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Things to Do in NYC When You’re Broke and It’s F***ing Cold

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by Hannah Harkness

It’s that time of year again in NYC! The sunlight is dwindling, stores are starting their annual holiday display pissing contest, and freezing air is coming through wind tunnels between skyscrapers punishing us for ever believing fall would last more than 2 weeks!

If you’re broke, this may seem like a cue to stay inside and try to figure out if the two streaming services you can afford are streaming something you *actually* want to watch (or remember your ex-significant other’s password for the other one), but if you do want to brave the outside momentarily and do something besides run up a bar tab or cram into a midtown ice skating rink with 100 European tourists, here’s a few suggestions! 

Free or Pay What You Will Museums

Museums are a great way to kill large amounts of time indoors without spending any money, granted that there isn’t an absurd sticker price up front. While most NYC museums do have the tourist trap sticker price attached, there are plenty of museums that are either free or do a discount or donation-based night once a week. Free museums include The American Folk Art Museum, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The National Museum of the American Indian, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the BRIC house. Museums that have pay what you will/ donation based nights include The New York Aquarium, The Frick Collection, The New Museum, The Guggenheim, The Rubin, The MoMA, The Museum of the Moving Image and many more! See NYCgo for more details and specific times/days that museums are donation only:

Free or Donation based Yoga/ Exercise Classes

It’s easy to think you don’t have the bank for Yoga when every other person running around with a Yoga mat in hand in NYC looks like they live on $12 juice, but there are many yoga studios that offer classes on a donation basis that enough people take advantage of to guarantee you will NOT be cold that hour (be prepared to get close to some new yogi friends-mat space fills up fast)!

Yoga To The People is a donation-based yoga practice has studios all throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn ( Hosh Yoga in Greenpoint and the Bhakti Center in the Lower East Side also offer donation-based classes.

Shape Up NYC is an initiative from the department of parks and recreation that hosts a wide variety of free classes all throughout the boroughs:

Old City Hall Subway Station

This isn’t going to keep you out of the cold for a super long amount of time, but it is free and interesting. The Old City Hall Subway Station (which was abandoned in 1945) features vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, skylights, and tile murals from architects Heins & LaFarge and artisan Rafael Gustavino. You can access it by going on one of the limited tours arranged by the New York Transit Museum, OR, if you’re a Brokeass, ride the 6 train all the way to the end at Brooklyn Bridge/ City Hall and wait. If you don’t get kicked out of the car by an MTA employee, the train will go to turn around and it will pull through the Old City Hall station. The best views are from the 7th, 8th, and 9th car. 

Free Lectures/ Readings

There is no shortage of people wanting to hear themselves talk in NYC. But if you check out the free page on, you might find some people you want to listen to! Thought Gallery is an encyclopedic site of all of the talks, readings, lectures, table discussions and all other ways to go to class without the crippling student loan debt. Some of them are even led by the very same professors you could have gone into massive debt listening to! Topics can be as broad as climate change or as narrow as the childhood history of one artist in a Romanian village in 1868. Enjoy a couple hours of warmth outside the house, learn something, and be respectful-don’t pick a person you know is going to make you pass out in the auditorium of a cultural center.

The New York Public Library-Main Branch

Library is kind of an obvious answer for “broke and freezing” but it’s important to remind New Yorkers that avoid tourist attractions that this one is always free and has much nicer architecture than the coffee shop you were probably going to cram yourself into to get your laptop work done. The Stephen A Schwarzman Building/Main Branch is located on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue (Bryant Park) and houses world renowned collections of rare books, art, prints, manuscripts, and media all free to the public. There are also regular special events and readings that you can register for online at 

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