48 FREE Museums in NYC to Visit + Free Museum Days Schedule

collage of nyc museums that are free

Museums are hidden around every corner of NYC, just waiting for you to explore them. The best part? Tons of them offer free days! We’ve compiled a list of the best museums across the five boroughs that offer free admission to eager guests. Some are free every day for New York State or NYC residents and students of the Tri-State areas. Others have set aside hours and days each month where they open up their doors for public exploration. It’s important to note that many museums still require masks and will request that you make a reservation. See what attractions strike your fancy and add them to your list! 


Free Museums in New York City 

Some of these museums below are free EVERY day and others only on CERTAIN days and times. So please review the “free days” carefully in the bullet point areas. Scroll to the next section to see the museums that are free only for New York residents (they are some of the very best).

Bronx Museum of Art 

The Bronx Museum of Art has been committed to providing all New Yorkers with contemporary art collections and exhibitions since 1971. The existing 16,000 ft. facility was awarded the “Excellence in Design” prize in 2003 and features a stunning gallery, enrichment events, and an outdoor terrace for guests to enjoy.

The museum also offers guided tours dedicated to educating the public on the beauty and importance of art, with an entire floor set aside for educational programs. Check the museum’s calendar for information on special events such as spoken word poetry slams and family days!

  • Free days: Every day (Wednesday to Sunday) from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $50 

El Museo del Barrio ★

Set in Upper Manhattan near Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio is NYC’s premier museum celebrating Latino culture. They welcome visitors from all over the world to explore the beautiful and diverse cultures of Latin American and Caribbean history. Guests can enjoy a large assortment of collections, educational programs, performances, and celebrations for visitors with ‘pay what you wish’ admission to support future growth. Permanent collections explore topics such as the urban experience (documenting Latino life in New York going back to the 1970s) and a legacy to the many women artists featured by El Museo over the decades. 

  • Free days: Every day (Thursday to Sunday) from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: Adults $8, Students/Seniors $5

Brooklyn Museum ★

The Brooklyn Museum is one of the best museums in New York State and a catalyst for connecting people through artistic expression. They aspire to show their visitors the most prestigious collections and exhibitions, from traditional art to historical pieces to cultural displays worldwide. Check online for Pop-Up Talks about featured work to learn more about the artists.  General admission is ‘pay what you wish,’ but tickets do not include access to special exhibitions. Even if you are not paying, securing tickets in advance is highly recommended, as same-day admissions are limited and timed to start at 15-minute increments. 

  • Free days: Every day (Wednesday to Sunday) from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $16 for Adults, $10 for Students/Adults 65+/Visitors with disabilities $10

Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center 

Wave Hill is a 28-acre historical estate flourishing in the Riverdale area of the Bronx. It was originally built by head gardener Marco Polo Stufano as a respite for city residents– now it’s a worldwide attraction. The grounds are a beautiful display of horticultural gardens accompanied by a cultural center for visitors to learn while taking a fantastic view of the Hudson River.

Onsite parking is limited, but there’s a shuttle service from Thursday through Sunday if weather permits. You must wear a mask on the shuttle to ride. 

  • Free days: Thursdays from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (excluded group admissions) 
  • Recommended donation: Any amount 

National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is a stunning attraction with artifacts and art going back 12,000 years! Its mission is to partner with Native tribes and allies to present an authentic story of the Native American culture and to share the rich history of over 1,200 ingenious cultures across the country. We highly suggest visiting the Museum Store before you leave. This gift shop has been open for over 20 years and is considered a premier destination for anyone looking for authentic Native American treasures. Face masks are required for all visitors 2+ at this museum.

  • Free days: Every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25
  • Website: https://americanindian.si.edu/

African Burial Ground National Monument

Ken Lund

Located near the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, the African Burial Ground National Monument is a sacred space to pay tribute to the free and enslaved Africans and their significant role in the birth of NYC. This is the largest and oldest excavated burial ground known to date in North America.

Special events are hosted throughout the year, including the annual Juneteenth Celebration and stunning night displays around the monument. If you enter from 290 Broadway, be prepared for airport-style security searches. Also, there is no food or drink allowed at the memorial!

  • Free days: Every day: Outdoor Memorial open 24/7 and Indoor Visitor Center (Tuesday to Sunday) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

American Folk Art Museum

Ajay Suresh

This museum has celebrated self-taught artists since 1961 and still zealously advocates for them today through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. The American Folk Art Museum artists display refined skills from years and decades of personal exploration, standing up for the belief that artists can come from any background, not just taught through higher education. In addition to art, the museum hosts several live musical events–some of which can be streamed via their Facebook page–and an amazing gift shop with unique pieces for purchase.  

  • Free days: Every day (Wednesday to Sunday) from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $60
  • Website: https://folkartmuseum.org/

BRIC House

Steven Pisano

BRIC is a leading institution in the arts and media industry with its main venue, BRIC House, right in Downtown Brooklyn. BRIC has been dedicated to shaping the musical culture of the borough for over 40 years, presenting a variety of creators, artists, media makers, and art students to enrich the community. Their most acclaimed event is JazzFest, a three-day marathon of lively jazz musicians performing their hearts out to fans. For art lovers, BRIC House hosts meticulously curated exhibitions featuring new and mid-career artists with rich artistic talent and fantastic programs to explore. 

  • Free days: Every day (Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, Saturday to Sunday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm)
  • Recommended donation: $35 (minimum $5)

Fashion Institute of Technology Museum

The FIT Museum attracts over 100,000 visitors a year with its extravagant exhibitions, programs, and unique collections. The museum features permanent collections of some 50,000 garments & accessories with a mix of fresh rotating exhibits. FIT was founded in 1969 and is known for its award-winning exhibitions such as London Fashion and The Corset: Fashioning the Body. There are three galleries to visit: the lower level special exhibitions gallery, the Fashion and Textile History Gallery, and Gallery FIT (dedicated to student and faculty creations) on the main floor. 

  • Free days: Every day (Wednesday to Friday) from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Saturday to Sunday) from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25 

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

History buffs will love the prestigious museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, exploring the role of the Federal Reserve System and home to the alluring Gold Vault. The Gold Vault is probably the biggest draw. It’s one of several services included by the Federal Reserve, where many Americans stored their gold during and after World War II. While admission is free, you must have printed tickets to pass the security screening. We suggest arriving 30 minutes early and remembering to bring a valid government ID with a photo if you are 16 and older. 

  • TEMPORARILY NO TOURS ARE BEING OFFERED HERE AT THIS TIME. WE WILL UPDATE THIS WHEN THAT CHANGES.
  • Normally, the free days were: Every day (Monday to Friday) from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Federal Hall National Memorial

Located on busy Wall Street and only a short walk from the 9/11 Memorial, the Federal Hall National Memorial is open year-round and features several galleries illustrating our country’s rich history. A noteworthy highlight of this museum is the famous bible George Washington put his hand on to be sworn in during the first presidential oath. It’s important to note that construction scaffolding is currently around the building as the museum goes through needed repairs and updates. The Visitor Center and Peter Zenger are currently closed, but visitors can still enter through Pine Street and peruse the rotunda. 

  • Free days: Every day (Monday to Friday) from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Hispanic Society of America

Serving as both a museum and reference library, the Hispanic Society of America is a spectacular place to immerse yourself in the rich art and culture of the Hispanic people of Spain, Portugal, the Phillippines, and former colonies of Latin America. The museum hosts at least 6,800 paintings, 175,000 photographs, 1,000 sculptures, and over 250,000 books visitors can explore. The building remains partially open during renovations, with some restrictions posted. Exhibitions on the Audubon Terrace and the East Building Gallery are open, but the Hispanic Society’s Main Building is closed until further notice. You must show identification and proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

  • Free days: Every day (Thursday to Sunday) from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $50 

New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) ★

Known as the flagship building of the New York Public Library system, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is a noteworthy museum only a 1-minute walk from Bryant Park. It features several on-site and online exhibits celebrating artists of all cultural backgrounds. Their prized ongoing exhibit is the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures, showcasing some 56 million items in their vast collection. Recently, the library reopened the infamous  Rose Main Reading Room, where patrons can quietly study and enjoy the magnificent architecture. This room and other must-see spaces are only accessible through guided tours from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

  • Free days: Every day (except Sundays in the summer) from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $55
  • Website: https://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

@ciscograciano

Another New York Public Library gem is The Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. It’s one of the most renowned research libraries in the country and possesses the world’s most extensive collection of research material in film, theatre, music, dance, and recorded sounds. Visitors have a chance to explore exhibitions dedicated to spotlighted artists, musicians, and vast collections of archives. They even host special events such as outdoor storytime, listening sessions, and discussion groups. 

  • Free days: Every day (except Sundays in the summer) from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $50
  • Website: https://www.nypl.org/locations/lpa

Guggenheim Museum

Ajay-Suresh

The Guggenheim Museum–aside from just being fun to say– is a spectacular addition to your list of free museum days in NYC to take advantage of. This institution is committed to collecting, preserving, and interpreting pieces of modern and contemporary art across all cultural backgrounds. There is no limit to the types of pieces they exhibit, and guests are treated to some true pioneers in the industry who aren’t afraid to take it ‘there.’ Check the museum’s schedule for special hours and planned closures before your visit. 

  • Free days: Saturdays from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Pay What You Wish)
  • Recommended donation: $10

Queens County Farm Museum

Also known as Queens Farm, the Queens County Farm Museum is located on 47 historic acres in the neighborhoods of Glen Oaks and Floral Park in Queens. It’s the largest undisturbed farmland still in existence in NYC– and it’s been operating for 325 years! Farm visitors can stop by the Welcome Center for a site map and tour the grounds filled with flourishing fields, crops, and educational buildings teaching about the history of farming in the area. While admission is free, special ticketed admission days and group visits will require an entrance fee. 

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens is an exemplary attraction to add to your tour of NYC’s best museums. You’d never know this work of art was built on a former landfill, with its fantastic multimedia installations and majestic large-scale sculptures. There is always something going on here: theatre presentations, yoga, sunset meditations, dance events, and more. We suggest staying up to date on current events at the park by subscribing to eblasts or following their social media pages for details and schedules. 

  • Free days: Every day 9:00 am to 7:45 pm 
  • Recommended donation: $50 
  • Website: https://socratessculpturepark.org/

Green-Wood Cemetery ★

Not everyone thinks of a cemetery as an attraction, but Green-Wood Cemetery is certainly one of the best free museums in NYC! This sprawling 478-acre plot in Brooklyn was a former Revolutionary War battlefield and is the resting place for some of the most historical figures in our nation. You can explore the architecture and paths dating back to 1838 on your own by downloading a free map or the mobile app. You can also check the calendar for scheduled programs, book a private tour, or ride through the grounds on a trolley. One of our favorite features is Sophie Calle’s 25-year-installation, where visitors can slip in secret to lay to rest in the grave– forever!

  • Free days: Every day 7:00 am to 7:00 pm 
  • Recommended donation: $100

Museum at Eldridge Street

This magnificent synagogue is a National Historic Landmark in Chinatown and one of the first to be erected by the resilient Eastern European Jews in America. The Museum of Eldridge is an iconic piece of history in New York City, built back in 1887. It offers reservations for public, self-guided, and private tours of both the synagogue and Lower East Side neighborhood, home to the largest Jewish population in the world. Outside of free days for all, free admission is provided Monday to Saturday for IDNYC cardholders, children under 5, disabled visitors and supports, active duty military personnel and their families, and more with valid ID.

  • Free days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ for all on Mondays and Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $15 Adults, $10 Students/Seniors, $8 Children

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum ★

Constructed after the devastating events of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a draw for people worldwide who wish to pay respects to those lost. The memorial features two underground fountains as a tribute to where the twin towers once stood. At the same time, the museum serves as an institution for exploring the history and events surrounding these horrific attacks. All 9/11 family members, rescue and recovery workers (with registration), EBT card members, and active/retired military receive free admission. Free public admission is available on Mondays, but you must visit the website to secure tickets offered on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 7:00 am. 

  • Free days: Memorial is free to visit every day 9:00 am to 8:00 pm BUT the museum is only free Mondays from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25
  • Website: https://www.911memorial.org/

Cooper Hewitt

John Roberts

Just a two-minute walk from the Jewish Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum is the only institution in the country devoted to contemporary and historical design. With more than 215,000 objects on display, visitors can browse 30 centuries of design, from textiles to paper masterpieces to modern design and technology. These exhibits are interactive, and dynamic, and will keep your groups attention. Masks are required for all visitors over the age of 2+, and you must reserve a timed ticket on the website. 

  • Free days: Wednesday to Monday between 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25 
  • Website: https://www.cooperhewitt.org/

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden attracts nearly a million visitors worldwide every year looking to surround themselves with natural beauty right in NYC. Founded in 1910, the garden spans over 52 acres in Brooklyn with over 14,000 species of plants in gardens, conservatories, and historic art collections. It’s the perfect walk to take before or after the Brooklyn Museum (only a 3 minute walk away), and it’s adjacent to Prospect Park. You must have a ticket to enter (even when free). Free admission is offered to several groups all year round, so check the Admissions Page to see if you qualify.

  • Free days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ on Winter Weekdays (December to February). 
  • Recommended donation: $25 
  • Website: https://www.bbg.org/

Museum of Jewish Heritage

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is a powerful tribute and living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Anchored in Battery Park City in Manhattan, the memorial museum attracts more than 2 million patrons a year, all of who come to learn about the horrifying crimes that took place during this dark time in our history and immerse themselves in the Jewish culture. The museum offers a ton of special events, from concerts to screenings to book talks. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance for free admission through the ticketing calendar. Holocaust survivors, active military, first responders, educators, children under 12, and students from NYC DOE K-12 can get free admission anytime. 

  • Free days: Thursdays between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $36 
  • Website: https://mjhnyc.org/

Van Cortlandt House Museum

This museum is the oldest building in the Bronx! The Van Cortlandt House Museum, also known as the Frederick Van Cortlandt House, invites guests to step back into the 18th century to experience life on a provisioning plantation. Self-guided tours are available of the house and grounds. The property focuses on preserving the historical artifacts and decorative arts existing in the house from 1749 to 1823 and exploring the life of the inhabitants of those who lived and worked on the property. Check out this museum for free concerts, where you can bring a chair or blanket and enjoy music on the lawn. 

  • Free days: Wednesdays between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

@stph_hs

This fun and interactive museum is perfect for families looking for a place where their kids are allowed to touch all the exhibits! The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the country’s first-ever children’s museum and has endless possibilities for fun and exploration. Favorite exhibits include Jurassic mini-golf, the tot’s area, and World Brooklyn, a little city for the kids. This is a highly sought attraction with minimal free hours. You must book in advance on the website to access this admission. 

  • Free days: Thursdays between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25

Museum of Arts & Design

If you’re looking for some of the most unique and out-of-this-world creative pieces, add the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) to your list. The garment and furniture exhibits at MAD are spectacular, and the docent sessions with volunteer staff bring you even deeper into the creative process of each designer. Docent sessions are free when you RSVP online. If you want a complete museum experience, bring your headphones to access interviews, audio exhibition tours, and more with each exhibit through the MAD app.

  • Free days: Thursdays between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25 

General Grant National Memorial

This national park and museum also serve as the final resting place for Ulysses S. Grant (the 18th president) and his wife, Julia. The General Grant National Memorial, also known as Grant’s Tomb, is a stunning domed mausoleum in Upper Manhattan. It was built with the help of 90,000 people worldwide who donated funds towards the construction. The museum offers 20 outdoor exhibits with facts about Grant’s life and accomplishments and is still the largest mausoleum in North America. Unfortunately, the Visitor Center is closed, but the Front Plaza and Overlook Pavilion remain open for guests. 

  • Free days: Every day (Wednesday and Sunday) from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Thursday to Saturday) open 24 hours
  • Recommended donation: n/a

Hamilton Grange

PatersonGreatFalls

Settled on a hill in Harlem’s St. Nicholas Park, Hamilton Grange is a beautiful museum and the former home of Revolutionary War hero and the first Secretary Treasure of the country, Alexander Hamilton. The entire home has been relocated twice, each move taking weeks to accomplish! There are four furnished rooms that visitors can take self-guided tours through. Each tour is allotted 15-minutes and must be booked through recreation.gov where there is a $1 nonrefundable service fee. If you don’t want to be rushed through this historic gem, we suggest waiting for an open house. Only five visitors can tour at a time to protect the historic floors. 

  • Free days: Every day (Friday to Sunday) from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm 

Morgan Library & Museum

Formally the Pierpont Morgan Library, the Morgan Library and Museum is a spectacular stop if you’re in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. You can peruse the library, explore the exhibits, study, or even grab a bite to eat. The library alone is enough to draw a feeling of awe from any book lover. Built back in 1902, this extravagant room features three stories of shelves stacked to the brim with collectible books, drawings, prints, and manuscripts. Entry is by timed ticket, and reservations are required to take advantage of the Free Friday program, with tickets available one week in advance. 

  • Free days: Fridays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $50 

The Frick Collection 

The Frick Collection is a premier renaissance art collection derived from the generous donation of Henry Clay Frick in 1919. Frick rendered his entire collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative art for the public to enjoy, and this museum has done a phenomenal job of sharing it with the world. The collection is currently only shown in the temporary location on Madison Avenue as the 70th Street location is under renovation. Please be advised that children 10 and under are not permitted to visit this art gallery. We suggest you reserve your timed ticket spot for free Thursday admission to secure a spot, but it’s not required. 

  • Free days: Thursdays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm (Pay What You Wish)
  • Recommended donation: $25 

New Museum

Hanging out on the Lower East Side? Check out the New Museum of Contemporary Art! Founded in 1977, this institution strives to promote the ongoing beauty of modern art and new creative ideas. They’re respected internationally for their adventurous curatorial program and brilliant exhibitions that have attracted audiences for 40 years. Face coverings are required for all visitors 4 years and older, and timed tickets must be purchased for free admission on Thursdays.

  • Free days: Thursdays from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm (Pay what you wish)
  • Recommended donation: $2

Asia Society & Museum

Asia Society is a leading educational organization that works to strengthen the community in NYC by promoting mutual understanding of Asian cultures, ideas, and their contributions to the world of business, art, and education. The museum provides tours and audio guides using QR codes to learn more about each exhibit and gallery. Before you visit, please look at the current exhibits to ensure they are a good fit for all guests in your group. Some may contain mature content or trigger photosensitive effects. 

  • Free days: Fridays from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $10 

Japan Society 

The Japan Society is a non-profit organization offering a variety of exhibitions, performances, and more, to promote and connect Americans with Japanese culture through a global lens. The institution is inspired by the Japanese concept of kizuna- to forge a deep connection in order to bind people together. You can buy tickets for a variety of special events, including stimulating workshops or a host of rotating exhibitions.

  • Free days: Fridays from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $10 

Museum of the Moving Image

Multi-media art enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy the collection of exhibitions at the Museum of the Moving Image (MOM). Set up in the historic Asotira Studios of Queens, MOM is a one-of-a-kind destination for NYC visitors and residents who love engaging and highly interactive works of art. The museum especially loves exploring the art of storytelling through technological advancements and special effects. They feature several displays on popular shows and movies exploring character design and interaction. No reservations are required for free admission on Thursdays, but separate tickets are required for special exhibits. 

  • Free days: Thursdays from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25 

Neue Galerie New York 

Ajay Suresh

Neue Galerie New York is a hub for art and design lovers looking for German and Austrian early twentieth-century treasures. Before you even enter the art galleries, drop-dead gorgeous buildings will stop you in your tracks. Inside, guests will be awestruck by the collections of Austrian and German media, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art displayed throughout the extravagant rooms, all created between 1890 to 1940. Admission is on a ‘pay what you wish’ basis until November, but some galleries will be closed off for special exhibitions. Face coverings are required for entry to this museum. 

  • Free days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ every day until Thursday, November 10, 2022. Free admission on the first Friday of every month from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm after. 
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

New York Hall of Science 

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) is all about discoveries and having fun with guests through STEM exploration.  Visitors of all ages will love participating in the more than 450 interactive exhibits throughout the museum that encourages learning through play and valuing a love for science. One of the favorite highlights is the 3D Theater, playing award-winning educational films and animated features. NYSCI also has a ton of youth programs for children to dive deep into specific areas of scientific interest. Community hours that are free to the public must be reserved online

  • Free days: Community Hours on Friday from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. 
  • Recommended donation: $50 

Rubin Museum of Art

Compared to other Asian art disciplines, Himalayan art is still a young and developing field. The Rubin Museum of Art strives to provide as much access to these beautiful art forms as possible and connect with visitors through the unique perspective of the Himalayan people. This museum is full of beautiful artwork in all different forms. From paintings to textiles to statues and more, the Rubin Museum hosts a rotating line of exhibits featuring work from the Himalayan region that will leave guests in wonder. The museum requires all visitors 2+ to wear face-covering at all times. Make sure to reserve your free Friday ticket to get a timed admission. 

  • Free days: Fridays from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: $25 

The New York Historical Society

There are over 400 years of American history within the New York Historical Museum galleries just waiting for you to explore. Different areas of the museum feature unique topics and exhibits, including the Center for Women’s History and DiMenna Children’s History Museum, as well as rotating exhibitions on various topics in American history. When guests need a break, they can dine at Storico for delicious Italian dishes before, during, or after the visit. Facemasks are required for all visitors over the age of 2. 

  • Free days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ Fridays from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

The Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum is a fun institution, museum, and sculpture garden all in one, right in Long Island City. It was created by Isamu Noguchi–a Japanese-American sculptor with a magic eye for art– and holds the world’s largest collection of his work. In addition to free admission Fridays, a number of visitors qualify for free admission, including children under 12, NYC public school students, guests with disabilities, and more. We highly recommend making a reservation for your visit. You can get admission tickets by showing up the same day, but museum capacity fills up quickly. 

  • Free days: Free first Friday of the month from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

The Jewish Museum

Just a two-minute walk from the Smithsonian Design Museum and the Cooper Hewitt, the Jewish Museum is another treat on Museum Mile you must see. Housed in the former Felix M. Warburg House, this institution provides a variety of exhibits at the intersection of art and the celebration of Jewish culture. The museum also offers many enrichment programs and hands-on art-making to engage everyone in your group. Timed ticket reservations are highly encouraged, and the museum still requires all visitors to wear masks. Just to be aware, the Cooper Shop is closed on Saturdays. 

  • Free days: Saturdays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

Queens Botanical Garden

Wishing to add another botanical garden to your list? The Queens Botanical Garden on Main Street in Flushing has over 39 acres of perennial gardens, an arboretum, a visitors center, and an art gallery for guests to stay busy! Before your visit, look at the Botanical Highlights to see which plants are in season. There are also many weekly events, including movie nights, garden parties, and open farm stands. You can visit this botanical garden for free from November through March, on Wednesdays all year round, and Sundays until April 24. 

  • Free days: Wednesdays from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Sundays (March-April 24) from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. 
  • Recommended donation: $30

Harbor Defense Museum

The Harbor Defense Museum is built within the dry moat of Fort Hamilton, which played a major role in protecting New York City’s harbors and waterways in the first half of the 19th Century. The original fort was constructed between 1825 to 1831 and became part of the Third System of Fortifications. Visitors can browse collections of small arms, cannons, uniforms, military weapons, and other military-themed items of the time. Their current exhibits include Battle of Brooklyn, Firepower: Infantry Weapons of WWII, Fort Hamilton History, and more. 

  • Free days: Every day (Tuesday to Thursday) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

FREE FOR NEW YORKERS 

Yay! Finally, having a New York residency can save us some money! These are the top museums that are free for us New Yorkers. Remember to bring your ID card.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  ★

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as the MET, is the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to 1866 when it began in Paris, France. Over 2 million pieces of work are displayed in their permanent collections, spanning over 5,000 years of art history worldwide and categorized into 17 departments across the museum. The MET hosts an endless calendar of events for visitors of all ages and interests. All New York State residents and NY, NJ, and CT students with ID may ‘pay as you wish’ for admission, with no advanced reservation required.  

  • Free Days: ‘Pay As You Wish’ for NY residents and NY/NJ/CT students  
  • Recommended donation: $30 for adults, $17 for students 

American Museum of Natural History ★

One of the biggest draws for New York City visitors is the American Museum of Natural History– and New Yorkers get in for free! Located on the Upper West Side, this amazing museum has been wowing visitors with renowned exhibits disseminating the discoveries of the natural world and interpreting human cultures since 1869. We recommend downloading a printable map or the mobile app to help you find your way around. There is a lot to see, and it gets very busy! New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents with ID can also get in for free. 

  • Free Days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ for NY/CT/NJ residents every day Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm
  • Recommended donation: $23 for adults, $18 for students, $13 for children

Museum of Mordern Art (MOMA) ★

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is one of the biggest art institutions in the country, dedicated entirely to contemporary art! Nestled into a Long Island City neighborhood, MoMa is a great place to explore the history of contemporary art starting in the 1970s until the present. They’ve shown nearly 900 exhibitions over 35 years, with award-winning in-person and online offerings. Free museum days for New York City residents occur on the first Friday night of every month, but they must be reserved in advance on the website for UNIQLO NYC Nights. You can also purchase same-day film tickets for these days on-site after 4:00 pm.

  • Free days: First Friday night of every month for NYC residents 
  • Recommended donation: ‘Pay What You Wish’ 
  • Website:

The Cloisters

The Cloisters, also known as the Met Cloisters, is a unique museum specializing in Catholicism and European medieval architecture and art. It focuses particularly on the Gothic and Romanesque periods, starting from the jaw-dropping Main Hall in Fort Tyron Park that makes you feel like you just stepped into the Middle Ages when Spain was ruled by the Moors.

The museum offers several tours for families and garden lovers. I suggest downloading the digital guide to help plan your visit. This is another opportunity for New York residents and students from NY, NJ, and CT to enter on a ‘pay what you wish’ admission basis. 

  • Free days: ‘Pay What You Wish’ for NY/CT/NJ residents every day from Thursday to Tuesday between 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 
  • Recommended donation: $30 adults, $22 seniors, $17 students.

MOMA PS1

MoMA PS1 is an artist-centered institution on Jackson Avenue in Queens that has supported the value of creative expression for nearly 50 years. They thrive on engaging their guests with thrilling exhibits and enticing them to dive into the minds behind these boundary-breaking pieces, truly connecting with the artists. There are always a ton of fun events and colorful exhibitions celebrating the beauty of the diverse cultures you’ll find across NYC. MoMA PS1 also hosts Summer Fridays- a free curated series of DJ sets to bring the community together through music. Admission to the museum is by timed-entrance, so make sure to reserve your tickets before arrival. 

  • Free days: Free for all New Yorkers Every Day!
  • Recommended donation: Any amount

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