23 Best Free Things to Do in Manhattan
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As one of the world's great megacities, New York City's Manhattan borough offers no shortage of tourist attractions, home to the iconic neon-illuminated Times Square, the majestic Empire State Building, and the grand theaters of the city's Broadway district. While many travelers think of New York City as an expensive travel destination, many of Manhattan's most world-renowned attractions are accessible for free, including sprawling urban oasis Central Park, which offers four seasons of outdoor fun for visitors of all ages. Renowned museums such as the Museum of Modern Art can be explored for free during select times, while a number of significant memorials, including the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and the 9/11 Memorial can be visited any time. Visitors can also take advantage of the extensive archives of the New York Public Library system, which offers four free research centers throughout the borough devoted to a variety of cultural and historical topics. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.



1.The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art
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The Museum of Modern Art holds one of the world's most renowned collections of modern Western art masterpieces, home to over 150,000 seminal works by artists of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The Midtown Manhattan museum houses permanent collections and rotating exhibitions featuring some of the most-acclaimed works by art luminaries such as Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. Works span a variety of artistic media, including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and design, and film and electronic media, including one of the world's most renowned collections of international film art. Visitors can enjoy the museum for free each Friday evening between 4:00pm and 8:00pm as part of the UNIQLO Free Friday Nights series.

11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, Phone: 212-708-9400


2.The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum
© The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum honors the nearly 3,000 victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center, opened to the public on the 10th anniversary of the attack in 2011. The site consists of a memorial twin reflecting pool named Reflecting Absence, designed by Peter Walker and Michael Arad and listing the names of attack victims on bronze plates throughout the site. More than 200 trees have been planted at the memorial site, including the Survivor Tree, a recovered callery pear tree that survived the attack. 70 feet below the memorial, a museum showcases artifacts recovered from Ground Zero and exhibits detailing the attack's chronology and worldwide journalism reaction. Visitors should note that although the memorial is free to visit at any time, the museum requires a ticketed upcharge.

180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, Phone: 212-312-8800 Photo: The 9/11 Memorial and Museum


3.Central Park

Central Park
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Central Park is one of the world's most renowned urban parks, designed in 1858 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The park, which spans 843 acres between Manhattan's Upper East and West Sides, is the United States' most-visited urban park and is one of the most-filmed sites in the world, with iconic landmarks such as the park's Bay Bridge and elm-tree-lined Mall and Literary Walk appearing in countless films and television series. As one of the city's most romantic spots, the park is known for its gorgeous Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, elegant European-style Conservatory Gardens, expansive Sheep Meadow, and Strawberry Fields, a living memorial to singer John Lennon. Visitors can stroll through the park's meandering Ramble, explore its historic Belvedere Castle and Fort Clinton, or catch a free seasonal classical music concert at the Naumburg Bandshell. Visitors should note that while much of the park is free to explore, some attractions require a ticketed upcharge, including Wollman Rink, Victorian Gardens Amusement Park, and the Central Park Zoo.

14 East 60th St, New York, NY, 10022, Phone: 212-310-6600


4.Federal Hall

Federal Hall
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Federal Hall preserves the site of one of America's earliest colonial government buildings, originally constructed between 1699 and 1703 as the city's first City Hall building, which housed the Congress of the Confederation following the American Revolutionary War. The second and current Federal Hall building, which was constructed in 1842, is considered to be one of the finest preserved examples of Neoclassical architecture in New York City. It is operated today as Federal Hall National Monument, open to the public for free on weekdays during business hours. Exhibits chronicle the building's significance in American politics and government, including its use as the site for the presidential inauguration of George Washington. The site is also home to a Discover New York Harbor Visitor Information Center, which provides tourist information on Manhattan's top attractions and landmarks.

26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005, Phone: 212-825-6990


5.The Federal Bank of New York's Gold Vault

The Federal Bank of New York's Gold Vault
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The Federal Bank of New York's Gold Vault houses the largest depository of stored gold in the world, held on behalf of governments around the world. The reserve was originally incorporated in 1914, with its gold vault constructed in the mid-1920s. Guided tours of the vault are offered daily with advance registration, with docents elaborating on the significance of the gold collection and the operations of the Federal Reserve in American and international banking. All tours begin promptly on the hour of reservation time and last approximately one hour in duration. Visitors should note that tour slots are limited and early registration is recommended, with public tour registration opening 30 days before desired tour dates. Late arrivals for tours are not permitted to join tours in progress.

33 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10045, Phone: 212-720-5000


6.The New York Earth Room

The New York Earth Room
© The New York Earth Room


The New York Earth Room is a unique installation sculpture located within a loft in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, designed by artist Walter de Maria in 1977. The installation, which was originally developed as a temporary gallery exhibition and preserved permanently in 1980 through the work of the Dia Foundation, preserves more than 140 tons of earthen soil within a 250-cubic-yard indoor installation, measuring 22 inches deep. Visitors can view the installation for free Wednesdays through Sundays, with the exception of major national holidays. Photography of the installation is not permitted, and visitors are not permitted to touch or enter the soil surface.

141 Wooster St, New York, NY 10012, Phone: 212-989-5566 Photo: The New York Earth Room

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7.Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal
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Grand Central Terminal is home to the most railroad platforms in the world, spanning 48 acres within Manhattan's Midtown neighborhood. The world-renowned station is one of New York's most beautiful preserved landmarks, originally constructed as Grand Central Depot in 1871 and remodeled into its current iteration in 1913. Since the 1960s, the Beaux Arts-style terminal has been protected as a New York City landmark, housing operations today for the commuter Metro-North Railroad. Visitors can explore the stunning terminal's ornate architecture for free, including its expansive Main Concourse and iconic design elements by Henry Edward Bedford and Jules-Félix Coutan. Many shops and restaurants are housed within the terminal, along with a branch of the New York Transit Museum.

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, Phone: 212-340-2583

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8.General Grant National Memorial

General Grant National Memorial
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General Grant National Memorial preserves the final resting place of 18th United States President Ulysses S. Grant and First Lady Julia Dent Grant. The site, which was completely in 1897, serves as North America's largest mausoleum, located within Riverside Park in Upper Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood. Since 1958, it has been overseen by the National Park Service and may be explored for free by visitors Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours. A visitor center at the site contains exhibits on Grant's life and career, featuring a bookstore and daily showings of a 20-minute documentary film, "A Legacy of Freedom."

W 122nd St & Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027, Phone: 646-670-7251

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9.Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Hamilton Grange National Memorial
© Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Hamilton Grange National Memorial, commonly known as The Grange, memorializes the home of early United States politician and civic figure Alexander Hamilton, located in Manhattan's St. Nicholas Park near the City University of New York's City College campus. The relocated mansion was constructed in 1802 by architect John McComb Jr. on Hamilton's 32-acre Upper Manhattan estate and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places today, open to the public as a national memorial since 1962. Exhibits at the site's visitor center are open to the public for free during business hours Wednesdays through Sundays, detailing significant events in Hamilton's life and career. Period-furnished rooms within the estate may be explored as part of guided or self-guided tours throughout the day, with tour groups limited to 15 participants.

414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031, Phone: 646-548-2310 Photo: Hamilton Grange National Memorial

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10.The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
© The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the world's only dedicated museum showcasing works by LGBTQ artists, originally founded in 1969 by Charles Leslie as an annual exhibition of gay-themed artwork. Since 1987, the museum has been housed within gallery space in Manhattan's SoHo district, foregrounding art scholarship from a queer perspective and showcasing significant exhibitions of works by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other queer artists. More than 24,000 works are held in the museum's permanent collection, which strives to serve as a platform for queer artists of color and other underrepresented voices in the LGBTQ community. Visitors should note that while the museum is free to enter, a suggested donation of $9 USD is strongly recommended for adult visitors. As some works may contain explicit sexual themes, visitor discretion is advised.

26 Wooster St, New York, NY 10013, Phone: 212-431-2609 Photo: The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art


11.The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT
© The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT is an American Alliance of Museums-accredited gallery at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology, open to the public for free Tuesdays through Saturdays. The museum was founded in 1969 and moved to its current location at Seventh Avenue and 27th Street in 1975, attracting more than 100,000 visitors today. Award-winning permanent and temporary rotating exhibitions showcase historic and modern fashion trends, accomplishments, and technologies, with more than 50,000 notable garments housed within the museum's permanent collections, including works by acclaimed designers such as Chanel, Balenciaga, and Dior. A conservation laboratory and photographic studio are also maintained at the site, along with classrooms and offices for FIT.

227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001, Phone: 212-217-4558 Photo: The Museum at FIT


12.The National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian
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The National Museum of the American Indian is a free-admission museum located within the George Gustav Heye Center at Manhattan's historic Alexander Hamilton United States Customs House. The museum, which also operates locations in Suitland, Maryland and at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the indigenous people of the Americas, hosting permanent and temporary rotating exhibitions on a wide variety of topics related to indigenous tribes in the Pre-Columbian and modern colonial eras. More than 700 pieces of indigenous art are showcased within the museum's permanent Infinity of Nations exhibit, while indigenous participation in American military conflicts is examined in Patriot Nations. A variety of public programming is presented at the museum throughout the year, including film screenings, lectures, and live music and dance performances.

One Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004, Phone: 212-514-3700


13.The African Burial Ground National Monument

The African Burial Ground National Monument
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The African Burial Ground National Monument preserves significant portions of New York's earliest-known and largest African-American cemetery site, which is estimated to have buried as many as 20,000 free and enslaved black citizens of the city during the 17th and 18th centuries. More than 420 burials are preserved today as part of the national monument, which was established in 2006 after what is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological endeavors in American history. A free-admission visitor center at the monument offers four exhibits on the history of the site and its cultural significance, along with a bookstore and a 40-seat theater showing daily presentations of a short documentary film.

26 Wall St , New York, NY 10005, Phone: 212-637-2019


14.Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum

Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum
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Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum preserves the National Historic Landmark synagogue of the same name, located within Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood. The synagogue was founded in 1877 as one of the nation's first Ashkenazi Jewish synagogues, housed within a Moorish Revival building designed by architects Peter and Francis William Herter. It was extensively renovated in 2007 and opened to the public as a museum chronicling the history and culture of Jewish populations in the United States. Informative guided tours are offered by the museum, highlighting Jewish immigration in the Lower East Side and other regions of Manhattan since the 19th century. The museum may be accessed for free on Mondays as part of a pay-what-you-wish initiative, though donations are strongly recommended if possible.

12 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002, Phone: 212-219-0302


15.The Morgan Library and Museum

The Morgan Library and Museum
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The Morgan Library and Museum, formerly known as the Pierpont Morgan Library, was originally founded in 1906 to house the private library collections of prominent American banker J.P. Morgan. The National Historic Landmark research library and museum is located in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood in a building designed by architect Charles Kim, showcasing a world-class collection of historic manuscripts, rare books, prints, and other archival cultural materials. Artifacts held by the library span from religious, civic, and federal holdings such as three Gutenberg Bibles and the Stavelot Triptych to a markup manuscript of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, original illustrations for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, and original lyric sketches for several of Bob Dylan's hit songs. Visitors can view collections and artifacts for free as part of the museum's free Friday evenings initiative between 7:00pm and 9:00pm.

225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, Phone: 212-685-0008


16.The American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum
© The American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum holds a world-class collection of folk and contemporary art by self-taught artists throughout the United States and the world, located in Lincoln Square in Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood. The free-admission museum was founded in 1961 and showcases a permanent collection of more than 7,000 donated artworks and artifacts spanning from the 18th century to the present day. As the world's premiere institution dedicated to folk art, the museum holds works by acclaimed folk artists such as Thornton Dial, Judith Scott, Martín Ramírez, and Morris Hirshfield, displayed in permanent and temporary rotating exhibitions. 100 pieces of furniture and 300 decorative household items are also showcased, donated by the Historical Society of Early American Decoration.

2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023, Phone: 212-595-9533 Photo: The American Folk Art Museum


17.The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
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The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is the New York Public Library's flagship building, originally opened to the public in 1911. Today, the Beaux Arts-style building is one of four research libraries offered within the city's library system and has come to symbolize American ideals of free access to knowledge and information, spanning 646,000 square feet along Midtown Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and East 41st Streets. Visitors can explore the library's famed Rose Main Reading Room, which is home to thousands of reference volumes, or take free docent-led tours of the library at select times throughout the week. A free documentary film, "Inside the New York Public Library," is also showcased each half hour, with free public special event programming held at the library throughout the year.

476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018, Phone: 917-275-6975


18.The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
© The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is home to one of the largest performing arts archival collections in the world, located within the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan's Upper West Side. As one of the New York Public Library's four public research facilities, the library showcases an enormous amount of material related to theater, music, dance, and other performing arts throughout the city, the United States, and the world, including the renowned Theater of Film and Tape Archive, which preserves live recordings of Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Original theatrical and musical manuscripts and scores are also held by the library, along with prompt books, set and costume design materials, playbills and posters, and other theatrical ephemera. Periodic free special event programming includes lectures, film screenings, and live performances.

40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, Phone: 212-870-1605 Photo: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts


19.The New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum
© The New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum is a nonprofit museum organization founded in 1976 in Brooklyn to preserve the stories and technologies related to the development of mass transit throughout New York City and the world, including the development of the city's iconic rapid transit subway system. Though the museum's original Brooklyn location charges admission fees, it offers an annex outpost within Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal, open to the public for free seven days a week, with the exception of major national holidays. In addition to regular exhibits, the annex is known for its annual Holiday Train Show, which features displays of Lionel trains on a replica model train layout.

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, Phone: 212-878-0106 Photo: The New York Transit Museum


20.Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
© Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the New York Public Library's four research libraries, located in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood. The library is named in honor of Afro-Puerto Rican luminary Arturo Alfonso Schomburg and is open to the general public for free, showcasing scholarly materials related to the transatlantic slave trade and the practice and abolition of slavery of African people in America. Five divisions of materials are held, including significant collections of manuscripts, photographs, and film and multimedia items related to African and African-American cultures. In addition to general research services, the Center also hosts a variety of free public special events throughout the year, including lectures, art exhibitions, and live performances.

515 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10037, Phone: 917-275-6975 Photo: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture


21.The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
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The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is a New York City Landmark that honors military personnel who served for the Union Army in the American Civil War, located in Manhattan's Riverside Park. The iconic monument, which is an enlarged reproduction of Athens' Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, was constructed in 1902 by design firm Stoughton and Stoughton and has been featured in a number of prominent films and television series, including The Odd Couple, Law and Order, and Sex and the City. It is the site of an annual Memorial Day celebration overseen by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Association, with grounds maintained by volunteers for the Riverside Park Conservancy. Since 2004, annual free summer presentations of Shakespeare works have been presented at the monument by the Hudson Warehouse Theatre Company.

Riverside Drive &, W 89th St, New York, NY 10024, Phone: 212-870-3070


22.Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
© NPS Photo

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site is a replica brownstone commemorating the birthplace home of 26th United States President Theodore Roosevelt, located in Manhattan's Flatiron District. The original home, which was constructed in 1848 and served as the president's childhood home until 1872. Though the building was demolished in 1916, it was reconstructed by architect Theodate Pope Riddle on behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and donated to the National Park Service in 1963. Today, the site is operated as a museum honoring the president's life and career, with five of its rooms furnished in period-appropriate furnishings. Free guided tours of the museum are offered on the hour between 10:00am and 4:00pm, lasting approximately 40 minutes. Visitors should note that late arrivals are not allowed to join ongoing tours and are recommended to arrive early to secure tour spots.

28 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003, Phone: 212-260-1616 Photo: NPS Photo



23.The Irish Hunger Memorial

The Irish Hunger Memorial
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The Irish Hunger Memorial commemorates the victims of the Great Irish Famine, or An Gorta Mór, which lasted between 1845 and 1852 and killed more than one million Irish residents. The 0.5-acre memorial park is located in Manhattan's Battery Park City neighborhood and was dedicated in 2002, designed by artist Brian Tolle and architects Gail Wittwer-Laird and 1100 Architect. An authentic 19th-century Irish cottage is showcased, along with soil, stones, and more than 60 species of native vegetation transplanted from the country's western coast. Inscriptions detail contemporary documentation of world hunger scenarios, serving as a reminder of the socioeconomic conditions that cause famine. Visitors should note that the park does not permit dogs.

North End Ave & Vesey St, New York, NY 10280, Phone: 212-267-9700





23 Best Free Things to Do in Manhattan