The best free museum days in New York City
When living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, it’s helpful to know the places in New York City that offer discounts and freebies. Thankfully, many of the Big Apple’s world-class museums and galleries offer free admission on certain days, from the tiny Mmuseumm in Chinatown to the iconic Guggenheim Museum. Ahead, we’ve rounded up some of the best free museum days in NYC to let you pinch pennies and get your culture fix at the same time.
American Folk Art Museum, photo by Kat Hennessey on Wikimedia
American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square, Upper West Side
You don’t need formal training to express yourself so long as you’ve got passion. That’s what you learn when you browse the quilts, sculptures, paintings, and more that make up the American Folk Art Museum’s 7,000 + item collection of works from self-taught artists. Founded in 1961, the museum’s collection includes artwork from over four centuries and nearly every continent. Admission is always free; advanced ticketing is encouraged.
Asia Society Museum
725 Park Avenue, Upper East Side
The Asia Society’s museum explores a range of traditional, modern, and contemporary exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art. Asia Society aims to connect the people and institutions of Asia and the United States through art, education, and culture. Admission is free on Fridays.
Bronx Museum of the Arts (BxMA)
1040 Grand Concourse, Concourse
Located just north of Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Museum of the Arts is a center of contemporary art and community programming. In 2022, the museum unveiled plans for a $26 million renovation designed by Marvel that will include a new entrance and lobby. The work will wrap up in 2025. Open Wednesday through Sunday, the museum is free to visit every day.
Photo by Gregg Richards
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Ave, Crown Heights
Free on Thursdays 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Considered the world’s first museum for kids, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum opened in 1899. The Crown Heights museum features interactive exhibits and programs exploring art, music, science, and the communities of Brooklyn through kid-sized shops inspired by real neighborhood businesses. Another free perk of the museum? The Brooklyn Public Library’s Brower Park branch recently moved there.
200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights
First Saturday of every month, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The Brooklyn Museum is 560,000 square feet containing a collection of roughly 1.5 million works, making it the third-largest museum in NYC based on physical size. Among its collection are antiquities from Egypt, Europe, Africa, Oceania, and Asia. For more than two decades, the museum has offered free programs on the first Saturday of the month. The program is free and includes general admission to the museum; advanced registration is required.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
2 East 91st Street, Upper East Side
Pay what you wish, daily from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
With collections and exhibits that span over 30 centuries, Cooper Hewitt is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary and historical design. Founded in 1897 by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, the granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper, the museum is housed within the Carnegie Mansion and includes a permanent collection of more than 215,000 design objects. Admission is pay-what-you-wish every day from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
El Museo del Barrio
1230 5th Avenue, East Harlem
Pay what you wish
Founded in 1969, El Museo celebrates and preserves the art and culture of Caribbean and Latin American people in the U.S., with particular attention to Puerto Rican artists. The museum’s collection includes more than 8,500 objects from more than 800 years of Latin American, Carribbean, and Latino drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints, films, and more. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
945 Madison Avenue, Upper East Side
Pay what you wish on Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Frick Madison is the temporary home of the Frick Collection, which is currently closed for renovations until late next year. The museum features the collection of industralist Henry Clay Frick, who founded the museum in 1935, which includes paintings by major European artsits, fine furniture, and sculptures.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue, Upper East Side
Pay what you wish, Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
While not actually free, the Guggenheim offers pay-what-you-wish admission for two hours every Saturday night, with a minimum suggested contribution of $1. The Guggenheim collection is housed within an upward spiraling building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition to regularly rotating exhibitions, the Guggenheim’s collection contains an ever-growing collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern, and contemporary artworks.
The Hispanic Society Museum and Library
613 West 155th Street, Washington Heights
The Hispanic Society Museum & Library has the largest collection of Spanish and Portugese art outside of the Iberian Peninsula.The museum and reference library’s extensive collection includes more than 900 paintings, 6,000 watercolors and drawings, 6,000 objects related to decorative art, 15,000 prints, and more than 300,000 books and periodicals Open Thursday through Sunday, the museum is free to visit.
Japan Society Gallery
333 East 47th Street, Turtle Bay
Fridays, 6 p.m. to 9.p.m.
For more than 100 years, the Japan Society has worked to connect, and create better understanding between, the United States and Japan through art and culture. Designed by architects Junzō Yoshimura and George G. Shimamoto, the modern Japan Society headquarters is the first designed by a Japanese citizen and the first of contemporary Japanese design in New York City. Inside, the society’s art gallery covers art made from the 13th to 21st century, from classical Buddhist sculpture and calligraphy to contemporary photography and ceramics, and everything in between.
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave & East 92nd Street, Upper East Side
Saturdays, free all day
America’s first Jewish museum is also the world’s oldest Jewish museum. With over 30,000 items in its collection, the Jewish Museum is the largest collection of Jewish art and culture outside of Israel.
Photo by Hunterohanian on Wikimedia
The Leslie-Lohman Museum
26 Wooster Street, Soho
Pay what you wish, with suggested donation of $10
Established to protect LGBTQIA+ identity and build community, the Leslie-Lohman Museum calls itself a home for queer art, with exhibitions and programs that explore diverse experiences and perspectives of the community. The suggested donation to visit the museum is $10.
Photo via Wikimedia
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue, Upper East Side
Pay what you wish for NY residents and NY, NJ, and CT students
One of the world’s most famous museums offers pay-what-you-wish admission for New York residnets and local students. The Metropolitan Musem of Art is home to 5,000 years of art from around the world, found in an iconic location on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park.
Photo via Wikimedia
4 Cortlandt Alley, Chinatown
$5 suggested donation
The Mmuseumm seeks to explore the modern zeitgeist by exhibiting artifacts that capture the present moment. Also, it’s teeny-tiny and exists in a Chinatown adjacent Alleyway, so you can get some great nosh afterward.
J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library and the Morgan Garden, view looking west toward the Annex. Courtesy of the Morgan Library & Museum, New York. © Brett Beyer, 2022.
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, Midtown East
Fridays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Designed by architect Charles Follen McKim for J.Pierpont Morgan, the Neoclassical library was completed in 1906. The library and museum is known for its rare materials, from early childern’s books to music manuscripts and items from the 20th century. Last June, the library completed a $13 million restoration, which opened the grounds on the 36th site to the public for the first time ever.
MCNY via Shinya Suzuki on Flickr
Museum of the City of New York (MCNY)
1220 5th Ave, East Harlem
Pay what you wish at ticket counter
The Museum of the City of New York celebrates its namesake with roughly 750,000 objects, including photos, arts, costumes, paintings, sculpture, prints, all related to the Big Apple. The museum is celebrating its centennial with a new exhibition featuring 100 years of art and pop culture in the city.
Photo via Wikimedia
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
11 West 53rd Street, Midtown
Free for NYC residents on Fridays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Museum of Modern Art is one of the biggest and most important museums in the modern art world. Its collection touches on every facet of modern and contemporary art.
22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
Free for all NYC residents/ suggested donation
Attracting roughly 200,000 visitors per year since 2013, the public school-building-turned-art space MoMA PS1 is one of the biggest museums of contemporary art in the U.S.
Photo by Jason Scott on Flickr
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria
Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Fans of film and television should visit the Museum of the Moving Image, which has more than 130,000 artifacts related to media. From permanent and temporary exhibitions to screenings and panel discussions, the museum keeps a jam-packed calendar. Admission is free for all on Thursday, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
National Museum of the American Indian
1 Bowling Green, Financial District
Housed in what was once the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to exploring and preserving the legacy of America’s indigenous people. NAMI’s ongoing “Native New York” exhibition asks the question “what makes New York a native place?” by exploring 12 locations throughout the state and covering pre-Revolutionary to contemporary events.
Neue Galerie New York
1048 5th Avenue, Upper East Side
First Friday of every month, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Neue Galerie New York is dedicated to showcasing early 20th century German and Austrian art and design. On the First Friday of every month, the museum is open late and offers free admission from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please not the museum is closed for renovations until August 31.
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West, Upper West Side
Pay what you wish on Fridays, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, was founded in 1804. It’s dedicated to exploring New York and American history, with exhibitions that touch on a variety of topics.
235 Bowery, Lower East Side
Pay what you wish, Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The New Museum is one of the globe’s few museums dedicated entirely to showcasing contemporary art. The museum offers pay-what-you-wish on Thursday evenings, with a timed ticket required and $2 minimum suggested donation.
New York City Building, Flushing
The Queens Museum has roughly 10,000 items, over 6,000 of which are artifacts from the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. This includes the Panorama of the City of New York, a regularly updated scale model of NYC.
The Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street, Chelsea
Friday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Rubin Museum of Art’s mission is to preserve the art and culture of the Himalayas, India, and nearby regions, which a particular focus on the art of Tibet. During K2 Friday Nights, enjoy free admission to the museum’s galleries, cocktails, and special programs. Tickets are released on the 15th every month.
Tibet House via Wikimedia
22 West 15th Street, Flatiron
Free, $5 suggested donation
The Tibet House was founded at the request of the 14th Dalai Llama for the purpose of preserving, restoring, and presenting the art and culture of Tibet.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
227 West 27th Street, Chelsea
The Museum at FIT is dedicated to preserving fashion of historical and aesthetic significance. The museum’s permanent collection includes roughly 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present.
New York Earth Room
141 Wooster Street, Soho
Since 1977, Walter de Maria’s Earth Room has been on display at 141 Wooster Street. And since 1989, Bill Dilworth, an artist himself, has been the room’s caretaker. That’s 30+ years of looking after dirt!
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard, Harlem
Part of the New York Public Library system, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is devoted the research and preservation of materials focsed on African American and African Diaspora experiences.
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District
Pay what you wish, Fridays, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Dedicated to preserving and presenting American art, the Whitney is known for its impressive permanent collection that includes 25,000 works by more than 3,600 artists during the 20th and 21st centuries. Key artists featured at the museum include Jasper Johns, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claes Odenburg, Cindy Sherman, and others. Pay-what-you-wish tickets are offered every Friday evening; advanced tickets are recommended.
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Editor’s note: The original version of this article was published on February 14, 2019, and has since been updated.