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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

Written by
Dan Q Dao

Visiting New York City’s myriad, magnificent museums is an unforgettable experience. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA to the Guggenheim and the Whitney, NYC institutions harbor some of the greatest holdings of art in the world. But going to a museum here can admittedly be heavy sledding. You can expect to find high prices for tickets, long lines and big crowds once you make it inside. So what to do? Well, it just so happens that some days (and hours of the day) are easier to make a visit than others. And most museums offer late hours at certain times of the week, which might make a better fit for your schedule. As for the hefty admissions, most museums have certain discounts for seniors, students and kids, and best of all, they also offer days that are free for everybody. The trick, of course, is to know all the ins and outs of making museum going less expense and less hassled. But, where can you locate that information? Well, you’re in luck since we've assembled a handy guide to all the best museum hacks in NYC. Be sure to consult it when you head out to see the latest exhibits or collection highlights at NYC's best museums.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to New York attractions

Best museum hacks in NYC

New York City Explorer Pass
Photograph: Igor Khodzinskiy

1. 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.

  • Museums

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.

Student discounts
Benoit Pailley

5. 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.

EmptyMet Tour
Photograph: Brooks Walker

6. 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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