New York for free

New York has a reputation for being one of the world’s most expensive cities, but if you know some of the ropes there are plenty of things you can do in New York City that are absolutely free.

One organisation, the Alliance for Downtown New York runs a free bus service. The Downtown Alliance manages the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District (BID), serving an area roughly from City Hall to the Battery, from the East River to West Street. According to their website the Downtown Alliance strives “to make Lower Manhattan a wonderful place to live, work and play by creating a vibrant multi-use neighbourhood where businesses can prosper and the residential community can flourish”.  Its free bus is called the Downtown Connection and it connects South Street Seaport with Battery Park City.  Services run daily from 10.00am until 7.30pm and buses run at 10-minute intervals.

The Staten Island Ferry carries 20 million passengers a year, and it too is free.  The ferry runs between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan.  According to its website: “The Staten Island Ferry is run by the City of New York for one pragmatic reason: To transport Staten Islanders to and from Manhattan. Yet, the 5 mile, 25 minute ride also provides a majestic view of New York Harbor and a no-hassle, even romantic, boat ride, for free! One guide book calls it “One of the world’s greatest (and shortest) water voyages.

From the deck of the ferry you will have a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You’ll see the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan receding as you pull away and coming into focus again as you return.”    

The Heart of Brooklyn Connection operates on the first Saturday of each month and runs a number of free Hop On Hop Off bus routes.  Its website says “The HOB Connection is funded by the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation and New York City Department of Small Business Services to serve Brooklyn residents, tourists and visitors and to showcase some of the borough’s unique, authentic neighbourhoods and cultural treasures. All programs are hop-on, hop-off rides featuring tour guides, coupon books offering discounts and special values at Brooklyn’s best restaurants and shops, and maps and brochures from Brooklyn cultural attractions.”

New York City also puts on plenty of free concerts, free art exhibitions, free films and free shows. The NYCGo website carries information about the many free events that occur at any one time.

So, if you want to get to know New York without killing your budget, just do a bit of browsing before you arrive and plan your free itinerary.

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