14 fun and free activities
With the holidays approaching, shopping for gifts for loved ones and possible vacation trips can make New York seem even more expensive than usual.
Luckily, if you know where to look, you can find plenty of free entertainment. Gothamist has compiled the top 14 activities that won’t cost you more than a subway fare.
1. Go ice skating at Bryant Park’s Winter Village
Of course, for this to be 100% free, you need to bring your own skates, but most New Yorkers don’t have a pair of skates hidden in their closet. Skate rentals will cost you between $18 and $55 (cheaper during off-peak hours), and then you can enjoy skating in one of the city’s most iconic parks. Ice skating is free. Open from today until March 3rd.
2. Listen to Bach’s music
Every Tuesday and Friday at exactly 12:20 p.m., Grace Church on the corner of Broadway and 10th Street features the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach, performed on the church’s magnificent two-hundred-year-old organ. These half-hour “meditations,” called “Bach at Noon,” are free and open to everyone.
3. Visit the Jay-Z exhibit at the Brooklyn Central Library before it closes
New York has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop all year, and there is not a single New York rapper alive who can surpass the fame of Jay-Z. His company, Roc Nation, teamed up with the Brooklyn Public Library to create “The Book of HOV,” an exhibition that chronicles Jay-Z’s journey from Marcy’s House to global brand. The exhibition closes on December 4th, so you have a few weeks to visit.
4. Celebrate Diwali
Diwali falls on November 12, but before then, the city hosts many free events to celebrate the festival of lights.
- On Friday, November 3rd, you can celebrate Diwali at HK Hall at the Bollywood Night Diwali Party.
- Saturday, November 4th in Jackson Heights.
- Friday, November 10th – at Seaport, where dancing and food await you.
There are even more neighborhood celebrations happening throughout the city, so even if you can’t make it to one of the events above, look for events near you.
5. Visit Governors Island
We’ve Scheduled our Final #Solar Installation Phase!
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— CircularEconomyMFG (@CircularEconMfg) January 24, 2022
Governors Island has become a holiday destination at any time of the year. Don’t wait until summer, head there now to check out the various public art installations on the island, or get off the beaten path and learn how to make eco-friendly goods at the Circular Economy Manufacturing MicroFactory. The factory recycles plastic left over from recycling and makes new products out of it, while running entirely on solar energy and creating no waste. The plant is open on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Factory employees give tours on Saturdays, from noon to three in the afternoon, answer questions and sell products.
6. See “jar art” at Brookfield Place
In this competition-exhibition called “Canstruction,” 28 teams of designers transform tin cans into giant artistic structures. Canned food lovers can enjoy their creations until November 13th, after which City Harvest will donate the canned goods to families in need. The exhibition runs from November 2 to 13 at Brookfield Place.
7. Free yoga classes in Chelsea
Early risers can enjoy Chelsea Market’s yoga classes, which are free at 7am on Thursdays and open to participants of all skill levels. A Vinyasa class at Makers Studio will help you unwind before the weekend. You need to take a mat with you, a towel won’t hurt either.
8. See Manet and Degas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anyone who has lived in New York for more than a minute knows that admission prices to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are merely a voluntary donation for New Yorkers. If you can keep your composure at the ticket counter, you’ll be able to enter the “Manet/Degas” exhibition, which features two great figures of French painting, for free. With more than 160 works on display, you will gain a unique insight into the two friends who helped shape the birth of modernism. The exhibition runs until January 7, 2024.
On the subject: The New York Botanical Garden will host an iconic exhibition of holiday mini-trains
9. Reflect on nothing at LIC Culture Lab
The Long Island City Culture Lab presents an exhibition called “The Inevitability of Absence,” which runs through November 19. What does it mean? According to representatives of the Culture Lab, the works presented in the exhibition “force viewers to think about how we process and continue to move forward in a world of inevitable absences.” In other words, absence cannot be avoided! Perhaps by being present in the “Culture Laboratory”. Those who prefer lighter entertainment can visit the comedy shows “Culture Laboratories”, which take place every second Thursday at 20.00. The next free comedy shows will take place on November 16 and 30.
10. Visit the New York Aquarium at Coney Island
Admission usually costs about $30, but if you plan to visit on a Wednesday afternoon, you can get in for free. Advance timed tickets will still be required for entry, and after November 4 the aquarium will close at 4:30 p.m. each day. By planning your aquarium visit in advance, you can choose which creatures to see. But it’s always worth checking out the spineless section.
11. Free Comedy Wednesdays on Arthur Avenue
Some believe that New York’s real Little Italy is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, a historic neighborhood filled with great restaurants and shops. On Wednesday nights, you can watch free full-length performances by comedians who are veterans of such top comedy programs as “The Daily Show” and “The Tonight Show.” Unlike many other free comedy events, this one provides plenty of stage time for comedians to flex their muscles (metaphorically speaking, of course).
12. Spend a day in Red Hook
Red Hook is hard to get into, but even harder to leave. Start your day at Pioneer Works, a free gallery (with a $10 donation) featuring the work of contemporary artists. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 18.00. While in the area, you can also visit the Waterfront Museum, a converted old barge that is open to the public for free on Thursdays from 4pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm.
13. Visit the Old Stone House in Brooklyn
An old stone house is, surprisingly, an old stone house. It is a copy of the Vechte-Kortelu house, which was built in 1699. It is now a museum located in Washington Park on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus. It features permanent exhibits dedicated to the area and the infamous Battle of Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War. On Sundays, you can combine a visit to the museum with a trip to the farmers market, which starts at 10:00 am from Friday to Sunday, from noon to 16:00.
14. Attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
What list of free things to do in November in New York would be complete without visiting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Whether you love classic balloons like Snoopy or prefer newer ones, this long-running parade has it all. You’ll have to line up on the streets along the parade route well in advance, as people start arriving at 6am. Thursday, November 23, 9 a.m. to noon, Upper West Side to Midtown; details here. Bring some coffee with you.