Free museum days in NYC

Keep this list of free admission times and pay-what-you-wish hours handy and see New York's best cultural institutions for nothing.

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Monday

Yeshiva University Museum

  • Price band: 1/4

Since 1973, Yeshiva University's museum has held exhibits focusing on Jewish culture and history.

  1. 15 W 16th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
  2. Mon 5–8pm free
More info

Tuesday

China Institute

  • Price band: 4/4

China is the focus at this institute, which is the oldest bicultural organization devoted to that country in the U.S. Enter through its bright red front door, which is flanked by twin lion statues—the animals were added to the turn-of-the-century building in 1944. The institute serves all things Middle Kingdom, hosting Mandarin classes for kids and adults, films and lectures on Chinese culture.

  1. 125 E 65th St, (between Park and Lexington Aves)
  2. Tue 6–8pm free
More info

Staten Island Museum

  • Price band: 1/4

The museum's exhibits cover arts, sciences and local history. It also sponsors programs for both kids and adults.

  1. 75 Stuyvesant Pl, (at Wall St)
  2. Tue noon–2pm free
More info

Wednesday

Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

  • Price band: 1/4

This museum explores Jewish life before, during and after the Nazi genocide. The permanent collection includes documentary films, thousands of photos and 800 artifacts, many donated by Holocaust survivors and their families, while the Memorial Garden features English artist Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, 18 fire-hollowed boulders embedded with dwarf oak saplings. Special exhibitions tackle historical events or themes, such as “Crack, Bam, Dot! The Game of Mah Jongg in Jewish-American Life,” on view through December. The new Keeping History Center brings the core collection to life with interactive displays, including “Voices of Liberty,” a soundscape of émigrés’ and refugees’ reactions to their arrival in the U.S.—which is made all the more poignant juxtaposed with the museum’s panoramic views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

  1. 36 Battery Pl, (at 1st Pl)
  2. Wed 4–8pm free
More info

Van Cortlandt House Museum

Built by a rich merchant-farmer family in 1748, this fieldstone mansion housed both British and American armies during the Revolutionary War and gave George Washington a place to rest his head. This place has the distinction of being the city’s first historic house museum, opened in 1896, and offers both self-guided and volunteer docent-led tours of the collection of colonial furniture and decorative objects.

  1. Broadway, ( at 246th St)
More info

Yeshiva University Museum

  • Price band: 1/4

Since 1973, Yeshiva University's museum has held exhibits focusing on Jewish culture and history.

  1. 15 W 16th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
  2. Wed 5–8pm free
More info

Thursday

New Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The first new art museum ever constructed from the ground up below 14th Street, the aptly named New Museum marks a major contribution to the continuing revitalization of downtown Manhattan. The bold seven-storey building, designed by the cutting-edge Tokyo architectural firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA, opened in December 2007, housing three main gallery levels, a theatre, a café and roof terraces. The focus here is on emerging media and surveys of important but under-recognised artists—further evidence of its pioneering spirit.

  1. 235 Bowery, (at Prince St)
  2. Thu 6–9pm free
More info

Museum of Arts & Design

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Originally designed in 1964 by Radio City Music Hall architect Edward Durell Stone to house the Gallery of Modern Art, 2 Columbus Circle (nicknamed the ‘Lollipop Building’ because of the Candyland-like columns that lined its base) was a windowless monolith that had sat empty since 1998. After an 18-month overhaul (with a price tag topping $90 million), the ten-story building now has a 150-seat auditorium for public events, classrooms, a restaurant (opening in fall 2009) and four floors of exhibition galleries, including the Tiffany & Co Foundation Jewelry Gallery. Founded in 1956 as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, the institution brings together contemporary objects created in a wide range of media—including clay, glass, wood, metal and cloth—with a strong focus on materials and process. Visitors can now watch as resident artists create works in studios on the sixth floor, and curators are able to display more of the 2,000-piece permanent collection in the larger space, including porcelain ware by Cindy Sherman, stained glass by Judith Schaechter, black-basalt ceramics by James Turrell and Robert Arneson’s mural Alice House Wall, on view for the first time in two decades.

  1. 2 Columbus Circle, (at Broadway)
More info

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

  • Price band: 1/4

MOCA occupies an airy former machine shop designed by prominent Chinese-American architect Maya Lin. In an interior loosely inspired by a traditional Chinese house, with rooms radiating off a central courtyard and areas defined by screens, MOCA’s core exhibit traces the development of Chinese communities on these shores from the 1850s to the present through objects, images and video. Mixed-media displays cover the development of industries such as laundries and restaurants in New York, Chinese stereotypes in pop culture, and the suspicion and humiliation Chinese-Americans endured during World War II and the McCarthy era. A mocked-up Chinese general store evokes the multipurpose spaces that served as vital community lifelines for men severed from their families under the 1882 Exclusion Act, which restricted immigration. A gallery is devoted to temporary exhibitions, such as the work of contemporary Chinese-American artists.

  1. 215 Centre St, (between Grand and Howard Sts)
More info

China Institute

  • Price band: 4/4

China is the focus at this institute, which is the oldest bicultural organization devoted to that country in the U.S. Enter through its bright red front door, which is flanked by twin lion statues—the animals were added to the turn-of-the-century building in 1944. The institute serves all things Middle Kingdom, hosting Mandarin classes for kids and adults, films and lectures on Chinese culture.

  1. 125 E 65th St, (between Park and Lexington Aves)
  2. Thu 6–8pm free
More info

Friday

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

After a two-year redesign by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, MoMA reopened in 2004 with almost double the space to display some of the most impressive artworks from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Outside, the Philip Johnson–designed Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, which houses works by Calder, Rodin and Moore, overlooks the Modern, a sleek high-end restaurant and bar run by superstar restaurateur Danny Meyer. The Museum of Modern Art has a great deal of free family programming for all ages.

  1. 11 W 53rd St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
More info

Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Like the Guggenheim, the Whitney is set apart by its unique architecture: It’s a Marcel Breuer–designed grey granite cube with an all-seeing upper-story ‘eye’ window. When Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and art patron, opened the museum in 1931, she dedicated it to living American artists. Today, the Whitney holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the exhibition everyone loves to hate, the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial remains the most prestigious (and controversial) assessment of contemporary art in America. Sarabeth’s, the museum’s café, is open daily till 4:30pm, offering sandwiches and the like.

  1. 945 Madison Ave, (at 75th St)
More info

Museum of the Moving Image

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Only 15 minutes from midtown, the Museum of the Moving Image is one of the city’s most dynamic institutions. Rubbing elbows with Kaufman Astoria Studios, it includes a three-story extension that features a state-of-the-art 264-seat cinema and expanded gallery spaces. Meanwhile, the museum’s “Behind the Screen” exhibit examines every step of the filmmaking process, with artifacts from more than 1,000 different productions, and 14 classic (playable!) video games, including Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders.

  1. 36-01 35th Ave, (at 37th St)
More info

New York Historical Society

Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society's archives include over four centuries of American artifacts. Much of the collection is on display at their Study of American Culture, but they supplement these items with a wide variety of public programs and lectures.

  1. 170 Central Park West, (between 76th and 77th Streets)
  2. Fri 6–8pm pay-what-you-wish
More info

The Morgan Library & Museum

This Madison Avenue institution began as the private library of financier J. Pierpont Morgan and is his artistic gift to the city. Building on the collection Morgan amassed in his lifetime, the museum houses first-rate works on paper, including drawings by Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso; three Gutenberg Bibles; a copy of Frankenstein annotated by Mary Shelley; manuscripts by Dickens, Poe, Twain, Steinbeck and Wilde; sheet music handwritten by Beethoven and Mozart; and an original edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol that’s displayed every yuletide. In 2006, a massive renovation and expansion orchestrated by Renzo Piano brought more natural light into the building and doubled the available exhibition space. A theater, Gilder Lehrman Hall, regularly hosts recitals and concerts.

  1. 225 Madison Ave, (at 36th St)
More info

International Center of Photography

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The library at the International Center of Photography—a major photographic resource—houses back issues of photography magazines, and thousands of biographical and photographic files. Founded in the 1960s as the International Fund for Concerned Photography, ICP has work by photojournalists Werner Bischof, Robert Capa and Dan Weiner, all of whom were killed on assignment. Photojournalism remains an important part of the center’s program, which also includes contemporary photos and video. In 2003, the first-ever ICP Photo Triennial further solidified ICP’s presence on the contemporary photography scene. The two floors of exhibition space often showcase retrospectives devoted to single artists; recent shows have focused on the work of Sebastião Salgado, Weegee and Garry Winogrand.

  1. 1133 Sixth Ave, (at 43rd St)
More info

Rubin Museum of Art

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Opened in 2004, this six-story museum (once home to Barneys New York) houses Donald and Shelley Rubin’s impressive collection of Himalayan art and artifacts, as well as large-scale temporary exhibitions.

  1. 150 W 17th St, (at Seventh Ave)
More info

Asia Society

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The Asia Society sponsors study missions and conferences while promoting public programs in the US and abroad. The headquarters’ striking galleries host major exhibitions of art culled from dozens of countries and time periods—from ancient India and medieval Persia to contemporary Japan—and assembled from public and private collections, including the permanent Mr and Mrs John D Rockefeller III collection of Asian art. A spacious, atrium-like café, with a pan-Asian menu, and a beautifully stocked gift shop make the society a one-stop destination for anyone who has an interest in Asian art and culture.

  1. 725 Park Ave, (at 70th St)
More info

American Folk Art Museum

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Celebrating traditional craft-based work is the American Folk Art Museum. Designed by architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, the stunning eight-floor building is four times larger than the original Lincoln Center location (now a branch of the museum) and includes a café. The range of decorative, practical and ceremonial folk art encompasses pottery, trade signs, delicately stitched log-cabin quilts and wind-up toys. Free family guides are available at the admission desk, and on the first Saturday of most months, the museum hosts a family tour and workshop free with admission.

  1. 2 Lincoln Sq, (Columbus Ave at 66th St)
More info

The Noguchi Museum

  • Price band: 1/4

When sculptor (and landscape architect, and theatrical-set and furniture designer) Isamu Noguchi opened his Queens museum in 1985, he was the first living artist in the U.S. to establish such an institution. It occupies a former photo-engraving plant across the street from the studio he had occupied since the 1960s to be closer to stone and metal suppliers along Vernon Boulevard. The entire building was designed by Noguchi to be a meditative oasis amid its gritty, industrial setting. Ten galleries and a garden are populated with Noguchi’s sculptures; also on display are drawn, painted and collaged studies, architectural models, and stage and furniture designs.

  1. 9-01 33rd Rd, (at Vernon Blvd)
More info

Bronx Museum of the Arts

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Founded in 1971 and featuring more than 800 works, this multicultural art museum shines a spotlight on 20th- and 21st-century artists who are either Bronx-based or of African, Asian or Latino ancestry. The museum sporadically offers family programming.

  1. 1040 Grand Concourse, (at 165th St)
More info

New York Hall of Science

  • Price band: 1/4

Built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and recently expanded, the Hall of Science demystifies its subject through colorful hands-on exhibits, with topics such as Marvelous Molecules and The Realm of the Atom. In summer, children can burn off their excess energy—and perhaps learn a thing or two—in the 30,000 sq ft outdoor science playground.

  1. 47-01 111th St, (at 47th Ave)
More info

Yeshiva University Museum

  • Price band: 1/4

Since 1973, Yeshiva University's museum has held exhibits focusing on Jewish culture and history.

  1. 15 W 16th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
More info

Saturday

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The Guggenheim is as famous for its landmark building—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored for its 50th birthday in 2009—as it is for its impressive collection and daring temporary shows. The museum owns Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works, along with the Panza di Biumo Collection of American Minimalist and Conceptual art from the 1960s and ’70s. In addition to works by Manet, Picasso, Chagall and Bourgeois, it holds the largest collection of Kandinskys in the U.S. In 1992, the addition of a ten-story tower provided space for a sculpture gallery (with park views), an auditorium and a café.

  1. 1071 Fifth Ave, (at 89th St)
More info

Brooklyn Museum

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Brooklyn’s premier institution is a less-crowded alternative to Manhattan’s bigger-name spaces. Among the museum’s many assets is a 4,000-piece Egyptian collection, which includes a gilded-ebony statue of Amenhotep III and, on the ceiling, a large-scale rendering of an ancient map of the cosmos, as well as a mummy preserved in its original coffin. Masterworks by Cézanne, Monet and Degas, part of an impressive European collection, are displayed in the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court. On the fifth floor, American paintings and sculptures include native son Thomas Cole’s The Pic-Nic and Louis Rémy Mignot’s Niagara. Don’t miss the renowned Pacific Island and African galleries (this was the first American museum to display African objects as art).

  1. 200 Eastern Pkwy, (at Washington Ave)
More info

El Museo del Barrio

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Located in Spanish Harlem (a.k.a. El Barrio), El Museo del Barrio is dedicated to the work of Latino artists who reside in the U.S., as well as Latin American masters. The 8,000-piece collection ranges from pre-Colombian artifacts to contemporary installations. Renovated in late 2009, the refurbished space now features updated galleries, an exposed courtyard for programming and events, and a Pan-Latino cafe that serves tacos, chili, and rice and beans.

  1. 1230 Fifth Ave, (between 104th and 105th Sts)
More info

The Jewish Museum

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The Jewish Museum, housed in the 1908 Warburg Mansion, contains a fascinating collection of more than 28,000 works of art, artifacts and media installations. The two-floor permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” examines how Judaism has survived and explores various Jewish identities throughout history. There is also a permanent exhibit specifically for children: The Café Weissman serves contemporary kosher fare.

  1. 1109 Fifth Ave, (at 92nd St)
More info

Sunday

The Frick Collection

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The opulent residence that houses a private collection of great masters (from the 14th through the 19th centuries) was originally built for industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The firm of Carrère & Hastings designed the 1914 structure in an 18th-century European style, with a beautiful interior court and reflecting pool. The permanent collections include world-class paintings, sculpture and furniture by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Renoir and French cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener.

  1. 1 E 70th St, (between Fifth and Madison Aves)
More info

Studio Museum in Harlem

  • Price band: 1/4

When Studio Museum opened in 1968, it was the first black fine-arts museum in the country, and it remains the place to go for historical insight into African-American art and the art of the African diaspora. Under the leadership of director Lowery Sims (formerly at the Met) and chief curator Thelma Golden (formerly of the Whitney), this neighborhood favorite has evolved into the city’s most exciting showcase for contemporary African-American artists.

  1. 144 W 125th St , (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (Seventh Ave) and Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave))
More info

New York Hall of Science

  • Price band: 1/4

Built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and recently expanded, the Hall of Science demystifies its subject through colorful hands-on exhibits, with topics such as Marvelous Molecules and The Realm of the Atom. In summer, children can burn off their excess energy—and perhaps learn a thing or two—in the 30,000 sq ft outdoor science playground.

  1. 47-01 111th St, (at 47th Ave)
More info

Users say

4 comments
Lindsey
Lindsey

Also, shanikiarlin!@aol.com, I've been to the Beonx museum and it sounds like exactly what you're looking for ... The description above doesn't do it justice :)

Lindsey
Lindsey

Read more carefully... here are just two examples from above... Studio Museum: "When Studio Museum opened in 1968, it was the first black fine-arts museum in the country, and it remains the place to go for historical insight into African-American art and the art of the African diaspora. Under the leadership of director Lowery Sims (formerly at the Met) and chief curator Thelma Golden (formerly of the Whitney), this neighborhood favorite has evolved into the city’s most exciting showcase for contemporary African-American artists." The Brooklyn Museum: " The Pic-Nic and Louis Rémy Mignot’s Niagara. "Don’t miss the renowned Pacific Island and African galleries (this was the first American museum to display African objects as art)."

Diamond
Diamond

The fact that u list ANYTHING for free is cool. But there is nothing listed overall in your listings that would be geared toward and African American cultural interests other than some of the Museums. None of the musical venues reflect our music.