NYC beaches are accessible by mass transit. Photo: Nitin Mukul

With gas prices soaring and the price of pretty much everything going up, up, up, many of us are on a tighter budget this summer. But the good news? We live in the best city for free and low-cost summer fun. So grab a Metrocard, pack a lunch and head out to explore some of these free and low-cost activities across the city. 

Take the NYC Ferry to Rockaway Beach

For the price of a Metrocard, you can enjoy some of the best views of Manhattan from the deck of the NYC Ferry. Take the Rockaway ferry route to spend a day at Rockaway beach and feel like you’ve traveled much farther than southern Queens. Head there early to watch surfers catching the good waves or bring a boogie board if you want to catch your own. Bikes are also allowed on the ferry for a dollar extra, so it’s a great place to cruise the boardwalk and watch the sunset. To keep the outing super low cost, pack a cooler and just enjoy the view while eating lunch. But if you want to explore some cool local spots, here are a few of my faves:

Rockaway Beach Surf Club: This local surf bar serves up delicious cocktails and tacos and always has a DJ on deck. 

Caracas Arepa Bar: Hang on the boardwalk and order my fave: a Pabelon Arepa and a twisted frozen sangria. There’s often live music too. You’ll thank me later. 

The Rockaway Hotel: Not the most budget friendly, but head to the rooftop for at least one cocktail to experience sunset views of both the ocean and city skyline. 

Rockaway Brewing Company: This local brewery has local brews and beer on tap along with good music and good vibes.

Little Island. Photo: Nitin Mukul

Catch a show on Little Island

If you haven’t had a chance to experience this new oasis in Hudson River Park, now is your chance. All summer long you can catch free performances, comedy, spoken word, trivia, drag bingo, and more on Little Island. There are also daily art workshops, unique musical fixtures and beautiful landscapes to explore. 

Free artmaking activities take place every Wednesday through Saturday and there is a full calendar of events for the entire summer. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a bite to eat at the food kiosk located inside the playground of Little Island. 

Hike Hunter Island at Orchard Beach

When you think of the Bronx, we’re sure beautiful hiking trails and deer don’t come to mind — but they should. Park in the lot at Orchard Beach and explore the Hunter Island trails on the left side of the parking lot. Explore small islands and spot families of deer along the miles of paths. If you’re up for it, bring charcoal and something to throw on the grill in the designated BBQ areas or head to City Island, also located in Pelham Bay Park for some fried seafood with a view. If seafood isn’t in the budget, grab a cone at Lickity Split, an adorable ice cream shop with outdoor seating. 

Rooftop Films. Photo: @rooftopfilms

Catch a free film screening on a rooftop

There’s certainly no shortage of outdoor movies across the five boroughs in the summer, but be sure to cross Rooftop Films Summer Series off your summer bucket list. These free and low-cost events are more than just a film screening — they are cinema events that feature live music, immersive experiences, Q&As with filmmakers, and cool outdoor afterparties. 

The next event is coming up on July 16 on the rooftop of New Design High School. There will be live music before the film begins. Free Rooftop Film events are first come, first served. RSVP is required. 

Free fireworks in Coney Island

If you’re looking for a cheap date idea on a Friday night, pack a picnic basket and a blanket and head to Coney Island. Every Friday night, beachgoers can catch a free fireworks show between now and September 2 near West 10th and Stillwell Avenue. Get there in time to catch a beach sunset and then enjoy the show, which begins at 9:45 p.m. 

A special thanks to Nicole Perrino aka Bronx Mama for the list. Nicole normally writes our sister newsletter, The Unmuted, which covers NYC schools. 

Nicole Perrino is the founder of, a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the Bronx has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama,...

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