Fun & Free Activities Around NYC

Check out these free and low-cost activities happening around NYC!

Summer Activities

Sip & Play

Visit Sip & Play for limitless access to 500+ board games and enjoy delicious food and drinks while you play!

Staten Island Ferry and Mall

Take the free Staten Island Ferry for breathtaking views of the city. Afterward, explore the wide range of stores and dining options at the Staten Island Mall! The ferry is available 24/7 and the mall opens at 11am and closes at 8pm.

Queens Night Market

Discover delicious cuisine from over 70 food vendors, enjoy live performances, and support local artisans at the Queens Night Market! Take advantage of the $6 cap on food and experience rich, cultural performances. Doors are open from 4pm to 12am every Saturday. Event goes from now until October 26.

Free Fitness Classes from NYC Parks

NYC Park's free group fitness program has classes in aerobics, bootcamp, Zumba, yoga, and more across the five boroughs.

Hudson River Park

From boating, to biking, to mini golf discover all kinds of activities and attractions at Hudson River Park. Discover the beauty of riverside views and summer sunsets in New York as you stroll along the four miles of piers and scenic spaces for a day full of outdoor adventures!

Markets and Shopping

Go Thrift Shopping

Jazz up your wardrobe by visiting thrift and consignment stores this weekend. A few stores that have locations across the city include Beacon’s Closet, Housing Works, and L Train Vintage.

Shop the 77/79th Street Greenmarket

Looking to stay on the Upper West Side this weekend? Stock up on fresh produce at the 77/79th Street Greenmarket. Located just behind the American Museum of Natural History, this year-round market is open every Sunday from 9 AM - 4 PM.

Browse the Grand Bazaar NYC

Located on the Upper West Side, The Grand Bazaar NYC is New York City’s oldest and largest flea market. Vendors sell everything from antiques and vintage clothing to food and beverages. The outdoor market is open every Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Explore Essex Market

A cornerstone of the Lower East Side, Essex Market features many local vendors who sell fresh produce and specialty foods such as coffee, baked goods, cheese, and spices. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8 AM - 8 PM and Sunday from 10 AM - 6 PM.

Shop at the Union Square Greenmarket

Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays year-round, the Union Square Greenmarket is a New York City tradition. In addition to compost drop-off sites, you’ll find seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, and artisanal foods.

Find a New Book at the Strand

Cozy up to a new (or used) book! A literary landmark in NYC, the Strand features a vast selection titles.


Visit the Museum of Failure

Everyone makes mistakes! The Museum of Failure features a unique series of “failed” products and services from around the world.  

Enjoy Free Admission to the American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum celebrates the work of folk and self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. The museum is open Wed. - Sun. from 11:30 AM - 6 PM and admission is always free. To get there, take the 1 train downtown to Lincoln Center.

Explore the Met Cloisters

Interested in medieval art? Hop onto the 1 train uptown to visit the Met Cloisters! Be sure to explore the scenic Fort Tryon Park while you’re there. Bring your Columbia student ID for free entry.

The Morgan Library and Museum

A museum and research library located in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, the Morgan Library & Museum began as the personal library of financier, collector, and cultural benefactor Pierpont Morgan. Admission is free every Friday from 5 to 7 PM.

Learn About Fashion and Art at The Museum at FIT

Looking to reinvent your wardrobe? For inspiration, head to The Museum at FIT to see their permanent collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories. Admission is always free.

Browse the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum is home to a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience. Student tickets are $8 and admission is free on Saturdays.

Learn about American Art at The Whitney

Interested in twentieth-century and contemporary American art? The Whitney Museum of American Art offers pay-what-you-wish admission each Friday from 7 PM -10 PM. Enjoy the Whitney’s full lineup of exhibitions along with sunset views from the Museum’s terraces.

Enjoy an Evening at the New Museum

Known for its contemporary and modern art, the New Museum offers pay-what-you-wish admission on Thursdays from 7 to 9 PM.

Learn About Modernism at the MoMA

Interested in artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Pablo Picasso? The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is home to a highly-acclaimed collection of paintings, sculptures, photos, drawings, and other types of art. Bring your student ID for free admission.

Visit the Climate Museum Pop-Up

The Climate Museum blends art, social science, and climate action. Head down to SoHo to experience the interactive exhibition. The Pop-Up is open Tuesday - Saturday from 12 PM - 6 PM and Sunday from 12 PM - 5 PM. Entry is free.

Spend a Day at the American Museum of Natural History

Founded in 1869, The American Museum of Natural History features 45 permanent exhibition halls, a planetarium, and a library. Whether you’re interested in dinosaur fossils or planetary science, this museum has something for everyone. The Museum offers pay-what-you-wish admission for NY residents.  

Visit the Wallach Art Gallery

Located on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus, the Wallach Art Gallery features critically acclaimed exhibitions, diverse programming, and scholarly publications. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 PM - 6 PM. Admission is free.

Explore the Museum of the Moving Image

Interested in film, television, and media? The Museum of the Moving Image is home to a vast collection of film-related artifacts, from pre-cinema optical toys to 21st-century digital technology. Student tickets are $12.

Visit El Museo del Barrio

El Museo Del Barrio houses extensive collections of Afro-Latin, Latinx, and Caribbean art. Admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Visit the National Museum of the American Indian

Located in lower Manhattan, the National Museum of the American Indian houses collections of Native artifacts from the Western Hemisphere. Admission is free.

See an Art Exhibition at the BRIC House

Located in Brooklyn, the BRIC House presents free and low cost contemporary art, performing arts, and community media programs. Tap the link for more details

Visit the Noguchi Museum

Interested in sculpture and design? The Noguchi Museum features Isamu Noguchi’s sculptures, architectural models, drawings, and furniture designs. Student tickets are $6. 

Explore Scientific Wonders at the Gilder Center

The massive new wing at the American Museum of Natural History is now open!

The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation features an insectarium, butterfly vivarium, and other interactive displays.


The MoMA will remain open late on the first Friday of every month! FREE admission for New Yorkers, reserve your tickets for tonight!

Explore The Met

The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from around the world to explore. Admission for New York residents is pay-what-you-wish. Just bring your Student ID as proof of residence. 

Visit Poster House

Explore the historical impact and cultural relevance of posters at this museum in Chelsea. Admission is free on Fridays.

Guggenheim Pay What You Wish

The Guggenheim offers Pay-What-You-Wish admission on Mondays and Saturdays from 4-5:30 pm! You can RSVP for your tickets in advance at 10 am the day of your visit or purchase them on-site during pay-what-you-wish hours!

Parks and Outdoor Spaces

Explore Coney Island

A quintessential summer destination, Coney Island is accessible by subway. After exploring the beach and boardwalk, stop at Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand for a bite or visit the New York Aquarium.

Visit Rockaway Beach

For a day at the beach that feels like you left the City, take the NYC Ferry from Wall Street / Pier 11 to Rockaway Beach and enjoy!

Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Searching for breathtaking views of the NYC skyline? The Brooklyn Bridge, originally the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world, offers stunning views of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the East River. Visitors can walk or ride across the bridge day and night.

Explore Little Island

Located at Pier 55 on the Hudson River, Little Island is a floating art installation and public park. Visitors can explore the curated landscape and attend free events at the Island’s amphitheater. The park is open daily from 6 AM to 11 PM, and entry is always free.

Hike in Van Cortlandt Park

Looking to escape the noise of the city? Head uptown on the 1 train to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. You’ll find tranquil hiking trails and over 600 acres of forest.

Venture Along the High Line

The High Line is an old freight line that opened as a public park in 2009. In addition to spotting views of Chelsea and the Hudson River, you’ll find greenery, art installations, and food vendors.

See an Original Banksy Piece

“Hammer Boy,” an original Banksy piece, lies at the corner of 79th St. and Broadway. The work is a must-see for fans of the world-famous (and anonymous) street artist.

Stroll Through Riverside Park

Known for its waterfront views and stately trees, Riverside Park is the perfect place to unwind after a long week. Be sure to pay close attention to the park’s bird sanctuary, located between 116th and 124th streets. According to the New York City Audubon, this section of the park has attracted over 80 species of birds including wild turkeys, cuckoos, orioles, and warblers.

Bike the Esplanade

Head downtown to Battery Park City and walk or CitiBike along one of the city’s most scenic paths: the Esplanade. You’ll catch views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. 

Explore the Queens Botanical Garden

Looking for an urban oasis this weekend? The Queens Botanical Garden features expansive gardens, an arboretum, and an art gallery. Admission is free December 16 through March.

Visit the Flatiron Building

Built in 1902, the Flatiron Building is known for its triangular shape and unique facade. After visiting one of NYC’s most iconic buildings, hang out in Madison Square Park or stop at Eataly for a quick bite!

Go Hiking at Breakneck Ridge

If you’re looking to escape the city this weekend, head to Breakneck Ridge for a scenic hike. To get there, take the Hudson Line North from the Harlem 125th St. station and get off at the Breakneck Ridge stop.  

Admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral

If you’re an architecture aficionado, you’ll want to pay a visit to the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. With its twin spires and stained glass windows, the Neo-Gothic church attracts millions of visitors each year. You can enjoy a free peek inside the church or even attend a mass.

Walk Across the George Washington Bridge

Looking for spectacular sunset views? Head to the George Washington Bridge to watch the sunset over the Hudson River.

Visit Poe Park

Named after Edgar Allan Poe, Poe Park features a historic cottage where the writer once lived.

Take the Ferry to Governor's Island

Just a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan enjoy this outdoor oasis with a beautiful view of NYC's skyline.

Brooklyn Literary Walking Tour

Explore Brooklyn by walking through the spots characters and authors call home in fiction and real life! A new two-hour audio tour by the Brooklyn Public Library is available on the Otocast app, which is FREE to download!

Field of Light

Immerse yourself in the Field of Light at Freedom Plaza! Walk the winding path of this outdoor installation and enjoy the city's skyline along with the East River waterfront! Entry is FREE!

Pier 35 Swings

Want a nice spot to catch the sunset? Head over to Pier 35 in the Lower East Side for their access to their four free giant swing sets! They offer a great viewing spot of the sunset over the water, though they're open 24/7 and can be a nice way of getting in touch with your inner child.

Cheap Eats and Treats

Grab a Coffee at Caffe Reggio

A must-visit for coffee connoisseurs and lovers of art history, Caffe Reggio is the oldest coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. In addition to delicious espresso drinks and Italian pastries, you’ll find Caravaggio paintings and other art pieces dating back to Renaissance Italy.

Savor a Famous Cookie From Levain Bakery

A Levain cookie, arguably one of the best desserts in NYC, is just a few subway stops away. The bakery’s original Upper West Side location features fresh cookies, loaf cakes, breads, and pastries.

Discover the Best Hot Cocoa

What is the best hot cocoa in New York City? Eater has ranked their top 15, and Sugar Hill Creamery here in Harlem tops the list.

Grab a Quick Bite at Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg, NYC’s longstanding outdoor food festival, returns this season with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Tap the link for more details.

Explore Harlem's Best Ice Cream Shops

Every season is ice cream season. Check out these local favorites:

See No Evil Pizza

Down for pizza and an adventure? Head down to the concourse level of the downtown-bound 1 train station at 50th Street and Broadway and experience the new underground pizzeria! Make a reservation or walk in with friends!

Looking for more opportunities to explore New York City?

Check out University Life's Arts and Recreation page and more suggestions from Alice! Health Promotion.