When it comes to saving money on culture, there are tons of free museum days and free admission hours offered at a wide variety of New York City's top museums, zoos, gardens, and cultural institutions. Many of these local cultural hubs offer free or reduced admission on certain nights, days, or hours at least once a month—a city perk no busy, cash-strapped parent should miss! Plus, many grown-up museums let kids in for free year-round.
It can be hard to keep track of when and where these free museum days in NYC 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 free museum in between.
As always, you can visit our Family Activity Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or visit our NYC 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!
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Visit the Bronx Children's Museum during its weekly free hours. Photo by Jody Mercier
NYC Children's Museums, Zoos, and Gardens Offering Free Museum Days
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 – Free hours on are held on Thursday afternoons from 2pm-5pm. Reservations should be booked in advance.
Bronx Children's Museum – Free admission is offered to all visitors during its special opening period. Reservations must be booked in advance.
The Jewish Museum – Saturday admission is free. Timed-entry reservations are recommended.
Museum of the Moving Image – Free admission is offered on Thursdays from 2pm-6pm. Timed-entry tickets are recommended.
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.
NYSCI – Free admission on Fridays from 2-5pm. Reserve tickets online in advance beginning Thursday mornings at 9am.
Queens Botanical Garden – Free admission daily from November through March.
Staten Island Zoo – Free on Wednesdays after 2pm. Timed-entry tickets are recommended.
Wave Hill – Admission is free all day on Thursdays. The garden also hosts special free arts events throughout the year. Check the calendar for more info.
RELATED: Best Children's Museums in NYC for Families to Visit
Make a donation of your choice at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by Jody Mercier
Museums in NYC 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. Special exhibitions require paying full price.
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 are recommended. Admission is free during its First Saturdays programs.
The Cloisters – Pay-what-you-wish admission is offered 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.
MoMA PS1 – NYC residents can enter for free; it's pay-what-you-wish for all other visitors.
El Museo del Barrio – Timed-entry tickets are recommended. Admission is pay-what-you-wish.
Museum at Eldridge Street – Pay-what-you-wish admission is offered on Mondays and Fridays.
Museum of the City of New York – Pay-what-you-wish at all times when you purchase tickets in person. Everyone under the age of 20 is free at all times.
Staten Island Museum – Timed-entry reservations are recommended.
NYC Museums with Free Admission Hours at All Times
American Folk Art Museum – Timed-entry reservations are encouraged.
The Bronx Museum – Timed-entry reservations are recommended.
The Museum at FIT
National Museum of the American Indian
The Skyscraper Museum – Museum admission is free through February 2023; timed-entry tickets are required.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Queens County Farm Museum – The museum does charge admission fees during large, public events.
Queens Museum – Timed-entry reservations are required.
RELATED: Museum Birthday Party Places in NYC: 10 Celebration-Worthy Culture Spots
Kids can contemplate larger-than-life sculptures at the Noguchi Museum for free. Photo by Jody Mercier
Grown-up Museums with Free Admission Hours
9/11 Memorial and Museum – Free on Mondays from 3:30pm to close; reservations are available on Monday mornings beginning at 7am.
Cooper-Hewitt Museum – Free admission daily from 5-6pm.
The Frick Collection – Pay-what-you-wish admission on Thursdays from 4-6pm.
Guggenheim Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on select Saturdays from 6-8pm. 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.
The Rubin Museum – Free on Friday nights from 6-10pm. Children ages 12 and younger are always free. Timed-entry tickets are recommended.
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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 2023.