A guide to free things to do in New York City – amNewYork

Living in New York City comes at a hefty price, from rent to MetroCards to a cup of coffee, so why spend more than you have to?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy yourself. There are tons of free events to check out in the city that never sleeps.

Below is our freebie guide to NYC.

Food & Drink

Latte art competition and espresso classes (Thursday, Aug. 19)

Brooklyn’s Partners Coffee is hosting a night of classes and panels on espresso from Italian espresso machine maker Rancilio and Espresso State of Mind as part of the NYC leg of the Ramp Up Road Tour. RSVP on eventbrite.com to take part in the following:

  • 5 p.m. — Basic Espresso Tech Class: This informal class will focus on what goes on under the hood of an espresso machine, from basic parts to maintenance and operation.
  • 6 p.m. — Espresso Theory Class: Dig into the ins and outs of espresso extraction and what goes into making a perfect cup. For beginners and coffee connoisseurs.
  • 7 p.m. — Coffee Community Panel: A moderated panel with coffee professionals from across the city who will speak to creating a sustainable career in specialty coffee.
  • 8 p.m. — Latte Art Throwdown: a technical throwdown hosted by Espresso State of Mind that will showcase local barista talent.


#MusicAtMoxy series (Tuesdays): Moxy Times Square (485 7th Ave.) has live music Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

  • Aug. 13 — Olu Bliss: Soul and jazz singer.
  • Aug. 20 — Chelsea Denise: Brooklyn-based artist with notable singles “We Guhd” and “Time.”
  • Aug. 27 — The Set: With an R&B sound, The Set combines classic 2000s R&B with trap beats.

Performances at The Shed’s plaza (Weekends in August)

Head to The Shed at Hudson Yards (545 W. 30th St.) for a free series of music, dance and performance by 14 artists and collectives. Highlights include:

  • Friday at 7:30 p.m. — The Illustrious Blacks, presenting an electro-punk-funk opera about the union of two cosmic spirits.
  • Saturday at 8 p.m. — Salsa Masala, an Indo-Latin fusion band honoring the cultural collisions that exist in Jackson Heights, Queens.
  • Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. — MIPSTERZ, a multidisciplinary event re-imagining Muslim narratives.

Check the schedule for more.

Wythe Hotel’s Sunset Songs music series (every other Tuesday)

From 6 to 9 p.m. every other Tuesday, enjoy a lineup of free live performances on the hotel’s rooftop, including John Errol on Aug. 27 and Grace Ives on Sept. 17. Just RSVP on eventbrite.com.

106.7 LITE FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park (Thursday)

Watch stars from Broadway shows including “A Musical About Star Wars,” “Beautiful,” “Oklahoma!” and “Pretty Woman” perform live at Bryant Park this Thursday starting at 12:30 p.m.

Live at the Archway (Thursdays)

DUMBO’s Live at the Archway is a series of free concerts and interactive arts every Thursday beneath the Manhattan Bridge Archway. This month, swing by for a performance by Dandy Wellington (Aug. 8), Alsarah & the Nubatones (Aug. 15), Say She She (Aug. 22), and The Good Folks and Motteo (Aug. 29). Events are free and begin at 5:30 p.m. with headlining acts taking the stage at 6:30 p.m.

Free Jazz in Times Square (Thursdays)

Enjoy a free jazz concert in Times Square (Broadway Plaza between 43rd and 44th streets) each Thursday night, from 5 to 7 p.m., with the city’s best up-and-coming jazz artists, including:

  • Aug. 8: Henry Conerway III 
  • Aug. 15: To Be Announced
  • Aug. 22: Andrew Renfroe Trio
  • Aug. 29: Alexis Morrast

Sunset Songs at Wythe Hotel (every other Tuesday through Aug. 13)

Sunset Songs is a lineup of free live performances on the hotel’s rooftop space (at 80 Wythe Ave. in Brooklyn) curated by IAMSOUND at Lemon’s by Jon Neidich and Golden Age Hospitality. Next up is TOMI on Aug. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. RSVP on eventbrite.com.

Canal Yards Project comedy show (monthly, next is Aug. 29)

Head to Industry City for a free night of laughs by Emily Duke, Khalid Rahmaan, Dan Wilbur, Ashley Hamilton, Sam Jay, Laura Merli and Angela Palladino. This monthly event, sponsored by BUST magazine, happens at Frying Pan Brooklyn, within Industry City at 51 35th St., starting at 8 p.m.

Battery Dance Festival (Aug. 11-17)

Catch free dance performances in front of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at Battery Park City this August. Each night, the audience will get to take part in an interactive dance led by a troupe from that night’s program and then enjoy a night of art. There also will be a chance to take dance workshops to learn dances from across the world; sign up for workshops online; (7 to 9 p.m.; 20 Battery Place, Manhattan; batterydance.org/battery-dance-festival)

East Harlem Giglio Italian Fest (Aug. 8-11)

Celebrate St. Anthony with a smorgasbord of food (sausage and peppers, zeppole, Italian specialties, cannoli, pizza, gyros, steak, bracciole, shish kebabs, lemonade, ice cream, biscotti), live music by a band, “The Sopranos'” star Al Sapienza and Deborah Rennard, a sausage and pepper eating contest, a “Freestyle for a Cure” concert, Giglio dancing and much more. (6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday; Pleasant Avenue between 114th-115th streets, East Harlem; eastharlemgiglio.org)

The Met’s Summer HD Festival (Aug. 23 — Sept. 2) 

This summer, there is no need to go inside to catch the city’s most famous opera. The Metropolitan Opera is back with 10 free outdoor opera screenings within Lincoln Center Plaza, starting with a screening of “Funny Face” and a performance of the Met’s “Aida” by Verdi. Other performances will include those of “Carmen,” “Das Rheingold,” “Dialogues des Carmelites,” “Samson et Dalila,” “Cendrillon,” “La Faniculla del West,” “La Fille du Regiment,” “Luisa Miller,” and “Adriana Lecouvreur.” There will be 3,000 seats available nightly with no tickets required. (Free; 7:45 or 8 p.m.; Columbus Avenue, between West 65th and 62nd streets; metopera.org)

Rite of Summer Festival (through September)

The Rite of Summer Festival offers free outdoor concerts at Governors Island with Ensemble Connect, Sandbox Percussion, Go: Organic Orchestra, Brooklyn Raga Massive (pictured), Sirius Quartet and more. The shows will be presented twice the same day, at 1 and 3 p.m. For more, visit riteofsummer.com

Concerts at One at Trinity Church (Starting Sept. 12):

The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY will be performing some of the works Trinity has helped to develop over the past 10 years, including three Pulitzer Prize-winning songs that deal with climate change, water justice, human trafficking and gender inequality. Check trinitywallstreet.org for more. 


Nike x Foot Locker activations (Aug. 12-17)

To celebrate the opening of Foot Locker’s Community Power Store in Washington Heights (605 W 181st St.), there will be a week of free activations including the following:

  • Monday, 9:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Discover Your Air Art Academy — Air Max Art workshop
  • Wednesday, 7 to 10 p.m.: Home Grown Celebration — celebration launching three local brands that will be sold in new community store: Perico Limited, Lyfestyle NYC and Triangula Swag.
  • Thursday, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.: HER Kicks — Female led sneak(Her)head panel
  • Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Run Club — Group run for NikePlus and Foot Locker VIP members.

360 Wellness beauty bar (every Wednesday in August)

Take part in free beauty treatments and demos from noon to 4 p.m. at the Shops at Columbus Circle. RSVP first at theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com

  • Aug. 14: Only Good Hair Days
  • Aug. 21: Beauty at Any Age
  • Aug. 28: Face Masks and Aromatics

Sony Square’s Ocean Dreams (through Sept. 2)

Check out a digital screen aquarium featuring the beauty of the New Caledonian Barrier Reef with an immersive audio and visual experience, ocean soundscapes, and lessons on underwater photography at Sony Square (25 Madison Ave.) The experience is open from noon to 7 p.m. 

The Privilege of Escape (through Aug. 11)

Explore what is beneath our desire for and fear of confinement through this interactive escape room with puzzles that use life-size versions of popular games, and where you’ll be surprised by elements that nod to ideas of privilege, leisure, and social inequality — it’s rules are arbitrary, random and unfair at times. The pop-up’s hours vary, so you’ll need to register online to take part in the free experience. It’s located at Onassis USA, East 52nd Street at Fifth Avenue.

Pup-up Reading Room (Aug. 17)

Riverhead Books is doing a pop-up reading room at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier and is inviting you and your dogs to take part. The popular Instagram account @dogbookclub is copresenting the room, which will be visited by The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino and Riverhead’s star authors Meg Wolitzer, Emma Straub, Julie Klam, Gilbert King and others. It runs from 4 to 7 p.m. 


Paint & Sip with Putnam & Putnam featuring Dirty Hands (Aug. 20)

Learn how to paint with watercolors from a professional watercolor artist and walk away with new skills. This class, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Moxy’s 2nd Floor Studios, will tackle painting a Putnam & Putnam flower bouquet. Space is limited to first come, first served, so email rsvp@moxychelsea.com with “WATERCOLOR” in the subject to reserve a spot.

Woodstock photo exhibit (through Aug. 30)

Catch C. Parker Gallery’s 30 days of peace, love and artwork in an exhibit that features artwork from many of the original Woodstock performers such as Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Santana, The Who, plus an original painting from Graham Nash. The exhibit, “The Art of Woodstock,” will also include a collection of fine art photographs from Woodstock, including shots of Joan Baez, Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and others, by photographer Baron Wolman, who documented the festival for Rolling Stone magazine. (Free; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays; 409 Greenwich Ave., Manhattan; cparkergallery.com)

Reclaimed rainforest sculptures (through Aug. 10)

Acclaimed sculptor Hugo Franca has reclaimed felled wood from deforestation measures in Brazil’s rainforests to create sculptural furniture, which will be shown at the new 1stdibs Gallery, which showcases more than 50 exhibitors’ antiques, art and other items, through Aug. 10. (daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 169 11th Ave., Lobby 4, 7th floor; Manhattan; 1stdibs.com)

‘Out of Office’ exhibit (through Sept. 6)

A/D/O by Mini, a creative space in Brooklyn, is opening a new exhibit that showcases conventional objects from 1950 to what may be the future of office space. A/D/O’s atrium will also be transformed into an interactive installation called “Water Cooler Talk,” with a live feed from Slack displayed. (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 29 Norman Ave., Brooklyn; a-d-o.com)

Drop-in art-making at Noguchi Museum (through Aug. 12)

Every Monday through Aug. 12, the Noguchi Museum is inviting the public to create their own works of art across a range of mediums, including printmaking, collage, watercolor, mixed media, clay and wire sculpture. Space is limited and first-come, first-served. (5 to 7 p.m. on Mondays; the Queens Public Library, 40-20 Broadway, Long Island City, Queens; preview.queenslibrary.org)

Outdoor movies

The city’s parks (and some restaurant rooftops) are holding movie screenings throughout the summer, so grab a blanket and some snacks and head to any one of these coming shows before sunset, when most of them begin:

  • Aug. 8: “Dirty Dancing” at SIXTY LES (190 Allen St.); “The Big Lebowski” at Harbor View Lawn at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park; “Ghostbusters” at Union Square Park.
  • Aug. 9: “Crossing the Line” at New Design High School; “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “To the Unknown,” directed by Michael Almereyda, on Governors Island; “Incredibles 2” Hudson River Park’s Pier 46.

17th Annual ImageNation Outdoors Festival (through Sept. 20)

The free outdoor festival is putting on screenings including “Black Girl Magic — Grace Jones: Bami & Bloodlight,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Decade of Fire,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and more at Harlem’s parks. Check the schedule at imagenation.us.

Fitness & Sports

MNDFL Classes at #SweatAtMoxy (Wednesdays): From 8 to 8:30 a.m., start your day off with a quick meditation class in the Moxy Chelsea’s Fluer Room (105 W. 28th St.). There is no dress code so you can hop off to work without having to change. Just book your spot at moxy-hotels.marriott.com.

Soulga Yoga #SweatAtMoxy (Thursdays): Starting at 7:30 a.m. each Thursday, Moxy Times Square’s Magic Hour (485 7th Ave.) turns into a yoga studio with classes that mix vinyasa yoga flow and barre with music to provide a sensory experience for both the mind and body. Visit gosesh.co/c/soulgayoga to reserve a free spot.

Classes at Union Square (Thursdays): Before you head to work or after a long day, exercise with the Union Square Partnership. You’ll find the following classes at the South Plaza in the morning and in the North Plaza in the evening:

  • 7 a.m. — Yoga
  • 8 a.m. — Boxing HIIT
  • 9 a.m. — Tai Chi
  • 5:30 p.m. — Dance Cardio
  • 6:30 p.m. — Cardio HIIT
  • 6:30 p.m. — Paragon Sports Run Club
  • 7:30 p.m. —  Sunset Yoga

Brookfield Place fitness classes:  Work up a sweat while you look over the river with the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday, Aug. 10: Equinox
  • Wednesday, Aug. 14: Equinox
  • Saturday, Aug. 17: Pure Barre
  • Wednesday, Aug. 21: Pure Barre
  • Saturday, Aug. 24: Jane DO 

Summer Golf Lessons at Moxy’s Magic Hour (Aug. 14): Take a golf lesson with professionals Shaun Clark and Matt Cook starting at 7:30 a.m. Just email rsvp@moxytimessquare.com with “GOLF” and the date of the class in the subject to reserve your spot.

Shape Up NYC fitness classes: The city offers free workouts and fitness classes across five boroughs, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba, dance, aerobics, sculpting, boot camps and more. Why pay for a class you can get for free? Check on nycgovparks.org to find the nearest courses. 


Swimming at public pools: There are 56 pools across the five boroughs to help cool you off as the mercury rises. Find your local swimming hole in our “Best NYC public Pools” guide and head there between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. for a fun day in the sun without paying a cent.

Shop, dine and enjoy a taste of Queens (Saturdays): In celebration of the cultural diversity found in the borough, the Queens Night Market features dozens of vendors selling food and wares plus art, with live performances and entertainment, to boot. ($5 only required for this Saturday; 5 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays, through Aug. 17, also Sept. 28 to Oct. 26; New York Hall of Science: 47-01 111th St., Corona, Queens; queensnightmarket.com)

Take a free tour of Brooklyn Brewery: On Saturday and Sunday, the Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours every half-hour from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets are released on the day of the tour only, so check its website before you hop over. (79 N. 11th St., Williamsburg, brooklynbrewery.com)

Meet the neighbors at Queens County Farm Museum: This isn’t the countryside but it will feel like it. The 47-acre Queens County Farm Museum sits squarely within city limits and is the longest continuously farmed site in New York, which still includes the restored Adriance Farmhouse that was first built as a Dutch farmhouse in 1772. Visitors to the farm can hang out with the many animals on the property, including chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and cows, as well as purchase vegetables from the farm stand. Yarn culled from resident alpacas and Cotswold sheep is also for sale. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., queensfarm.org)

Visit the residents at Green-Wood Cemetery: Sprawled across 478 hilly acres in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, this cemetery is one of New York’s hidden treasures. Established in 1838, its roster of “residents” reads like a “Who’s Who” of great New Yorkers — political machine leader William “Boss” Tweed, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein and communications pioneer Samuel F.B. Morse are all buried at this National Historic Landmark. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 to March 31; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 1 to Sept. 30; 500 25th St., green-wood.com)

Search out public art: Find the city’s amazing collection of public art, from “Tilted Head” at Central Park to The Vessel, which is a climbable sculpture at Hudson Yards, and others you can find out about here.

Free Flatiron Tour (every Sunday): The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) hosts free, 90-minute walking tours of the Flatiron District by professional guides each Sunday. You’ll stop by the famous Flatiron building, the New York Life Insurance Building, the MetLife Clock Tower and more. (11 a.m., meet at the tip of the Flatiron building at 23rd Street, flatirondistrict.nyc)

Free museum nights

Sept. 11 memorial Museum (Tuesdays): Free from 5 p.m. to close. Free always for 9/11 family members, rescue and recovery workers, active/retired U.S. Military. (108 Greenwich St. 911memorial.org)

Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays): Free all day. (2300 Southern Blvd. bronxzoo.com)

Museum of Jewish Heritage (Wednesdays & Thursdays): Free from 4 to 9 p.m. (36 Battery Place, mjhnyc.org)

New York Botanical Garden (Wednesdays & Saturdays): The grounds are free all day Wednesdays and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. (2900 Southern Blvd, nybg.org)

Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Fridays): Free before noon. (455 Flatbush Ave, bbg.org)

Whitney Museum (Fridays): Pay what you wish from 7 to 10 p.m. (99 Gansevoort St., facebook.com)

Bronx Museum (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 10 p.m. (1040 Grand Concourse, bronxmuseum.org)

Brooklyn Museum (First Saturday of each month): Free from 5 to 11 p.m. (200 Eastern Pkwy., brooklynmuseum.org)

Neue Galerie (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. The shop and cafe will be open until 9 p.m. as well. (1048 Fifth Ave., neuegalerie.org)

Noguchi Museum (First Friday of each month): Free all day through its extended hours, from 5 to 8 p.m., with a cash bar in the evening. (9-01 33rd Rd., noguchi.org)

Japan Society (Fridays): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. (333 E. 47th St., japansociety.org)

Morgan Library & Museum (Fridays): Free from 7 to 9 p.m. (225 Madison Ave., themorgan.org)

Museum of Modern Art (Fridays): Free from 4 to 8 p.m. (11 W. 53rd St., moma.org)

Rubin Museum of Art (Fridays): Free from 6 to 10 p.m. with happy hour and live music from 6 to 7 p.m. (150 W. 17th St., rubinmuseum.org)

Jewish Museum (Saturdays): Free all day. (1109 Fifth Ave., thejewishmuseum.org)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fridays): Free from 6:30 to 9 p.m. (1000 Fifth Ave., metmuseum.org)

Frick Collection (First Friday of each month): Free from 6 to 9 p.m. (1 E. 70th St., frick.org)

Queens Museum: Free for students of New York colleges and universities with current ID and NYC teachers. (New York City Building, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. queensmuseum.org)