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Travel tips, upcoming events and information on all things New York City.

Free and Affordable Things to Do in NYC in the Summer

Central Park

So you’ve made it to New York City, but you’re hoping to experience the Big Apple in the most affordable way possible while still enjoying all that it has to offer. You’re not alone and that’s why we’ve created this helpful guide to free and affordable things to do in NYC throughout the summer months. From outdoor activities to sightseeing, picnicking and even embarking on an island getaway, here’s what we suggest…

Visit Central Park

Whether you want to stroll the expansive grounds or take in some interesting sights, there’s plenty to do for everyone within the confines of Central Park:

  • The newly renovated Belvedere Castle is one of the most iconic structures and Instagram-able spots in the park. It boasts amazing views of the city while providing a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
  • Check out the infamous “Imagine” mosaic dedicated to renowned musician John Lennon; it’s surrounded by park benches that enable fans and visitors to sit and reflect and also houses memorabilia and gifts from those near and far that have come to pay tribute. Located between West 71st & 74th Streets, the 2.5 acre memorial is fondly known as Strawberry Fields.
  • Climb up a large bedrock, walk the mall toward Bethesda Terrace, catch a glimpse of many artistic fountains or simply pack a picnic lunch and people watch for the day. No matter what kind of adventure you’re seeking, Central Park has it all.

Cool Off in One of the City’s Outdoor Public Pools

Summer in the city can be intolerable at times because of the heat and humidity we’re inclined to experience in the northeast. But the good news is, there are a plethora of free pools open to the public during these dog days of summer. Here are some facts to note about NYC’s public pools:

  • Open daily from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. with an hour-long break for pool cleaning at 3 p.m.
  • You must have a swimsuit in order to enter into the designated pool area; if you need to wear other clothing for protection purposes, make sure that you have a plain white T-shirt or hat as colorful clothing is not allowed on the deck.
  • Locks are required to enter and will keep your belongings safe; luggage locks are not permitted.
  • Do not bring: food, glass, valuables, electronic devices or newspapers.

Stroll, Eat & Shop through the City’s Many Street Fairs

One thing is for sure – if it’s summertime, then there’s a street fair happening somewhere in New York City. From live music and tasty grub to vintage shopping and endless people watching, there’s something for everyone at an NYC street fair. Even better, the fairs span all five boroughs so no matter where you’re staying, you’ll be able to experience the enjoyment. Here’s a look at a couple of prominent street fairs:

  • PopUp New York: Are you the type of person that needs to know the up and coming before anyone else? PopUp New York’s extravaganzas tend to feature new restaurants, designers and musicians in the trendiest new neighborhoods. Not only does this organization host a variety of outdoor bazaars, but it also gives back to local nonprofits.
  • Hester Street Fair: Located on the Lower East Side, this street fair is notorious for its vast selection of bites, which features new dishes on a weekly basis. It also boasts an elevated entertainment factor with themed events and live performances.
  • Weekend fairs (location and dates vary): Check out this list and match up the weekend you’ll be visiting with an event that piques your interest.

Take a Trip to Governor’s Island

Did you know that a roundtrip ferry ticket to Governor’s Island only costs $3 for adults? Though if you’re coming from Brooklyn or Manhattan, there are some ferries that you can ride for free. These prices, combined with free access to the island upon arrival, make it an easy choice for an awesome day trip and unique summer escape.

The 172-acre island is located in the heart of New York Harbor and offers a respite from city life. There are official walking tours every Wednesday through Sunday, but you can easily pack a picnic lunch or visit one of the many food vendors and park yourself at a picnic table before cruising around the island on your own. Take in the beauty of sights like:

  • Castle Williams: Originally a component of a larger defensive system for the inner harbor, Castle Williams is now considered a prototype for new forms of coastal fortification and is open to the public.
  • Discovery Hill: Sitting at 40 feet above sea level, Discovery Hill is home to Cabin, an installation from renowned British artist Rachel Whiteread that offers a quiet, contemplative spot.
  • Outlook Hill: Resting at 70 feet above sea level, Outlook Hill boasts 360-degree views of the Statue of Liberty, New York harbor, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the city skyline.

While this is a good start, there’s obviously much more to see and do in NYC in the summer. Additional highlights include free Brooklyn Brewery tours, checking out the public art installations at Rockefeller Center, free canoeing and kayaking tours, taking in Hudson River views from the High Line, seeing Lady Liberty from the free Staten Island Ferry, and an endless list of other activities.

Free Attractions Passes with a City Sights Tour

If you’re looking for an affordable tour of the city, City Sights Tours offers a variety of options by land or sea. A big bonus to these tours is the free attractions passes included. Snag free bike rentals, museum admissions and more.

What tops your agenda?

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