January 18, 2022 10:37 pm

Five programs to visit New York for free (or almost)

There is a popular saying that proclaims: “He who converts does not have fun.” And really, today more than ever, it is convenient to avoid the dreadful temptation to multiply dollars into pesos when one is in vacation mode. With that being said, here are a number of wonderful activities to do in New York that are free or for less than three dollars.

St Patricks, famous for their concerts.Mariana Rapoport

Who does not fall in love with the beautiful neo-Gothic silhouette of St. Patrick’s Cathedral? Unlike other European churches, in this Catholic temple from the late 1800s, admission is free. But, in addition, it has another very interesting condiment: every Sunday they organize organ concerts for free. The Sunday Afternoon Kilkgen Organ Recital Series are known for the high quality of the musicians invited and, after the expected stop during the pandemic, they reopened last October. They begin religiously at 3.15pm and precede Mass at 4pm. It does not require a prior reservation (it can accommodate up to 2400 souls) but to make sure there are no last minute changes and to know the programming, check in the web.

Its shape is strange and its location, plus: Little Island is the new floating park, with strange concrete sculptural forms, which seem to emerge from the bottom of the Hudson River.

Little Island
Little IslandMariana Rapoport

It is compact in size: it occupies a little less than a kilometer of surface and stands on the remains of Pier 54, destroyed during Hurricane Sandy that hit the New York coast in October 2012 (all that coastal area is in a strong process of transformation ).

It is next to the tourist corridor: a minute walk from the High Line, at the height of 13th and 14th streets and two blocks from Chelsea Market. In addition to winding trails lined with lush local flora, it offers a rather soulless fast food court and an open-air amphitheater with lovely views of the river and New Jersey.

A tip for fans of architecture: it bears the signature of the prestigious London studio Heatherwick, the same one that designed the sculptural The Vessel, en Hudson Yards.

Best time to go? Early in the morning to escape the hordes. Its hours are from 6 in the morning until 8:00 p.m., during the winter.

When one sees this funicular, which we associate with a mountainous scenery, the sensation that awakens us is strange. What are those two metallic red masses doing flying over such an urban landscape? With the same value of the subway trip and the same ticket ($ 2.75), one can happily climb like a child inside the cabin, float over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, and three minutes later land on Roosevelt Island, located above the East River.

Roosevelt Island Tram, Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, NYC
Roosevelt Island Tram, Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, NYCJulienne Schaer/ NYC & Company

This island, which stretches for 3 km, has its own charm: it seems stopped in time, with a definitely small-town cadence, few shops, low-rise buildings, some historical ruins (such as the leper hospital) and the campus. technology of the prestigious Cornell University that has just opened a hotel: the Graduate Roosevelt Island Hotel.

The most touristy point to visit, exaggerating a bit, is the Four Freedoms Park, a park located at the southern end, optimal for enjoying magnificent views of the United Nations building. The creation of iconic American architect Louis Kahn, it opened in May 2012, almost 40 years after it was planned (the delay was due to endless financing problems).

Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island.
Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island.B. Koch

Important fact: the station is at 59th Street and Second Avenue, on the Upper East Side. To avoid further expense, you can walk back over the bridge.

It’s a lovely destination when you want or need to get away for a couple of hours from the Manhattan frenzy. There are practically no cars. The air is pristine. And the views of the Statue of Liberty and the southern skyline of Manhattan are extraordinary.

Governors Island
Governors IslandMariana Rapoport

And, access is another program unto itself. The only way to get to this island of 70 undulating hectares covered in green it is on board a ferry that takes 15 minutes, an ideal time to lower the decibels and set foot in this orchard that was for centuries a defensive base and completed its military life in 1996. Only in 2006 –under an intense rehabilitation program–, it became a park open to the public that It offers recreation, activities for children (they pride themselves on having the longest slides in the city, 17 meters long each), open-air concerts, art exhibitions, among other interesting etceteras.

At times, one feels that one travels in the tunnel of time to the colonial era. There are fortifications, artillery pieces, mansions in the southern colonial style, built throughout the 1800s, to house officers and their families.

Important: the ferry trip is free during the weekend, if you board before noon (if not, it costs $ 3 round trip; they strongly recommend doing reserva online only the one way trip.

Another fact: they organize free tours that leave the Soissons Landing Welcome Center on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:45 am, 12:45 am and 2:45 pm.

Whitney Museum
Whitney Museum

An important clarification: you can no longer spontaneously enter the Whitney Museum, specializing in American art, during these rare times: they require to buy the ticket on line and put the card for the value of 25 dollars (let’s say it with all the letters: they are 5000 pesos that hurt). With one exception to the rule: under the Pay what you Wish modality –option that the Metropolitan had but only works for local residents– on Fridays between 7 pm and 10 pm you can go practically free. A dollar or two is enough if your pocket is tight. With the plus that it is bought online and face-to-face is avoided at the physical ticket office.

Frick Madison.
Frick Madison.

The magnificent building signed by the architect Marcel Breuer had other tenants: it was the headquarters of the Whitney, after the Met and since the beginning of this year, it has become the temporary home of the Frick Collection, an art center specialized in the great European masters (We are talking about Ingres, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Vermeer). This institution also offers the modality of “pay what you want” on Thursdays between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. and they make it easier for you: buying on line there are the different price options that go from the dollar to climb to 22, the usual figure.

Location: 945 Madison Avenue and 75th Street.


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