29 January 2024 • 6 Mins Read

What are The Best Free Things to Do in New York?

For students especially, New York can prove to be just as exciting as it is rewarding. From shopping and sightseeing, to museums and art galleries – there’s more than enough to whet cultural appetites, as well as aiding students’ studies. If you’re heading on a school trip to New York and are looking for inspiration for free things to do, then our comprehensive list should help.

History trips to New York

As one of the world’s busiest cities, New York has been home to some monumental historical events. History students visiting here have plenty of free places to explore in their downtime, from museums to memorials.

9/11 Memorial

Located on the site of the former World Trade Center, the 9/11 memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. Here, two reflecting pools have been built where the towers once stood; and the names of every person who lost their life can be found inscribed on bronze panelling around the sides of each pool.

The site is free to visit, but those wanting to learn more can also pay to head into the accompanying museum, although pre-booking is advised to avoid queues.

National Museum of the American Indian

Free to enter as part of the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of the American Indian pays homage to the culture of the Native Americans of the Western Hemisphere. Located near Battery Park, not far from the Charging Bull, the museum exhibits the culture’s lifestyle, languages and traditions through both self-guided and guided tours.

Art trips to New York

The adopted home of artists – from painters and illustrators to writers and musicians – from all over the world, New York is a gold mine for creativity. Because of this, there are endless art museums, murals and sculptures that art students can visit for both information and inspiration, free of charge.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Located in Queens, Long Island, the Socrates Sculpture Park overlooks the skyline of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It’s home to a bill of rotating exhibitions, events, and activities including yoga, tai chi, kayaking and canoeing.

Built on a former landfill site in 1986, the sculpture park features works and installations from a range of artists. Visitors can learn more about them by heading out on one of the artist-led tour programs.

The High Line

A 1.45-mile-long old railway track, The High Line is an elevated park that runs through Manhattan’s west side. It’s a public space that houses art and gardens as well as performances and food outlets.

The High Line is completely free to walk through, and visitors can hop on and off anywhere they’d like.

More free things to do in New York

There are thousands of free activities for students visiting New York. Below are just a few more of our favourites.

Central Park

Created by architect Calvert Vaux and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted in 1857, Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States. An oasis in the heart of the city, the park can be found sandwiched between the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, and has 50 fountains and sculptures, two ice rinks, 26 baseball fields, 12 tennis courts, and 36 bridges among its many features.

Spanning 843 acres, there’s plenty to do for free in Central Park, including visiting the famous John Lennon Memorial, or heading to one of the many free performances held on the park’s own stage.  

5th Avenue Shopping

For a fun and free activity, head down New York’s 5th Avenue where some of the city’s (and world’s) biggest shops lie. Home to the likes of FAO Schwarz, Saks, Abercrombie and Fitch and more, 5th Avenue is one of the planet’s most famous shopping streets.

Make sure to head to the Apple Store, too. This 24hr flagship store houses the latest and greatest in tech and is a great place to take Apple admirers of all ages.

Federal Reserve Bank Museum

Head on a free tour of the Federal Reserve Bank for an exclusive look at the Gold Vault, as well as the inner workings of the Federal Reserve System.

Free when you book in advance, this tour is open to the general public as well as school groups – simply head to the Federal Reserve Bank website to book your spaces.

Staten Island Ferry

One of the most famed attractions in New York – and the world – the Statue of Liberty attracts around 3.5 million visitors every year. One of the easiest ways for those on a tight budget to visit the statue is to hop on the Staten Island Ferry, which sails right past the statue for free.

Passengers looking to board can do so from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, and return from the St. George Terminal on Staten Island – just make sure to take a camera!

Tailor your trip

If you’re planning a school trip to New York, we can help organise bespoke itineraries for any subject.

Our team of specialists will arrange everything from educational tours and workshops to accommodation and travel to ensure your trip goes smoothly.