5 Free Midtown Manhattan Attractions That You Should See

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5 Free Midtown Manhattan Attractions That You Should See

When someone thinks of the grandeur and urbanity associated with New York City, they’re likely thinking of the Midtown area of Manhattan. Midtown is home to the world’s largest central business district and to the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, and the United Nations Headquarters. The Times Square area alone welcomes up to 60 million annual visitors. With a reputation like that, it’s granted that many activities around the Midtown area are quite pricey. 

But there are also a number of things to do here that are free, or that can be done on a conservative budget. Not all happenings in Midtown require that you fork over a lot of your pocket money. Touring these places in Midtown, and thus making the most out of your budget, could be the highlight of your trip to NYC. 

Along with some strategies for managing your pocket money, here’s a list of 5 spots in Midtown that you can visit for free. What follows are short details about each place and what you can spend on for a few more dollars. 

Strategies for Saving Money on Your Trip to Midtown Manhattan

Before visiting any attraction in NYC, it’s best to plan ahead. Find directions to each location in advance, either online or using an app like Citymapper. Check out what events are happening in that location around the time you arrive in Manhattan, and look for schedules that align with yours. That way, you’ll know how much to allot for transportation, you won’t get lost, and you’ll know what exactly you’re in for. 

It would also help if you stay somewhere that’s accessible to these attractions. A top pick is the Westgate Grand Central Hotel, whose official website you can access at https://westgateresorts.com/hotels/new-york/midtown-manhattan/westgate-new-york-grand-central/. Ask hotel staff about their own top picks in Midtown so that you can feel as familiar there as a native New Yorker.  

Without further ado, here’s the ultimate list of free attractions that you can find in Midtown Manhattan. For adjacent activities that aren’t 100% free, don’t forget to bring extra pocket money!

1. Grand Central Station

To New Yorkers, Grand Central Station is more than just a transport artery. There, they can also shop, dine at Manhattan’s coziest restaurants, and partake in some of the borough’s milestone social events. If you’re a visitor to Grand Central Station, you’ll want to loiter before catching your next train ride. Luckily, there are some spots you can head over to without needing to spend another dime.   

What You Can Do for Free: You can wander around Grand Central’s art deco lobby and snap a photo or two. Or, as the adage goes, you can meet a loved one at the clock (the Main Concourse Information Booth’s clock) and document the occasion. You can also look for the Whispering Gallery above the cathedral and use its neat acoustic trick to play a game of “pass-the-message” with a friend. 

What You Can Do for a Few Extra Dollars: Don’t forget to spend a New York minute getting a bite to eat. Save some money for a meal at Grand Central’s Dining Concourse. This is where you can find everything from fresh oysters to buttermilk chicken to some of the most heavenly doughnuts in New York!

2. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a key landmark in Midtown Manhattan. It’s also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and it’s important enough to the Catholic community to be called “America’s Parish Church.” But it also welcomes tourists of all faiths. If you need a break from the noise of NYC, come to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ponder its neo-Gothic façade. It won’t cost you big bucks to do so. 

What You Can Do for Free: If you’re of the Roman Catholic faith, you can attend one of the cathedral’s services. Otherwise, you can take pictures within the vicinity. 

What You Can Do for a Few Extra Dollars: In order to see the interiors of the cathedral up close, you can spend for a day pass. You’ll be in for some awe-inspiring sights, as the church has just finished its 10-year restoration. 

3. The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is one of the most important cultural institutions in the city. With 53 million books and other items in its catalog, it’s the second largest library in America and the third largest in the world. Best of all, admission here is free. If you’re a bibliophile, the New York Public Library has to be on your travel bucket list. 

What You Can Do for Free: Admission to the New York Public Library is free. They also host two free tours, the Building Tour and Exhibition Tour. In addition, there’s a number of programs and events that the public can attend at no cost. 

What You Can Do for a Few Extra Dollars: Other events in the library have ticketing requirements. Be sure to check the library’s bulletin to see which exact events are free and which are paid. 

4. Bryant Park

A short distance away from the New York Public Library Building is the beloved Bryant Park. It’s the place to be if you want to people-watch, play chess or backgammon, or simply sit down and enjoy a takeout cup of coffee. Park culture is very much alive in Midtown Manhattan and still a favorite pastime of New Yorkers, thanks to Bryant Park. 

What You Can Do for Free: There’s a wealth of free outdoor activities that you can join at Bryant Park, including movie screenings, yoga classes, and in the winter, ice skating.If you’re in Midtown in July or August, you can also look forward to the Broadway in Bryant Park shows. When these are in session, you can see cast members of upcoming Broadway productions rehearse. It’ll be as if you saw them in the actual theater for a few moments. 

What You Can Do for a Few Extra Dollars: Dining options at the Bryant Park are excellent. Set aside some money for dinner at the Bryant Park Grill and Café, or check out some of the food kiosks in the area. 

5. Broadway

An excursion to Midtown Manhattan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Broadway. There are many people for whom attending a musical theater show at Broadway is a dream. Broadway is worth shelling out for, but there are some instances that you can score free or largely discounted tickets. 

What You Can Do for Free: Some shows during the biannual Broadway Week have two-for-one prices, which means at least one person in your party can attend for free. Be sure to look up the schedules so that you know for which shows this promo applies. 

What You Can Do for a Few Extra Dollars: You can also take the chance of entering a digital ticket lottery and scoring a ticket for $10. If you’re still willing to spend on a Broadway show but would appreciate the discount, you can buy discounted tickets at a TKTS stall. 

If you look hard enough, plan early enough, and are flexible in your sightseeing style, there’ll be a lot to enjoy in Midtown for free. Savor the best of New York’s history, culture, and recreation even when you’re on a travel budget!

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