The best free museums in NYC

Check out our favorite (and totally free) museums in NYC for art, history and even a few gravestones
"Mike Kelley" at MoMA PS1
Photograph: Jena Cumbo
By Jillian Anthony and Howard Halle |
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Thanks to government funding, museum admission is free in most of the world’s major cities—though not, unfortunately in NYC. Average ticket costs run to $25 dollars at big museums like MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which used to be pay-what-you-wish, but now limits the discount to New York Stae residents), but that doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg to get into every museum in the Five Boroughs. In fact, some of our liveliest museum attractions are gratis. You just have to know which ones. To find out, consult our guide to the best free museums in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to free things to do in NYC

Best free museums in NYC

1
American Folk Art Museum
Photograph: Gavin Ashworth
Museums, Art and design

American Folk Art Museum

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

From paintings by itinerant portrait artists of early-19th century America to Henry Darger’s delirious drawings, AFAM has the best collection of folk, visionary and outsider art in the country. The best part? Getting in is free.

2
BLDG 92
Photograph: Tom Olcott
Museums, Special interest

BLDG 92

icon-location-pin Fort Greene

The history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard—which constructed the Civil War ironclad, Monitor and the World War II battleship, USS Arizona (the most famous causality of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor—is chronicled in this small museum on the grounds of the former shipbuilding site.

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3
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Photograph: Courtesy Bronx Museum of the Arts
Museums, Art and design

Bronx Museum of the Arts

icon-location-pin The Bronx

Featuring a collection of more than 800 works, this multicultural art museum is one of NYC’s more underrated institutions, but it’s worth a visit not only because it’s free, but also because it hosts exciting exhibitions by 20th and 21st century art artists.

4
Federal Hall
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/oligator83
Attractions, Civic buildings

Federal Hall National Memorial

icon-location-pin Financial District

George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States at this National Park Service site, nestled on Wall Street, which was also home to the first Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices. What better place to learn to learn the early history of the Republic, especially when it’s free?

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5
Green-Wood Cemetery
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel

icon-location-pin Greenwood

NYC’s answer to Paris’s Père Lachaise graveyard, Green-Wood Cemetery, like it’s French counterpart, serves as the final resting place of luminaries, including such famous names as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and Boss Tweed, who share the peace and quiet with some half million or New Yorkers. You’ll also find tons of Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles filling the grounds.

6
Hispanic Society
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/gigi_nyc
Museums, Art and design

The Hispanic Society of America

icon-location-pin Washington Heights

Old Master paintings (by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya), religious artifacts and rare are just some of the treasure featured in the collection this museum dedicated to celebrating Spanish culture and its spread around the world.

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7
Woodlawn Cemetery
Photograph: Courtesy Woodlawn Conservancy
Attractions, Cemeteries

Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

icon-location-pin The Bronx

Literary giants (Joseph Pulitzer, Herman Melville) and musicians Duke Ellington, Miles Davis) are those resting in peace in this 400-acre burial ground in the Bronx.

 

8
"Mike Kelley" at MoMA PS1
Photograph: Jena Cumbo
Museums, Art and design

MoMA PS1

icon-location-pin Long Island City

Featuring exhibits by today’s sharpest cutting-edge artists, MoMA PS1 was originally founded as an alternative space in the 1970s. Since 1999, it’s been affiliated with MoMA, but unlike the latter, you don’t have to pony up $25 to get in: Admission is free for all NYC residents courtesy of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

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9
The Museum at FIT
Museums, Fashion and costume

The Museum at FIT

icon-location-pin Chelsea

Are you a footwear fetishist? Well, there are some, 4,000 shoes in the Fashion Institute of Technology in-house museum, along with 15,000 accessories, 30,000 textiles, and countless designs by such giants of the fashion industry as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

10
Museums, Special interest

Queens County Farm Museum

icon-location-pin Queens

Yes, there are still working farms in NYC, including this 47-acre spread that welcome visitors with attractions such as a kid’s petting zoo, a corn maze and pumpkin picking during the fall.

Looking for more museums in NYC?

New York attractions
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Museums

Museums in NYC

There are museums in NYC to satisfy every kind of intellectual curiosity and aesthetic

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