Ride the Staten Island Ferry
It' s hard to believe that this boat ride is still free for pedestrians, but it is. For a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline, this 20-minute cruise from the Lower East Side over to Staten Island and the subsequent return trip are mandatory for all visitors to the city. Don't miss it.
Go to the main branch of the New York City Public Library, which is located at 5th Avenue and 42d Street in mid-Manhattan. The reading room with its 50-foot high ceilings is simply magnificent. Bring along your laptop and use the library's Internet connection to cruise the web or just walk through the place and admire the architecture. You won't be disappointed. There are also many special collections and exhibitions throughout the main building that might be of interest. Be sure to check out the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall, located on the first floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, which is the official name of the main library branch.
Visit an Art Gallery
The Soho district and the East Village, both located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, are filled with excellent mainstream, trendy and cutting-edge art galleries. The choice here is extensive, but don't forget that there are even more galleries located in midtown Manhattan. Take an afternoon to just look or wait for an opening, when complimentary wine and appetizers are often offered to visitors.
Attend a Literary Event
Many bookstores and libraries sponsor poetry readings or lectures by authors. Most of these are free, but there are a few exceptions. On almost any given day there is at least one such event going on, perhaps more on a weekend. You can check the library's web link or consult a newspaper for such events.
Visit the Beach
Most visitors don't realize that there are many beaches in New York City, mostly in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Some are free, while others charge for admission or parking. If you must pick one beach, try Coney Island in Brooklyn, just to walk along the boardwalk and check out "the scene."
Free Walking Tours
All across the city visitors will find free walking tours within one of the five boroughs. The list is surprisingly extensive and might include a tour of Grand Central Station, the Federal Reserve Bank or a Brooklyn brewery.
Walking tour information: