Free Times To Visit NYC Museums, Gardens, and Zoos

The Cloisters offers pay-what-you-wish admission to New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students. Photo by Suzy Q
The Cloisters offers pay-what-you-wish admission to New York state residents as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students. Photo by Suzy Q

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 Family Activity Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or visit our Museum Guide for the latest kid-friendly exhibitions in NYC. Also, don't forget to put your library card to work for free admission at many of these same places!

To get more free fun at home and in your town delivered to your inbox sign up for our newsletters and discover all the free events and activities near you in our New York City Free Things To Do with Kids Guide.

Be sure to check with each venue for its COVID guidelines and requirements before heading out, and read local public safety protocols here.

Visitors can enter the Bronx Zoo for free on Wednesdays
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

The Bronx Zoo – General admission is free on Wednesdays, but reservations are required. The Wednesday Ticket Store opens at 5pm on Mondays. Total Experience activities cost extra.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Winter Weekdays (December through February) are pay-what-you can. Children 11 and under are always free.

Brooklyn Children's Museum – Amazon Free Hours on Thursday afternoons are from 2pm-5pm. Reservations should be booked in advance.

The Jewish Museum – Saturday admission is free. Timed-entry reservations are required.

New York Aquarium – Pay-what-you-wish Wednesday afternoons from 3pm to last entry, which varies by season. Reservations are required and the Wednesday Ticket Store opens at 3pm Monday.

New York Botanical Garden – Free grounds admission for NYC residents all day Wednesdays. Book timed-entry tickets in advance.

New-York Historical Society – Pay-what-you-wish Fridays from 6-8pm. Admission to the on-site DiMenna Children's History Museum is included. Purchase timed-entry tickets in advance.

Queens Botanical Garden – Free admission daily from November through March.

Staten Island Zoo – Free on Wednesdays after 2pm. Timed-entry tickets are required.

Wave Hill – Free on Thursdays from 10am-4:30pm. The garden also hosts special free arts events throughout the year. Check the calendar for more info.

RELATED: Exploring the Brooklyn Museum With Kids

The American Museum of Natural History offers suggested admission at all times to locals
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 general admission is available to residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but timed-entry reservations must be booked in advance.

Brooklyn Museum – General admission prices are suggested; pay what you wish. For special exhibitions, you must pay the full price, which also includes general admission. 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. Admission is pay-what-you-wish.

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 encouraged.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts – 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.

RELATED: Best Children's Museums for Families to Visit in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum offers free admission on Monday afternoons
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; reservations are available on Monday mornings beginning at 7am.

Guggenheim Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on select Saturdays from 4-6pm. Timed-entry tickets are encouraged. Children under 12 are always free.

The Morgan Library & Museum – Free on Fridays from 5-7pm. Children 12 and under are free. Reservations are required.

The Noguchi Museum – Free on the first Friday of every month from 11am-6pm, with reservations released two weeks prior at noon. Children under 12 are free as are all NYC public school students. Advance tickets are required.

RELATED: Exploring DIA Beacon the Hudson Valley's Large-Scale Art Destination

Kids enter the Whitney for free all the time
Kids are always free at the Whitney Museum. Photo by Janet Bloom

Whitney Museum – Pay-what-you-wish Fridays from 7-10pm. 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:

Museum of the City of New York

New York Historical Society

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

International Center of Photography

Museum of Arts and Design

Museum of Chinese in America

Museum of the Moving Image

Whitney Museum of American Art
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