A.M.: Take a Shape Up NYC class.
Screw the Monday blues by starting your day off with some physical activity. (YES, I’m being serious.) Shape Up NYC offers free fitness classes — including ballet, kickboxing, Zumba, Pilates, and aerobics — in all five boroughs, every day of the week. It’s sort of the best thing ever? Check the sched here.
Afternoon: Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.
Yeah, OK, I know… Staten Island: garbage, fist-pumping, “it’s so far,” “it’s so boring,” “wait, this is a borough?” blah blah — but the views! Skip the ferry during rush hour and peep the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline ON A BOAT. And if you can find it in your heart to cough up a few bucks, there are snacks — and booze! — on board. The ride each way is about 25–30 minutes, and you can find the schedule here.
P.M.: Watch a live jazz show at Arthur’s Tavern.
Catch performances at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at this historic West Village jazz club, which was once host to legends Charlie Parker and Roy Hargrove. There’s never a cover charge, and on Monday nights you can check out the same Dixieland jazz band that’s been playing for 35 years. (Whoa.)
A.M.: Take a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
This wonderland of flora is open from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Tuesdays all year long and is free all day. (It’s also free on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – noon, but unless you’re super into crowds and anxiety, a more leisurely weekday experience is recommended.)
Early evening: Tour the Highline.
Every Tuesday from May through September, an hour-long guided tour is held at 6:30 at this elevated freight rail line turned awesome public park, weather permitting. Follow @highlinenyc for updates on Tuesday by noon.
P.M.: Get your trivia on at the Gael Pub.
Instead of pickling your liver on yet another Tuesday night sitting idly on a barstool, treat your brain to a workout and leave with more cash than you started out with. Sure, there are tons of pub quiz nights all over the city, but this one, at the Gael Pub on the Upper East Side, was named one of the best (by both Time Out New York and New York magazines) — perhaps because the first prize is a $50 gift certificate and you can enter a free raffle for a $20 bar tab? Trivia starts at 8:30.
A.M.: Visit the Bronx Zoo.
Take a trip to — gahhhhh look at that baby’s FACE!! OK sorry — the Bronx to New York’s biggest zoo (it houses about 4,000 animals and spans 265 acres) on Wednesday, when admission is a suggested donation. Special rides and attractions, like the butterfly garden and gorilla forest, are separate admission fees. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Afternoon: Check out the Museum at FIT.
This free museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is open from noon – 8 p.m., and at any given time, there are at least 100 objects from its collections available for public viewing. Even the non-fashion freaks among us are likely to enjoy a visit here; its world-renowned permanent collection includes dresses, accessories, textiles, photos, and more.
PM: See a comedy show at Fat Baby.
Bridging the gap between mainstream and alternative comedy, this show, hosted by comedy duo Ben & Josh and produced by Giulio Gallarotti (of MTV’s Totally Clueless), starts at 10 p.m. in the basement of Lower East Side bar Fat Baby — and includes the occasional strange prize and a DJ with a scary face mask. You’ll laugh, things will get very weird, it will be fun; you never know who’ll make a guest appearance. (Bonus: The bar next door, Verlaine, has $5 HAPPY HOUR UNTIL 10 if you’re OK with shelling out a couple of bills and you like getting drunk.)
A.M.: Take a class at Yoga to the People.
There’s a suggested donation of $10 for classes at this East Village studio, but you can contribute whatever you prefer (even if it’s zilch), without judgment. Bring your own mat to avoid a $2 mat fee. Classes run throughout the day starting at 7 a.m. and are taught in the style of power vinyasa; instructors are happy to give pointers to any newbs. Aim for a morning session or get ready to get REAL close to a lot of sweaty NYU students.
Early evening: Go to a wine tasting at Bottlerocket.
All aboard the booze train from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Make up for those calories you burned during all those downward dogs by sampling some vino at this fun Flatiron wineshop, where the staff are super friendly and knowledgeable, and wine is organized by its compatibility with takeout options (like Mexican or Chinese). All adults are welcome, but singles are especially encouraged, so please — take a shower after yoga, and look cute.
P.M.: Prep those pipes for karaoke at Pinebox Rock Shop.
And bring your dog! Well, maybe not to the karaoke room, because it can get loud, but you know, next time. This cool Brooklyn hangout (formerly a casket factory, hence the name) is canine-friendly and all vegan — you’ll find animal-product-free versions of bacon vodka, “Philly cheesesteak” empanadas, and Bailey’s-type cream here — and on Thursday nights, you can sing your little vegan (or non-vegan) heart out in the back room from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
A.M.: Go gallery-hopping in Chelsea.
Most NYC galleries in Chelsea are free, so spend your Friday morning by getting those gams in motion and filling your peepers with all the free art you can stand. Above, the Gagosian; head to ChelseaGalleryMap.com to see a comprehensive map of the area, find exhibition calendars, and create an itinerary.
Afternoon: Take a Chinatown food tour.
Free Tours by Foot provides free food tours (among other walking and bike tours) every day of the week. On Fridays at 1 p.m., head down to Chinatown to sample some of the best roast pork buns and hand-pulled noodles in the city. You choose what you want to try and how much you want to spend — it’s suggested you bring $7–10, depending on your appetite — though if you’re really strapped for cash, you can just enjoy the historical and cultural aspects of the tour. Reservations are required, and you can find more info here.
P.M.: Visit the MoMA.
The Museum of Modern Art is one of New York’s most exciting art museums, and it’s free on Fridays from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. The MoMA’s gift shop is equally exciting (though not as equally wallet-friendly), and you can also check out its wares online.
A.M.: Take the ferry to Governor’s Island.
A free ferry runs from lower Manhattan down to Governor’s Island, a quaint little place where you can rent bikes, have a picnic, check out art installations, buy crafts from local artists, and more. The island is open from 10 a.m – 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from May through September. See the calendar of events here and find the ferry schedule here.
Afternoon: Booze up on a beer tour.
Head to the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, where a tour of the brewery is offered every hour on the hour from 1 p.m – 5 p.m. No reservations necessary. Soothe your beer munchies by snacking on samples (or, you know, maybe even just buying some cheap food) a stone’s throw away at Smorgasburg, a giant food market that runs on Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the Williamsburg waterfront.
P.M.: Catch a show at Rockwood Music Hall.
Check the schedule, but most shows — even on weekends — are free at this cozy Lower East Side venue.
A.M.: Go kayaking.
The Downtown Boathouse, a nonprofit that provides free public access to the NYC harbor, offers kayaking from May through October, complete with brief instruction as well as safety equipment. Also, on select Saturday, Sunday, and holiday mornings, the organization runs a free three-hour trip on the Hudson River, departing at 8 a.m.
Rain-date option: Crummy weather? Get out all that angst and try your hand at a free writing class.
Afternoon: Visit the Studio Museum.
This Harlem museum, which features the work of African-Americans and artists of African descent, is free on Sundays from noon – 6 p.m. Check out current exhibitions here.