This series, by Maria Dimitropoulos, PhD Candidate in Classical Studies, offers information on events, programs, and activities made affordable to GSAS students with a CUID card.
Part 1: Concerts, Movies, Museums, and More
Columbia students may obtain free tickets to performances at Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Philharmonic. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and are announced exclusively through the Arts Initiative email newsletter. To learn about discounted admission to performances around NYC, visit the On Sale at the TIC webpage. For more information on upcoming performances, see the events calendar.
If you have a specific performance in mind, or would like to get last-minute rush tickets, and don’t mind spending a modest amount, these venues offer budget-friendly options:
● Carnegie Hall: $10.00 rush tickets can be picked up at the box office on the day of the show.
● Lincoln Center: Student discounts are available at a range of prices.
● The Met Opera: Student and rush tickets for $25.00 can be bought at 10:00 on the day of the performance.
Columbia students can purchase discounted movie vouchers to many of New York City's movie theaters in person with their CUID at the TIC window in the lobby of Lerner Hall. Check out the Arts Initiative webpage for a list of participating theaters.
Museums, Historical Sights, and Monuments
As Columbia students, we are permitted free entry to museums ranging from the sculptural gardens of the Noguchi Museum in Queens to the medieval monastery-turned-museum at the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. For a full list of participating institutions, see Columbia’s Arts Initiative webpage.
Additional museums, monuments, memorials, and historic houses in New York City that offer free or discounted admission include:
● 9/11 Memorial
● African Burial Ground National Museum
● Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial
● Alice Austen House Museum
● Battery Park
● Belvedere Castle in Central Park
● BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
● Castle Clinton
● City Hall Tours
● Dyckman Farmhouse
● Federal Hall
● General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)
● Gracie Mansion
● Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton
● Irish Hunger Memorial
● King Manor Museum
● Lefferts Historic House
● New York City AIDS Memorial
● The Old Stone House
● Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
● Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
● Wyckoff House
Part 2: TV Show Tours, Comedy Clubs, Gallery Hops, and More
Join the Audience at a TV Show
Become a member of a live audience and tour the studios of some of the most popular TV shows, including Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It is free to attend a live taping, but each show has its own ticket-request method.
Catch a Free Comedy Show
New York is home to some of the most well-known comedy clubs. Search for hundreds of free shows every month at Free Standup NYC. If you’re into improv, check out the Upright Citizens Brigade, which offers shows for around $10.00.
Go to a Free Party at a Museum
Many museums have free nighttime events where you can see art exhibits, listen to live music, mingle, or watch films.
● K2 Friday Nights at the Rubin Museum
● First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum
● Library After Hours at the New York Public Library
Enjoy Jazz by Lincoln Center
Dizzy's Club hosts late-night jazz performances that are budget-friendly. Doors open at 11:15 p.m., and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the cover is just $5.00.
Gallery-Hop around Chelsea
Hundreds of art galleries in Chelsea between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues from 20th to 29th Streets are free to visit. On Thursday evenings, several galleries have opening parties for their new exhibits. Mingle with artists, collectors, and lovers of art while sipping a glass of complimentary wine.
Part 3: Parks!
Walk Along the High Line
This elevated park, greenway, and rail trail was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur. It hosts free events including meditation practices, tai chi, stargazing, garden tours, movies, and more throughout the year. The park runs along the West Side from 34th to Gansevoort.
Enjoy Panoramic Views from the Brooklyn Bridge
Take the 1.1-mile trip across the Brooklyn Bridge and to its six piers to enjoy a beautiful view of Manhattan and New York Harbor. Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a roller rink, bocce, handball, free movies and concerts during the summer, and more. For just $2, take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, a 48-horse carousel built in 1922.
Walk the Boardwalk at Coney Island
Stroll along the historical Riegelmann Boardwalk and enjoy a hot dog at the iconic Nathan’s Famous. Make sure to snap a photo with the century-old 150 foot ferris wheel at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
Learn a New Skill at Bryant Park
A great number of workshops, classes, and events are available: take knitting, beekeeping, or language classes; participate in game nights; find a book club or writers’ group.
Explore Prospect Park
Take advantage of free shows during the summer, or pay a visit to the greenmarket at the north end of the park open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays year-round. For a change of scenery, you could also visit the Prospect Park Zoo for under $10.00.
Discover the 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere
Head to Queens to visit the iconic site of the two twentieth-century World's Fairs at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Explore the park's lakes and trails by foot, bike, or kayak; play soccer, cricket, baseball, tennis, or volleyball at the recreation center; or visit one of the park's many cultural and civic institutions, including the Queens Museum and the New York Hall of Science.
Part 4: Fitness and Other Physical Activities
Tour the Gowanus Canal by Canoe
The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club offers free, self-guided canoe tours. Visitors can kayak and boat in Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Long Island City, and Staten Island.
Hit a Hole-in-One on the Hudson
The 18-hole miniature golf course at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park features a waterfall, stream, pond, cave, footbridges and sand traps. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., and games cost $5.00.
Get in Shape
New York City is an excellent place to get fit for free. From yoga sessions to running groups, there is a free class that meets your fitness needs and schedule.
● Shape Up NYC Free, city-run, drop-in fitness program across all five boroughs for all levels of fitness. No registration is required — just show up and enjoy free classes that range from Cardio Kickboxing to Caribbean World Dance.
● Waterfront Workouts June through September, try a broad range of fitness classes led by top-notch instructors in an outdoor setting with a view.
● The Rise Free outdoor fitness every day of the week at different locations, including HIIT classes and body boot camp.
● DUMBO Boulders The largest outdoor bouldering area in North America, accommodating climbers of all skill levels. Passes start at $11.00.
● Bryant Park Fitness A range of fitness programs throughout the year including fencing lessons, pilates, tai chi, and many more.
● NYC Fun Run Club Meets at a different bar in Manhattan every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. for Run and Chug.
● New York Road Runners The city’s racing club and organizer of the NYC Marathon offers various free events open to the public.
● Yoga to the People Free, donation-based yoga classes at various locations throughout the week.
Part 5: Sights and Attractions
Tour the Grand Central Terminal
The 102-year-old landmark is worth visiting for anyone interested in architecture and urban history. Stop by the Whispering Gallery under the Guastavino-tiled arches near the Oyster Bar. The Grand Central Partnership offers free 90-minute walking tours at 12:30 p.m. every Friday.
Visit the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Study in the newly renovated Rose Main Reading Room, or take a tour of its Beaux-Arts architecture and world-renowned collections. The library hosts free exhibits and free docent-led tours twice a day on Monday through Saturday, and once on Sundays.
Visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Nestled in the heart of midtown is the striking neo-Gothic cathedral, which opened in 1879. Its untouched interior is just as worthy of a visit as the newly renovated exterior.
Stroll through Gardens
Though New York City is often referred to as a “concrete jungle,” it is home to some of the greatest botanical gardens in the world. You can visit these pockets of nature for free on certain days of the week:
● Brooklyn Botanical Garden Fridays 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
● New York Botanical Garden (Bronx) Wednesdays all day
● Queens Botanical Gardens Wednesdays 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
● Queens County Farm Museum Always free
● Wave Hill Cultural Center (Bronx) Tuesdays 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Connect with Wildlife
Take a Free Ride on the Staten Island Ferry
Always free, it is one of the most scenic ferry rides in the US. Passengers get to see the NYC skyline; as a bonus, the ferry takes passengers right by the Statue of Liberty.
Take the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram
Enjoy a 360-degree view of New York City for the cost of a subway ride. This commuter tram runs every day, crossing over the East River. Get off at Roosevelt Island to explore an off-the-beaten path part of New York.
Cheer for the Brooklyn Nets
If you want the experience of an NBA game on a budget, check out the Brooklyn Nets College Pass option that gives students access to last-minute tickets to home games in Barclays Center.