If you want to have fun without spending anything, the free things to do on the Upper West Side are incredible.
The Upper West Side is a wonderful neighborhood to explore if you’re in Manhattan. There are many fun things to do in the neighborhood and what’s great is that some of them are completely free. From going to a museum to attending a free event to seeing a sculpture, there’s a large variety of activities you can do without spending a dime.
This Upper West Side free things to do guide includes the best free activities in the neighborhood!
Free Things To Do on the Upper West Side
Visit the American Folk Art Museum
The American Folk Art Museum is an interesting museum that you can find on the Upper West Side. This museum is free to visit for all visitors making it perfect when looking for free things to do on the Upper West Side.
At the American Folk Art Museum, you can find a collection of more than 8,000 different objects. The museum focuses on art made by folk and self-taught artists.
What’s interesting is that the museum showcases works by artists whose talents are refined through their own experience instead of through the formal training that they have had in the past. Because of this, you can see very unique works of art here in comparison to many art museums.
The works that you can see here include quilts, portrait paintings, and many other types of works, of a lot of different mediums.
Moreover, you can find works here from all across the world and from a period of about 400 years.
In addition to the great works of its permanent collection, you can also see temporary exhibitions here with interesting works. These exhibitions are at the museum for a limited period of time.
For example, you might see a temporary exhibition with quilts.
What’s nice as well is that it is possible to join drop-in docent tours through which you can learn about the current exhibitions, and you can sometimes attend performances at the museum as well.
Address: 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023
See the Firemen’s Memorial
The Firemen’s Memorial is a monument that you can find on the Upper West Side on Riverside Drive at 100th Street.
This is a monument that was opened in the year 1913 and it serves as a memorial to New York City’s firefighters who died while doing their work of saving others.
New York City has had many fires throughout its history that destroyed many of the city’s buildings and killed a lot of firefighters. For example, two of the largest fires took place in the years 1835 and 1845.
You can see the monument for free when you are on the Upper West Side.
The Firemen’s Memorial is made from a special type of Marble called “Tennessee Marble”. On the monument, you can see a scene that shows a horse-drawn fire engine that is moved to a fire. Furthermore, the memorial includes an inscription and there are figures at the memorial.
Go to a Free Event at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a very large complex that consists of many buildings. You can find this building on the Upper West Side and it is a great place for a lot of different types of performing arts.
The Lincoln Center is the home of a variety of arts organizations. For example, it is the home of the New York Philharmonic and you can go here to listen to great classical music.
You can also go here for great ballet shows by the New York City Ballet and there are amazing opera shows by the Metropolitan Opera.
Furthermore, you can find Film at Lincoln Center here, which is a place for great independent movies, and Jazz at Lincoln Center is a place for great jazz performances.
What’s great is that there are often free events at the Lincoln Center that are very fun if you’re looking for free activities on the Upper West Side. These free events differ and there are several ones throughout the year.
For example, the “Summer for the City” event is an annual event during which you can enjoy great concerts, live theater shows, dance performances, and art exhibitions. These shows are great to attend for audiences of all ages.
Explore the Permanent Collection of the American Museum of Natural History If You Live in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut
The American Museum of Natural History is a great natural history museum on the Upper West Side. Visiting this museum is one of the best activities that you can do on the Upper West Side, and what’s great is that when you live in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you can see the permanent collection for free.
You can find this museum in Theodore Roosevelt Park and the museum has an interesting permanent collection.
The permanent collection consists of many different types of exhibitions, and each exhibition focuses on a different part of natural history.
For example, you can find exhibitions here related to animals, fossils, rocks, plants, and human cultural artifacts.
Some of the exhibitions that you can find here are the Hall of Biodiversity, the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, and the David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth.
Moreover, some of the most notable items at the museum are the fossil of a tyrannosaurus rex, the Willamette Meteorite, and a model of a blue whale.
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
See the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial
The Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial is a memorial that you can find in Riverside Park.
This is a memorial for Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States when her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President of the United States.
The circular planted part of the memorial was designed by Bruce Kelly and David Varnell, and the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt was created by the sculptor Penelope Jencks.
You can also find a biographical plaque at the monument. This plaque was designed by Michael Dwyer and shows the achievements of Eleanor Roosevelt. For example, you can read here that she expanded the role of the First Lady and that she “fought for the advancement of labor minorities, the poor, women, and young people”.
You can go for a stroll at Riverside Park and see the memorial for free.
Visit the New-York Historical Society on Fridays
If you want to learn about history a great free activity on the Upper West Side is checking out the New-York Historical Society. You can go to this place for free on Fridays from 6 to 8 PM as admission is then pay-as-you-wish.
This is an organization where you can find many different types of exhibitions through which you can learn about New York City’s history which spans about 400 years. The exhibitions all showcase interesting objects related to the city’s story.
The New-York Historical Society has an interesting permanent collection of which you can see objects during exhibitions.
Furthermore, during the year, you can find many different temporary exhibitions here that focus on specific parts of New York City.
In addition to that, lots of events take place at this place. For example, you can listen to talks here.
Address: 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Relax at the West Side Community Garden
The West Side Community Garden is a garden that is located on the Upper West Side. You can find the garden between West 89th Street and West 90th Street, and you can go here completely for free when you are in the neighborhood.
The West Side Community Garden is a privately owned and volunteer-run garden that is a beautiful place where anyone can relax that was founded in the year 1975.
In the garden, you can find beautiful flower beds and other beautiful nature. In addition to that, there are benches that make it easy to relax here, and there are walking paths that make it possible to go here for a relaxing stroll.
See the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
You can also see the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument when you are on the Upper West Side and you can do so for free. This is a monument that can be found at 89th Street and it consists of twelve columns that together carry a roof.
The monument was completed in the year 1902 and was designed by Stoughton & Stoughton. I is a designated New York City Landmark. Moreover, it is made from white marble and was based on the “Choragic Monument of Lysicrates”, which is an ancient monument that you can find in the Greek city of Athens.
The monument commemorates the soldiers and sailors who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. On the monument, some names of people who played an important role during this war can be seen.
Go to a Free Event at Pier I
Lots of piers can be found in New York City, and one of these piers, Pier I, can be found on the Upper West Side.
This is a pier that extends into the Hudson River from Riverside Park South.
What’s great is that many free events take place at Pier I.
For example, an event that took place here in summer was the “Summer on the Hudson: Star Gazing” event. During this event, it was possible to look at the stars, planets, and moon from 8 PM to 11 PM for free.
Furthermore, sometimes there are events with free music and performances that make for incredible free activities on the Upper West Side, especially during summer.
Another type of event that sometimes takes place at Pier I is sports events. During these events, you can take part in exercise for free.
More Manhattan Articles
Upper West Side Free Things To Do Tips
I’m sure you will have a great time when you are exploring these Upper West Side free things to do, but you can sometimes have an even more fun time when you combine these activities with having a drink somewhere or getting food.
Although this isn’t free, there are many places where you can get affordable food and drinks, such as at a local bakery, and this can make your time so much better!
Free Things To Do on the Upper West Side Map
I hope you liked the free things to do on the Upper West Side. As you see, there are many things you can do without spending a dime!