Childrens' Museum of the Arts has pay-what-you-wish Thursdays from 4-6pm. Photo courtesy of the museum
Childrens' Museum of the Arts has pay-what-you-wish Thursdays from 4-6pm. Photo courtesy of the museum

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 on certain nights, days, or hours at least once a month—a city perk that no busy, cash-strapped parent should miss out on! 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 your favorite NYC cultural spots from the Bronx Zoo to the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

As always, you can check our Events Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or peruse our Free in NYC Guide. Try 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!

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 December to February. Children under 12 are always FREE. 

Brooklyn Children's Museum – Pay-what-you-wish on Thursday afternoons from 2-6pm and on Sundays from 4-7pm.

RELATED: 20 Indoor Spots Where NYC Kids Play for Free

Kids paint at the Children's Museum of the Arts where admission is waived every Thursday afternoon. Photo courtesy of the museum

Children's Museum of the Arts – Pay-what-you-wish Thursdays from 4-6pm.

New York Aquarium – Pay-what-you-wish on Wednesday afternoons from 3-5pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 3-3:30pm the rest of the year.

New York Botanical Garden – Free grounds admission all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9-10am; New York City residents receive free grounds admission at all times with proof of residency. 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 6-9pm. Admission to the on-site DiMenna Children's History Museum is included. (Tickets fo Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit, running until the end of January 2019, cost extra.)

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.

Spark by the Brooklyn Children's Museum – Pay-what-you-wish admission on Thursdays from 1-6pm.

The Staten Island Children's Museum – Free admission on Wednesdays from 3-5 for general public; free all day for grandparents.

Staten Island Zoo – Free on Wednesdays after 2pm.

The Sugar Hill Museum is always free for kids under 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.

RELATED: NYC Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free

Wave Hill's Enchanted Weekend. Photo by Joshua Bright/courtesy of the museum

Wave Hill – Free Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9am-noon. The garden also hosts special free arts events throughout the year. Check the calendar for more info.

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 from 5-11pm. Kids age 19 and under are always free.

El Museo del Barrio Super Sábado – Free at all times for children under 12 and for everyone on the third Saturday of every month from 11am-6pm. A visit here also gets you free 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 age 16 and under and parents can score a free pass on Friday nights from 4-8pm. 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.

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 three adults per family. On Thursdays from 7-9pm, it's pay-what-you-wish for all visitors.

Museums with Suggested Admission

American Museum of Natural History – Special exhibits and experiences cost extra.

Brooklyn Museum

The Cloisters


El Museo del Barrio

The Met Breuer

The Metropolitan Museum of Art —Pay-as-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.

Queens Museum


Staten Island Museum

Museums That Are Always Free

American Folk Art Museum

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Lehman College Art Gallery – The gallery also hosts educational workshops and family art workshops free of charge.

The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

National Museum of the American Indian

Queens County Farm Museum – The museum does charge admission during large, public events.

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 Saturdays from 6-9pm. Kids 18 and under are always free.

The Frick Collection – Free on the first Friday of the month from 6pm-9pm; pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays from 2-6pm. Must be at least 10 years old to visit.

RELATED: 50 Indoor Activities for a Rainy Day

Take the whole family to the Guggenheim for pay-what-you-wish Saturdays. Photo by Kris McKay

Guggenheim Museum – Pay what you wish Saturdays, 5-7:45pm. Children under 12 are always free.

Historic Richmond Town – Free Fridays. Ages 3 and under are always free.

The Jewish Museum – Free on Saturdays; pay-what-you-wish on Thursdays from 5pm-8pm. Children 18 and under are 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 4-8pm. Ages 12 and under are always free.

Enjoy the MOMA with kids under 16 anytime! Photo by Martin Seck

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 Shira Kronzon

Whitney Museum – Pay what you wish Fridays from 7-10pm. Children under 18 are always free.

This article first published in September 2012, but is updated frequently. Jody Mercier and Amy Sullivan contributed additional reporting.

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10456

Children's Museum of the Arts
103 Charlton Street
New York, NY 10013

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029

22-25 Jackson Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

Studio Museum Harlem
144 West 125th St.
New York, NY 10027-4423

44-19 Purves St.
Long Island City, NY 11101

The Forbes Galleries
62 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10011

New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

The Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Road
Long Island City, NY 11106

New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128-0173

Asia Society
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Whitney Museum
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St.
New York, NY 10011

The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn , NY 11225

Brooklyn Children's Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213

Children's Museum of Manhattan
212 West 83rd Street
New York, NY 10024

New York Aquarium
Surf Avenue and West 8th Street
Brooklyn , NY 11224

New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458

New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street
Queens, NY 11368

Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

Staten Island Children's Museum
1000 Richmond Terrace
Staten Island, NY 10301-1181

Staten Island Zoo
614 Broadway
Staten Island, NY 10310

Wave Hill
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue
Bronx, NY 10471-2899

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238

The Cloisters
99 Margaret Corbin Drive Fort Tryon Park
New York, NY 10040

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028

Museum of Biblical Art
1865 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Queens Museum of Art
New York City Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Queens, NY 11368

Staten Island Museum
75 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island, NY 10301

American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square
New York, NY 10023

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
New York, NY 10001

National Museum of the American Indian
1 Bowling Green Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
New York, NY 10004

Sony Wonder Technology Lab
550 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Historic Richmond Town
441 Clarke Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10306

International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013

Museum of Jewish Hertiage
36 Battery Place Edmond J. Safra Plaza
New York, NY 10280

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35 Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106

Amercian Museum of Natural History
79th Street and Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

9/11 Museum and Memorial
180 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007

Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway
Floral Park, NY 11004

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
New York, NY 10014

Lehman College Art College
250 Bedford Park Boulevard West
Bronx, NY 10468