New York for Nix

Written by  Kat Mackintosh

If the phrase No such thing as a free lunch wasn't first coined in New York then it's certainly made itself at home in this notoriously pricey city since. But visitors who don't arrive with an Onassis or Rockefeller sized wallet need fear not – here are a few FREE bites of the Big Apple.

New York, New York, a wonderful town – or so the song goes... A town with a lot of famous sights to see and photograph, and some of then you can see for nix. It's hard to know which is more famous – the firework lights of Times Square, the Chrysler Building, with its entrance hall like a palace, the art deco high-life-New-York-style of the Empire State Building or Central Park with its two ice rinks, swimming pool and movie classic carriage rides? And you don't have to start paying for any of these delights until you want something more than to have a look around, a picnic and to take some photos.

The Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Brooklyn Bridge are other stalwarts of the New York cinemascape and skyline. They may be architectural celebrity 'B' Listers by New York standards, but they're equally free to have a wander round or on, and Prospect Park is the pretty, welcoming little sister of Central. But one of the real stars of New York film is Grand Central Station. Meet me under the Tiffany glass clock to absorb the true magic of travelling to this iconic city by romantic rail... millions of people come though here each week on some adventure or other, and in the past, and on the silver screen, the wonderfully vast main hall has nudged lovers and troops and all sorts along their ways. Even the shops, café and restaurants have their own charm – more unique boutiques, less franchises.

'Cause New York is a city for travellers and visitors – the sailors in the song know it and so have the many who've arrived here by train and boat from foreign shores before you. For a serious look at the way this city has taken people in visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Free – but you have to get the ferry out to the island... But if you fancy a free ferry trip, the Staten Island Ferry is unbelievably free. Ride from Staten island to Manhattan past Lady Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyscrapers of Wall Street… The ferry docks about every half hour for a half hour journey and runs 24/ 7, just like the rest of the city.

If you're hooked on this town's history there's no better place to find out about it than the New York Public Library. Here you've got free and democratic access to reams of knowledge – both within the 20 million books and online – yes they even do free internet access. The main branch is also notable for its architecture – think leather couches and desks and chandeliers, and the two famous marble lions that guard the Fifth Avenue entrance. Or for a real life history lesson turn to the farmers of Union Square Green Market – an open air farmer's market downtown where around 150 farmers tout their wares - organic breads, cheeses, jams, meat, chocolate, all destined to be plated up in the city's finest restaurants by the end of the day – and you'll probably get a few free tasters too.

Free art is harder to come by but what a lot of people don't realise is that in New York timing is everything and the Museum of Modern Art, home to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Hopper's Gas, Warhol's gold Marilyn Monroe and Van Gogh's The Starry Night, is free on Fridays after 4pm – but it's open 'till 8. Or that the entry desk staff at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) will let you pay what you can afford – the advertised ticket price is just a guideline - so if you're feeling particularly poverty stricken you can get into one of the world's premier art museums for a New York dollar.

So as another song goes: it's up to you New York, New York - meaning pay what you can.

Best of New York

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