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The best museum hacks in NYC

From free and reduced rates to VIP access and skip-the-line passes, here are the best ways to hack NYC museums

Photograph: David Heald, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018
By Dan Q Dao |

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Guggenheim—these are just the top three on a list of dozens of museums that are spread across NYC, not only in Manhattan but also in Brooklyn and Queens. They offer fabulous shows and collections, of course, but this being New York and all, they also share some not-so-great attributes, such as long lines, hefty admissions and big crowds clogging your view of the exhibits. Luckily, there are many ways to circumnavigate these problems, and it just so happens that we’ve assembled them here in our handy list of the best museum hacks in NYC. So be sure to check it out before you go and see that blockbuster exhibition everyone is talking about.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to New York attractions

Best museum hacks in NYC

Museum of Sex
Photograph: Igor Khodzinskiy

New York City Explorer Pass

For first-time visitors looking to cover the most ground in a short amount of time, an all-access pass is the most cost-efficient and comprehensive option. The New York City Explorer Pass grants you access to your choice of 3-10 attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and museums like the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (skip-the-line entry), Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Sex.

Hispanic Society
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/gigi_nyc

Free museums

A handful of museums are completely free, including BLDG 92, MoMA PS1 and the Museum at FIT. Visit our guide to the best free museums in NYC to see the full list.

Museum of the Moving Image
Photograph: Peter Aaron

Free museum days

Aside from those museums that are always free, a sizable list of museums in New York have designated free days with a suggested, pay-what-you-wish policy (we encourage donating when you can!). Highlights include the MoMA on Friday from 4-8pm and the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday from 5-11pm.

New Museum_Here and Elsewhere_2014_07_NYC_Benoit Pailley
Benoit Pailley

Student discounts

Most museums offer free and reduced rates with a valid student ID. From the Museum of Modern Art to the New Museum, here’s your reward for all the late nights at the library. For students of New York City universities like NYU and Columbia, certain museums are totally free: check out NYU’s list and Columbia’s list.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Contact:  Telephone +1 212 570-3951.
Photograph: Brooks Walker

EmptyMet Tour

This one admittedly won’t save you any money at all, but we think it’s pretty cool. Head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 8:30am (and pony up $125) for an intimate, one-of-a-kind EmptyMet tour. You’ll be experiencing 5,000 years of history all to yourself—the tour caps at 25 people—before it opens to the public for the day. What better way to start your morning than having some one-on-one time with a bunch of ancient art? As a bonus, the Met’s ticket also grants you same-day access to its contemporary art offshoot, the Met Breuer, and its charming medieval wing uptown, the Met Cloisters.


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