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Met Unframed
Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

All the free museums days in NYC you should know about

From uptown to downtown and Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, we’ve got all the free museum days and cheap admission in New York City

By Howard Halle and Shaye Weaver

One of the benefits of living in or visiting New York City is all the incredible cultural institutions and museums are at your beck-and-call like the The Metropolitan Museum Of ArtMoMA or the Guggenheim. They are among the finest in the world—there’s just one hitch: They’re often pricey to get into. Unlike cities such as London or Washington, D.C., New York isn’t big on publicly funded museums, which is too bad, especially if you actually live here and have to pay most of your wages on food and rent. Granted, there are senior and student discounts, and memberships that let you get in gratis if you’re willing to pay for the annual fee. There is one alternative, however: most museums offer free hours or days and pay-what-you-wish admission. You just have to know where and when they are. We’ve got the info you need in our guide to all the free museum days and cheap admission in NYC you should know about.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best museums in NYC

Free museum days

Photograph: Courtesy the American Folk Art Museum

1. American Folk Art Museum

Museums Art and design Upper West Side

The American Folk Art Museum celebrates traditional craft-based work, and the work of the self-taught, including Outsider artists. Its collection ranges from visionary works by Henry Darger and Martin Ramirez to quilts and Early American portrait paintings.

Always free

2. Bronx Museum of the Arts

Museums Art and design The Bronx

One of NYC’s more underrated institutions, the Bronx Museum features more than 1000 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.

Always free

Photograph: David Heald, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2017

3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Museums Art and design Upper East Side

There’s nothing quite like seeing an exhibition in the Guggenheim’s breathtaking rotunda designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Check out his handiwork, and all the great art on an evening when admission is discounted at a rate of your choosing.

Pay what you wish, Saturday, 4 pm–6 pm

4. The Jewish Museum

Museums History Central Park

The Jewish Museum is free on Shabbat during regular hours! Go see its exhibits of contemproary and modern art and substantial collection of Judaica. There is a permanent exhibit specifically for children, as well as a restaurant that includes an Uptown outpost of Russ & Daughters, the iconic Lower East Side purveyors of Kosher delicacies like lox, sable and whitefish.

Saturday, free all day

Queens County Farm Museum
Queens County Farm Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Queens County Farm Museum

5. Queens County Farm Museum

Museums Special interest Queens

This Queens County treasure is well worth the bus trek or car ride. As the city’s longest continually farmed site in the city (it’s been in operation since 1697), the 47 acres feels like an entirely different world compared to Manhattan. Feed and pet the barnyard animals, including sheep, ponies and goats, hop aboard a hayride and come back during the fall harvest season when you can go pumpkin picking and attempt to find your way through the Amazing Maize Maze (yes, that’s a corn maze). Don’t forget to stop by the store on your way out for fresh fruits and veggies grown on the premises!

Admission is free except on special ticketed event days.

American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
Photograph: Marielle Solan

6. American Museum of Natural History

Museums Science and technology Upper West Side

Beyond the iconic, show-stopping displays–the grizzly bear in the Hall of North American Mammals, the 94-feet long blue whale, the prehistoric Barosaurus skeleton rearing up as if to scare the adjacent Allosaurus skeleton–is an expertly curated, 148-year-old museum that fills visitors of all ages with a curiosity about the universe. Whether you’re interested in the world below our feet, or the cultures of faraway lands or the stars light-years beyond our reach, your visit is bound to teach you a few things you never knew.

Admission to the museum is a suggested donation for New York residents. However, for access to the amazing special exhibits like the annual Butterfly Conservatory or the mesmerizing Space Show in the Hayden Planetarium, you’ll have to shell out more.

Photograph: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museums Art and design Central Park

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s pay what you wish policy applies to New York State residents only. But hey, it's the greatest museum in the world, right? Remember, even if if you live in New York State, you’ll need one of the following as proof:

-New York State driver’s license
-New York State identification card
-Current bill or statement with a New York State address
-Student ID
-New York library card

Pay what you wish at the ticket counter for New York State residents

8. The Morgan Library & Museum

Museums History Murray Hill

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.

Friday, 2-5 pm. Reservations are required available one week in advance.


9. Museum of Arts & Design

Museums Art and design Hell's Kitchen

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.

2-for-1 tickets, Thursday, 5–8pm

MoMA Sculpture garden and design rooms
MoMA Sculpture garden and design rooms
Photograph: Michael Kirby

10. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Museums Art and design Midtown West

After decades of promoting Picasso, Matisse, Pollock and other great white males, MoMA has dusted off works from women and artists of color that had been languishing in storage. MoMA offers not only the greatest collection of modern and contemporary art on the globe, but also a very narrow window to get in for free. 

Free admission for NYC’s healthcare workers is being offered through Sep 30, 2021, thanks to UNIQLO.

Photograph: Courtesy New-York Historical Society

11. New-York Historical Society

4 out of 5 stars
Museums History Upper West Side

The New-York Historical Society features more than 1.6 million works that explore the history of the city and the country, including exhibits, art and historical artifacts. The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library has more than three million books, newspapers, maps, photographs and more from our nation’s founding through slavery and Reconstruction and beyond.

 Pay what you wish, Friday, 6-8pm

12. New Museum of Contemporary Art

Museums Art and design Lower East Side

The New Museum houses three main gallery levels, a theater, a café operated by Hester Street Fair and roof terraces. As it has throughout its history, the New Musem focuses it program on emerging—and important but under-recognized—artists. 

Pay what you wish, Thursday, 7-9pm



13. Queens Museum

Museums Art and design Queens

Located on the grounds of two World’s Fairs, the QM holds one of Gotham’s most amazing sights: The Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs, created for the 1964 exposition and featuring Lilliputian models of landmarks.

Everyday is pay what you wish

14. The Rubin Museum of Art

Museums Art and design Chelsea

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.

Friday, 6–10pm


Photograph: Courtesy Fotografiska/Adrian Gaut

15. Fotografiska

Art Photography Gramercy

The Fotografiska gallery in the heart of the Flatiron District features three floors of exhibition space of temporary exhibits featuring photos from “grandmasters and emerging talent” that range from “easily accessible to hardcore conceptual.”

Frontline workers get in for free.

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