Dec. 10, 2010 -- New York City is not exactly known as a budget travel destination. Hotels, meals and attractions are not cheap -- just riding an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building will set you back more than $20.
But for savvy travelers there are still plenty of bargains to be found in the Big Apple. From museums to walking tours, New York has plenty of activities that won't cost you a dime.
"What people forget is that you don't have to pay money to experience some of the great wonders of the world," said Justin Ferate, who offers walking tours of the city, including one weekly free tour of the Grand Central Terminal area. (It, like many other free tours, is paid for by the local business improvement district.)
So save your money for a nice meal or a Broadway show and check out these free New York City activities.
#1: Roam a Random Neighborhood
Part of the joy of New York is the energy, unique feel and character of each neighborhood.
"Wandering though Greenwich Village is always fun," Ferate said. But these days, "You're not going to find any struggling artists in Greenwich Village."
Instead -- or in addition -- he suggests taking a stroll through nearby NoLita (for North of Little Italy.)
"It's younger, it's hipper. I think it's got more vitality," Ferate said.
For those willing to venture outside of Manhattan, hop on the L train and go to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, getting off a the Bedford Avenue stop. Pop into galleries, unique stores and just enjoy the vibe of a different neighborhood. It's right across the river from Manhattan, but feels miles away.
"Walking along Bedford Avenue is just a treat unto itself," Ferate said.
#2: Free Museums
Admission to New York's museums can cost up to $20 a person. But most intuitions offer free days or nights.
The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Brooklyn Museum is free on the first Saturday of every month from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
But a warning: Get there early. These free days aren't so secret anymore and lines are often lengthy.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History both just have "suggested admissions" -- $20 and $15 respectively -- which means you can pay whatever you feel is appropriate, even if that is nothing.
Then there are simply free museums. Don't let their price dissuade you … these are some amazing collections.
The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and always free.
The Sony Wonder Technology Lab brings technology and creativity together to make learning experiential, entertaining and fun.
The New York Transit Museum operates a gallery annex in Grand Central Terminal that presents changing exhibitions. The gallery annex is located just off the main concourse, next to the station master's office.
#3: Be Part of a Television Studio Audience
Countless TV shows are shot in New York, many before live studio audiences. Tickets go fast for these shows, but if you plan well in advance you are likely to get free tickets to see your favorite stars.
Some of the favorites include "The View," "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report," "Late Show With David Letterman, " "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," "Dr. Oz,"Live! With Regis & Kelly," "Good Morning America," "The Early Show" and "Today."
#4: Walking Tours
Each Friday at 12:30 p.m., Ferate offers a tour of Grand Central Terminal and the surrounding neighborhood. The Grand Central Partnership pays him to do it, meaning it's free for you and me.
Join the Times Square Alliance every Friday at noon for "Times Square Exposé," a free, behind-the-scenes walking tour of Times Square. Visit historic theatres, new sites, and the best of the neighborhood during this tour of the Crossroads of the World.
For something less traditional, head to the Lower East Side on Sundays at 11 a.m. for a three-hour tour looking at the neighborhood's history, from the arrival of immigrants to the arrival of high-priced apartments. Meet in front of Katz's Delicatessen, where Harry and Sally had an orgasmic sandwich.
The Central Park Conservancy offers a wide variety of free walking tours through various sections of the park.
Big Apple Greeter offers locals -- not professional tour guides -- who show visitors around their neighborhood, providing a uniquely New York view of a sliver of the city.
#5: Tour the World's Largest Gold Vault
The New York branch of the Federal Reserve is also home to the largest known deposit of gold. Free tours are given Monday through Friday, except Bank holidays, at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The tour lasts approximately 60 minutes, but must be booked well in advance since there are only 30 spots.
#6: Visit a Church
New York has many grand churches and cathedrals worth checking out. Several offer tours and all are open for the public to at least poke their heads in. Some favorites include: Trinity Church, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, The Church of the Intercession in Harlem and Saint Bartholomew's.
#7: New York's Hippest Elevated Park
New York has transformed an old, abandoned elevated freight train track into a beautiful park which offers a unique view of the city and the waterfront. It's called the High Line, and on weekends, thousands of locals and tourists flock there to hang out. There are also often free art instillations.
#8: Brewery Tours
The Brooklyn Brewery Offers free tours every hour on the hour each weekend starting at 1 p.m., with last tours at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays. You will have to still pay for your beer but hey the education is free and who says you need to actually have a drink?
In Manhattan, the Chelsea Brewing Co. offers free tours Saturday on the hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
#9: A Ferry Ride With a View
The Staten Island Ferry moves 60,000 passengers a day between Lower Manhattan and Staten Island. The five-mile, 25 minute ride gives you majestic views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island plus the skyscrapers and bridges of Manhattan.
#10: Cross the East River on Foot or Tram
No visit to New York is complete without a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. But another way, further uptown, to cross the river is the Roosevelt Island Tram. While not technically free, you can pay for it with your unlimited MetroCard that you probably purchased for the subway and bus system. The three-minute ride offers spectacular views of Manhattan and the nearby United Nations. The tram has been featured in several movies and TV shows including the 2002 film "Spider-Man."