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21 best free things to do in New York City – Lonely Planet

A jazz band playing on stage at St Nick’s Jazz Pub, a former jazz club in New York.

New York City evokes both high-rise luxury and savvy deals. But the best offer in town? The number of free attractions the Big Apple has to enjoy.

You could spend a lifetime here ticking off the best things to do – but have you seen the rental prices? Much better to squeeze in our favorite concerts, museums and tours that are always (rather than only occasionally) free.

1. See one of the world’s loveliest final-resting places at Green-Wood Cemetery

Once the nation’s most visited tourist attraction outside Niagara Falls, gorgeous Green-Wood Cemetery was built in 1838 and today is the eternal home to some 600,000 souls. The 478-acre cemetery is leafy and lovely and features Brooklyn’s highest point, Battle Hill – named after a skirmish during the Revolutionary War and now marked with a seven-foot statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. Watch for the squawking green parakeets at the cemetery’s Gothic-style entrance pavilion; according to local legend, these non-native birds arrived after a mishap at JFK Airport in the 1980s and have called the cemetery home ever since.

2. Visit the moving African Burial Ground National Monument

In 1991, construction workers uncovered a burial ground filled with more than 400 caskets containing the bodies of enslaved Africans from the 17th and 18th centuries – an age when New York had more people in bondage than any American city outside Charleston, South Carolina. Today, tucked among downtown skyscrapers, the African Burial Ground National Monument offers a space for visitors to contemplate the past and learn about the history of the African American community in early New York City.

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3. Discover unsung talent at the American Folk Art Museum

With objects ranging from photographs to quilts to weather vanes in its collection, the American Folk Art Museum is devoted to the appreciation and expressions of self-taught artists, spanning all eras. And perhaps appropriately for an institution devoted to the work of creators from outside the canon, admission is always free.

Seeing live jazz is an essential New York experience for music lovers © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

4. Hear sizzling live jazz at Barbès

Having helped to launch the careers of legendary jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, New York City’s club scene is enshrined into the pages of jazz…

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