10 Essential Free Apps For Exploring New York City

Photo of Allie O'Keefe
9 February 2017

A hub for theatre, art, nightlife, and cuisine, New York City is a dream destination for any traveler. However, with so much to see and do, fitting it all in without getting lost can range from stressful to downright impossible. Download these great free apps to guarantee a savvy, stress-free, and authentic New York experience.

MTA Metrocard | © Mr. TinDC/Flickr


There are many apps to guide oneself through New York City public transportation, but HopStop factors in real time changes and delays that make all the difference for any tourist on a tight schedule. HopStop is an extension of one of the first subway direction websites, and notifies users about essentially all modes of transportation based on location. Their trip planner feature not only suggests multiple routes to one’s destination but also factors in walking time and alerts the user to schedule interruptions. Even better, you can save your routes — a helpful feature for locals and those who just can’t wait to return.

Available for iPhone.


If you’re driving to the Big Apple, finding convenient and affordable parking can be a real challenge, but with ParkMe, you’ll never have to circle the block again. ParkMe provides information about parking in garages, lots, and even curbside. Reserve a space in your desired location — even weeks in advance — and avoid surge rates and added-on fees with their emailed confirmation. ParkMe also provides photographs of lots and spaces so that you’ll never get lost. This app even lets users know details about amenities – such as car washes or electrical vehicle charging – they might have never known their lot provided.

Available for iPhone and Android.

New York Pass – Travel Guide

Sometimes the sheer number of things to see and do in New York can get a little overwhelming. New York Pass – Travel Guide understands and has packed all of the best of the city into its free app. The app helps plan your trip by organizing tickets and attractions plus providing information on over 70 hot spots, along with practical tips. The new version of this app even includes an option for budgeting your stay. Another great feature for international travelers — the app doesn’t require Internet connection to work, as most features are offline. Online features actually have a ‘Wi-Fi Only’ mode to prevent accidentally racking up roaming data charges.

Available for iPhone and Android.

Rush hour | © Giacomo Carena/Flickr

Downtown NY

This app, created by the Downtown Alliance, is your expert guide to fun events in lower Manhattan. From museums to nightlife, Downtown NY can help you ditch the regular tourist scene and discover little known exhibits or score tickets to cool shows. Many events are free, and others can be found for cheap by searching ‘Downtown Deals,’ which is directly affiliated with local restaurants, bars, museums, and more.

Available for iPhone and Android.

Central Park | © m01229/Flickr

Central Park

Visit one of the most iconic spaces in NYC, in style, thanks to this app created by the Central Park Conservancy. This app includes an index of over 200 things to see and do in Central Park, along with all the tools to get you there, such as an interactive GPS-enabled map for in-Park navigation and up-to-date event listings. You could even listen to celebrity tours of popular locations with the Celebrity Audio Guide — one of the many self-guided touring options. Central Park will also keep you plugged in with live Twitter and Tumblr feeds and information about the Central Park Conservancy, the foundation dedicated to keeping the park beautiful and accessible to all.

Available for iPhone and Android.


If you want to enjoy the best of New York’s culinary scene but don’t know where to start, UrbanSpoon is the app for you. UrbanSpoon will suggest restaurants based on your location, taste, and price range. It even allows you to sort and map options based on their popularity, as well as their distant from you. It’s easy to find menus and important restaurant information, including phone numbers and hours of operation. You can also read reviews by food critics and fellow users to make sure you find the best place for you.

Available for iPhone and Android.


Once you’ve got your heart set on a culinary destination, it’s crucial to make sure you get a seat. UrbanSpoon conveniently links to OpenTable, the app that allows you to make hassle-free reservations. Save a spot at thousands of restaurants in the city, discover open tables near your location or in your dream cuisine, and view top picks by users. OpenTable even offers a Dining Rewards plan where frequent users can accumulate Dining Points for every reservation they honor and earn gift cards and Dining Checks!

Available for iPhone, Android, and Windows.


If you like to live spontaneously, but with style, HotelTonight can help save you from crashing on an old roommate’s futon. HotelTonight finds last-minute deals on rooms that would otherwise go empty in hotels hand-picked for their location and grandeur. Plus, it provides a booking experience specifically designed for mobile users, with bookings made in under 10 seconds flat. Enjoy your freedom – and plush accommodations – without breaking the bank.

Available for iPhone, Android, and Windows.

Courtesy of Zeel


If you’re looking to unwind after a long day out on the town, what could be more luxurious than a massage on-demand? Zeel delivers top-quality massages from vetted, licensed massage therapists to wherever you are – a hotel, friend’s apartment, or an Airbnb – in as little as an hour after the time you book. Zeel is available anywhere within the greater New York area from as early as 8 AM to as late as 10:30 PM, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, making it the perfect choice when hotels spas are closed or not part of your stay. The easy-to-use app lets you select the length of your massage, the technique (Swedish, deep tissue, or prenatal) and even the gender of your masseuse/masseur.

Available for iPhone and Android.


This app was created by theatre producers to help find tickets to the best Broadway shows on short notice. TodayTix offers incredible prices on shows up to hours before they run, and even offers lotteries for even steeper discounts on tickets. Once you book, head straight to the front of the line to have a friendly TodayTix concierge guide you to your seat. Avoid waiting in crowded rush lines and enjoy your trip knowing that you’ll still have a chance to see the best of NYC theatre for a fraction of the cost.

Available for iPhone, Android, and the Amazon app store.
By Allie O’Keefe

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