Any good city, no matter how much it might threaten to dent your wallet, is packed with free things to see and do. So even on a shoestring you can still taste a slice of the Big Apple. You will want to invest in a transport card – $30 will get you a pass that covers the subway and buses for a week. As for the sites? You don’t have to spend a dime if you don’t want to. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this city, but here are some of my favourite freebies that New York has to offer…
BROOKLYN BREWERY TOUR
Be educated and entertained by one of the beardy brewmasters behind Brooklyn’s best-known beer brand. Now say that ten times fast. Saturdays and Sundays offer free guided tours throughout the afternoon – just turn up an hour ahead to collect your tickets (once they’re gone, they’re gone).
Optional spend: If you do fancy enjoying the wares while you wait, £5 gets you one beer token, $20 gets you five. Ask to sample the beers before you pick, they’ll happily talk you through the options.
Click for more: brooklynbrewery.com
Since 1883 this has been a popular and rather scenic passage between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. It’s a good half hour walk and well worth it for the views.
Tip: Be particularly wary of the bike lane. Impatient cyclists will take no prisoners.
It’s a no-brainer. 2.5 square kilometres of sprawling, breathtaking park in the middle of Manhattan, this place is stunning any time of year, although in autumn the colours are something else. It fills the space from 59th Street to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Eighth Avenue. If you’re lucky (and you probably will be), there’ll be a busker playing the saxophone, and all you’ll need to complete your New York moment is for Woody Allen to jump out from behind a tree.
Optional spend: Cycle hire available throughout the park (about $12-15 for 1 hour).
Click for more: centralparknyc.org
The options are endless, and all you have to do is walk around. Sex & the City is my guilty pleasure so I sought out Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Greenwich Village. (FYI: The owners prohibit you sitting on the steps of their Brownstone. A little reminder we’re back in the real world. One where writers can’t actually afford a stack of Jimmy Choos.) I also came upon several other locations completely by accident. Google locations from your favourite New York shows or films, and keep your eyes open.
Tip: Fellow SATC fan? Carrie’s apartment is at 66 Perry Street.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION
This historic railway terminal is really worth seeing (and not just because its vast interior makes it tricky to photograph.) Serving as a landmark of its time, and transforming the Manhattan transportation network, the current building was unveiled in 1913. It’s a romantic-looking building and a great spot for people-watching. Where IS everybody going, anyway?
Optional spend: For $4.99 (£2.99) download the Official Grand Central Tour app for an audio guide.
Click for more: grandcentralterminal.com
THE HIGH LINE
Once a section of a freight train route, the last load being carried in 1980. For years there were battles between those who wanted to demolish it and those who wanted to save it – thankfully the latter won. The High Line was turned into a 1.45-mile-long public garden, the first section opening in 2009. It’s maintained by Friends of the High Line and runs from West 34th Street to the Meatpacking District.
Tip: The indoor Chelsea Market sits below the southern end of the High Line, wander through
or stop for a bite to eat from one of the many food producers.
Click for more: thehighline.org/visit
Sure, it’s not square – but you will be if you go to the Big Apple and don’t check it out.
Lights! Billboards! Touts! This famous junction is a mad extravaganza but worth taking a brief moment to gawp at.
Click for more: timessquarenyc.org
STATEN ISLAND FERRY
A free scenic ferry ride to Staten Island? It’s not a rumour. Hop onboard at Whitehall in the Financial District. You’ll need to disembark and wait to get back on to do the straight return to Manhatten. It’s about 25 minutes each way – and don’t forget to wave to the Statue of Liberty.
Tip: To see Lady Liberty keep right on the way to Staten island.
Click for more: siferry.com
Have a favourite NY freebie? Let me know!