Some of the best things in life are free and so are many New York museums. Say goodbye to full-price museum tickets, because all you need to know is when to visit. Knowing about all free museums in NYC allows you to create your perfect itinerary and save money!
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There are some museums in New York that you can visit for free anytime! Others, on the other hand, offer free museum days where admission to the museum is free only on select days. In order for you to take advantage of those free museums in NYC, we have created a handy overview.
Still check the museum’s website before you go!
Museums undergo renovations from time to time, so it’s worth it to assure yourself about the opening hours beforehand. Just in 2019, New York’s renowned MoMA was closed for several months due to refurbishing.
Museums in NYC that are always free
While some museums in NYC simply offer free admission, others offer you to “pay-what-you-wish”. This concept was invented to give museum access to a broader audience.
What is pay-what-you-wish?
Pay-what-you-wish offers allow you to choose how much you pay for your ticket. This type of admission cannot be purchased in advance and is only available at the ticket desks. Theoretically, you could pay nothing but we ask you to at least consider making a small contribution. Some museums have a suggested minimum that serves as a great guideline on what to pay. If you really can’t afford the suggested admission, however, you can visit it for as little as a few cents.
All free museums in NYC that offer pay-what-you-wish are marked with a dollar sign ($). All others are completely free on any given day. They are listed in alphabetical order:
- American Folk Art Museum
- American Museum of Natural History ($)
- Bronx Museum of the Arts
- Brooklyn Historical Society
- Brooklyn Museum ($)
- Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration (ferry is not free)
- El Museo del Barrio ($)
- Hispanic Society of America
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Mmuseumm ($)
- Museum at FIT
- Museum of the City of New York ($)
- Statue of Liberty Museum (ferry is not free)
- Queens Museum of Art
- United Nations Exhibits (government-issued ID required)
Free museums in NYC on select days
While some museums always let you visit free of charge, others offer free museum days. That means the museum specified a day or even a time when you can visit the museum for free. Here too, the offers differentiate between free and pay-what-you-wish, which we have marked with a dollar sign ($)
If a museum offers pay-what-you-wish on select days, be sure to get there at least 30 minutes ahead of time!
- Brooklyn Children’s Museum ($) from 2 pm to 6 pm
- Museum of Arts and Design ($) from 6 pm to 9 pm
- New Museum of Contemporary Art from 7 pm to 9 pm
- Bronx Botanical Garden from 8 am to 12 pm (March to November)
- Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air & Space from 5 pm to 9 pm on select nights
- Japan Society Gallery from 6 pm to 9 pm
- Modern Museum of Art from 5:30 pm to 9 pm
- Museum of the Moving Image from 4 pm to 8 pm
- Neue Galerie from 6 pm to 9 pm
- New York Museum of Science from 2 pm to 5 pm
- Whitney Museum of American Art ($) from 7 to 10 pm
The Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) can be explored for free on Pi-Day, which is March 14.
Free Museums for New Yorkers
Being a New Yorker comes with many perks. Not only do you get to experience the atmosphere of the city that millions of people pay a fortune to see on a daily basis, but you can also enjoy free admissions to many museums! How? Get yourself a library card! Head to either Brooklyn, Queens or the New York Public Library and apply for a card. To be eligible for a library card you must live in New York state or either work or study in New York City.
Your library card entitles you to reserve dozens of museums, institutions, and gardens across New York for free thanks to the Culture Pass program. To see a list of all participating institutions, check out the map and list. The card allows you to reserve tickets online and for free.
Do you live in Chinatown or Two Bridges?
Then the Museum of Chinese America could also be free for you since it offers pay-what-you-wish admission to all its residents.
What is pay-what-you-wish?
The pay-what-you-wish ticket policy offers visitors to choose the amount they pay for a ticket. While the amount can be freely chosen, there is typically a suggested minimum that one should try to contribute, if feasible. Theoretically, however, you can visit the museums for free.
Is the Metropolitan Museum free?
No. Admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is not free. It used to offer pay-what-you-wish-admission but changed its policy. Now, only New Yorkers can enjoy free admission to the museum. Visitors will have to pay regular ticket prices.
Is the Museum of Natural History free?
Kind of. The Museum of Natural History offers pay-what-you-wish admission to its visitors, providing them with the choice to choose the amount they pay. If you want to take advantage of the offer, you can get your tickets directly at the ticket counter. Pay-what-you-wish tickets are not available online.
Do you know of a free museum in New York that’s not on the list? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Oh, how lucky I am… always at the pulse of the greatest city in the world – what could be better? New York City is my passion and I’m happy to be able to share my experiences along with insider tips and helpful tricks with you. With me by your side, you’ll never miss a beat!