As either Thomas Hobbes or hair-metal band Ratt (we forget which) once observed: “You’ve gotta pay to play… nobody rides for free.” It’s a truth that’s especially… truthful here in America’s cultural and cost-of-living capital. So it is with the idea of a level playing field that we present a guide to the best New York has to offer, at the one rate everyone can accept. This way you can use your stimulus check to pay off your mounting credit card debt.
FREE DAYS & TIMES AT MUSEUMS; CULTURAL EVENTS
1 Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave, metmuseum.org) Pay-what-you-wish policy really means “pay what you wish.”
2 The Cloisters (Fort Tryon Park, metmuseum.org) This far northern branch of the Met is a Medievalist’s happy daydream. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30am to 5:15pm. Again, pay what you wish.
3 American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West and 79th St, amnh.org) The regular collection is free… the special shows are not. Open daily,10am to 5:45pm.
4 Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave, mcny.org) If you live in East Harlem, say you’re “a neighbor” and they won’t even suggest that you pay to enter! Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Closed Mondays except holidays.
5 Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Ave, elmuseo.org) The art, history and culture of New York’s Latin and Caribbean communities in one Google Map-able spot. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm.
6 Brooklyn Museum of Art (200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, brooklynmuseum.org) Mark the first Saturday of the month in your calendar for some very cool, very free art. Free every first Saturday, after 5pm.
7 MUSEUM OF MODERN ART TARGET FREE FRIDAY NIGHTS (11 W 53RD ST) ALTER YOUR STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS WITHOUT COMMITTING A FELONY! OLAFUR ELIASSON’S TAKE YOUR TIME IS AT MOMA THROUGH JUNE 30TH. FREE EVERY FRIDAY EVENING, 4PM TO 8PM.
8 Rubin Museum of Art (150 W 17th St, rmanyc.org) The beauty of the Himalayas (and more) in Chelsea. Free every Friday evening, 7pm to 10pm.
FOOD & DRINK
9 Free pizza at Alligator Lounge (600 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, 718-599-4440) Served every evening until 3:30am.
10 Free pizza at Crocodile Lounge (325 E 14th St, 212-477-7747) Served every evening until 3:30am.
11 Free Bagel Brunch at Blind Tiger Ale House (518 Hudson St, blindtigeralehouse.com) Served every Sunday at 1pm.
12 Free Wine Tastings at Astor Wines and Spirits (399 Lafayette St, astorwines.com) Schedule of events available on website.
13 L’ora dell’Aperitivo at Ama restaurant (48 MacDougal St, amanyc.com) The chef lays out cheese, sausage and prosciutto to be enjoyed with the purchase of a cocktail ($10). Served weekdays from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.
14 Truffled popcorn and spiced gaufrettes at HQ (90 Thompson St, 212-966-2755) Fancy French waffle cookies are on the house.
15 Parmesan and paprika-dusted malfatti (fried pasta dough) chips at Dani (333 Hudson St, danirestaurant.com).
16 Free Tater Tots with drinks at Trash Bar (256 Grand St, Brooklyn, thetrashbar.com).
17 Free hot dogs, veggie dogs and bagels with drinks at Lost and Found (113 Franklin St, Brooklyn, myspace.com/greenpointteenagekicks).
18 Free hot dogs with drinks at Rudy’s Bar (627 Ninth Ave, 212-974-9169).
19 Free BBQ with drinks at Hank’s Saloon on Sundays and Mondays (46 Third Ave, Brooklyn, 718-625-8003).
20 Free nacho-and-wing buffet at Happy Hour at Rodeo Bar (375 Third Ave, rodeobar.com) Served weekdays from 4pm to 8pm.
21 Free chicken wings with drinks on Fridays at Boss Tweed’s (115 Essex St, bosstweeds.com).
22 DRINK FREE IF YOU BRING 15 PEOPLE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY (OR OTHER CELEBRATORY OCCASION) AT BUSHWICK COUNTRY CLUB (618 GRAND ST, BROOKLYN, (bushwickcountryclub.com).
23 Drink free on your birthday at Bar XII (206 E 34th St, bar12.com).
24 Drink free any night during the week of your birthday at Porky’s NYC (55 W 21st St, porkysnyc.com).
25 Drink free on your birthday at Proof Bar and Lounge (239 Third Ave, proofnyc.com).
26 Drink for free on your birthday at Stanton Public if you bring ten guests (17 Stanton St, stantonpublic.com).
27 Free admission, champagne and goody bag when you reserve a table for your birthday at Pacha NYC (618 W 46th St, pachanyc.com).
28 Tour of Brooklyn Brewery & free beer samples on Saturdays (79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, brooklynbrewery.com).
29 Name Night at No Idea (30 E 20th St, noideabar.com) Every day, No Idea posts a name chosen at random on its website (noideabar.com). If it’s your name, you drink for free from 5pm to 11pm.
30 Frequent Drinker Program at Pacific Standard (82 Fourth Ave, Brooklyn, pacificstandardbrooklyn.com) The Frequent Drinker Program works like the Frequent Flyer Program. The more you drink at PS, the more “yards” you earn. Trade in yards for prizes like Broadway show tickets and keg parties.
31 Free Wine Tastings at Sea Grape Wine Shop (512 Hudson St, seagrapewines.com) Thursdays from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Sea Grape is a “snob-free zone.”
32 Free Wine Tastings at Sherry-Lehman (679 Madison Ave, 212-838-7500) The date and time are usually advertised in the Friday New York Times, a local publication.
33 Free PBR from 8:30pm to 10pm on Tuesdays at The Lazy Catfish (593 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, 718-599-9055).
34 Free vodka drinks and Budweiser are served in the basement of Lit (93 Second Ave, litloungenyc.com) from midnight to 12:30am on Thursdays, so it’s important to be ready and in place when the time comes. And use a condom.
35 Free vodka drinks on Wednes-days from 5pm to 6pm at the Blue Owl (196 Second Ave, blueowlnyc.com).
36 BLUE MONDAY AT BAR BQ (689 SIXTH AVE, BROOKLYN, brooklynbarbq.com) START THE WEEK OFF WITH A REBEL YELL (BOURBON)! IT’S SERVED
FREE ON MONDAYS FROM 7PM TO 8PM.
37 M at Darkroom (165 Ludlow St, 212-353-0536) Free PBR from 11pm to midnight on Mondays, for all of you who are clutching, white-knuckled, to the weekend.
38 MTA Condoms/NYC condoms. In early 2007 Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city would be issuing and giving away latex condoms with the city’s subway lines on the wrappers. These and NYC condoms are available at bars and through the Housing Works program. For more info go to nyc.gov.
39 The Staten Island Ferry. The ferry leaves from Whitehall Street (Manhattan), and from St. George (Staten Island). Feel the wind in your hair, be drunk by the time you get to Staten Island (siferry.com).
40 Free screening for and treatment of tuberculosis, provided by the New York Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene. This stuff is spread by airborne transmission and it is not pretty. Incredibly, the city offers free treatment and screening for TB. Check nyc.gov for more details.
41 New York City Free Clinic (16 E 16th St) Volunteer doctors and NYU med students offer free consultations, physicals, lab services, radiology and pharmaceuticals. Every Saturday from 9am to noon. For more info go to med.nyu.edu/nycfreeclinic.
42 NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s free STD clinics (2238 Fifth Ave; 158 E 115th St; 160 W 100th St; 303 Ninth Ave, hafnyc.org) The city of New York provides free and confidential screening for, and treatment of, STDs. Take note, Rest of the Country. For more info, go to nyc.gov.
43 Free HIV testing at Hispanic AIDS Foundation locations [HAF Bronx, 866 Westchester Ave; HAF Manhattan, 213 W 35th St; HAF Queens, 62-07 Woodside Ave, hafnyc.org] Another free STD screening and
treatment option in NYC giving you little excuse to not get tested.
44 Free services/medications offered through the municipal Smoking Cession programs. Quit smoking for free, on the city. For more info, go to nyc.gov.
FESTIVALS & SCREENINGS; ON-GOING CULTURAL PROGRAMS
45 Siren Music Festival at Coney Island. For the seventh consecutive year, the Village Voice will take over Coney Island for an afternoon of sweaty indie rock. July 19 at Coney Island. More info at villagevoice.com/siren.
46 New York Philharmonic in the Park. Let the Philharmonic provide the background music for your kickball game. See nyphil.org for dates and times.
47 MET IN THE PARKS. THE METROPOLITAN OPERA PERFORMS IN PARKS THROUGHOUT THE CITY AND EVEN JERSEY IN THE SUMMERS. SEE metoperafamily.org FOR DATES AND TIMES.
48 JellyNYC McCarren Park Pool Parties. This free live music event takes place in an empty swimming pool that’s been closed for renovations since 1983. So Brooklyn. Sundays during the summer months; see thepoolparties.com.
49 SummerScreen. Our very own summer film series starts July 8 at McCarren Park Pool, and continues every Tuesday at sundown through August 26. More info at brooklynvergan.com.
50 Free films and lectures at the King Juan Carlos of Spain Center at NYU (53 Washington Sq South, Ste 201, nyu.edu/kjc) Watch free Spanish-language films and hear Spanish-language lectures, all free and open to the public.
51 Naumberg Bandshell Orchestral Concerts. A few friends, a blanket and a discreet beverage (it’s illegal to drink outside) create a relaxing and atmospheric summer night. Tuesdays at 7:30pm in the summer. More info at naumbergconcerts.org.
52 River to River Festival. NYC’s largest free arts festival will be held at various locations throughout downtown Manhattan from June through September. (rivertorivernyc.com).
53 Toyota concerts series on the Today Show (Rockefeller Center) Watch the musical acts from the Today Show, live and in person. Friday mornings, through September, 7am to 10am.
54 Good Morning America Concert Series (Bryant Park) Similar to the Today Show concerts, but located elsewhere. Friday mornings, May through August, 8:30am to 9am.
55 Washington Square Music Festival. Musicians who would normally be at Lincoln Center or BAM are in Washington Square in June and July. June 21st at 5pm, July 8th, 15th and 22nd at 8pm (washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org).
56 Central Park Summerstage (72nd St off of 5th Ave) Comics, poets and Vampire Weekend can all be enjoyed for free this summer on Rumsey Playfield.
57 Bryant Park HBO Summer Film Screenings. Join the rest of New York City in Bryant Park on Monday nights at sunset from June through August (bryantpark.org/calendar).
58 Movies with a View from the Brooklyn Bridge. Are outdoor film screenings friendlier and more relaxed in Brooklyn? Find out at Movies with a View from the Brooklyn Bridge (Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, Brooklyn, brooklynbridgepark.org).
59 ROOFTOP FILMS IS ARGUABLY THE CITY’S HIGHEST AND DEFINITELY ITS MOST MOBILE SCREENING. SHORT FILMS SUBMITTED TO THE FESTIVAL’S COORDINATORS ARE PLAYED ON ROOFTOPS THROUGHOUT THE CITY (rooftopfilms.com).
60 Broadway in Bryant Park. Don’t pay big bucks to see a Broadway show: performers from Broadway musicals give free concerts in Bryant Park on Thursdays in the summer at 12:30pm (bryantpark.org/calendar/broadway).
61 Mad Sq Music. Called “mad” not for its zany antics but for its location, Mad Sq Music is a series of free outdoor concerts held in Madison Square Park in the summer (madisonsquarepark.org/Programs/MadSqMusic).
62 Summer in the Square, Union Square. Free concerts, performances and yoga classes are held in Union Square from June through August (unionsquarenyc.org).
63 Summer on the Hudson (Riverside Park South) An eclectic selection of films are shown at this free summer screening series(last year’s lineup included North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and Caddyshack).
64 Harlem Meer Performance Festival (Central Park) Jazz, blues, gospel and Latin music are played every Sunday afternoon in the summer, waaay way up there in the park.
65 Jazzmobile (154 W 127th St) Jazzmobile has a fixed location and hosts several free concerts and educational programs throughout July and August.
66 SummerNights at El Museo (1230 Fifth Ave) Free concerts are held on Thursdays at El Museo throughout June, July and August. It also hosts a parade at Christmas, which makes it a pretty fun-loving museum.
67 Clinton Concert Series at Clinton Cove Park (5th St at the Hudson river; Pier 84 at 44th St) This event combines live music and kayaking, both free onsite.
68 Lincoln Center Outdoors (Lincoln Center plazas) Music, dance, performance art and children’s events. August 7-24.
69 River Rocks. Free summer concerts at Pier 54 (at 14th St and the Hudson River).
70 Hudson River Park’s Moon Dance (Pier 54, at 14th St) Learn to swing (or tango or salsa, depending on the night) under the stars — no experience necessary. Sundays at 6:30pm in summer.
71 Summer Garden Concerts at Flushing Town Hall (137-35 Northern Blvd, Queens) Fridays in July and August.
72 Celebrate Brooklyn! A free concert series (a variety of music will be played) in Prospect Park Bandshell (briconline.org).
73 South Street Seaport Music Festival (Pier 17, South Street Seaport) May 30 through August 29 on Fridays (seaportmusicfestival.com).
74 Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series. A summer concert series celebrating black musicians, at Wingate Field, Brooklyn (brooklynconcerts.com).
75 CHARLIE PARKER JAZZ FESTIVAL (MARCUS GARVEY PARK AND TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK) THE CHARLIE PARKER JAZZ FESTIVAL CELEBRATES BIRD’S MUSIC IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS IN WHICH HE LIVED: HARLEM AND THE EAST VILLAGE.
76 Shakespeare in the Parking Lot (The Municipal Parking Lot, Ludlow and Broome Sts) Sets are made out of cardboard, and Romeo could be a long-haul trucker — this isn’t the Delacorte.
77 Outdoor Cinema at Socrates Sculpture Park (Broadway at Vernon Blvd, LI City) This international film festival takes place in a sculpture garden built by local artists on top of a former landfill and dumpsite. July through August.
78 Bumble and Bumble University (415 W 13th St) Free haircuts, styling and color from top-stylists-in-the-making.
79 Walk-Up Kayaking at the New York City Downtown Boathouse [Pier 40 at Houston St; Pier 96 at 56th St; at 72nd St, on the walkway] Get up-close and personal with the Hudson River.
80 Governor’s Island. Check out govisland.com to see the winning design for the new park and promenade at this national historic landmark.
81 Free Walking Tour of Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhoods with historian Justin Ferate (meets Fridays at 12:30 pm in the Sculpture Court at the Whitney Museum at Altria). Learn strange secrets and anecdotes about Grand Central and Midtown (grandcentralpartnership.org).
82 CBS Mobile Zone (Times Square to Central Park South/Sixth to Eighth Aves) Did you know you could get free wireless in Midtown, courtesy of CBS?
83 Free bus service in Manhattan to the NY Waterways Ferry on 38th Street (57th St, 49th St, 42nd St, 34th St, and all MTA bus stops along those routes)/ Those colorful, old-timey buses will give you a free ride around downtown.
84 Battery Park American Merchant Mariner’s Monument (Pier A, The Battery) A dramatic rescue at sea is depicted in artist Marisol’s partially-submerged 1988 statue (lowermanhattan.info).
85 Mr. Cheap Advice (mrcheapadvice.com) Marty, a.k.a Mr. Cheap Advice, offers free advice via his website. He insists that he is not spamming, and simply wants to help people for free.
86 Free dental cleaning and other services at the New York College of Technology (Dental Hygiene Clinic, 259 Adams St, Pearl Building, 2nd Fl; 300 Jay St, Brooklyn).
87 Free Netflix-style DVD rentals through NY Public Library (nypl.org/branch/collections/dmc.html).
88 Free haircuts at The Shop Savoir-Phaire (1184 E 180th St) Wednesday from 4:30pm to 8pm. All customers are welcome.
89 Downtown Alliance free walking tour (1 Bowling Green) The tour meets at the front steps of the US Custom House on Thursdays and Saturdays at noon, rain or shine.
90 Free makeup lessons from Shu Uemera (121 Greene St).
91 Karaoke Dokey at Pianos (158 Ludlow St) Monday nights at 10pm.
92 Bingo Night at Black Rabbit Bar (91 Greenpoint Ave) Bingo Night is hosted by Bobby Tisdale of Invite Them Up on Sunday nights at 7pm.
93 Nerd Alert at Black Rabbit Bar (91 Greenpoint Ave) Timmy Williams of The Whitest Kids U’Know hosts “the world’s nerdiest trivia night.” Tuesdays from 8pm to 10pm.
94 Ukulele Cabaret at Jimmy’s No.43 [73 E 7th St (downstairs)] Experience NYC’s burgeoning underground ukelele scene on the last Saturday of every month at 7pm.
95 Karaoke at The Duplex (61 Christopher St) Saturday nights at midnight.
HIDDEN ATTRACT-IONS (FOR FREE)
96 30th Street Station House (138 W 30th St) This medieval fortress-style building was built in 1908 in what was then known as the Tenderloin, the heart of gambling and prostitution in New York City.
97 Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park (Eastern edge of Central Park, at about 75th Street) This obelisk was given to the city by the Egyptians in thanks for America’s help building the Suez Canal, and is probably the oldest thing in the whole city.
98 SUBWAY MAP EMBED-DED IN THE SIDEWALK (GREEN ST BETWEEN SPRING AND PRINCE STS) BELGIAN ARTIST FRANCOISE SCHEIN CREATED “SUBWAY MAP FLOATING ON A NEW YORK SIDEWALK” IN 1986. INLAID METAL RODS AND CIRCLES IN THE PAVEMENT FORM A MANHATTAN-ONLY SUBWAY MAP THAT’S NOT TOTALLY UP-TO-DATE — BUT IT’S A GREAT HIDDEN GEM TO SHOW OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS.
99 NYC’s other Statues of Liberty [43 W 64th St between Broadway and Central Park West; 219 W Broadway] There are more giant green ladies in this city than just that one in the harbor.
100 Smallest Cemetery (Riverside Dr, north of Grant’s Tomb at 122nd St) This site holds only one headstone, erected in the memory of St. Claire Pollock, “an amiable child”. (And a boy!)
101 Faces of the 1920s in Mt. Zion Cemetery (59-63 Fifty-fourth Ave, Queens) Because a process known as “enameling” was popular during the 1920s and 30s, photographs of people in period dress are embedded in the tombstones of many of the dead at Mt. Zion Jewish cemetery in Queens. Check them out for a slightly eerie window into New York’s past.
102 Blockhouse (Central Park near Seventh Ave) The blockhouse was built as a defense against British invasion during the War of 1812.
103 Piece of the Berlin Wall (East 53rd St between Fifth and Madison Aves) A heavily-graffitied piece of the wall stands in front of an office building in Midtown.
THINGS YOU HAVE TO LIE OR STEAL A LITTLE IN ORDER TO GET FOR FREE
104 Dumpster Diving Meetup (dumpsterdiving.meetup.com) Mem-bers of this website receive information about dumpster-diving meetups organized by New York City freegans. Food is culled from dumpsters and trashcans and meals are prepared for all who care to partake.
105 Free Wireless Internet at ING Direct Café (45 E 49th St) ING Direct café offers free internet access to its customers. One must convincingly impersonate a customer to use the internet for free.
106 Free hard-boiled eggs at Boxers Pub (190 W 4th St) Two towering egg trees stand on the bar at Boxers. You must pretend to be a patron of the bar, but the eggs are free for plucking off of the wire branches.
107 Free pasta at O’Flaherty’s (334 W. 46th St) When the kitchen closes, steaming bowls of pasta are set out on the bar. Arrive around 10pm and look like you ordered something.
108 Free buffet at Tracy J’s Watering Hole (106 E 19th St) During happy hour, from 5:30pm to 6:30pm a free buffet is piled with pizza, wings and Caesar Salad. The rush is so great that they probably won’t notice that
you’re not buying anything from them.
109 Free cheezballs, Twizzlers and lollipops at The Levee (212 Berry St, Brooklyn) These free snacks can be pilfered without a purchase. They are just sitting there on the bar, waiting to be taken.
110 Free Happy Hour buffet at The Thirsty Scholar (155 Second Ave) The bar gets really busy during happy hour, from 5pm to 8pm, so it’s easy to go in and grab starchy free fare off the buffet table without too many people noticing. 5pm to 8pm.
111 Free food samples at Trader Joe’s (142 E 14th St) Trader Joe’s gives away free food samples to people in the store (presumably but not necessarily customers). Open daily 9am to 5pm.
112 Free praline-covered pecans on the counter at Max Brenner (141 Second Ave; 841 Broadway) Mon-Thu 8am to 11pm; Fri-Sat 8am to 1am; Sun 9am to 11pm.
113 Free hand massages, makeup appointments and mini-facials at Molton Brown Emporium (515 Madison Ave).
114 FREE FOOD SAMPLES AT CHELSEA MARKET (75 NINTH AVE) FREE. FAT. WITCH. BROWNIES. M-F, 7AM TO 9PM; SAT & SUN, 10AM TO 8PM.
115 Union Square Greenmarket. Vendors like Ronnybrook Farm, Breezy Hill Orchard and DiPaolo Farm give free samples of their wares to passers-by. It helps to look very serious and contemplative when you take the samples, as if you are planning to buy something. Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 8am to 6pm (year-round).