10 Free Things to do in New York City

July 25-29

MJ recommended we check out NYC while we were in the area since it is a short 2 hour bus ride from Mountaintop, PA.  We checked with some friends who have an apartment rental in New York and they were able to accommodate us for a full 5 days, and we are very grateful for it!

There are numerous bus companies that will take you to NYC  & back for a very reasonable price.  We booked 2 return trips with Martz Trailways for just $108.  The bus to NYC disappointingly smelled of urine so we chose seats as far away from the offending bathroom as possible.  The bus back to PA was much newer, fully functional and thankfully, stench-free.  Overall, and despite that first bus, we give high marks to Martz.  They offered wifi on the buses and were on time.

Traveling for a year without jobs means we are on a tight budget.  It was a good thing for us NYC has a lot to do for virtually no cost.  Here is our list for 10 free things to do in NYC, in no particular order:

1.  Central Park.

Rowboats at Central Park

The park runs between 5th Ave and Central Park West (8th Ave).  It is immense and consuming.  Conservatory Gardens, Belvedere Castle, and walking tours are all offered at no charge.  You can also watch a baseball game on the great lawn, or catch live music at the Shakespeare Gardens during lunch hour.

2.  Central Manhattan Circuit.  This is what I call the area from 7th Ave & 5th Ave  between W42 Street & W55 Street.  It’s a fun walk for window shopping along 5th Ave, grabbing cheap & tasty street food and popping in to the MOMA store / Bookstore, Radio City, and Rockefeller Plaza.  I’ve done this circuit 3 times and still enjoy it.

3.  PS1.  This is the little sister modern art gallery to MOMA.  Many of the up and coming MOMA artists will be featured at PS3 first.  It’s home is in Long Island City, Queens (a short subway ride from Manhattan) in what used to be a school.  The courtyard is its own installation that changes every summer.  During the summer, PS1 hosts Saturday Warm Up as a part of this outdoor series and invites guest DJs to prime you for a night of clubbing.  The gallery takes donations for entry but will not mention this unless you ask. Saturday Warm Up has a mandatory entrance fee.

4.  High Line Park.  In the 1930’s an above ground railway replaced the street-level railway down Manhattan’s west side in an effort to reduce the numerous, mortally fatal accidents between cars and the trains that brought food to NYC’s meat packing district.  In the 1980’s, interstate improvements lead to increased truck traffic and a declining need for railways – including The High Line, which was then abandoned.  It fell into disrepair and became a community eyesore but was saved from destruction by a forward looking group called ‘Friends of the High Line”.  Today it is a modern urban park like no other.  Admission is free and a leisurely walk will take a couple of hours.  If you are lucky, you’ll catch an art installation.  If it’s hot, wade in the water feature (liquid sidewalks).  www.thehighline.org

5.  SOHO / West Village / Greenwich Village.  These are some great neighbourhoods of Manhattan – Sesame Street for hipsters.  Find Lomography or the street of chess stores, or visit a real barber shop.  We had great pizza by the slice for a total of $2.50 for the two of us.

6.  Shakespeare in the Park.  Believe it or not, you can get free tickets to watch NY calibre actors perform Shakespeare plays.  Every night during the summer, in Central Park, a play is performed at 8pm.  You have three ways to get free tickets:

  • enter the daily, online lottery before noon (www.shakespeareinthepark.org).  You will receive an email notice if you have won tickets for that evening’s show.
  • Line up at the Shakespeare Gardens in the park.  Line up starts about 9am and tickets are handed out for that evening’s show at 1pm.  Those in the know have blankets, crosswords, books, lunch etc…
  • Line up at 5:30pm for the last of the daily free tickets, which are handed out at 7pm, 1 hour before show time.  The fellow at the booth told me there are approximately 200 tickets available at this time (but said not to quote him).

7.  Times Square at Night – Grab a pretzel, sit on the bandstands and just watch the action.  Or, if you’re still able to walk, check out the many shops that are open all night long (or so it seems).  Try it on weekend night if you don’t have a strong need for personal space.

8.  Check out the other Public Parks  – NYC has 1900 public parks.  Many of them have live music at lunch and are nice stops during a big day of walking.  We can personally recommend Bryant Park (free concerts, free movie nights) and Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

9.  Guggenheim Museum – An architectural stunner designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Solomon R Guggenheim’s art collection in the late ‘50s.  I stress ‘lobby’ because it’s a show in itself.  The museum also hosts Pay What You Wish on Saturdays at 5:45pm where entry to the exhibits is by donation.  You can also have fun in the gift shop at any time without spending a dime.  The museum is located on 5th Ave at 89th Street.

10.  Grand Central Terminal – THE landmark of NY preservation.  Apparently, the astronomical green ceiling was once black from years of tobacco smoke.  Look carefully above Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in the grand concourse to find a small black square, which remains to remind of the pre-restoration dark ages.

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