free date ideas in nyc | Better Together Here
Living in NYC,  NYC,  Things to Do in NYC

Free Date Ideas in NYC: 21 Fun Options You Haven’t Tried Yet

Finding free date ideas in NYC can be tough…

And sometimes, another coffee shop or bar date just isn’t gonna cut it!

We’ve got your back with 21 free date ideas in New York City. For each idea, we will clarify if it’s 100% free or if there is a small price tag. But, only 2-3 of these have any cost at all, and the rest are completely free date nights!

Here are 21 free date ideas for NYC:

  1. Conservatory Garden in Central Park
  2. Little Island & Pier 57
  3. Kayak the Hudson
  4. Find Live Music in Central Park, Union Square, etc.
  5. Cruise on the Staten Island Ferry
  6. Explore the NYC Public Library on 5th Ave
  7. Walk the Entire High Line
  8. Find a Museum Offering Pay as You Wish for NYC Residents (almost free)
  9. Have a Picnic in Central Park
  10. Offer to Walk a Friend’s Dog
  11. Walk Down Riverside Park
  12. Take Advantage of Culture Pass
  13. Walk Through 6 1/2 Ave
  14. Free Yoga or Dancing in Bryant Park or Hudson River Park
  15. Explore Art Galleries in Chelsea
  16. Get Lost in The Ramble or North Woods of Central Park
  17. Take in the Views at Fort Tryon Park
  18. People Watch & Explore Grand Central Station
  19. Do a Mini Architecture Tour
  20. Volunteer Together
  21. Hang Out in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Let’s look at each one below. 👇

Note: This article was written by a real live human being, not artificial intelligence. 🥸

Free Date Ideas in NYC Podcast Episode

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1- Conservatory Garden in Central Park

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park might be the most beautiful part of Manhattan’s massive park!

From massive fountains to bushes shaped like squirrels and thousands of plants and flowers in between, this garden is a must-do date idea!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out the Conservatory Garden here.

2- Little Island & Pier 57

sunset at little island nyc a perfect date spot | Better Together Here

Pier 57 makes for a perfect date night. Plus, hopping over to Little Island makes it even better!

Pier 57 boasts a food hall with dozens of options (those would cost money), but the rooftop park is 100% free. It offers beautiful views of Little Island, One World Trade Center, and even the Statue of Liberty!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%, unless you choose to get some food at Pier 57.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out Little Island here & Pier 57 here.

3- Kayak the Hudson for Free

The Hudson River Park offers free kayaking during the summer months. It’s a first come, first serve, so with a little planning, you can take advantage! Check out more info about free kayaking here.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100% if you plan ahead.

Is it good for 1st dates? Possibly, but it’s probably better for a 2nd date or later.

4- Find Live Music in Central Park, Union Square, etc.

jazz trio playing in central park | Better Together Here

The only thing better than live music is free live music. Exploring Central Park, Union Square, or other spots in the city can score you a free date with live music!

Bring a drink or a snack and take in live music from talented musicians in the park.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%. But it is nice to tip a few bucks to performers.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

5- Cruise on the Staten Island Ferry

taking the staten island ferry is a free date idea in NYC | Better Together Here

Yep, taking the Staten Island Ferry near the Statue of Liberty is 100% free and is a great date idea!

Don’t get scammed by paying for tickets (see our NYC tourist traps article for more info).

Just hop on, take the ride, and get back on once you’re in Staten Island!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%

Is it good for 1st dates? Probably better for a 2nd date or later.

Get on the Staten Island Ferry here.

6- Explore the NYC Public Library on 5th Ave

Don’t be confused by the idea of exploring a library…

The NYPL on 5th Avenue is impeccable. It feels more like a museum, combined with Hogwarts, combined with a real library where you can check out books. Admission is free, and you can spend ample time exploring the many different floors, exhibitions, and book halls.

beautiful hall in the nypl on 5th ave a perfect free date spot | Better Together Here

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out the NYPL Public Library on 5th Ave here.

7- Walk the Entire High Line

couple on a free date on the high line nyc | Better Together Here

The High Line Park in Chelsea is a perfect free date spot. You can enter and exit at many spots between 12th and 34th streets, making it a great option for a quick date if things are going poorly.

In the summers, you’ll also find food and drink venues along the way. It’s also close to #2 on this list, Pier 57 and Little Island.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

We recommend starting at the 12th Street entrance near The Whitney, but you can enter at multiple spots.

8- Find a Museum Offering Pay What You Wish for NYC Residents (almost free)

massive geode at the american museum of natural history | Better Together Here

If you’re an NYC resident, many museums offer “pay-what-you-wish.” Some of the museums always honor pay-as-you-wish, while others only do so on certain days or certain time blocks. It’s best to check the museum’s website before you head there for a date.

That means you can choose however much you’d like to pay to enter when you buy a ticket.

So, you can pay $1 for you and your date!

Here are some NYC museums that always offer pay-what-you-wish for NYC & NJ residents or are free:

  • American Folk Art Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History (pay what you wish)
  • Bronx Museum (pay what you wish)
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcafé live events
  • Brooklyn Museum (pay what you wish)
  • The Cloisters (pay what you wish)
  • El Museo del Barrio (pay what you wish)
  • Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College
  • Green-Wood Cemetery
  • International Print Center
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (pay what you wish)
  • Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
  • National Museum of the American Indian—Smithsonian Institution
  • New York City Police Museum (pay what you wish)
  • P.S.1 MoMA (pay what you wish)
  • Queens Botanical Garden (free Nov-March)
  • Queens Museum of Art (pay what you wish)
  • SculptureCenter (pay what you wish)
  • Socrates Sculpture Park
  • Staten Island Museum (pay what you wish)
  • Storefront for Art & Architecture
  • Studio Museum in Harlem (pay what you wish)
  • Waterfront Museum

See the full list and other museums that offer pay-what-you-wish at certain times/days.

Is this actually a free date? Not quite, but you could get in for $1. That’s pretty damn close to free!

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep, but maybe 2nd+, depending on how safe you like to play it on 1st dates.

9- Have a Picnic in Central Park

a couple having a picnic at cherry hill in Central Park | Better Together Here

Find a Central Park picnic spot, pack some food and drinks, and you’ve got the perfect free date!

You can, of course, do this in other major parks in the city… We’re just biased toward Central Park.

Is this actually a free date? Kind of… You’d need to buy food, but you could possibly even put a picnic together from food you already have at home.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

10- Offer to Walk a Friend’s Dog

dog watching in central pakr is a fun thing to do | Better Together Here

Walking a dog as a date does two things: it gives you ample time to get to know each other AND lets you filter out someone who isn’t a dog person. 🚩

If you don’t have a dog, offer to walk a friend’s or neighbor’s dog. I’m sure they will appreciate it!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

11- Walk or Bike Down Riverside Park & Hudson River Park

biking down west side highway as a date | Better Together Here

Hudson River Park starts all the way down in the Financial Districts and runs up the west side of Manhattan. Eventually, the park turns into Riverside Park around Midtown and then runs basically the rest of the west side of Manhattan.

There are beautiful views along this path and plenty of spots to stop and take it all in.

two dogs posing at hudson river park | Better Together Here

Similar to the High Line idea above, you can have this date be as long or as short as you’d like.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

This Episodes You’ll Have to Check It Out Segment- Sushi Gama on the UES

Sushi Gama on the Upper East Side is a fantastic option for fresh sushi with quick service and fair prices, especially during happy hour.

Happy hour for food is from 12-6 pm, and drinks are from 3-7 pm.

We love this spot!

Check out Sushi Gama here.

12- Take Advantage of Culture Pass – Possibly the Best Free Date

museum at eldridge street is part of the culture pass | Better Together Here
The Museum at Eldrige Street (above) is free with the Culture Pass

Whether you’re single, married, dating, or just a human being living in NYC generally, you must get the Culture Pass!

All you need is a New York Library card, which is free. Once you have that, you can link your library card to the Culture Pass via their website here.

The Culture Pass gives you free access to 80+ museums and similar experiences across New York City!

Most reservations get you 2, if not 4, free tickets to the experience. Seriously, do not pass on Culture Pass!

We’ve been to museums for free, botanical gardens, and even group tours of historic landmarks. The one caveat of Culture Pass is that some spots only provide a limited amount of passes per month, so popular spots may “sell out.”

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? It can be, but it might be better for 2nd dates or later, depending on where you’re going.

13- Walk Through 6 1/2 Ave

In Midtown Manhattan, you can find 6 1/2 Avenue. Yes, like Platform 9 & 3/4, but slightly less magical.

This block cuts through buildings and public areas between 6th and 7th Ave. It runs from roughly 57th to 51st streets.

It’s a unique spot to check out in the city!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out 6 1/2 Ave here.

14- Free Yoga or Dancing in Bryant Park or Hudson River Park

bryant park offers free activities that are perfect for dates | Better Together Here

Mostly in the Summer, Bryant Park and Hudson River Park will offer free activities.

They’ll offer free salsa dancing, yoga classes, or movie nights. For many of the events, all you have to do is register in advance.

free movie nights at bryant park | Better Together Here

Check out Bryant Park’s schedule here.

Check out Hudson River Park’s schedule here.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? It’s probably better for date #2 or later, depending on the activity.

15- Explore Art Galleries in Chelsea & Maybe Get Free Drinks

While this isn’t limited to Chelsea, this neighborhood has many art galleries. Most of them you can enter for free to browse the art.

If you do some research, you can find galleries that offer free wine and finger foods during their openings or on certain weekend evenings.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

16- Get Lost in The Ramble or North Woods of Central Park

beautiful view of bethesda fountain from the ramble in central park which also makes a great picnic spot | Better Together Here

There isn’t anywhere more peaceful in Manhattan than The Ramble in Central Park.

Explore, get lost, and enjoy nature in the city! You can also find some beautiful spots in the North Woods, too.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Probably not, but it could be.

17- Take in the Views at Fort Tryon Park

fort tryon park is a good simple date spot | Better Together Here

This scenic park offers beautiful views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas.

There are playgrounds, a dog run, and immaculate views! It’s a massive park that is highly underrated.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out Fort Tryon Park here.

18- People Watch & Explore Grand Central Station

inside of grand central terminal | Better Together Here

Whether or not you’ve been to Grand Central Station, it can be a simple and free date idea.

It is a beautiful building with a rich history, loads of areas to check out, and food and drink options available.

Plus, the people-watching is 2nd to none…

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

19- Do a Mini Architecture Tour

views of southern manhattan | Better Together Here

The sky is truly the limit on this date idea. New York City has neighborhoods with outstanding architecture, history, and unique buildings.

You’d be surprised how many unique buildings you can find in a 2-3 block radius.

Google is your friend here for finding specific areas with rich architectural history!

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

20- Volunteer Together

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Probably better for date #3, 4, or later.

21- Hang Out in Brooklyn Bridge Park

5 nyc safety tips from a local | Better Together Here

There’s plenty to do and see during a date here, including walking across the Brooklyn Bridge!

You get beautiful views of Manhattan, and there are phenomenal bars and restaurants in the area surrounding this park.

Is this actually a free date? Yes, 100%.

Is it good for 1st dates? Yep.

Check out the Brooklyn Bridge Park here.

21 Free Date Ideas in NYC Recap

a couple on a date night walking across bow bridge | Better Together Here
On a free date, exploring Central Park

Living in New York City isn’t cheap (hint: that’s why cash is high on our list of best gifts for people moving to NYC), and finding free dates is vital!

To make your life a little bit easier, we’ve put most of these free NYC date ideas in a handy Google Maps list. If you click and follow that list, you’ll see any additions we make in the future!

As a recap, here are 21 unique and free date ideas for your next date in New York City:

  1. Conservatory Garden in Central Park
  2. Little Island & Pier 57
  3. Kayak the Hudson
  4. Find Live Music in Central Park, Union Square, etc.
  5. Cruise on the Staten Island Ferry
  6. Explore the NYC Public Library on 5th Ave
  7. Walk the Entire High Line
  8. Find a Museum Offering Pay as You Wish for NYC Residents (almost free)
  9. Have a Picnic in Central Park
  10. Offer to Walk a Friend’s Dog
  11. Walk Down Riverside Park
  12. Take Advantage of Culture Pass
  13. Walk Through 6 1/2 Ave
  14. Free Yoga or Dancing in Bryant Park or Hudson River Park
  15. Explore Art Galleries in Chelsea
  16. Get Lost in The Ramble or North Woods of Central Park
  17. Take in the Views at Fort Tryon Park
  18. People Watch & Explore Grand Central Station
  19. Do a Mini Architecture Tour
  20. Volunteer Together
  21. Hang Out in Brooklyn Bridge Park

What other free dates have you done recently? Tell us in the comments.

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As long-time lovers of New York City we made the plunge to move across the country to NYC in early 2021... with our 3 dogs at the time (RIP Buddy). We consider ourself experts in exploring new restaurants, finding the best-rated bars, and activities actually worth doing. Plus, my Google Maps organizational skills are 2nd to none. 😜

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