Free New York!

Tour the Big Apple without taking a bite out of your savings
Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Who's buried in Grant's tomb?

Close your eyes and imagine a trip to New York City. If you're like most people you visualize the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center covered in dollar bills. Visiting New York can get very pricy. All those luscious dinners out and high-end hotels eat into your travel budget. However, with some clever planning you can spend your whole trip free-wheeling around New York. Get out your sturdy walking shoes and some sunblock--there's lots of ground to cover.


The Brooklyn Bridge

A group called Free Tours by Foot has a New York branch and you can see most of the city with this gang. They have tours of SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights, Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village, Harlem, and Central Park. They also have a compact, highlights only tour by foot and subway called the All-in-One New York Tour. If you prefer your tours with food, you're in luck. They have foodie tours of the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village and Chinatown. You pay only for the snacks you eat. They say $7-10 will take care of most appetites. Everything else is free! They work for tips, but only if you feel they deserve it.


Free walking tours can get you into or up close to almost every cool building in Manhattan. The Times Square Exposé Free Walking Tour takes you behind the scenes every Friday at noon. Join the tour, rain or shine, at the Times Square Visitor Center. Sign up ahead of time at the NYC & Co Official Visitor Information Desk at 810 7th Avenue at 53rd Street.

The Downtown Alliance has free 90-minute guided walking tours every Thursday and Saturday at 12:00pm through the financial capital of the world. Stops include the U.S. Custom House, Trinity Church, Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and other architectural and cultural sites. Check the Downtown Alliance web site for more details.

Saturdays at 2:00, the Union Square Partnership and Big Onion Walking Tours provide a free 90-minute walking tour. You'll explore the history, the people, the companies, and the ideas that made Union Square what it is today. Meet in front of the George Washington Statue in Union Square Park's South Plaza. No reservations are required. For more information, call (212) 517-1826.

If you want more flexibility, try a podcast or print out of New York's film and television show locations. The Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting presents a self-guided podcast tour narrated by some of our favorite New York and Hollywood personalities. You'll visit spots made famous by Sex and the City, Men in Black, The Godfather, Ghostbusters and many more.  Go to their website to download.

Central Park's Belvedere Castle


Get your exercise with a Central Park guided tour. Led by friends of the Park you'll cover the grounds, including the castle, the ramble, the sheep meadow, and Seneca Village. Reservations are only required for groups of over six people. Get details of their offerings at their website or call 212 360 2726.

The High Line is always free, fun and open all year. Free tours of the High Line's history are sometimes offered. You can get more information by calling 212 206-9922 or going to their website.

A tour of Grand Central Terminal and the neighborhood is offered by the Grand Central Partnership every Friday at 12:30PM. Meet in the street-level atrium at 120 Park Avenue, at the southwest corner of East 42nd St and Park Ave directly across from Grand Central Terminal. For more information visit their website.

As much fun as New York is just wandering the streets, watching people and exploring neighborhoods you've never visited, expert commentary often helps. Check out some of these tours and see the city through native eyes.

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