Top 10 Free Things To Do In New York City This December

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Top 10 Free Things To Do In New York City This December

Already broke your budget just staying in New York this holiday season? Try these 10 tips to enjoy the city for free.

By Matt Stabile


1) MoMA

Normally a steep $20, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art for you acronym-hating readers) is free every Friday from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Just head to the front desk and pick up a free ticket for admission then check out Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Monet’s Water Lilies, and Dali’s The Persistence of Memory all for nothing.

TIP: If you plan to check out the Tim Burton exhibit going on right now, head there right at 4 p.m. due to the limited number of entries.

newmuseum2) The New Museum

With its irregularly stacked white box frame, The New Museum is in fact, literally new (a $64 million renovation was completed in December 2007), and is free on Thursday from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

TIP: Grab you iPod and download these free podcasts for the heavily promoted Urs Fischer exhibit. This may help explain all those tongue advertisements you’ve been seeing on the subway.

3) The Metropolitan Museum of Art

They won’t actually tell you this right out in the open, but it’s true: admission here is only recommended. They ask for $20 for adults and $10 for students, but no one’s stopping you from forking over your pocket change. Stingy? Perhaps, but remember, they’re also working with one of the largest endowments for a museum in the world (well over $2 billion dollars). Want to really help? Hit up the gift shop on your way out or at one of the many stores around the city.

TIP: Ever wonder what graffiti looks like through the ages beginning from about 10 B.C.? Head to the reconstructed Temple of Dendur for a good overview.


4) Christmas Markets

Remember when Harry Potter and the crew head to Hogsmeade Village and find themselves in a Dickensian Christmas wonderland? Well this might be a stretch, but if you happen to go at night after some snow has just fallen to one of the various Christmas markets that spring up around Manhattan every December, you just may get the same experience.

TIP: Head to Union Square for the city’s largest market. Nearby, on Broadway between 13th and 14th street, is Max Brenner where you can pick up the granddaddy of hot chocolate drinks. Okay, they’re not free, but you’re in Union Square. Break out the guitar and earn your keep like the others!

5) X-Mas Tree at South Street Seaport

Did you ever hear someone say, “What I love about Christmas is being jostled by strangers while attempting to maneuver through an overcrowded department store.” Nope, but that’s exactly the experience you’re going to have at Rockefeller Center if you try to see the world-famous tree. Plus, that’s all there is — a tree.

Instead, head to South Street Seaport for a tree that, perhaps is not as big as its famous cousin, but is still way larger than the one in your living room. (I actually have a ficus in my kitchen, but let’s not go there.) Plus, this tree actually has performers at it, with the Big Apple Chorus regaling you with Christmas songs every Friday and Saturday.

TIP: Avoid heading to the touristy mall on the pier at the end of the seaport. Instead, head north along the small streets for an eclectic mix of excellent restaurants and shops that cater to the burgeoning population of locals.

6) Prospect Park Ice Skating

Ice skating in New York City. How romantic. How memorable. How truly annoying to try to do in Central Park or Rockefeller Center. Remember what I said about crowds above? Head to Wollman Rink at the other park, Prospect Park, for no lines and just as good as an experience. It’s not free, but at $5 you’re not exactly breaking the bank (whereas you’ll be shelling out $14 in Central Park during the weekends)

TIP: I really have very little here . . . except for those of you who love disco! Ice skating. Disco. Friday, December 18th from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. is “Disco Skate.” Just remember where “Saturday Night Fever” took place. I’ll be snacking on pretzels and snickering from the sidelines.


7) Barbes

From accordion-playing divas to Slavic soul, Barbes in Brooklyn’s Park Slope offers some of the city’s best and most eclectic variety of free music every night. Drinks are standard price and collection hats are usually passed around after the performances.

TIP: If you’re staying in Manhattan, don’t worry about getting lost just because you’re leaving the island. Barbes is literally across the street from the F stop, a 20-minute ride from Midtown.

garage8) Jazz at Garage

New York’s known for its great jazz, unfortunately it’s also known for expensive clubs too. A night out at Dizzy’s Club for Jazz at Lincoln Center is going to set you back upwards of $35 a set, plus food and a drink minimum.

Instead, head to Garage Restaurant in the West Village where you can catch free jazz every night of the week in this former 1920’s garage.

TIP: To really save some money, huddle up at the bar and enjoy the show without having sit down for a full dinner.

9) Free Julliard Performances

Looking to head to Lincoln Center for world-class performing arts? Well guess what, many of the performers you’re paying to see started out next door at Julliard where they were giving free shows while studying there. For a full set schedule of the wide variety of performances, go to Julliard’s online calendar of events.

TIP: When you’re at the plaza check out a free performance by the new fountain. Designed by the same people who brought you the waterworks at Vegas’ Bellagio, the fountain’s 353 nozzles are able to shoot water 40 feet in the air for an aquatic ballet.

10) Everything Else

If you really want to get the skinny on free New York, you need to bookmark the aptly named sites, FreeNYC and ClubFree Time for daily listings of all that is free, every day of the week, as well as MyOpenBar for free drinks and grub around the city.

* Photo: “Winter market at Bryant Park (New York, NY)” by Luke Redmond, via Flickr

By Matt Stabile



Matt Stabile Bio PictureMatt Stabile is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner. The Expeditioner began in 2008 and is headquartered in New York City. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos or contact him at any time at (@TheExpeditioner)

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