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Plan Your Trip to New York City: Best of New York City Tourism

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Explore New York City

The tallest skyscrapers, the biggest museums, the cheesiest pizza. New York City takes everything to the max. It’s easy to see why it’s the most-visited place in the U.S.: Whether you want to check out historic landmarks, catch a Broadway show, or stroll the streets of Brooklyn, there’s no wrong way to do it—and something new to discover every time you go. Spend the day neighbourhood-hopping, from the family-friendly Upper West Side packed with playgrounds and cute restaurants to the gritty-but-cool Lower East Side, each has its own vibe. Browse art galleries in Chelsea, go shopping in SoHo, then grab a drink in the East Village. Or, take the subway (or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge) and cruise the cobblestone streets in Dumbo. Want some nature? It’s got that, too. Have a picnic in Central Park, hit the High Line, or hop on a ferry and see the city from the sea. That’s just the start—we’ve got more ideas below.

Travel Advice

Essential New York City

How to do New York City in 2 days

From big highlights like Times Square to quaint walks locals love
Read on

The best free things to do in NYC

When I moved to the New York City area 20 years ago, I quickly learned to be creative in order to thrive in the nation’s most expensive place to live. From free Central Park concerts to no-fee days at top museums, there are plenty of complimentary activities to complement that buzzy city lifestyle, if you know where to look. Here are some of my favourites.
Rachel Chang, New York City, NY
  • Saturday Night Live
    Put the “live” in Saturday Night Live by scoring a free seat in 30 Rock through the standby line. Though I’ve never received a ticket through the annual lottery, I’ve been in Studio 8H more than a dozen times by navigating the three-part process (a virtual line on Thursdays, outdoor line on Fridays, indoor line on Saturdays) to fill in empty seats. My tip: Go for dress rehearsal, where you’ll see sketches that never air.
  • New York Public Library
    So much more than just a library, the Beaux-Arts main branch of the city’s library system, also known as Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets is one of the most recognisable structures in town, spotted in films ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Spider-Man. One of my ultimate city oases is the stunning Rose Main Reading Room, which I first experienced on a free docent-led tour.
  • Harry Potter New York
    Wizards and muggles alike will be enchanted by the world’s largest collection of products from the magical franchise. Even if you’re short on galleons, there’s no charge to wander the 20,000-square-foot space, taking selfies with Instagram-friendly displays, like stepping into half-giant Hagrid’s shoes, entering the Ministry from a British phone booth, and, my favourite, posing under a book arch. On crowded days, a virtual queue is used, but I’ve had luck walking in before noon.
  • Staten Island Ferry
    There is such a thing as a free ride—even one with quite a view of the Statue of Liberty. With departures from Lower Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal around the clock daily, the massive yellow-orange Staten Island Ferry boats can take upwards of 4,000 passengers to St. George terminal in the southern borough. Even though I’ve taken it a number of times, I always find it hard to stop taking photos on the picturesque 25-minute journey.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
    Tucked on a nondescript Flatiron block, what I thought would be a quick stop at a National Historic Site turned into a fascinating nearly two-hour visit last summer. The free guided tour through the 1848 brownstone visits the restored rooms of the childhood home of the 26th president; I was especially taken by the original teddy bear replica and the actual shirt Roosevelt wore during an assassination attempt, complete with the bullet hole.
  • David Zwirner Gallery
    Haute art can come at a cost, and though some museums (like the Met) are pay-what-you-wish for locals, the place to go for the finest free art are Chelsea’s galleries, with one of the standouts being David Zwirner Gallery. Back in 2013, I stood in line for hours here to see Yayoi Kusama’s works before the viral hype, so I totally trust their curation. Next up are the sculptures of Pakistani American artist Huma Bhabha.
  • Museum of Chinese in America
    With more than 614,000 New Yorkers identifying as Chinese, I’m proud to see that Asian American history is being preserved in this Chinatown museum—and readily shared with the public by offering free admission during its opening hours Wednesday through Sunday. With 85,000 items in its collection, rotating exhibits highlight various facets of Chinese American life, which are enhanced by programming, like traditional dance, music, and other cultural arts.
  • Hershey's Chocolate World Times Square
    Unlike most New Yorkers, I still find Times Square a joy to walk through; I even enjoyed it when it was part of my daily commute. In fact, on late work nights, I purposely passed through just to stop at Hershey Chocolate World, since they always hand you a free piece of chocolate. Enjoying my sweet treat, I’d then wander the aisles like I was in my own version of Willy Wonka’s factory.