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What's Free or Cheap in NYC?
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Index of Listings by Category

Using the local environment, and not staying encased in the classroom, helps us connect to the world. Finding educational opportunities around every corner – the supermarket, the post office, US government at the local courts, ornithology at the local pet store, science in the park – makes us constantly alert for the next learning opportunity. Our senses are heightened. We look in unexpected places. We look up, at the architecture, at the birds and the trees, looking in the direction most people overlook.
– Laurie Block Spigel, from Education Uncensored

Note that because of budget cuts, some City swimming pools, historic sites, etc. may be closed or have shorter hours. Be sure to check before planning your visit.

Growing up in New York was like living in a magical world. I often wondered how my neighbors could live in the same city I did, and somehow not know its incredible museums, universities, libraries, cultural and historical attractions. I homeschooled my children here, from elementary through high school, delighting in the cultural candy store called the Big Apple. Homeschooling is a misnomer. In truth, the world is our classroom, and there is no more exciting place to learn than this great city.

Please note: Everything listed here was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change without notice. Please check when scheduling an activity. Thank you.

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This list, first printed in a much shorter form in the NYCHEA (New York City Home Educators' Alliance) Newsletter (July 2001) has been updated and expanded to include a wide variety of field trips and curriculum choices. Some low-cost choices are included because families consider them to be a bargain, either because of the price or because of the quality that is offered. My sincere thanks to the members of NYCHEA who frequent the chialist (NYCHEA's email list), and all of my other email friends who, by freely sharing their tips and anecdotes, have added immeasurably to the contents herein.


  • Don't forget your local public library as a great resource. Many have free classes and activities for kids. Also check out NYPL's website for information on a bunch of subjects.
  • Many schools and organizations offer a free "trial class." It never hurts to ask!
  • Using your MetroCard, you can get free or reduced admission to many events and attractions. See MetroCard Deals & Trips.

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  • Special Ed or kids with disabilities can enjoy many of the offerings here. See also the Special Ed Resources on this website.

  • STACKS is a free after school program in select Queens branch libraries, language arts, math/sci, all subjects. Developed by Queens Library, STACKS isfor children aged 6 Ė 14. STACKS programs starts with structured homework help supervised by a librarian, followed by a variety of enrichment activities that are informative, hands-on, and fun. Activities include week-long learning projects, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and literacy-based activities.
    LOCATIONS: Arverne, East Elmhurst, Lefferts, Ridgewood, Baisley Park, Far Rockaway, Lefrak City, South Hollis, Briarwood, Flushing, Long Island City, South Jamaica, Cambria Heights, Jackson Heights, Queens Village, South Ozone Park, Corona, Laurelton, Richmond Hill, Woodside.
    REGISTRATION DETAILS: STACKS is a year-long program. Each library has a limited number of openings. You must first RSVP to attend an information session. Children must be aged 6-14, with a valid Queens Library card, and must commit to a year in the program. The signature of a parent or guardian is required.

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Index of Listings by Category

General Information:

By Subject:

Key to Abbreviations: NYS = New York State NYC = All boroughs BX = Bronx BK = Brooklyn MN = Manhattan QN = Queens SI = Staten Island
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Getting around New York

New York is a great city for walking or cycling. It also has a world-class mass transit system of subways, buses, etc.

Tip: Using your MetroCard, you can get free or reduced admission to many events and attractions. See MetroCard Promotions.

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Local Newspapers, etc.

Your local newspaper can serve as a daily textbook or curriculum guide. I used to joke to my kids that if they could understand everything in The New York Times they could teach at a college (and certainly get into one). But you donít have to read the entire newspaper. There is something in the paper for everyone, and knowing what you are interested in makes it easy to choose.
– Laurie Block Spigel, from Education Uncensored

Our area has a number of local publications that list events, etc. Some are free (look out for the boxes on street corners), many have websites. Here is a huge list of New York newspapers and news media.



  • New Yor City Newspapers and their archives
  • Amsterdam News, focusing on the African-American community
  • Chelsea Clinton News (from 14th Street to the South and 59th Street to the North, between 5th Avenue and the Hudson River)
  • Downtown Express (lower Manhattan - free)
  • East Village (free)
  • Our Town (East Side of Manhattan from Turtle Bay to Carnegie Hill - free)
  • West Side Spirit (from Clinton to Columbia University, from Riverside Drive to Central Park West - free)
  • The Westsider (between 60th and 125th Streets, from Central Park to the banks of the Hudson - free)





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Area Listings & Organizations

Many of these organizations hold events, encourage volunteers, and generally try to improve the quality of life in their specific area.

Area Listings & Organizations: NYC

Area Listings & Organizations: MN

Area Listings & Organizations: BK

Area Listings & Organizations: QN

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Councils on the Arts

The various Councils on the Arts carry free listings of concerts and other events. Check out the calendars of events at the website for your borough:

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Other Arts Organizations

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Preschool Playgroups, etc.

Visit our page of resources for Early Childhood.

Many libraries run special programs for young children. Search the NY Public Library's list of Events at the Local Branch Libraries for storytelling, arts and crafts, and more.

Playgroups: NYC

Barnes & Noble (NYC)

Throughout the city, Barnes & Nobel stores have children'sí rooms with free storytelling times. Inquire for details at any branch. They also have clean restrooms with changing tables.

Camp Geoffrey (NYC / mid-June to mid-July)

Camp Geoffrey is a Summer Activity Program in all Toys"R"Us stores. Itís two hours of activities and free giveaways for boys & girls ages 3-8 on Saturdays from June 11 through July 16 (except July 2), from 1-3 p.m. Check with your local store, (find a store here), or call the Times Square hotline for events schedule at Broadway & 44th St: (646) 366-8855.

Playgroups: MN

Community Programs at Rutgers Presbyterian Church

Community Programsat Rutgers Presbyterian CHurch, 236 West 73rd Street (west of Broadway), include a variety of playgroups and classes.

Hudson Park Library (MN)

Hudson Park Library at 66 Leroy St., Manhattan, is a great place for toddlers and older, complete with rug, blocks, puzzles, slide, play kitchen, etc., and outside thereís a playground. There are little tables in the library where young children are allowed to eat their snacks. And sometimes they bring out the 'water table' and aprons to play. Story times are held regularly, call for info (212) 243-6876.

St. John the Divine (MN)

There is an indoor playground, for ages five and under, in the basement of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam at 112th St. It's not fancy but it's comfortable and warm in the winter months, open Mon-Thursday noon-3 p.m. They charge $5/child. Adults and babies are free. For more info, scroll to the bottom of the Adults and Children in Trust page or call (212) 316-7530.

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