Many Cincinnati-area families head to New York City year after year for the holidays, summer vacation and numerous school trips. While New York City is known for being a little on the expensive side (compared to the Midwest), a bite of the “Big Apple” does not always have to take a bite out of your wallet.
Here is a brief list of family-friendly activities for free!
Visit the Japan Society
While the films and lectures usually involve a fee, the galleries and their delightful exhibits are free. With the focus on Japanese art, here you‘ll find some unique treasures. 333 E 47 St, between First & Second Aves, Midtown East.
No trip to New York City would be complete without a stroll in Central Park. This urban oasis has many green spaces, ponds, fountains and playgrounds as well as seasonal (free) entertainment. Other highlights include paying tribute to the late John Lennon at Strawberry Fields, multiple statues, memorials, the Fort Clinton site and many other natural treats in all sections of the park. Visit www.centralparknyc.org for more information.
The amazing array of lights on Times Square is quite a sight! It seems no matter where you look (especially up) there is something to catch your eye. A good section of the square is now pedestrian only, making it much safer to take in the light show. People watching is also a great way to pass some time with many street performers vying for your attention.
Grand Central Terminal (Station)
For more people watching in an architectural gem, head to Grand Central Terminal. This historic station remains a vibrant transportation hub and yet you can still stand back and imagine what it was like to travel by rail when the terminal first opened in 1913. Visit their website for a great self-guided walking tour list. www.grandcentralterminal.com
National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian–New York is located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The museum’s programs, permanent and special exhibitions examine the diversity of the Native people of the Americas. Free admission, open daily. Located on the south side of Bowling Green, in lower Manhattan, adjacent to Battery park.
New York Public Library
The Stephen A Schwarzman Building is now 101 years old and is situated in a grand Beaux-Arts building not far from Times Square. From the marble lions out front to the amazing details within, you’ll want to walk through the massive reading room and other areas and take it all in. There’s exhibits too, including a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, and special shows. There are free tours at 11am and 2pm Monday to Saturday, 2pm Sunday (closed Sunday in summer). Fifth Ave at 42nd St, Midtown East.
Rockefeller Center Public Art
Built in the 1930s, the 22-acre Rockefeller Center is not only the setting for NBC’s Today Show and a giant Christmas tree in December , but also home to a collection of art commissioned under the theme of ‘Man at the Crossroads Looks Uncertainly But Hopefully at the Future.’ That‘s a mouthful, but the works pack an artsy wallop such as the statue of Prometheus overlooking the skating rink, or Atlas holding the world at 630 Fifth Ave. Jose Maria Sert’s murals in the GE Building includes Abe Lincoln and others that replaced the original ‘communist imagery’ by a snubbed and less than pleased Diego Rivera. Between Fifth & Sixth Aves, around 49th & 50th Sts, Midtown.
Be a part of the action! In the morning hours, during the live broadcast of the Today Show, you can hang around outside (weather permitting) and catch the entertainment and the anchors doing what they do best.
Staten Island Ferry
The commuter ferry that runs from Battery Park to Staten Island may not be the most luxurious of rides, but it certainly offers riders a chance to experience amazing views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the harbor for free.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral first opened its doors in 1879 and is the largest Gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States and seats over 2,000 people. The variety of stained glass windows and sculptures is impressive, even during the current restoration. 5th Ave between 50/51st.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright designed this extraordinary building containing and extraordinary collection of art including works by: Gauguin, Gottlieb, Kline, Manet, Picasso, Rothko and so many more plus special exhibitions. 1071 5th at 89th. While there is admission, you may Pay What You Wish on Saturdays from 5:45 pm to 7:45 pm (last ticket issued at 7:15 pm).
Starting around 34th Street near 10th Avenue and high above the streets along an old railroad bed is the Highline. Traveling south for about mile or so, this reuse of space into an urban park is a hit with the locals and visitors.
The Frick Collection
Best known for their fine collection of European artworks including paintings, sculptures and decorative arts, this collection, as well as their special exhibitions, should not be missed. 1 East 70th Street. Nr. 5th Ave. On Sundays, pay what you wish from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Forbes Galleries
In the heart of Greenwich Village, inside the lobby of Forbes Magazine’s headquarters you will find their galleries, featuring changing exhibitions, which are free and open to the public. Call ahead to be sure galleries are open, as they do close for business-related activities on occasion, normal hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 212-206-5548. 62 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street).
While you may not be able to get to New York City for free, at least there are a variety of things to do that will keep your credit card nicely tucked away. At least for a while!