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The best First Friday and free late hours at NYC museums

Take in art, films, talks and more without spending a dime on these First Friday and evening hours at New York's museums

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

If you’re on a budget and looking to culturally spice up your weekends, consider the free extended hours—including, but not limited to, the First Friday of each month—on offer at many of New York’s finest art museums. The Brooklyn Museum, the Neue Galerie and the Museum of Modern Art are among the places offering free admission on either a weekly or monthly basis. Besides art, you’ll often find movie screenings, special events and dining options (though those aren’t free). So check out our list of institutions where you can get in gratis.

First Friday and free late hours

Asia Society

Fri 6–9pm free.

The Asia Society is one of those smaller New York institutions that often get overlooked by museum-goers, but it’s definitely worth the trip, especially on its free Friday late hours. Your can browse the special exhibitions that run the gamut from the latest in contemporary art from Asia to ancient teasers from the museum’s collection. Free Fridays also offer talks, DJ events and happy hour at the Asia Society's Leo Bar, which features exotic cocktails at a cash bar—and no cover charge with free museum admission. Look for the food truck serving Korean barbecue that often parks outside the museum.

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Lenox Hill

Brooklyn Museum

First Saturday of every month 5–11pm free.

The Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturdays stay open longer any other museum offering late hours, which means you have more time to take in the festivities. Besides art you’ll find curator talks, book clubs, films, live music and special “hands-on” events related to the exhibitions on view. And of course, there is the museum’s permanent collect, especially its world-class holdings of Egyptian art and Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. And if you’re hungry, you can try out some of the artist-created sandwiches in the museum’s BKM Café and Bowl.

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Prospect Park

The Morgan Library & Museum

Fri 7–9pm free.

Gilded Age grandeur is the hallmark of the Morgan, most noticeably in its beaux-arts library designed in 1906 for J. Pierpont Morgan by the legendary architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. You can visit its ornate interior as well as the other impressive spaces in the museum, such as the airy, light-filled Gilbert Court. As for the art, there’s Morgan’s superb collection of Renaissance art and Medieval manuscripts, plus temporary exhibitions that cover everything from contemporary art to historical monographs. Films, talks and music—usually with a classical bent—are also offered. The café is open until 7pm and features tempting menu items such as Mini Beef Sliders topped with Vermont Cheddar on Cocktail Brioche and Ricotta & Parmesan Meatballs.

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Murray Hill

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Fri 4–8pm free.

Films, the latest in contemporary art and one of the world’s greatest collection of Modern art, architecture and design are all part of the mix on MoMA’s free evening. Both of its cafés are open until 7:30pm, and if you want to pop for the expense of Michelin Star dining, MoMA’s world-class The Modern restaurant adjacent to the museum is open until 10:30pm. But be warned: MoMA’s free evening is definitely the most popular one in the city, with long lines that start to form well in advance of the 4pm start time. Three words of advice: Get there early.

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By: Howard Halle

The Neue Galerie New York

First Friday of every month 6–8pm free.

The divine decadence of fin de siècle Vienna and Weimar Berlin suffuses the Neue Galerie’s collection of 20th-century Austrian and German art, so an evening visit seems especially appropriate. Plus, you save on the $20 admission. The Café Sabarsky is open until 9pm, if you’re thinking of having dinner, and they take reservations. Bear in mind that substantial lines form on days when the museum is actually charging people to get in, so consider arriving early.

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By: Howard Halle

The Rubin Museum of Art

Fri 6–10pm free.

The Rubin is devoted to the arts of the Himalayas and neighboring regions, so expect a spiritual vibe on your visit. Thematic gallery tours and other programs—films, talks and even wellness workshops—are on offer. And every Friday night, the museum’s Café Serai turns into the K2 Lounge, complete with DJ, a Pan-Asian tapas menu, martinis and wine.

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Check out more free museum days in NYC

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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By: Howard Halle