The Met offers pay-what-you-wish admission to New Yorkers at all times. Photo by Jody Mercier
The Met offers pay-what-you-wish admission to New Yorkers at all times. Photo by Jody Mercier

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.

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 – Pay-what-you-wish Thursday afternoons for a pay-what-you-wish session from 2pm-5pm. Reservations should be booked in advance.

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 all day on Wednesdays. Purchase timed-entry tickets in advance.

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. 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.

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: Brooklyn Museum at 25 Percent Capacity: What it's Like to Visit a NYC Museum Now 

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.

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

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.

Guggenheim Museum – Pay-what-you-wish Saturdays from 4-6pm. Timed-entry tickets are available at 10am Fridays. Children under 12 are always free.

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.

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

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:

Children's Museum of the Arts

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

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

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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