confectionery that gives Honeydukes a run for its money, large basilisk installations, and a wand shop that gives the backstory on your favorite witches and wizards.

INSIDER TIPFor a mini splurge, check out the Butterbeer Bar, where you can get a cup of butterbeer in a souvenir glass to keep for $12.

 

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Read a Good Book in Elizabeth Street Garden

Between Prince and Spring Streets lies Elizabeth Street Garden, a green open space full of blooming flowers, wind chimes, stone busts, and walls covered in ivy. Despite its location in the intersection of Soho and Little Italy, this historic strip of land is surprisingly quiet and makes for the perfect reading nook. And if yoga or tai chi are more your speed, they also host weekend activities on a rolling basis.

INSIDER TIPDue to its valuable location, this beautiful space is due to be eliminated in favor of development — here’s how you can help conservation efforts.

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Picnic Under the Neon Pepsi-Cola Sign at Gantry Plaza State Park

Gantry Plaza State Park, best known for its neon Pepsi-Cola sign, offers 12 acres of walking trails and unobstructed Manhattan skyline views. Warm weather brings picnickers, too, who lay their blankets out to soak up the warm spring weather. There are also plenty of comfortable chairs for sitting, two dog runs for four-legged friends, and the park even hosts outdoor movie screenings once temps begin to rise at the end of May.

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Tour Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery by Foot

Green-Wood Cemetery boasts 478 acres of land ranging from hills, walking trails, and glacial ponds. Several self-guided tours direct you to the burial spots of its famous patrons, like artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and photographer Charles Ebbets, that provide additional context about this National Historic Landmark. (And if you want to keep the “spooky” vibes going in a different borough, we recommend visiting the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx. Admission is $5, and it’s definitely worth it.)

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See the Tallest Tree in NYC at Alley Pond Park

Central Park is usually the star of these lists — and for that, we recommend going off the beaten path and opting for Alley Pond Park in Queens. With 655.3 acres of open land, there are plenty of ponds, creeks, hiking trails, and walking paths perfect for a day of exploring; plus, this is home to the aptly-named Queens Giant, the largest tree in New York City that measures at 133.8 feet tall. There’s also an adventure course, sports fields, and an environmental center focused on conservation efforts.

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Visit Showfields, the Self-proclaimed “Most Interesting Store in the World”

With an original location in Manhattan and a brand new one in Brooklyn, Showfields is a shoppable gallery that spotlights new and innovative brands on the market. If you’re not looking to shop, that’s more than fine — Showfields is better known as an event space that hosts educational seminars, pilates classes, comedy shows, and more, most of which are free with an RSVP. You’ll also find tons of interactive pop-ups and art installations inside.

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Take in a 25-Foot Sculpture at the High Line

For a bit of fresh air and art, take a solo walk or sign up for a free group tour of the High Line. This 1.45-mile walking trail is built on the abandoned former site of the New York Central Railroad, with multiple entrances spanning the west side of Manhattan, beginning at Gansevoort Street and ending at 34th Street. This elevated park is also a feast for the eyes, with unique gardens and changing art installations spread throughout. Look out for Pamela Rosenkranz’s Old Tree, a vibrant 25-foot tall pink-and-red sculpture that will be on display through September 2024.

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Ditch Streaming From Your Couch for a Movie Under the Stars

Once temperatures rise, the NYC Parks website curates all outdoor movie screenings across the five boroughs. These screenings are typically on a first-come, first-serve basis, so grab a blanket and snacks and add these standout films to your calendar: Elvis on April 21st at Asser Levy Park Play Area, Encanto on April 29th at Frederick Douglass Playground in Manhattan, and Thor on May 5th at Ambrosini Field in the Bronx.

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Browse Eventbrite for a Rotating List of Free Activities

If you’re looking for launch parties, gallery openings, educational panels, comedy shows, DJ sets, and more, Eventbrite is an excellent resource for curated happenings all over New York City. And while some listings have admission fees, you can filter your search to include only free events.