You've seen the big sights and shopped yourself broke. What could possibly be left to do in the city that never sleeps? After living in Manhattan for 13 years, here's my short list:
#1 Take a free tour through the New York Public Library
Bryant Park: 476 5th Ave at 41st St
This is not your typical local library, it contains 53 million items making it the second largest library in the world! Obviously, you have to take a photo on or near an iconic stone lion and stand in awe of the massive ceiling murals and historic beauty of the Rose Main Reading Room. It's free entry and make sure to catch a free guided tour at 11am or 2pm Monday-Saturday or Sundays at 2pm (except during July and August when the library is closed on Sundays).
#2 Waterfall in Paley Park
Midtown: 3 E 53rd St between Madison & 5th Ave
Paley Park is a true little oasis. It's the perfect spot to take a breather from sightseeing/shopping or bring a takeaway lunch to. A bit annoying that there was some scaffolding up recently, but normally a beautiful place!
#3 Times Square at night
Boundaries: Broadway, 7th Ave, 42nd and 47th St
Firstly, you should know...every local hates Times Square. We only go there for out-of-town guests or to catch a Broadway show. It's crowded, slow-moving, rife with pickpockets and filled with touts. If you're going to go, it's better to walk around later at night at around 9pm. At this time, the crowds have died down and most people in Times Square are in the theaters so you can have a pleasant stroll while taking in all the glitter–a dazzling sight against the darkness of the night.
#4 Gallery hop through Chelsea
Tired of big crowds and large museums? Check out a few of the hundreds of art galleries in Chelsea. You will see the beautiful, the strange and frankly lots of "installations" that will make you ponder the meaning of art. Check out this interactive map to find your way around.
#5 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn Heights Promenade
A trip to NYC is not complete without walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. If you're physically fit, you may want to consider walking over the bridge both ways by starting at City Hall in Manhattan (just cross Park Row) or take the subway to start the walk from Brooklyn (obviously you want to catch the view!) Take the 2 or 3 subway (red lines) to Clark Street, left onto Colombia Heights. left on Pierrepont St and left onto the Promenade. Once you've enjoyed the views of the Manhattan skyline and have reached the end of the Promenade, take a left onto Colombia Heights, right on Middah St, right onto Cadman Plaza (follow the path from the west side to the east side), then turn left onto Washington Street, take the underpass on the left and you'll see a stairway to the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Path.
#6 Forget sight-seeing boat tours & take the Staten Island ferry
Yes, that's right, you can take a round-trip boat ride (30 mins each way) with incredible views of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty for FREE! You will need to disembark and get back on again to complete the roundtrip.
#7 Picnic in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
150 Eastern Parkway (2/3) • 455 Flatbush Avenue (B/Q/S) • 990 Washington Avenue (4/5)
Although Central Park is absolute must, once you've walked it from Midtown to Harlem you'll be ready for a new adventure. So take the subway and get yourself over to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden which boasts greenhouses full of foliage and flowers all year long. My favorite time is when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom late April/early May. Normally, the entrance fee is $15 per adult, but you can go for free on Tuesdays or Saturdays from 10am to noon. If you'd prefer to miss the crowds, take advantage of free admission every weekday during the winter from December to February.
Bonus: The splendor of the Temple of Dendur
Upper East Side: 1000 5th Ave at 82nd St
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is enormous and you can't see it in a day even if you do have a generous attention span. However, one exhibit you must see is the Temple of Dendur at the very end of the Egyptian wing. This reconstructed ancient Egyptian temple built by the Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, around 15 BC dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain is housed in a stunning glass room on Central Park.
Okay, the Met isn't free; but if you're on a tight budget, you can still go. The Met sets up it's suggested donation counters to look like a mandatory ticketed admissions. Once you get to the till, they will automatically charge $25 per adult. However, if that's too steep of a donation for you, know that you can give what you can afford even if that's just a $1.