Free stuff in New York

by Bert Maxwell /
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Feb 28, 2012 / 0 comments

Free stuff in New York
By Joe Bond


With a host of airlines competing on New York flights and a stack of free things to do when you get there, if you’re thinking about heading off on a short break on a budget, why not try the Big Apple? There are plenty of free and cheap things to do all year round in NYC, though summer is the season for outdoor performances, festivals and parades. Here are some of the best things to do in the big city, indoors and outdoors.



Shakespeare in the Park

What better way to spend a warm summer’s evening than in the magnificent Delacorte Theatre, nestled in Central Park, watching the finest actors and actresses perform the most riveting plays written by the Bard himself? This year sees Shakespeare In The Park’s 50th Anniversary Season, with a production of As You Like It directed by Daniel Sullivan, with Lily Rabe as Rosalind. Both have been in acclaimed productions including 2010’s Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, which subsequently moved to Broadway. There will also be a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods directed by UK director Timothy Sheader. Tickets are free, either from the park on day of the show or through a virtual ticketing lottery.



Central Park SummerStage

Another delightful way to while away hot afternoons under dappled sunlight is to enjoy music in a Central Park’s one-of-a-kind atmosphere - with gourmet food stalls and good weather to boot. The main stage is located in the heart of Central Park, but the SummerStage arts festival takes place in 18 parks across the city, so you’ll find a free concert whether you’re in Red Hook or the Upper East Side. The diversity is astounding, with previous acts including Jimmy Cliff, Gil Scott Heron, Yo-Yo Ma and Tabil Kweli, as well as theatre, hip-hop, and kids’ events. In fact there are up to 400 free music events in the city each year, and a good way to find out about them is through the mailing list.



Movies with a View

There are free outdoor movie screenings almost every night of the week across New York, in parks car parks, rooftops, museums, underground and overground, showing shorts, foreign films, independent films and classics. Movies with a View shows films alongside the stunning backdrop of Manhattan, visible from the recently opened Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, right beside the majestic Brooklyn Bridge which is a free attraction worth spending time on itself. Iconic New York films like Manhattan and Ghost Busters were screened on Thursdays last year, and their 2012 seasons kicks off in July. Get there early to grab a spot, lay down a picnic mat, enjoy the sunset and enjoy live music from 6pm until the film starts.



The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is perhaps one for a rainy day – you can get lost in this building for countless hours - but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must-see whatever the weather. The building contains outstanding collections of art from Europe, China, Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome, to give just a small sample. The collections, which span millennia, include paintings, furniture, statues and busts, instruments and modern art. Their website also has downloadable lesson plans for educators and there is the Nolen Library and children’s reading room if you want to spend some quiet time researching or reading with the kids. The Chinese Garden Court is a relaxing place to find peace and inspiration indoors, among rocks and water features which evoke the inspiration behind Chinese landscape paintings. Bring a pencil and a pad and have a go at drawing some of the wonderful exhibits; even if you’re not in the habit it can be a great way to give a few objects their deserved attention. The recommended donation for adults is $25 and $12 for students, but if you can’t afford that, then it’s free.



Walk with an open mind

New York is a great city for walking and cycling. Its grid layout makes the city easy to navigate and each area’s resident population lends a distinct character, whether you’re browsing the modern sculptures of the Upper East Side, watching a basketball game in Harlem, taking a quiet stroll in Brooklyn or bustling past frogs, eels and crabs that populate the aquariums of Chinatown.


Best of all, walking is free, although you’ll be tempted by an array of pizza outlets (try a simple Margherita slice) and street food outlets. Soon you’ll develop an extra pair of eyes to take in all the surprises around you –the tall buildings and architecture, the unexpected pavement art, and of course the friendly characters all around the city.