What's Free or Cheap in NYC?
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.
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.
|Key to Abbreviations:||NYS = New York State||NYC = All boroughs||BX = Bronx||BK = Brooklyn||MN = Manhattan||QN = Queens||SI = Staten Island|
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.
|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.
Many of these organizations hold events, encourage volunteers, and generally try to improve the quality of life in their specific area.
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:
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.
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 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.
Holly Nedelka's Child's Play groups are highly recommended by many parents. She provides a safe family playgroup experience that attracts many homeschooled families, and is a valuable resource. East and west side locations. Contact Holly Nedelka, Director, 212-879-2019, firstname.lastname@example.org, for details. Child's Play is the unique playgroup program for parents/grandparents only (no nannies) and their toddlers and babies. The playgroups are an hour and a half, in a comfortable nursery-style playroom with a playgroup leader who facilitates the group activities; circle time with singing, instruments and puppets, simple art experiences, free play in the larger space and storytime. Children participate as they like and parents have time to make frienda and discuss parenting.Thelow cost fee is per family and includes all siblings. Scholarship funding available.
Additional programs includea regular La Leche meeting for new moms on the first Wednesday of every month at 12:30pm and a free play time for Moms & Babies the third Wednesday at 12:30pm at Jan Hus Child's Play, 351 E 74 St. There are also Homeschoolers Workshops, Practical Parenting, and Mandarin Language Playgroups.
Community Programsat Rutgers Presbyterian CHurch, 236 West 73rd Street (west of Broadway), include a variety of playgroups and classes.
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.
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.