Free Times to Visit NYC Museums, Gardens, and Zoos
Many of New York City's top museums, zoos, gardens, and cultural institutions offer free or reduced admission certain nights, days, or hours at least once a month—a city perk no busy, cash-strapped parent should miss! 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 reduced or free admission days at all of our favorite NYC cultural spots from the Bronx Zoo to the Brooklyn Children's Museum and every spot in between.
As always, you can visit our Events Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or peruse our Free in NYC Guide. Visit our Museum Guide or Zoos and Gardens Guide for more on the latest kid-friendly art and exhibitions in NYC. Also, don't forget to put your library card to work for free admission at many of these same places!
Kids paint at the Children's Museum of the Arts where admission is waived every Thursday afternoon. Photo by Jody Mercier
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 8am-noon on Fridays from March to November. Free on winter weekdays from December to February. Children 11 and under are always FREE.
Brooklyn Children's Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on Thursday afternoons from 2-6pm and on Sundays from 4-7pm.
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Children's Museum of the Arts – Pay-what-you-wish on Thursdays from 4-6pm.
New York Aquarium – Pay-what-you-wish on Wednesday afternoons from 3pm to last entry, which varies by season.
New York Botanical Garden – Free grounds admission all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9-10am. Special exhibits cost extra, but the Everett Children's Adventure Garden is included.
New York Hall of Science – Free admission on Fridays from 2-5pm and Sundays from 10-11am.
New-York Historical Society – Pay-what-you-wish on Fridays from 6-8pm. Admission to the on-site DiMenna Children's History Museum is included.
Queens Botanical Garden – Free admission daily November through March. Free admission Wednesdays from 3-6pm and Sundays from 9-11am the rest of the year—except on festival days.
The Staten Island Children's Museum – Free admission is offered September to June on Wednesdays from 3-5pm for the general public; free all day for grandparents.
Staten Island Zoo – Free on Tuesdays after 2pm through February 11 and all Wednesdays after 2pm.
The Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling is always free for kids under age 8. Photo by Jody Mercier
Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling – Admission for children 8 and younger is always free. Everyone enters for free the third Sunday of the month.
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Enjoy MoMA with kids under 16 for free anytime! Photo by Jody Mercier
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 (except January and September) from 5-11pm. Kids ages 19 and under are always free.
El Museo del Barrio Coqui Club – Meant for the youngest museum goers, this bilingual program caters to visitors ages 1-4 and their caregivers. Each session, held twice a day on the first Wednesday and first Saturday of the month, includes playtime, a gallery walk, and art-making. El Museo is also free at all times for children under age 12. A visit here also gets you free same-day admission to the Museum of the City of New York, located right across the street.
Museum of Modern Art – General admission is always free for kids ages 16 and under and parents can score a free pass on Friday nights from 5:30-9pm. 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. Also free are the Tours for Tweens and Family Art Workshops, though advance registration is required.
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 two adults per family. Thursdays from 7-9pm are pay-what-you-wish for all visitors.
Make a donation of your choice at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by Marley White for NYCGo
Museums with Suggested Admission
American Museum of Natural History – Special exhibits and experiences cost extra.
The Cloisters – Pay-what-you-wish for New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
Historic Richmond Town – Suggested admission on Wednesdays. Ages 3 and under are always free.
El Museo del Barrio
The Met Breuer – Pay-what-you-wish for New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Pay-what-you-wish for New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
Museum of the City of New York – Neighbors visit for free anytime.
Staten Island Museum
The National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian family, is always free. Photo by Jason DeCrow for AP Images
Museums That Are Always Free
Queens County Farm Museum – The museum does charge admission fees during large, public events.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is free on Tuesdays after 5 pm and has family-friendly programming. Photo courtesy of the museum
Grown-Up Museums with Free Hours
9/11 Memorial and Museum – Free on Tuesdays from 5pm to close.
Asia Society Museum – Free on Fridays from 6-9pm, from Labor Day through June. Children under 16 are always free.
Cooper Hewitt Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on Tuesdays from 6-8pm. Children 18 and under are always free.
The Frick Collection – Free on the first Friday of the month from 6pm-9pm, January and September excepted; pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays from 2-6pm. Note: Children must be at least 10 years old to visit.
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Take the whole family to the Guggenheim for pay-what-you-wish Saturdays. Photo by Kris McKay
Guggenheim Museum – Pay what you wish Saturdays, 5-8pm. Children under 12 are always free.
The Jewish Museum – Free on Saturdays. Children 18 and under are always free.
The Morgan Library & Museum – Free on Fridays from 7-9pm. Children 12 and under are free.
Museum of Arts and Design – Pay what you wish Thursdays from 6-9pm. Children ages 18 and under are free.
Museum of Chinese in America – Free on the first Thursday of each month.
Museum of Jewish Heritage – Pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4-9pm. Ages 12 and under are always free.
Museum of Modern Art – Free on Fridays from 5:30-9pm. Ages 16 and under are always free.
Museum of the Moving Image – Free on Fridays from 4-8pm. Children under age 3 are always free.
The Noguchi Museum – Free on the first Friday of every month from 10am-5pm. Children under 12 are free as well as all NYC public school students.
Kids are always free at the Whitney Museum. Photo by Janet Bloom
Whitney Museum – Pay what you wish Fridays from 7-9:30pm. Children under 18 are always free.
This article was first published in September 2012; it has been updated for 2020.