10 Fun Alternatives for a Free or Cheap Day Out In or Near NYC (with Videos!)

Fun Alternatives for a Free or Cheap Day Out in or Near NYC
Photo by Alex Simpson on Unsplash.com

Looking for a free and fun day out in the NYC area? Say goodbye to long lines, crowded attractions, and expensive entrances, and explore some of the best of NYC for free or cheap. From gardens to historical tours, you can still have an amazing time without breaking the bank. 

10 ways to have a free or cheap day out near NYC

NYC is known for being an expensive city, but you don’t have to pay Manhattan prices to enjoy it for yourself. Here are 10 exciting and affordable alternatives to an expensive day out in NYC.

1. Visit one of the iconic Coney Island boardwalks

Visit one of the iconic Coney Island boardwalks for a cheap day out near NYC. Experience the sights of the historic Brooklyn Bridge from the boardwalk and the sound of waves lapping against the shore. Enjoy carnival games, stroll along the beach, and relax in the sunshine. 

Watch this 4K video of the place:


While sampling some of the traditional boardwalk food, don’t forget to check out the local wildlife. You can even catch a glimpse of the colorful classic cars that frequent the area.

2. Take a hike in one of the many parks in NYC

Enjoy the outdoors and go on a walk with a view in one of NYC’s many parks. From Prospect Park to Inwood Hill Park, there are plenty of trails to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll around a lake, a brisk trek over hills, or something in between, you’re all set. 

If you think you’ll get hungry, you can bring a picnic for lunch! No matter which park you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air, beautiful scenery and get some exercise, all for free.

Watch this video if you want to hike in Inwood Hill Park:


3. Visit one of the pools located in the boroughs 

There’s no better way to beat the city heat than cooling off in a pool. Plus, you’ll also be able to speak with the locals and check out the surrounding scenery. But if you don’t want to go to the pool, there are plenty of beaches to see near New York, including Rockaway and Jacob Riis.

Cold outside? You can still take a dip in an indoor pool! If you’re in the Financial District, check out Wall Street Bath & Spa. In the Upper East Side? Travel to Asphalt Green for a day of fun.

Watch this video from Asphalt Green’s Instagram:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Asphalt Green (@asphaltgreen)


4. Head to a grand opening of a retail store

Going to the grand opening of a new retail store is a great choice for an exciting and cheap evening out. Check openings24.com for grand openings near you, as they have the largest directory for grand openings in the US. Get there early for the best selection and specials.

Depending on the store, you may be able to see some entertainment, take home samples, and eat food for free. If you plan to shop, stick to the deals sections and ask the staff for coupons.

5. Explore the botanical gardens located throughout the boroughs

You won’t want to miss a chance to explore the botanical gardens located throughout the boroughs. From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to the Staten Island Greenbelt, you’ll be able to take in the natural beauty of the city’s unique flora, beautiful flower beds, and vibrant foliage.

During the spring months, some of the gardens host free concerts and performances, but ground-only admission is typically free every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Watch this video of a spring tour of Brooklyn Botanic Garden:


6. Indulge your inner artist and visit some galleries

If you’re looking for a free and creative way to spend your day, consider visiting one of the many galleries around the New York area. Whether it’s the Museum of Modern Art or the Bronx Museum of the Arts, you’re sure to find a gallery that showcases the type of artwork you love.

Either way, you’ll get a chance to explore different styles of art and gain a deep understanding of the artist’s intentions. And since most galleries are free, you won’t have to worry about paying!

Watch this video to get a glimpse of the Bronx Museum of the Arts:


7. Watch a movie at one of the local movie theaters

Looking for an evening of entertainment without the Manhattan prices? Head to one of the local movie theaters! Whether you’re into indie flicks or blockbuster hits, you’ll have a variety of movies to choose from. And If you don’t buy popcorn or drinks, you can see a movie for less.

What’s more, many movie theaters have a fun arcade you can play in, which is perfect if you’re bringing a date. To save even more money, go to a large theater, like AMC, on cheap movie nights. Or, you can go to a movie theater that always has cheap movies, like Nitehawk Cinema.

8. Take a free historical walking tour 

Take a stroll through history and explore some of New York City’s most interesting landmarks on a free walking tour. Follow in the footsteps of century-old traditions and experience the charming bustle of the city streets. Take everything in and learn to appreciate the incredible architecture.

On a historical walking tour, you’ll discover the unique character of each neighborhood, from the pastel-colored street art in the Bronx to the trendy bars in Brooklyn and more. New York state is simply filled with history, culture, and meaning, and it pays to check it out at least once.

Watch this interesting video of NYC’s subways:


9. Take a stroll around one of the boroughs

Don’t want to take a guided walking tour? No problem. There’s a lot you can see simply by moving your own two feet. Start by going to the funky art stores in Brooklyn, then check out the vibrant energy of Queens. You’ll find something interesting no matter where you want to go.

If you’re lucky, you may get free admission to a large attraction. For example, the Bronx Zoo is free all day on Wednesday, but admission is limited, and you need to get a reserved ticket.

Watch this video to get a glimpse of the Bronx Zoo:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Bronx Zoo (@bronxzoo)

 10. Catch some live music

Take a night out and visit some of the amazing venues located around the five boroughs. Get lost in a jazz club in uptown Manhattan, listen to soulful tunes in a downtown dive bar, or visit one of the many hip-hop hot spots located around the Bronx, all for a low, affordable price. Don’t know where? Read our post about the best live music spots to visit in NYC.

You can also watch this video:



In NYC, you can experience a variety of genres from new and old artists alike. There are also plenty of free shows and weekly open mics you can check out if you’re feeling musical.