Fun and Free Activities Around NYC

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

Upcoming Events

Met Opera Summer HD Festival

End the summer at Lincoln Center with the Met Opera's Summer HD Festival. Enjoy 11 consescutive nights of classic and contemporary operas for FREE!

Tennis at Rockefeller Center

In celebration of the US Open, a pop-up tennis court is coming to Rockefeller Center until September 1st! Tennis balls and raqcuets will be provided but using the court is first come, first serve.

See Shakespeare in the Park

From August 27 - September 3, 2023, see Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Free tickets are distributed on the day of the show, both in person and via digital lottery. 

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.

Markets and Shopping

Check Out Queens Night Market

Enjoy food, art, and free performances celebrating the rich cultural diversity and heritage of NYC and Queens! Saturdays beginning September 16.

Find a New Book at the Strand

A literary landmark in NYC, the Strand features a vast selection of new and used books.

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.


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.

See a Pictorial History of the Civil War

Artist Kara Walker makes work that weaves together imagery from the antebellum South, the brutality of slavery, and racist stereotypes. The art exhibition runs until June 11 at the New-York Historical Society.

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. 

Learn about Fashion History at the Met

Still obsessed with this year’s Met Gala looks? The Met’s new exhibition, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” showcases 200 pieces by the late designer. The exhibition runs through July 16th.

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.

Parks and Outdoor Spaces

Dance in Fort Tryon Park

Join certified Zumba instructors twice a week for fun, exhilarating exercise outside! Tuesdays at 6:30 PM and Saturdays at 9:00 AM.

Row Through the Bronx River

Explore the Bronx River aboard wooden row boats and experience the beauty of New York's only fresh water river. Every Saturday from 1-6 PM until September 2. Boats leave from Hunts Point Riverside Park.

Explore the MET’s Rooftop Garden

The MET’s rooftop garden exhibit is now on display!

Designed by artist Lauren Halsey, the installation explores the connections between ancient Egyptian symbolism and 1960s utopian architecture.

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 November 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.

Celebrate Spring at a Tulip Festival

Every spring, the Upper West Side Community Garden bursts with 15,000 tulips. The garden, which is free and open daily from dawn to dusk, is located on 89th st. between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue.

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.

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.

Go Swimming

NYC Parks' free outdoor pools are a great way to cool off during the dog days of summer.

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!

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

Summer is the best time to enjoy ice cream. Check out these local favorites:

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.