10 Free Things To Do In The Big Apple The Great Escape

You don’t have to break the bank visiting this amazing city! By Grace Hui

There is nothing that can quite describe the buzz of New York City fully. With characteristic steam seeping through the manholes, yellow taxis zigzagging across the tightly packed roads, tooting horns, gleaming skyscrapers and charming brownstones, it is akin to being on a perpetual movie set populated by real people!

Given that the Big Apple is such a mecca to capitalism, one could be forgiven for thinking that a visit to the city would cost a tidy fortune. There are however ways to explore this bustling metropolis on the cheap! Save your dosh for more pressing matters such as the city’s famed retail therapy!


1. The High Line

The High Line

The High Line is terrific for observing the different urban sceneries of lively Manhattan. Built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of the West Side, the High Line pedestrian gets a bird’s eye view of the city. As you wander from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking district to West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues, you cut right though skyscrapers get up close and personal to swanky apartments while strolling through the flora and fauna of a mature garden.

As the High Line takes you above busy roads, don’t forget to stop and admire the rows of parallel buildings that line the seemingly endless sidewalks. Courtesy of the city’s organised grid system, the High Line offers the tourist an unmatched glimpse of the city that never sleeps. If you are lucky, you will see yellow taxis lined up at a traffic light, flanked by rows of towers as far as the naked eye can see as steam escapes the manholes forming an iconic picture of the city that many have grown to love.


2. The Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry

Do you want to see Manhattan’s legendary skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for free? Look no further than the Staten Island Ferry!

The Staten Island Ferry runs from Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan to St George on Staten Island 24/7 and offers panoramic views of skyscrapers and bridges as you pull away from the harbour. I would recommend a ride at night where you can ponder the twinkling lights as the cheerful yellow ferry departs Manhattan.

Make sure you sit outside!


3. Roosevelt Island Tramway


After taking in the sights of New York on water, you may wish to catch an aerial perspective. The Roosevelt Island Tram is a must see for all who enjoy a view from the top! Running from 59th Street and Second Avenue, two bright red trams ply across the East River linking Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side.

The Trams are part of the city’s transportation system and therefore form part of the weekly or monthly MTA (underground) passes.


4. Times Square

Times Square 1

When in New York City, you cannot give the iconic Times Square a miss. Neon signs, adorned billboards, blazing advertisements, brightly lit sidewalks, buskers, traffic and crowds are all nostalgic features of the “Crossroads of the World”. This is also where the renowned ball drops on New Year’s Eve!

For any NYC virgin, Times Square is a marvel to behold. The energy, the rush and the excitement cannot be fully captured in words. You have to see it to feel it!


5. Central Park

Central Park 1

After the stimulation of Times Square, a ramble through Central Park is just the thing! Made globally famous by “Friends”, this expansive urban park set conveniently in the heart of Manhattan boasts of ponds, fountains, art, sculpture, monuments and gardens. Surrounded entirely by high rise buildings, this park is truly a unique gem where the perks of the city and the tranquillity of nature seamlessly meet.

In winter, there is an ice rink and every Saturday, chess enthusiasts gather to pit their skills against each other. For those made of sterner stuff, there are excellent jogging tracks all around the park. This is after all where the last leg of the New York marathon takes place!


6. The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street


The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street a.k.a. The Stephen A. Schwartzman Building is an impressive structure set in midtown, Manhattan. Apart from housing an extensive collection of books on social sciences and humanities, the building itself has had an extraordinary history. Amongst many things, the resources of this building were used by the Allied military intelligence to research the coastlines of countries engaged in World War II.

Structurally imposing, this piece of architectural history is well worth a visit, particularly because there are always free exhibitions within!


7. Grand Central

Grand Central 1

Countless movies have used the majestic Grand Central Terminal as the backdrop for dramatic farewells and romantic reunions. In the flesh, this grand old dame does not disappoint. The main concourse with its Tiffany coloured mint green ceilings decorated with the signs of the Zodiac, large windows and grand staircases is a jaw dropping sight to behold.

With trains connecting Manhattan to New York City’s many suburbs and Connecticut, the Grand Central is alive with not just tourist traffic but local commuters going about their day’s business. Within the station, you will find stores, restaurants and the timeless Oyster Bar and Restaurant. There is even a food court complete with Shake Shack and Magnolia Bakery!


8. MOMA on Fridays

Image credit:

Image credit:

If you want to visit a museum in New York without paying a fee, Fridays will be the perfect day for a visit to the Museum of Modern Art located on 11 West 53rd Street.

Sponsored by UNIQLO, admission is free from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday evening.


9. Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest museum in the United States and one of the most visited museums in the world. With a permanent collection of over two million works, this museum is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon although some queuing to get in is to be expected.
There is also a rooftop bar which offers a great view of the city. While drinks are not free, the view is. You can even bypass the exhibits and go straight up should you prefer to give the art a miss.

While technically free to visit, a donation is encouraged to help with the costs of maintaining the fine works of art.


10. 9/11 Memorial

9_11 2

It is safe to assume that most people over a certain vintage will remember what they were doing on 9/11. While I cannot in all good conscience classify the 9/11 memorial as an “attraction”, it is certainly well visited by tourists and locals alike.
Beautifully designed to commemorate the lives lost on that fateful day, the cascading waterfalls that now occupy the site where the twin towers once stood are apt reminders of the fragility and preciousness of life. The name of each victim is inscribed in bronze all around the two memorial pools and it is sobering to remember that despite the colossal loss of life that day, the world is still not yet at peace.

At once awe inspiring and solemn, the memorials can be appreciated as not just a tribute to the lives lost but also as a thought provoking piece of design.
The new World Trade Center can also be admired from this vantage point as a symbol of hope and new beginnings.

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