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Free Ways to Enjoy New York City

YUP absolutely free, fun and educational!

I think one of the best reasons to live in our area on Long Island is how easy it is to get into the city. My dad commuted every day for 30 years so the last thing he wanted to do was to go back into Manhattan on the weekend. My husband does almost the same commute but thankfully he loves taking the girls into the Big Apple and we try to go often. It’s so much easier now that the girls are slightly older and I don’t have to worry about strollers, meltdowns and crabby kids missing their naps and I look forward to our little “backyard mini-vacations”. There is ONE thing that usually stops us – the cost. But you CAN go for the day without spending a mortgage payment and here’s one day we spent as a family without spending a dime.

And even if you aren’t local, these are great things to do to keep the cost down when you are traveling to New York City from out-of-town.


We walked the entire day. Not once did we hail a cab or take a subway. We walked from Penn Station to Rockefeller Center and took pictures along the way. Our first stop was people watching at the ice skating rink and after the walk, it was nice to find a place to sit and just relax.


I cried when they closed the enormous Fao Schwarz near Central Park. But did you know they reopened in a new location in Rockefeller Center? No matter how old you get you still can spend hours playing in FAO. There really is so much entertainment there – we watched a magic act, looked at all the latest toys and of course, our visit wouldn’t be complete without our “Big” moment on the piano.


It’s hard to believe, but for over a decade I worked across the street from this iconic building and never once stepped inside. The famous cathedral is visited by over 5 million people each year. It’s now a National Historic Landmark.


Like I said, we did a ton of walking (at the end of the day I went well over 20,000 steps on my Fitbit) and we walked down 5th Avenue all the way to Central Park. I was only half-shocked to see how much my girls enjoyed window shopping and pointing out all the famous stores they have heard of. My youngest daughter is obsessed with Gucci so how could we go to NYC and not go in! The staff was wonderful and gave her a tour of the store, making sure to show her the newest Gucci slides that she’s obsessed with. Did we buy anything? Not a thing and the staff was wonderful to us.


Did you know that each of those pieces of confetti that rain down into Times Square on New Years Eve contains someone’s wish for the new year? If you’re visiting New York City in December, make sure to stop by Broadway Plaza (between 46th & 47th Streets) so you can write your wish on a piece of confetti and watch as it falls down with millions of other people’s wishes in celebration at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year! Not going to be there in December? No worries, you can submit your wish digitally HERE.


Walking and window shopping is fun, but if you want a break from the hustle and bustle, head to Central Park for a leisurely stroll among the 843 acres that makes up Central Park. If you have your kids with you, stop and play at one of the 21 playgrounds.


FAO Schwartz isn’t the only fun store to visit in NYC. There’s also CAMP, SOUR PATCH KIDS Store, The LEGO Store, Hershey’s Chocolate World, American Girl Store, M&M’s World and more! They are fun to go in and walk around, even if you aren’t buying anything.


Family Fare on the LIRR: You can travel with your kids economically on the LIRR by purchasing Family Fare tickets. We had NO IDEA about this until one super nice conductor on the LIRR told us we overpaid for tickets. She went on to rock our world by explaining Family Fare and now I’m gonna rock your world too. Up to four children (ages 5-11) ride off-peak trains for $1.00 each way when accompanied by a full fare-paying adult. Children under 5 years of age ride free.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): My daughter is an art-fanatic and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken her to MoMA. Wondering how we went for free? Did you know that our local libraries have a free museum pass program? I woke up THAT MORNING, went online and signed up for a free pass to MoMA while drinking coffee lying in my bed. The entire process was online. All I had to do was go to the library and pick up the pass before we jumped on the LIRR. We got free tickets which were considered member tickets so BONUS, we didn’t have to wait in any lines to get in. The entrance line snaked around the lobby but we felt like rock stars when we bypassed the line and walked right in. Also, if we wanted to buy anything in the museum (which we didn’t – that’s why the day was free) we would have gotten 10% OFF! Another freebie MUST – one of the floors offered free audio tours. DEFINITELY get the headphones – kids love anything electronic and you learn so much more about the art than just walking around and reading the plaques.

About the Author:

Ellen DeFrancesco is the Publisher of Living Clean & Dirty, a website full of awesome articles about clean living, told in a colorful (aka dirty) way. But I’ll let her tell you about herself…

“I live in Long Island and I’m married to my best friend. I’ve got 2 awesome daughters. I feel blessed about 95% of the time and the other 5% I wonder what kind of sick friggin’ revenge the universe is having on me. I’m the proud mommy of 2 rescue dogs who when they aren’t shitting in the house are the best pets anyone could ask for.

Living Clean & Dirty is a testament to my life experiment (rhymes are awesome!). I recycle, I learned a shit-ton about GMOs and I make my deodorant…not necessarily in that order. We aren’t raising kids in the same world we grew up in and I’m trying to be a better mom and a smarter woman. I’m miles from perfect, my adventures in being green sometimes backfire and my recipes aren’t all home runs, but I’m trying…every day.”

April 27, 2021

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  1. Tara says:

    I had no idea FAO opened a new toy store- good to know. Also, I am so writing a wish so it can be on confetti next year! Great info!

  2. I never knew that about the New Year’s Eve confetti! So cool!

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