Many of New York City's top museums, zoos, gardens and cultural institutions offer FREE or reduced admission on certain nights, days or hours at least once a month—a city perk that no busy parent should miss out on! Plus, many of the "grown-up" museums let kids in for free year-round.
It can be hard to keep track of when and where these freebies are available, so we've compiled an exhaustive list of 2016 reduced or FREE admission days at all of your favorite NYC cultural spots from The Bronx Zoo to the Brooklyn Children's Museum.
As always, you can check our Event Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or peruse our Free in NYC Guide. Try our Museum Guide for more on the latest kid-friendly art in NYC.
Children's Museums, Zoos and Gardens with Free Times
The Bronx Zoo – General admission is free on Wednesdays. Visitors are asked to donate what they wish to support the zoo's mission. Total Experience activities cost extra.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Free all day on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10am-noon. Free on winter weekdays November-February.
Brooklyn Children's Museum – Free Thursday afternoons from 2-6pm.
Children's Museum of the Arts – Pay-what-you-wish Thursdays, 4-6pm.
Children's Museum of Manhattan – Free the first Friday of every month, 5-8pm.
New York Aquarium – Pay-what-you-wish on Fridays, 3-3:30pm, during the fall, winter and spring; in the summer, free Friday hours run from 4pm-5pm.
New York Botanical Garden – Free grounds admission all day on Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 9-10am. Special exhibits cost extra.
New York Hall of Science – Free admission on Fridays, 2-5pm, and Sundays, 10-11am.
New-York Historical Society – Pay-what-you-wish Fridays 6-8pm, which includes the DiMenna Children's History Museum.
Queens Botanical Garden – Free admission daily November through March. Free admission Wednesdays, 3-6pm, and Sundays, 4-6pm the rest of the year.
Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling – Admission for children 8 and younger is always free. Children ages 9-17 enter for $4; adult admission is $7.
The Staten Island Children's Museum – Although this museum doesn't have regularly scheduled free times, it often hosts "Cool School Holiday" free admission days during public school holidays. Check the calendar for more info.
Staten Island Zoo – Free Wednesdays, 2-4:45pm.
Wave Hill – Free Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9am-noon. The garden also hosts special free arts events throughout the year. Check the calendar for more info.
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Kids under 12 are always free at the Met, which also follows a "suggested admission" policy. Photo by Mommy Poppins staff.
Free Family Programs at Museums
Several museums offer regularly scheduled free programs. In addition to no-cost admission, visitors are treated to special tours and activities. Sometimes these events require tickets (which are free), and they're all either aimed at families or are kid-friendly.
Brooklyn Museum First Saturdays – First Saturday of every month, 5-11pm, and every Thursday from 6-10pm beginning January 21. But kids ages 19 and under are always free.
El Museo del Barrio Super Sábado – Free at all times for children under 12 and for everyone on the third Saturday of every month, 11am-6pm. A visit here also gets you free admission to the Museum of the City of New York.
Museum of Modern Art – General admission is always free to ages 16 and under and parents can score a free pass on Friday nights from 4-8pm. MoMA also offers multiple free programs for families, including Tours for Fours, A Closer Look for Kids and Family Films. Tickets are required and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Education and Research Building entrance at 4 West 54th Street.
New Museum First Saturdays for Families – Children under 18 are always free. In addition, on the first Saturday of every month, from 10am-noon, the museum offers free admission for up to three adults per family. On Thursdays from 6-9pm, it's pay what you wish for all visitors.
Studio Museum Free Sundays – Sundays, noon-6pm
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The Brooklyn Museum hosts a popular "First Saturday" free admission night that includes loads of family programming. Photo by Mommy Poppins staff.
Museums with Suggested General Admission
American Museum of Natural History – Special exhibits and experiences cost extra.
El Museo del Barrio
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of the City of New York
Staten Island Museum
Studio Museum Harlem
Museums That Are Always Free
American Folk Art Museum
The Bronx Museum of the Arts
Lehman College Art Gallery – Admission is always free. The gallery also hosts educational workshops and family art workshops free of charge.
MoMA PS1 – NYC residents receive free admission to all galleries through October 15, 2016.
The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology
National Museum of the American Indian
Sony Wonder Technology Lab – Certain workshops cost extra.
Queens County Farm Museum – The museum does charge admission during large, public events.
Grown-up Museums with Free Hours
9/11 Memorial and Museum – Free on Tuesdays from 5-8pm.
Asia Society Museum – Free on Fridays, 6-9pm, from Labor Day through June. Children under 16 are always given free admission.
Cooper Hewitt Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on Saturdays from 6-9pm. Kids 18 and under are always free.
The Frick Collection – Pay-what-you-wish on Sundays from 11am-1pm. Must be 10 years old and up to visit.
Guggenheim Museum – Pay what you wish Saturdays, 5:45-7:45pm. Children under 12 are always free.
Historic Richmond Town – Free Fridays, 1-5pm. Ages 3 and under are free.
The Jewish Museum – Free on Saturdays, 11am-5:45pm; pay-what-you-wish on Thursdays from 5pm-8pm. Children 18 and under are free.
The Morgan Library & Museum – Free on Fridays, 7-9pm. Children 12 and under are free.
Museum of Arts and Design – Pay what you wish Thursdays, 6-9pm. Children ages 18 and under are free.
Museum of Chinese in America – Free on the first Thursday of the each month, 11am-9pm. Children under age 12 are free.
Museum of Jewish Heritage – Free on Wednesdays, 4-8pm. Ages 12 and under are always free.
Museum of Modern Art – Free on Fridays, 4-8pm. Ages 16 and under are always free.
Museum of the Moving Image – Free on Fridays, 4-8pm. Children under age 3 are free.
The Noguchi Museum – Free on the first Friday of every month, 10am-5pm. Children under 12 are free.
Rubin Museum of Art – Free on the first Monday of every month, 11am-5pm. Children 12 and under are free.
Whitney Museum – Pay what you wish Fridays, 7-9:30pm. Children under 18 are always free.
Top photo: Kids paint at the Children's Museum of the Arts where admission is waived every Thursday afternoon. Image courtesy the museum.
This post originally published in September 2012.