New York City: 5 free things for visitors to do

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  • It’s ironic in a city with some of the most expensive hotels and restaurants in the world, but many of New York’s best attractions are free.

    So many, in fact, that it’s hard to narrow them down. Most New Yorkers would probably agree that at least a few of the five free things on this list are must-sees, but there’s bound to be debate, which brings us to another famous aspect of life in the Big Apple: Strong opinions.

    TIMES SQUARE: A vibrant public space like no other, even better in person than it looks on TV. Plenty of things here to buy, of course, but the lights, sights and people-watching are free, 24 hours a day.

    CENTRAL PARK: Central Park is the city’s communal backyard, a green space where New Yorkers can escape their small apartments to skate, bike, jog, picnic, push a stroller, walk a dog or climb a rock. Stroll the serpentine paths as dappled sunshine filters through the trees, and consider how well the park fulfills the goal of its 19th century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who sought to create the illusion of nature in an urban environment.

    STATEN ISLAND FERRY: This humble, utilitarian boat takes commuters between Manhattan and Staten Island 24 hours a day, and it’s free. It also offers classic views of the Statue of Liberty, harbor, and skyscraper canyons. Take the No. 1 subway to South Ferry or No. 4 or 5 to Bowling Green to board the boat on the Manhattan side. Be ready for crowds at rush hour and longer waits off-peak.

    BROOKLYN BRIDGE: When it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was an engineering wonder, the longest suspension bridge in the world. It remains a beloved symbol on New York and an aesthetic triumph, with Gothic arches worthy of a cathedral and a delicate filigree of cables whose patterns change with every step along the mile-long walkway. Take the A or C train to High Street, Brooklyn, and walk back to Manhattan for the best skyline views.

    HIGH LINE: One of the city’s newest attractions, the High Line has quickly become a favorite with out-of-towners and locals alike. It’s a narrow park built on an old elevated freight railway along 10th Avenue on Manhattan’s West Side, from Gansevoort Street, just below 14th Street, to 31st Street. It offers a unique look at the urban landscape from 30 feet above ground, with a peek at adjacent apartments, Hudson River views, vestiges of the neighborhood’s industrial past – meatpacking plants, auto shops – as well as signs of a trendy rebirth: postmodern architecture, art installations and Diane von Furstenburg’s DVF building. The northern half is more park-like with plantings, benches and birds.

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