Having fun in the Big Apple on a budget? It's easy, writes Shandelle Battersby

1. The Tonight Show

Watch a live taping of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. You have to be organised to catch Jimmy Fallon in action - tickets go fast and he's one of the hottest things in showbiz right now. Tickets are released one month at a time and there are a limited number, available for those aged 16-plus in groups of up to four. The three-hour taping process typically starts at 5pm and you need to check in strictly between 3.15pm and 3.45pm or you miss out. Plus, you can attend only one show every six months and dress code is smart casual. There are a couple of other options — Fallon's monologue rehearsal is a separate beast and takes place at 2.50pm daily, plus you can apply for standby tickets but you have to have to be in line by 9am. And, every Thursday and Friday, there are two VIP tickets up for grabs. On Thursdays you have to follow the Fallon Twitter or Snapchat accounts and find the show's intern somewhere in NYC. No big deal. On Fridays you just answer a Tonight Show trivia question first on Twitter.

2. Staten Island Ferry

If you've ever seen the movie Working Girl with Melanie Griffith, you'll recognise NYC's iconic Staten Island Ferry, which remarkably is still free to catch. This is a great way to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty — better from the water anyway — as well as Ellis Island, the city's immigrant inspection station from 1892-1954, in New York Bay. The ride, which takes 25 minutes each way and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, departs from the Whitehall Terminal, 4 Whitehall St, Lower Manhattan. About 70,000 people catch it daily during the week, so it's best avoided during peak commuting time. Off-peak, it's pretty easy to get a seat.

3. Brooklyn Brewery Tour

There's no escaping this renowned beer on a visit to NYC, and you can see where the magic happens at what was once a rough, industrial area in Brooklyn, now a vibrant, exciting neighbourhood called Northside, with lots of great eateries and bars. Founded by Stephen Hindy, a former Associated Press journalist based in the Middle East, and Tom Potter, a banker, the BB makes a signature lager, as well as 50 artisan beers. On the weekend you can secure tickets (on the day only, an hour before tour time, two per person) for free tours of the brewery on the half hour from 1pm-5pm Saturdays, and 1pm-4pm Sundays.

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4. High Line

Devised as a way to repurpose a disused freight rail line in Manhattan, the High Line is a 2.3km-long urban park that sits high above the city on the west side of Central Park. The reasons why you don't want to miss this include interesting gardens and plantings, artworks, children's play areas, a cafe, food carts, and even a lawn where you can picnic. There's also a free public programme year-round, which has events such as concerts and walking tours. There are several entry points via the former station stairs, some of which have lift or ramp access. Open daily from 7am, closing hours depend on the season.

5. Central Park

It doesn't get much more New York than Central Park, and there are a couple of free guided tours available to show off the highlights (great if you're short on time). The Central Park Conservancy's Heart of the Park Tour takes you east to west through the park's centre over 90 minutes, taking in some of its most famous landmarks including Bethesda Terrace, the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial, the lake, Loeb Boathouse, Conservatory Water and more. Free Tours By Foot's two-hour Central Park Walking Tours take in either the lower section or the middle. You need to reserve tickets for both.

6. World Trade Center Memorial

You can't visit New York and not pay your respects to the nearly 3000 people who were killed as a result of the two hijacked planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers in 2001. The footprints of the two buildings have been transformed into a striking memorial featuring two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, and surrounding them is the Memorial Plaza with more than 400 trees. Inscribed in bronze around the outside of the two pools are the names of every person who died in the 2001 attacks and the previous attack on February 26, 1993.

7. MoMA

The famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will be on your NYC list anyway, but if you can face the crowds, currently on Fridays, from 4pm-8pm, you can get in for free. The line for Uniqlo Free Friday Nights is on the 54th St entrance and gives you access to all galleries, exhibitions and films, but for the latter, a separate ticket is required. It's best to arrive after 6pm and leave large bags at your hotel or you'll have to waste precious time coat-checking them. Once you're inside, you can view one of the best contemporary museum collections in the world, which includes the likes of Monet's Water Lillies, Van Gogh's The Starry Night, and Jackson Pollock's One, Number 31. Note that children aged 16 and under always get in free.

8. New York Public Library

When you're travelling in a really busy — and often a very hot or cold place — sometimes it's nice to have a respite, and you probably couldn't find a better one than the New York Public Library, the largest public library in the US. Founded in 1895, there are 92 branches throughout the city's five boroughs but the one to visit is the iconic Beaux-Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd St (entrance on 41st St), established in 1911. It houses many treasures, such as Christopher Columbus' letter from 1493 announcing his discovery of the New World, but we recommend making a beeline for the Children's Center to see Pooh, Eeyore, Kanga, et al — the historic toys that inspired A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Be sure to also poke your head into the beautiful Rose Main Reading Room with its ornate 15.8m tall ceiling.

9. Governors Island

Okay, this is not exactly free — but at $US2, a round-trip ticket to this historic island just off Manhattan is definitely a bargain, and on weekends before 11.30am the 10-minute journey is free. Partly owned and managed by the National Park Service, the rest is owned by the people of the City and State of New York, and much of this is public space. The newest addition is The Hills, 10 areas of man-made slope that help protect the island from natural disasters and rising sea levels, as well as providing areas for the public to relax and play. Slide Hill is covered in really long stainless steel slides, while Outlook Hill has 360-degree views of the harbour from its 20m summit. The ferry departs Lower Manhattan at the Battery Maritime Building, 10 South St (near the Staten Island Ferry terminal) and Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway. Closed during winter.

10. Whispering Gallery, Grand Central Terminal

If you didn't know about Grand Central's Whispering Gallery, you may think the stream of people facing into the corners of the archways in front of the Oyster Bar and Restaurant and muttering under their breaths were all cuckoo. But the way the archways are constructed, anyone standing diagonally can hear the other person speaking, even in the crowded, noisy station. A wander through this beautiful old building is another NYC rite of passage — consider joining a tour to learn about some of its interesting quirks, such as the astronomically incorrect starry ceiling.