Your weekend plans begin here, with more than a dozen FREE and cheap things to do this Christmas weekend, including the final chances to visit with Santa and to ride the vintage MTA Nostalgia Train. The NYCOTC weekend guide is $25 or less so you can take bites out of the Big Apple without eating up your budget, plus a few occasional splurges worth the money. And everything is family-friendly.
NYC isn’t expensive when you know where to go and what to do, and we do.
Unless a price is noted, our weekend list is FREE, but we usually remind you anyway, to be sure you know.
Make Music Winter – Celebrate the Winter Solstice with a day of FREE concerts and musical parades all over town, including a procession of Early Music through Riverside Park.
See Santa Until Saturday
Santa’s Corner – Visit the man in red in Bryant Park, 1pm to 3pm daily, through Dec. 23, FREE. Bring your own camera or cell phone, and you can snap your own pic; or elves will take a photo that can be downloaded the special Bryant Park Santa’s Corner Flickr page.
You need an appointment to see Santa at Macy’s Santaland at the flagship Herald Square/34th Street locations. No more walk-ins. How to get an appointment to see Santa. FREE
Santa at Brookfield Place – This Santa requires your money in return for the gift of sitting on his lap and photos to prove it. You can’t visit him without paying for the privilege. Prices start at $28.99. Bah humbug.
All the holiday crafts markets, including in Bryant Park and Columbus Circle. See our list of best holiday crafts markets for your last chance to shop for unusual hand-made jewelry, New York City logo merchandise and other goodies.
MTA Holiday Nostalgia Train – This is your last chance in 2017 to ride vintage subway cars that were in use from the 1930s to 1905s, for the price of a swipe of your MetroCard. You might remember light bulbs, woven wicker seats, ceiling fans and windows you could open before air conditioning. And straps to hang on to – the reason NYC subway riders are called “straphangers”.
Caroling in Washington Square Park – Join the Rob Ssman Brass Quartet under the Washington Square Park arch for carols. This annual FREE event is 5pm to 6pm. The words are in the songbooks distributed by the Washington Square Association, but many will know them by heart, including to . “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”
What Else to Do
Three Bears Holiday Bash – This annual puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa in one delightful show. Tickets are $8 for kids and $12 for adults. Performances are daily through Dec. 30.
Big Apple Circus – Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, New York’s own Big Apple Circus is back in town for the holidays, performing in Lincoln Center, and we have discount tickets. The 40th Anniversary program includes the worlds most famous high-wire act, the Flying Wallendas.
SEE ALSO More discount ticket deals for more holiday shows, including Elf and A Christmas Carol.
World’s Largest Gingerbread Village – More than 1,000 structures have earned this annual treat multiple awards in the Guinness World Book of Records. At the New York Hall of Science, in Queens.
Guide to NYC holiday trees – Glittering and sparkling in glorious splendor. FREE to enjoy.
The Butterfly Conservatory – Warm yourself in the beauty and color of thousands of butterflies, flittering around you in this annual winter treat at the American Museum of Natural History. FREE with admission, as is the famous AMNH Origami Christmas Tree.
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains – Watch vintage trains zip around the lobby of the New York Historical Society, threading their way around equally vintage toys and games. The popular annual display is open through Feb. 25th.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Seriously, you can now have a full breakfast at the iconic Fifth Avenue store, at the new Blue Box Cafe, decorated in the same shade as the famous Tiffany blue gift boxes, on the newly-renovated fourth floor. At $29, it’s just over our $20 benchmark, but every once in a while you have to splurge, and the splurge is even bigger if you opt for lunch ($39) or afternoon tea ($49). And shame on you if you don’t know Tiffany’s is at the corner of 57th and Fifth.
- Just in time for holiday shopping, Tiffany has opened a new outpost in Channel Gardens in Rockefeller Center.
Christmas Spectacular with the Radio City Rockettes – The annual holiday extravaganza opens today. Get $49 discount tickets for your choice of dates, instead of the regular $75 price.
Know before you go
FREE apps on subway track work and schedulng delays – know what trains are bypassing what stations so you aren’t late for one of these free and cheap weekend events.
- NOTE The E and M lines from Queens Plaza to 50th Street will be shut down for repairs for five days from early on Dec. 26 to early on Dec. 31. The holiday week reportedly was chosen because nearly one million fewer people use the subway then than in typical periods in other weeks — five million compared with just under six million.
NYC official street closures website – know what streets are closed when for street fairs, parades, political protests and more.
NYC parking calendar – know when you have to move your car, or not.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and get NYC on the Cheap in your inbox at 8am each morning. That’s FREE, too, and you’ll start the day with what you need to know to be a NYC cheapskate.
Let’s hope the weather cooperates for outdoor events. If not –
Every Friday in NYC
Freebie Friday – FREE admission to NYC museums including MOMA. No passes or coupons needed. Just go.
Get FREE admission to more than a dozen NYC museums with the IDNYC card. Enrollment is also FREE.
Freebie Friday: Family Fridays at MoMath – Solve puzzles, family-style, and learn how math affects everything, from music to space flight. 6:30pm, FREE The National Museum of Mathematics is at 11 E. 26th St.
Freebie Friday – Grand Central Neighborhood Tour. FREE every Friday at 12:30, docents from the Grand Central Partnership guide you through the history of the fabled Grand Central Terminal and some equally-fabled nearby landmarks including the Chrysler Building. There are no tickets, no reservations. Just meet at Sculpture court at 120 Park Avenue (southwest corner of East 42nd Street). Tour is 90 minutes.
Every Saturday in NYC
FREE Saturday admission at top NYC museums every Saturday all year includes the Jewish Museum and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
Every Sunday in NYC
FREE Sunday admission at top NYC museums including Morgan Library and Museum.
FREE Flatiron Walking Tour – Join professional guides on a 90-minute journey through this vibrant neighborhood, viewing some of the City’s most notable landmarks, including the New York Life Insurance Building, the MetLife Clock Tower, the Appellate Courthouse and the famous Flatiron Building. Every Sunday at 11am, rain or shine. No advance registration is required. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
Every Weekend in NYC
Smorgasburg in Manhattan – Smorg Square, at 76 Varick St. (at Canal St.) on the border of Soho, Tribeca, and Hudson Square, is back every Friday-Sunday through Christmas, with a rotating lineup of food vendors curated from the Brooklyn markets, with 20+ vendors every Friday-Sunday and seating for 120. Plus, 60 world-class vintage, furniture, and handmade vendors at Brooklyn Flea’s new year-round indoor location directly across the street, at 100 Avenue of the Americas (at Watts St.).
Long Island Flea, Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg are open for the season. Details here.
Brooklyn Bazaar Night Market offers an Asian-style night market, with international food, vendors, and entertainment.
Also, check the list of best free things to do in NYC any day of the week, including weekends.
Enjoy your free and cheap NYC weekend.
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