Free fun in New York City?

Dear Alice,

Could you suggest some specific things for NYC students to do for fun? I don't drink or do drugs, and I don't have money to go shopping or to fancy restaurants. When it's nice out I like to walk through Central Park, but I can't think of anything to do at night or in the winter. It's specifically nighttime when boredom hits the most.

Thanks so much,

— Bored in the City

Dear Reader,

Spending the big bucks may seem unthinkable to a cash-strapped city goer, and it's especially true if you're a student pressed between a heavy load of school work and a tight budget. But have no fear — the city that never sleeps offers a plethora of opportunities to learn, explore, and enjoy without blowing all your savings. You could start by checking out NYC: The Official Guide or joining their email list to receive information on free or low-cost things going on around the city. Additionally, a visit to Time Out New York, or even an Internet search for "free things to do in New York City" will likely return more results than you can possibly fit onto your calendar.

Furthermore, being a student in the Big Apple also comes with its own perks to help the financially frugal enjoy their time in the big city. These include:

  • Free museum admission: Your handy student ID card gets current undergraduate and graduate students into thirty museums for free. Additionally, many museums in NYC offer either allow guest to enjoy the museum for free or ask that they pay what they can for a ticket. To help you figure out which museums offer what kind of admissions, the NYC-Arts website created a list of museums that offer free and "pay what you wish" admission, as well as which museums and institutions offer free days or hours.
  • Free and discounted theater tickets: Your college's or university's website may have more information on free shows and discounted tickets that can be acquired with a valid student ID. Additionally, you can look into buying Student Rush Tickets for certain musicals and plays, which tend to cost around $20 to $30!
  • Explore the parks of New York City: With a total of around 1,700 different parks spread across the city, and ranging from small dog parks to behemoths such as Central Park, they offer city-goers break from the hustle and bustle of city life. To help you decide which park to explore first, check out this list of best parks in New York City provide by Time Out!
  • Free campus perks: A majority of schools offer a variety of fitness classes, recreational sports leagues, and other avenues of activity for students looking to get off the couch. If you're interested in learning more, check out your school's website to see what fitness and recreational activities they offer.

Lastly, you can check out your school's page on student activities and development. These pages usually have tons of information on school-related activities, organizations, jobs, and internships to fill the gaps in your schedule.

Overall, there's plenty to do in the city if you're a student on a budget. So, boredom beware as you move onwards towards more and more free fun!

Last updated Apr 22, 2022
Originally published Jan 29, 2010

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