Fun and Free Activities Around NYC

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

Happening this Week

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.

Enjoy the World of Dreams Concert

Columbia students may attend this concert from New Amsterdam Singers for free! Bring your CUID. Sunday, March 19.

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.

Join Religious Life for an Organ Meditation

Looking to slow down and relax? Join performer Julian Bennett Holmes for an organ meditation at St. Paul’s Chapel on Tuesday, March 21 at 3 PM.

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.


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.

Parks and Outdoor Spaces

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.

Go Ice Skating

Looking for the perfect winter activity? Try ice skating at one of NYC’s public ice rinks. Our favorite spots include the Wollman Ice Rink and the Bryant Park Ice Rink.

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.

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.

Tour an Ice Cream Museum

Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Ample Hills Creamery Red Hook Factory. Complete with a scoop shop and interactive ice cream museum, the factory features a flavor suggestion board and 3D map filled with Brooklyn landmarks. Admission to the museum is free!

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.

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.