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24 Hours in New York City – Things to Do for Free
Oh, New York. The famous concrete jungle that never sleeps. A place where dreams come true. Like in that song… Well, it is a must visit at least once in a lifetime. Even if you are not a big city fan, like we, New York is unique. Everyone will find something to their liking. So either you are visiting New York City for a week or you have 24 hours in New York City or anything in between, you will find some great tips in this New York City guide. And most importantly, all these things are for free! Who could have ever thought that you can visit New York City and not spend a dime!
Must-See Things in New York City for Free
1. Brooklyn Bridge
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a must when visiting New York City. There will be many vendors selling souvenirs and people running or biking across the bridge to get their daily exercise dose. You will be dazed by the panoramic views of Lower Manhattan and usually very strong wind trying to blow you off your feet.
2. 9/11 Memorial
National September 11th Memorial and Museum is a very beautiful set of fountains built exactly in the place where Twin Towers used to be. The fountains fall inwards and fall into the infinity. Those who perished in the 9/11 tragedy are commemorated by engraving their names on the walls of the fountains.
3. Wall Street
There are three main building that you have to visit on Wall Street. Federal Hall National Memorial, New York Stock Exchange, and the Trinity Church. The history of Wall Street is very lengthy and involves wars, slavery and many important people to US history. Before heading there, have a look at the history of Wall Street and how it came to be.
4. Charging Bull
Right after Wall Street walk down the street along with the traffic to visit the Charging Bull. The Charging Bull is a symbol of the rising stock market and the power of the United States. The bull was first dropped in front of the NY Stock Exchange but the Chairman of the Exchange was not pleased by this action, thus removed it and placed it at the tip of Broadway. Tourists and successful traders go and rub Bull’s horns and testicles, for good luck in business and romance respectively. You should go and do the same!
5. Staten Island Ferry to see the Liberty Statue
This is a great free attraction tourists rarely know about. Free ferry to Staten Island. To get to the Staten Island Ferry you have to go to the Whitehall Station and get some beer or snacks for the ride, then board the ferry. It is completely free and runs every 30 minutes. It takes 50 minutes for a roundtrip and you will be able to take beautiful photos of the Liberty Statue. To get back to Manhattan just exit the ferry and board again. If you can, go before the sunset as the view of the sun falling and the city lighting up is unforgettable. If you are a night owl, no worries, the ferry runs 24/7.
6. Central Park
Well, Central Park is as legendary as the Empire State Building and it has to be the symbol of New York. If you have only 24 hours in New York City, try to visit Central Park, it is beautiful. You have seen it in the movies so many times and now you have the chance to be there yourself and enjoy the beauty of the lush greenery! Shoot some beautiful pictures and do not forget to look into a map as it is quite easy to get lost. It is really fun to watch New Yorkers rushing through the park, working out, making phone calls and going about their daily lives in Central Park.
7. Grand Central Terminal
“Getaway to America” by its nickname, Grand Central Terminal is one of the biggest train stations ever built. It gained its nickname because of the huge immigrant influx in the 20th century. They used the station to get across America in the pursuit of wealth and safety. Not only immigrants used the Central Terminal, as businessman and high-class people were taking luxurious trains and walking the red carpet here some 100 years ago. If you fancy grabbing a bite you can head downstairs to many themed cafes and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a snack 1920’s style.
8. 30 Rockefeller Plaza
The highlight of the Rockefeller Plaza is its grand lobby. The west wall is devoted to a beautiful piece of art called “American Progress”, which depicts many important people who contributed to the building of the US. You can wander around the building and enjoy the posh atmosphere as well as adore the sculpture of Atlas in front of the building. If you are visiting New York around Christmas time, Rockefeller square proudly boasts one of the most beautiful Christmas trees in the whole of New York. It is like a winter wonderland, so do not skip it.
9. New York Public Library
This almighty building will leave you speechless. It looks more like a museum than a library and has a long, interesting past. The New York Public Library is guarded by two lions and you might remember the place from the epic tsunami moment in the famous film The Day After Tomorrow (watch it if you haven’t). However, movies aside, if you have some extra time take the grand stairs up to the top level and be amazed by the stunning McGraw Rotunda, right next to the Rose Reading Room. The New York Public Library is home to so many important historical documents, such as the handwritten declaration of independence and first Gutenberg Bible brought to the US.
10. Times Square
Times Square is often referred to as the Centre of the Universe and the Heart of the World. Well, once you stand there and grasp everything that is happening around you will definitely see why the names. The lights, the busyness, the Broadway shows and never-ending commercials. Times Square functions as the towns main square where all the public events take place. Times Square is a very popular place for the New Year’s celebrations, as you have probably seen on TV. Gaze at the billboards and soak up the atmosphere before calling it a day and going back to the airport/to the hotel. Do not forget to visit the M & M’s world if you feel like not having enough colour in your life already!
What an amazing day! You have seen most of the NYC for free. 24 hours in New York City have proven to be doable and cheap! And with the most important sightseeing object listed as well as pointed in the map you just have to save it and follow directions once you reach Manhattan.
Interesting: Bronx Zoo has a “pay what you like” admission on Wednesday. So it means it is free if you wish so. Other days it costs $37. It is an awesome zoo and definitely worth a visit! Also, it is not far from downtown New York!
Getting Around New York City
It is quite easy to get around Manhattan on foot. We walked all the way from upper Manhattan to Lower Manhattan. Then we took the subway back. If you decide to walk, remember, that you will have to cover long distances, thus comfortable shoes are essential. Apart from that, walking is the best way to get the feel of the city and observe the everyday life of always busy New Yorkers.
The easiest and cheapest way to get around New York City is by using the subway. It covers all main tourist destinations and is conveniently built with short stops all around Manhattan. If you are new to New York City subway system be sure to check out the map to know your destination and ask for guidance or direction to the friendly subway staff. A single ride will cost you a couple of dollars and will get you to your destination in no time.
Food in New York City
New York City is home to many Michelin Star restaurants and best chefs in the world. It is a real gourmet paradise, which comes with a price. However, it is still possible to find budget-friendly places to have a meal in New York City. The best place to start is the many food stalls on the streets that serve possibly similar gourmet foods than those Michelin Stars. Street stalls can be found all across Manhattan, nearby parks and tall business buildings, thus making them a convenient stop for breakfast or lunch.
Breakfast Cart Bagels have become a staple in New Yorkers routines. Every morning they head out of the subway and towards the closest Bagel Cart. Follow the locals and head to one of those magical breakfast places to endeavour in a sweet or savoury bagel. After your first bite, you will start to understand the whole bagel culture.
Apart from bagels, you can find kebabs, shawarmas, Red Hook Lobster Pounds, Mac and Cheese’s, Pizzas and other foods served from streetside carts. Also, if you are wandering around and stumble upon a small market – take everything you can! Haha, okay, not everything, but at least sample some fruit. Strawberries were perfect when we were there.
Accommodation in New York City
Well, if you have 24 hours you probably will want to sleep somewhere. Or, to spend zero money you can do it like we do it – spend the day exploring the city and head back to the airport and spend the night there. I have to tell you, that they do not let to pass the security to the airside if your flight is the next morning, so you will have to sleep on the tile floor! If you are travelling on a budget, you probably have done it already and it won’t be a problem.
However, if you want to spend the night somewhere with at least a mattress and a blanket, here are some great budget accommodation in New York City:
A nice stroll away from the Central Park, this place offers 2 beds in a dormitory starting from EUR 66 ($80). Man, I would say $40 is cheap for a clean and nice place to sleep in NYC. They also have private rooms with a private bathroom for EUR 100 ($120) per night for 2 people. This place is quite enough for 24 hours in New York City.
A 15-minute walk from One World Trade Centre located in NYC Chinatown. It is a private apartment with a bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom and a seating area. The Baxter House accommodates up to 6 people for only EUR 166 ($200), but if you divide it among 6 people that is $33 per person! And you have a private apartment, it is such a great deal for bigger families or young groups travelling together! They have all the kitchen utensils so you can buy groceries at the supermarket and save some money by cooking dinner at home. Great deal, guys!
This gorgeous Bed & Breakfast is located in Harlem, so some 20 minutes out of Downtown Manhattan. However, it features private, spacious rooms and breakfast is included in the price. One night will cost EUR 110 ($133) for two people. The price is a bit higher than the other places, but if you count in the breakfast that you do not have to worry about, it is a great deal.
Well, this place is a little gem. It is located 5o metres from the Central Park. Private room with a bunk bed for two comes for EUR 104 ($127) and the hostel has a swimming pool, sauna and a gym free of charge for their guests. The reception works 24/7 so you do not have to worry if you are arriving late. All rooms have shared bathrooms, so this might be a downside if you are looking for some privacy.
Note, if you want to book some paid tours or entrance tickets, for example, for One World Observatory Ticket or Empire State Building you can do it here. Getyourguide.com is a great and reliable site which will save you the worrying if the tickets will still be available or when you will be able to visit.
Lastly, if you are still looking for that long stopover flight to your final destination via New York, check out how to find cheap flight deals! We have been researching and testing these approaches for years, and that is how we travel cheap!