It can be hard to stick to a budget when visiting major cities in the US, but the Big Apple offers plenty of free attractions guaranteed to keep travelers staying at New York hostels busy, without breaking the bank.

Staten Island Ferry – Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island

The best view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is definitely from the water and almost half of all Americans are thought to have descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island on the ships. For the price of the Staten Island Ferry trip, backpackers can learn more about the role this New York port played in US history at the island’s museum. Presented as a gift from the French to America, the Statue of Liberty is arguably the most famous landmark in New York and travelers can pay a ferry fee to visit the iconic monument.

Ground Zero

The site of the World Trade Center is currently under development with a permanent memorial, museum and a new skyscraper, called the Freedom Tower, to be constructed in the very near future. Travelers can also visit the 16-acre site where the Twin Towers once stood between Liberty Street and West Street.

Rockefeller Center

This sprawling complex is located in Manhattan between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. Built by the Rockefeller oil heir family during the 1930s, the Art Deco-style center houses shops, restaurants and even an ice skating rink, all set around a plaza centerpiece.

Wall Street

It may be renowned as a symbol of western capitalism, but a short walk down Wall Street will cost travelers nothing. The New York Stock Exchange’s grand marble facade is a wonderful sight, as is the Federal Hall National Memorial. Formerly the US Customs House, the Federal Hall was built on the location where George Washington was inducted as the first President of the United States and is now a museum, offering free entry – perfect for those on a budget.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art is definitely worth a visit, but does charge an entry fee. New York hostel guests looking for culture on the cheap, however, can take advantage of some of the city’s other museums. The Museum of Modern Art is free of charge on Fridays between 4pm and 8pm and the Museum of the City of New York, on Fifth Avenue, is free on Sundays from 10am until midday.

Central Park

Budget travelers in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of the third most populous city in the US can find tranquillity in this 843-acre green space. Central Park features a zoo, ice skating rinks and a swimming pool, as well as a boating lake and stunning natural landscapes, featured in many classic films and television shows.

Fifth Avenue

Consumption is definitely the main activity on Fifth Avenue and travelers who enjoy window shopping might like to peruse the wares on display at Tiffany & Co, Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Those not looking for retail therapy can instead admire the curved architecture of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue, as well as the neo-gothic St Patrick’s Cathedral and the iconic Empire State Building.

Empire State Building

Completed in 1931, this Art Deco-style tower is the tallest building in New York and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Although charging a fee of $20, budget travelers should certainly take the opportunity to admire the view of the city from the 86th floor observatory. For an extra $15, visitors can head up to the 102nd floor for an even more spectacular view.

Times Square

Famous for its annual New Year’s Eve street party, held since 1907, Times Square is an impressive sight throughout the rest of the year as well. Flanked on all sides by enormous neon advertising screens featuring famous US brands, the area was named in 1904 after the nearby Times Building. A key intersection and a famous section of New York, the theater-land of Broadway leads off the square.

Long Island

A visit to Long Island will cost backpackers the price of a ferry, cab or train, but once there the grandeur of the local architecture can be taken in for free. Travelers could head to the Gold Coast on the North Shore to admire the early 20th century mansions, some of which are open to the public. The Hamptons, three towns famous for being a summer destination for wealthy New Yorkers, are also located on Long Island.