27 Free Museums in NYC

A complete list of free museums in NYC

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!

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

American Museum of Natural History in NYC
Visiting the American Museum of Natural History can be 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.

Good to know

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 ($).

    Museums in NYC that are always free

  1. 01

    American Museum of Natural History ($)

    Museum in Upper West Side
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    The American Museum of Natural History is one of the more popular museums in NYC. If the name sounds recognizable it’s because the museum was the center of attention in the movie, Night at the Museum featuring Ben Stiller. Regardless of it’s Hollywood fame, the Natural History Museum is a huge institution that features numerous exhibits. This is a great place for families with kids so they can learn about the world’s geography, plants, different animal species and many other things.

    The American Museum of Natural History is located in the Upper West Side in Manhattan and is the largest natural history museum in the world.

  2. 02

    The Bronx Museum of the Arts

    Museum in Bronx
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    At the Bronx Museum of Arts you can learn all about 20th and 21st century American art. In addition, there is a very good insight into the art and design scene from Africa and Asia. Especially exciting is the overview of the creative scene in the Bronx.

  3. 03

    Brooklyn Historical Society Museum

    Museum in Dumbo
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    Founded in the year 1863 and recently renovated, the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum allows you to learn about the rich history of Brooklyn. The library, interesting photographs, very old landscape maps, old newspapers and excerpts from family stories give you a very good overview the history and past events in Brooklyn.

  4. 04

    Brooklyn Museum

    Museum in Park Slope
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    The Brooklyn Museum opened its doors to the public in 1897. Measuring around 560,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Museum, located in Park Slope is the second-largest art museum in the United States. You’ll have plenty of space to explore during your visit and the museum features a massive collection of over 1.5 million objects displayed throughout the five floors. 

    Many events are held at the Brooklyn Museum as well such as fashion shows.

  5. 05

    Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration (ferry is not free)

    Museum in Lower Manhattan
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    The world-famous Immigration Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and tells the story of immigrants to the USA and what happened to them after their arrival. The museum is a very impressive place, as this is where the immigrants used to arrive when they wanted to immigrate to the USA.

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  7. 06

    El Museo del Barrio ($)

    Museum in Harlem & Washington Heights
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    El Museo del Barrio NYC is right at the north end of the Museum Mile and exhibits everything to do with art and culture from Latin America. After its expensive renovation in 2009, the museum is better than ever and offers its visitors a collection of over 6500 artifacts, as well as many permanent and special exhibitions alike.

  8. 07

    National Museum of the American Indian

    Museum in Financial District
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    It shows a part of the 3 million items collected by the New York banker, Georg Gustav Heye, from the lives of American Indians. In the former U.S. Custom House on the southern tip of Manhattan, pottery, carpets and pictures of the Indians are displayed on two floors.

  9. 08

    Mmuseumm ($)

    Museum in Tribeca
    Museum of New York
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    New York’s smallest museum and an absolute insider tip: Here a freight elevator was converted into a museum. The exhibits are treasures from all over the world that present their view of life. In short: Small miracles – more really doesn’t fit in the elevator. A view through the window is possible at any time of the day or night – but this museum is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 6 pm.

  10. 09

    Museum of the City of New York ($)

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    A great musuem to find out more about the city of New York. Get an exciting look into the histoty of the Big apple and find out more through a variety of pictures, paintings, clothing, toys and books.

  11. 10

    Statue of Liberty Museum (ferry is not free)

    Museum in Lower Manhattan
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    Auf Liberty Island hat das neue Statue of Liberty Museum eröffnet. Es bringt einige Neuheiten nach Liberty Island, um das Erlebnis rund um die Freiheitsstatue für die Besucher noch spannender und interessanter zu gestalten.

  12. 11

    Queens Museum

    Museum in Flushing
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    The museum was built for the World’s Fair in 1939 and exhibits “The Panaroma” which is a large scale model of New York City and its five neighborhoods. Many of the exhibits are documents related to the World’s Fair. Over the years, Queens Museum has housed some of the most supreme exhibitions in all of New York.

  13. 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!

    Free museums in NYC on Mondays

  14. 12

    Museum at Eldridge Street ($)

    Museum in Lower East Side
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    The museum tells the story of Jewish history of the area. Here you can get a good overview of the background of the life of Jewish immigrants.

  15. 13

    Rubin Museum on the first Monday of the month

    Museum in Chelsea
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    For three decades, New Yorkers Shelley and Donald Rubin have been collecting Buddhist art, mandalas and meditation images here. The exhibitions of contemporary Asian artists are very impressive.

  16. Free museums in NYC on Tuesdays

  17. 14

    Morgan Library and Museum from 3 pm to 5 pm

    Museum in Murray Hill
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    The museum is famous for its collections of European masters, such as Dürer, Picasso, Rubens and Leonardo. But also drawings by Michelangelo, original handwritten music pieces by Beethoven and Mozart are part of the collection.

  18. 15

    9/11 Memorial Museum from 5 pm - 9 pm

    Museum in Financial District
    Our Highlight
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    The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located at the 9/11 National Memorial and is probably one of the most emotional museums in New York. It is mostly located underground and displays debris from the former Twin Towers in addition to many of the personal belongings of those buried. Among them are fire trucks deformed by heat, a part of the antenna of the North Tower, a scorched elevator motor, the saving stone staircase (Survivor’s Staircase) as well as remains of sidewalks, street signs, bicycles and baby carriages that were in front of the World Trade Center.

  19. Free museums in NYC on Wednesdays

  20. 16

    Frick Collection ($) from 2 pm - 6pm

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    Beautifully situated at the southern end of the Museum Mile is the art museum: “The Frick Collection”. The villa in Central Park was once the home of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), a wealthy industrialist and art collector who, after his death, opened his prestigious residence to the public as a museum.

  21. 17

    Bronx Zoo ($)

    Other Attraction in Bronx
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    Do you want to experience the largest metropolitan zoo in the US? Then go check out the Bronx Zoo. It’s perfect for families especially kids. At the Bronx Zoo you can experience your wild side and explore a national treasure in the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo is know as one of the best in the country and offer many different species from all over the world. The Bronx Zoo is one of my absolute highlights in the area and something you shouldn’t miss. 

  22. Free museums in NYC on Thursdays

  23. 18

    Brooklyn Children's Museum ($) from 2 pm to 6 pm

    Museum in Dumbo
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    The Brooklyn Children’s museum was founded in 1899 and was the first museum developed only for kids. With many permanent exhibitions and attractions, there is always something to see or do here. Overall, it’s a great place for family outings with the young ones.

    Children are encouraged to play and experience numerous activities and exhibitions.

  24. 19

    New Museum of Contemporary Art from 7 pm to 9 pm

    Museum in Lower East Side
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    The New Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Its contemporary art exhibitions are among the best in the world. Founded in 1977, the New Museum of Contemporary Art building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA and is one of the most striking buildings in NYC.

  25. Free museums in NYC on Fridays

  26. 20

    Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air & Space from 5 pm to 9 pm on select nights

    Museum in Hell's Kitchen
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    The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum is the only floating museum in NYC. You will find a wide array of historically significant military and maritime vehicles as well as a collection of museum ships on this aircraft carrier which is docked on the Hudson River. This is great for kids and adults alike as it discusses and shows a wide variety of artifacts regarding the US military and maritime history.

  27. 21

    Modern Museum of Art from 5:30 pm to 9 pm

    Museum in Midtown Manhattan
    Our Highlight
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    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was founded in 1929 and was the first museum that completely focused its collection on modern art. The huge museum went through an impressive renovation and reopened in 2004 by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. Then in MoMa went through another round of renovations and reopened in October of 2019. It is definitely one of the most impressive museums in NYC. It’s one of the largest and most influential museums with its collection of modern art.

  28. 22

    Museum of the Moving Image from 4 pm to 8 pm

    Museum in Astoria
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    In Astoria you should definitely check out the Kaufman Astoria Film Studios, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in the late 1970s due to their importance to New York City. This complex also includes the Museum of the Moving Image and the Astor Room restaurant.

    The Museum of the Moving Image opened in 1988 and is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to exploring media art, history and technology. It’s recognized as a major internationally known institution as well.

  29. 23

    Neue Galerie from 6 pm to 9 pm

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    On the traces of German and Austrian art you can discover a lot here: The first floor is dedicated to Austrian art of the early 20th century with works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, among others. The second floor is devoted to German, mainly expressionist, art of that era. Impressive works by Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix and Wassily Kandinsky are just a few of the treasures of the new gallery.

  30. 24

    Whitney Museum of American Art ($) from 7 to 10 pm

    Museum in Meatpacking District
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    Newly opened in 2015, the Whitney Museum in New York shines in a whole new light. The Whitney Museum has one of the most spectacular collections of contemporary art that focuses on American art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg are just a few of the names whose paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and installations are part of the exhibits at the Whitney Museum. More than 21,000 works of art are permanently showcased here. The museum is located in The Meatpacking District in Manhattan.

  31. Free museums in NYC on Saturdays

  32. 25

    Guggenheim Museum ($) from 5 pm to 7 pm

    Museum in Upper East Side
    Our Highlight
    Guggenheim Museum
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    First off, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece. Second, but most importantly, it is the permanent home of a large collection of art named after its founder. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the bizarrely shaped building is one of the most famous in NYC. Not only is the outside spectacular, but it is constantly expanding its permanent collection. Also, many special exhibitions are showcased here throughout the years. It is definitely worth a visit!

  33. 26

    Jewish Museum

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    The Jewish Museum is more than 100 years old and contains an impressive collection of art and religious exhibits from the past 4,000 years. With 27,000 exhibits, the museum’s significance is the most unique in the United States for the Jewish community and people of all cultural backgrounds.

  34. 27

    Morgan Library and Museum from 4 pm to 6 pm

    Museum in Murray Hill
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    The museum is famous for its collections of European masters, such as Dürer, Picasso, Rubens and Leonardo. But also drawings by Michelangelo, original handwritten music pieces by Beethoven and Mozart are part of the collection.


Free Museums for New Yorkers

New York Library Card

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.

Read more

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.


FAQ

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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About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!

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