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 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 Event Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or 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!
Editor's note: No matter where your day takes you, keep yourself and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Museums are currently allowed to operate with a limited capacity, but given the changing nature of the pandemic, please click through to each venue to confirm current offers before heading out. Keep in mind, too, most museums require reservations or timed-entry tickets, so plan your outing in advance.
Visit the Bronx Zoo for free on Wednesdays, though you'll need to pony up some cash for exhibits like the Children's Zoo. Photo by Jody Mercier
Children's Museums, Zoos, and Gardens With Free Times
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Winter Weekdays (December through February) are pay-what-you can. Children 11 and under are always FREE.
Brooklyn Children's Museum – Pay-what-you-wish Thursday afternoons for a pay-what-you-wish session from 2pm-5pm. Reservations should be booked in advance.
New York Botanical Garden – Free grounds admission all day on Wednesdays. Purchase timed-entry tickets in advance.
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.
Staten Island Zoo – Free on Wednesdays after 2pm. Timed-entry tickets are required.
Make a donation of your choice at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by R. Mickens
Museums With Suggested Admission
American Museum of Natural History – Pay-what-you-wish admission is available to residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but timed-entry reservations must be booked in advance.
Brooklyn Museum – Timed-entry reservations must be booked in advance.
The Cloisters – Pay-what-you-wish admission is offered for New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
MoMA PS1 – Timed-entry tickets are required; NYC residents can enter for free or pay-what-they-wish.
El Museo del Barrio – Timed-entry tickets are recommended.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Pay-what-you-wish for New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
Staten Island Museum – Timed-entry reservations are recommended.
Museums That Are Always Free
American Folk Art Museum – Timed-entry reservations are required.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts – Timed-entry reservations are required.
The Jewish Museum – Timed-entry reservations are required.
Queens County Farm Museum – The museum does charge admission fees during large, public events.
Queens Museum – Timed-entry reservations are required.
SculptureCenter – Timed-entry reservations are required.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is free on Monday afternoons and has family-friendly programming. Photo courtesy of the museum
Grown-Up Museums With Free Hours
9/11 Memorial and Museum – Free on Mondays from 3:30pm to close.
Asia Society Museum – All admission is currently free; the museum is operating on a reduced schedule and is only open Fridays and Saturdays.
The Morgan Library & Museum – Free on Fridays from 2-5pm. Children 12 and under are free. Reservations are required.
The Noguchi Museum – Free on the first Friday of every month from 10am-5pm. Children under 12 are free as are all NYC public school students. Advance tickets are required.
Kids are always free at the Whitney Museum. Photo by Janet Bloom
Whitney Museum – Pay what you wish Thursdays from 1:30pm-6pm. Children under 18 are always free. Advance tickets are required.
This article was first published in September 2012; it has been updated for 2021.
Places featured in this article:
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Children's Museum of the Arts
The Jewish Museum
Museum of the City of New York
Studio Museum Harlem
The Forbes Galleries
New York Historical Society
The Noguchi Museum
The Morgan Library & Museum
Rubin Museum of Art
The Bronx Zoo
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Children's Museum
New York Aquarium
New York Botanical Garden
New York Hall of Science
Queens Botanical Garden
Staten Island Children's Museum
Staten Island Zoo
El Museo del Barrio
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Biblical Art
Queens Museum of Art
Staten Island Museum
American Folk Art Museum
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
National Museum of the American Indian
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Historic Richmond Town
International Center of Photography
Museum of Arts and Design
Museum of Chinese in America
Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Museum of Modern Art
Museum of the Moving Image
Amercian Museum of Natural History
9/11 Museum and Memorial
Queens County Farm Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art
Lehman College Art College