Visitors to New York often think that to experience the culture of the city they will have to pay a fortune. To disprove that theory, here is an itinerary that will allow you to enjoy a free afternoon (well, you might have to pay $2.25 for the subway).
The walk begins in Rockefeller Center. Take the F, D, M, or B to to the 47th-50th St. Rockefeller Center stop, the N or the R to 49th St., the 1 to 50th St., or the 6 to 51st St. Begin your day by exploring the many shops, cafes, and studios in Rockefeller Center (tip: visit Rain to sample South African bath and body items and get free advice on how customize your perfect scrubs). Stroll through the Channel Gardens and Promenade and admire nature and art. There are also traces of art and history located around the entire Rockefeller Center, including oil paintings, stone statues, bronze sculptures, and more. Another fun free thing to do is to sit in on a live taping of the show. If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, you can try to get standby tickets when you are there. If it is winter, enjoy the feeling of Christmas in the air by watching ice skaters and characters in costume move around the giant lit-up Christmas tree that New York is so famous for.When you leave Rockefeller Center, begin walking down 5th towards 50th. Here, you will see the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Explore the many sections of the church, including the crypt, chapel, sanctuary, baptistery, and more with a free guided tour.
After St. Patrick’s, continue walking up 5th towards 52nd street and make a right. Walk for less than a minute and you will come to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Located at 11 East 52nd St., this free museum hosts art and exhibits of all different forms, including oil paintings, photography, video, multimedia, sculptures, and more. Most of the artists have some kind of connection to Austria, whether they live, work, or grew up there. From now until January 3, 2012, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is hosting their Beauty Contest exhibit, which uses different perspectives to convey and breakdown different concepts of beauty.
Get back on to 5th and continue walking uptown. Fifth Ave. is famous for its shopping, and while buying merchandise isn’t free, window shopping certainly is. The walk will allow you to peruse an array of shops, from the reasonably priced Forever 21, Hollister, and Abercrombie and Fitch, to upscale designer stores like Gucci, Fendi, and Prada. You will also pass the well-known Trump Tower.
If you would like to see some more of the religious structures in New York, you will pass both St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on your left.
Once you hit 59th you will be able to enter Central Park, which is basically a day trip of its own. If you would like to keep your day free of charge, you can walk the park either by yourself or with one of the free walking tours offered by the Central Park Conservancy. There are many different tour focuses, such as art, the castle, a memorial walk, and many more. If you are going to explore on your own, you can either purchase a map (remember, the park covers more than 800 acres) or just have a spontaneous adventure by choosing your route at random (you will come to many different forks in the road as you explore). Visit the many memorial statues erected around the park, take photographs of the various ponds, fountains, bridges, and plants, play Frisbee in Sheep Meadow or chess at the Chess & Checkers House, be entertained by live performers, visit Belvedere castle and much, much, more.
Hungry? Head over to Tavern on the Green to check out some of the local food trucks. Enjoy a delicious, filling meal for under $10. You can also check out Ball Field Cafe & Beer Garden to sample sangria, discounted buckets of beer on ice, and meals such as burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads for a reasonable price. Sheep Meadow Cafe will also allow you to full up for free, with meals for under $10.