As a New York resident for nearly four years, I’m more than well aware that this city is expensive. Despite the absurdly high rents and general costs of daily life, I’ve managed to live here as a freelancer without any real problems. Of course I’m not eating out every night or bar hopping my way through the weekend, but if you take the time to figure out how to live here without breaking the bank, New York can work for you.
Here are 5 of my favorite free (or nearly free) ways to experience the cultural side of New York City.
1) Enjoy the Great Indoors
New York in the summer is probably the best time to visit for free events. On any given day you can head to Brooklyn for a free concert, sample food during the weekend food markets or watch “Shakespeare in the Park” live in Central Park. In the winter, however, it’s sometimes necessary to think outside the box. If you are in town and hoping to connect with other locals or travelers with similar interests, there are a few ways to get involved. Meetup is a good place to start. Most groups hold meetings once a week and many are completely free of charge. There are also a lot of “Free NYC” type sites that compile a list of events and activities that take place throughout each month.
2) Gallery Hop in Chelsea
This is one of my favorite things to do year-round. On most Thursdays, New York’s most premier Chelsea galleries open their doors to the general public for free. Granted, most people who attend are there for the art and not just for the complimentary wine and cheese offered at many of the galleries but you will run into the occasional free loader. Even so, this is a great opportunity to meet new people, view new art installations and warm-up with a nice glass of wine. After seeing a preview of their urban-themed street art exhibit this past summer, ArtNowNY is one of my favorite new galleries to check out.
3) “Pay What You Wish” at Select Museums
If you are looking for a less social and more organized art experience, New York has enough museums to keep you entertained for days. My personal favorite is the Guggenheim Museum located on the Upper East Side. Every Saturday from 5:45-7:45pm (plan to get there by 7:15pm at the latest) the museum offers a “pay what you wish” entrance fee. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) holds their “pay what you wish” on Fridays from 4:30-8:15pm. The only downside of this is that the museum is more crowded than usual but that’s to be expected. The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum is completely free and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of their rotating exhibitions.
4) Catch a Comedy Show
I never though I’d consider myself a comedy show type of girl, but I actually met a few friends this way. I moved to NYC days after graduating college and besides the obvious of finding a job to pay rent, I wanted to make friends. After a few weeks in the city, a friend and I met the organizer of a free local comedy show and we were hooked. We not only enjoyed laughing our heads off but we befriended many of the comics and would sometimes grab drinks with them after their weekly gig. A lot of bars and restaurants schedule free comedy shows because they are expecting patrons to buy a drink in the process. It’s a win-win situation in my book.
5) Learn Something New
My favorite thing to do the past few months is take classes to sharpen my skills. In the last month alone, I’ve signed up for another session of intensive Spanish language classes and two in-depth HTML/CSS intro sessions. These cost money of course but that’s not always the case. Last year for example, a few notable events included Etsy Craft Night at Etsy Labs, and Intro to Improv at Magnet Theatre and a Bike-repair class at Time’s Up. For a mind and body workout, Yoga to the People is an East Village studio offering daily classes where participants. The suggested fee is $10 but there is no minimum requirement.
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