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15+ FREE Museums in NYC (& Free Museum Days in NYC)

In Brooklyn, Guides, New York, See & Do by Megan ILeave a Comment

Looking for free museums in NYC? We have you covered! New York City museums are some of the best in the world. Let’s face it though, visiting all the different museums, attractions, live performances, and eating out can add up and be quite costly!

Lucky for you there are ways to save some money on some of the best museums in the city! There are many free museums in New York plus free museum days in NYC that you can build into your itinerary and help save money while still seeing some of the best attractions and educational sites the city offers!

Here’s how to get in on the ‘free days’ or find out which museums are free or operate on a ‘pay as you wish’ pricing model to make these cultural institutions more accessible to everyone.

Also, while you’re at it, don’t miss the best museums in Brooklyn and the best independent art galleries in Brooklyn, many of which are also free!

Free Museums in New York & Free Days

American Museum of Natural History

Inside-the-Museum-of-Natural-History-in-NYC

200 Central Park West, Manhattan

One of the best free museums in NYC for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents who qualify for the ‘pay as you wish’ donation to visit the museum with an ID. This makes the museum accessible for different budgets, if you can afford a donation, they are appreciated and at your discretion.

Home to over 45 permanent exhibitions halls, the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and the Hayden Planetarium, this museum is a must-see for anyone located in the tri-state area interested in scientific and natural history.

If you qualify for the ‘pay as you wish’ museum admission, this only grants you access to the permanent collection, an extra ticket is required if you want to enjoy any special exhibits. Pay as you Wish tickets are only available in person and not available online.

  • Open Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 5:30 pm
  • Free or pay as you wish for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents

Museum of the City of New York

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1220 5th Ave, Manhattan

Though this museum recommends an admission price of $22, this is a suggested admission fee and individuals can forego the payment entirely to visit the museum gallery and exhibit spaces.

Founded in 1923, you’ll learn everything about New York City from its founding to today making this one of the top free museums in NYC. There are over 750,000 works in their collections of history and art chronicling the history of New York City.

The museum is hosting the “New York At Its Core” permanent exhibition, the first-ever museum presentation of New York City’s full history.

  • Open Friday-Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
  • Pay as you wish is only available in person at the ticket counter, buying your ticket online requires to pay full admission

National Museum of the American Indian

National-Museum-of-the-American-Indian-next-to-Bowling-Green-in-Manhattan-NYC

1 Bowling Green, Manhattan

Located and housed in the historic Alexander Hamilton US Custom House in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, this museum is home to countless Native American artifacts and art. The museum is also a designated National Historic Landmark.

Learn about Native Americans and the indigenous communities of the Americas. This museum explores their history and cultural traditions while viewing contemporary works, film screenings, and much more. With so much packed into one building, this is one of the best free museums in New York.

  • Open Monday-Friday 11 am to 4 pm
  • Admission is always free to everyone

El Museo del Barrio

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1230 5th Avenue, Manhattan

Known by locals as El Museo, this is the only museum in NYC dedicated to showcasing Latinx history and culture. The museum covers over nine centuries of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art with an emphasis on Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community in New York City.

The exhibits feature ancient artifacts and art that cannot be seen anywhere else in the city making this one of the top free museums in New York that operates on a pay as you wish basis. Otherwise, tickets are $9.

  • Open Saturday and Sunday 11 am-5 pm
  • Pay as you wish is available online as well as regular ticket admission

Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum - Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

One of the top museums offering free museum days in NYC located in Brooklyn next to Prospect Park. Visit the Brooklyn Museum for free on the first Saturday of every month from 5 pm to 11 pm.

With one of the latest closing times, you’ll have plenty of time to view the galleries and exhibits while also enjoying free events, family art activities, live music, and much more.

The Brooklyn Museum is housed in a magnificent circa 1897 Beaux-Arts building and houses a collection of over 1.5 million pieces of art.

  • First Saturday from 5 pm to 11 pm
  • General Admission includes most exhibits, however, an additional ticket is required if you want to see any of the current special exhibitions

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

 

 
 
 
 
 
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515 Malcolm X Boulevard, Manhattan

The Center is part of the New York Public Library system and serves as a research library and archival repository featuring art, artifacts, manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and moving images devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibits of materials focused on African Diaspora and African American experiences located in Harlem.

Visit this free museum in New York to view their ongoing exhibits detailing African American art and history.

  • Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 4 pm
  • As a part of the public library, this museum is always free to the public

Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial

 

 
 
 
 
 
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414 W 141st St, Manhattan

Also known simply as The Grange, if you loved Hamilton the musical this free NYC museum is for you. One of the top free museums in NYC, the museum is the former home of the U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

The museum has been relocated twice moved to its present location in 2009 and reopened in 2011 to feature newly restored interior and exhibition spaces. The museum was Alexander Hamilton’s actual mansion with his children and wife, Eliza, and offers visitors a glimpse into the past with beautifully preserved rooms with furniture and pieces from that time.

Fun fact, this site is also a part of the National Parks and Landmarks in NYC!

  • Open Wednesday to Sunday 9 am to 5 pm
  • All tickets for everyone are always free

National Jazz Museum in Harlem

 

 
 
 
 
 
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58 W 129th St, Manhattan

We couldn’t think of a better place to learn about the history of jazz in America than in the heart of Harlem. Learn about Harlem jazz legends, and the culture of the Harlem Renaissance in the museum’s interactive exhibit spaces.

One of the best free museums in NYC to learn all things jazz and jazz history! This museum operates on a suggested donation basis of $10, however, if that doesn’t fit within your budget, no worries! 

  • Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays
  • $10 suggested donation

Bronx Museum of the Arts

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx

The Bronx Museum as it is commonly known houses contemporary artworks by American artists from the 20th century. They also frequently house art and design exhibits from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

As one of the first free museums in NYC, visit the museum any day they’re open for a glimpse of amazing artwork inside their contemporary designed building.

  • Open Wednesday to Sunday 1 pm to 6 pm
  • Always free admission

Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

 

 
 
 
 
 
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227 W 27th Street, Manhattan

If you love fashion and the history of clothing the Museum at FIT is one of the top free museums in New York for you. The museum is home to countless materials relating to fashion including clothing, accessories, and various textiles through three different galleries.

The permanent collection features over 50,000 works including garments and accessories from the 18th century to today. Some of the legendary designers you can find featured here include Dior, Chanel, and Balenciaga to name a few.

There are also frequent events which include talks, tours, and conversations with designers. 

  • Open Tuesday to Friday 12 pm to 8 pm
  • Admission is always free

New York Historical Society

 

 
 
 
 
 
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170 Central Park West, Manhattan

The New York Historical Society is one of several to offer free museum days in NYC. New York’s oldest museum houses founded in 1804 and offer visitors a chance to witness and discover countless historical artifacts, manuscripts, works of art, and manuscripts detailing the history of New York.

Located in the beautiful Upper West Side of Manhattan, the museum is the perfect way to learn and enjoy iconic New York scenery.

  • Open Friday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
  • Free on Friday from 6 pm to 8 pm (rest of the time its $22 for adults)

National September 11th Museum & Memorial

180 Greenwich Street, Manhattan

The National September 11th Museum & Memorial tells the history and stories of 9/11 using media, oral history, and a collection of materials from those tragic events remembering the lives and loved ones of those who were lost at this site.

Visit on their free museum days in NYC on Tuesdays and explore the museum’s underground exhibit space. 

  • Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm 
  • Free on Tuesdays from 5 pm to closing (regular admission is $17 per adult)

Museum of Modern Art

 

 
 
 
 
 
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11 W 53rd Street, Manhattan

Home to one of the most impressive modern art collections in the world, MoMA is free every Friday from 5:30 to 9 pm. Often coupled with community events, live entertainment, and much more MoMA’s is considered one of the best free museum days in NYC.

This museum is a leader in the modern art world and since its opening in 1929 MoMA has changed the world of modern and contemporary art being one of the largest and most influential in the world.

From Paul Claude Monet, Cézanne, Andy Warhol, and Picasso – to Marc Chagall and Salvador Dalí, all the great modern artists live at MoMA. 

  • Open daily from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Free every Friday from 5:30 to 9 pm

Whitney Museum of American Art

 

 
 
 
 
 
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99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan

One of the top museums to offer free museum days in NYC, the Whitney Museum of American Art offers free admission on Fridays from 7 to 9:30 pm.

The Whitney is home to all things American Art from the 20th and 21st centuries including work by well-known artists Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe to name a few. They do a huge emphasis on featuring works from artists that are still living too.

  • Open Thursday to Sunday 10:30 am to 6 pm
  • Free on Friday from 7-9:30 pm

The Met Cloisters

 

 
 
 
 
 
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99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Manhattan

The Met Cloisters in Washington Heights is a magical place and one of the best free museums in NYC for the tri-state area residents in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York with a valid ID using the pay as you wish model, otherwise, admission is $25 per adult.

Once you pass into the museum under their stone arches, you are transported entirely to another place and another time. The Cloisters, as they’re sometimes called, is home to some of the world’s most precious antiquities. Fifteenth-century tapestries decorate the interior, hanging just as they did in the days of dynasties. The gardens reimagined as if out of French storybooks and are incredibly romantic. 

  • Open Thursday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
  • Free or pay as you wish for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents

American Folk Art Museum 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Lincoln Square, Manhattan

The first museum in the country dedicated to displaying self-taught artists, known as folk artists is also one of the best free museums in New York!

The American Folk Art Museum is one of the top museums in NYC for viewing everything from handmade 18th-century artifacts to contemporary works by self-taught artists with over 8,000 pieces of works in their collection.

  • Open Wednesday to Sunday 11:30 am to 6 pm
  • Admission is Free

Waterfront Museum

Waterfront Barge Museum in Brooklyn at Red Hook

290 Conover Street, Brooklyn

Another great free museum in NYC located on the New York Harbor waterfront is the Waterfront Barge Museum in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

This museum focuses on the preservation of the New York Harbor and protects the heritage of New York City’s waterfront by playing an important role in the economy, providing history of the passageway, and hosting recreational sports.

There are a number of different exhibits and displays housed here from wooden barges, tugboats, and other historic boats, the waterfront is tied to many historic modes of transportations. You can also find the Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge Number 79 here, a well-known preserved Hudson River Railroad Barge.

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