Insider intel on how to access some of NYC, Brooklyn, and Queen’s best museums for free

Whether your goal is to visit more museums and you’re realizing those admission fees add up fast, or inflation is catching up with you (#same) and you’d like a little entertainment and culture that doesn’t also cost a $100, enter: all the popular NYC museums you can get into for free. This list isn’t about all the museums in New York that are always free, this list is for those other museums where you and the family can take advantage of museum free days, and have “pay-what-you-wish” policies.

Good to Know: You can gain entry to lots of cultural institutions for no charge with an IDNYC card or Cool Culture Family Pass

How to Get Free Admission to NYC-area Museums that Aren’t Typically Free

1. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

The big draw at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for kids 5 and under is the Totally Tots area. It features nine different sensory play areas such as water, music, and dress-up. They also have an art studio, called ColorLab, for your little one to work on becoming the next Jackson Pollock. Older kids will enjoy learning about history and culture from all over the world, lots of interactive nature exhibits, and more.

How to Get Into the Brooklyn Children's Museum for Free:  Amazon Free Hours every Thursday from 2–5 p.m. Group visits are restricted during this time.

How to Get a Discount Admission to the Brooklyn Children's Museum: Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers discounted admission for the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), Cool Culture, Culture Pass, EBT/SNAP cardholders, healthcare workers, NYPD, FDNY, Blue Star Families, teachers, and employees of businesses that support BCM through their corporate membership program.

145 Brooklyn Ave.
Crown Heights

2. American Museum of Natural History

Enjoy an epic trip through the history of the world, with collections of more than 32 million specimens and artifacts. Travel back in time to the world of dinosaurs, learn about distant galaxies in the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and check out one of the current exhibitions, like The Titanosaur, or the ever-popular Butterfly Conservatory. A great place for families, and especially children ages 5-12? The Discovery Room. Kids, accompanied by adults, can explore a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at science. While exploring artifacts, specimens, puzzles, your budding biologists can even hunt for animals in a two-story tall replica of an African baobab tree!

How to Get In the American Museum of Natural History for Free: Residents of NY, NJ, and CT (with ID) may pay what you wish for General Admission only; kids under age 3, DNYC Members, corporate members, and corporate reward program members (including Chase Private Client Arts & Culture Card members), members of the U.S. military and their families during the Blue Star program, from Armed Forces Day to Labor Day. At other times of the year, free general admission is provided to members of the U.S. military and one guest, Cool Culture pass holders, and visitors who enter the Museum during the last hour of the day, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Central Park West & 79th St.
Upper West Side

3. Children’s Museum of Manhattan

The Museum is a children’s paradise, filled with fun, educational exhibits designed for tots from birth on up, like or PlayWorks™ for toddlers, Adventures with Dora and Diego, and EatSleepPlay. There are several programs and activities every day for the 5-and-under set, like Mural Wall Painting or the S.T.E.A.M. Lab, and check their calendar for activities for kids 6 and up.

How to Get In the Children's Museum of Manhattan for Free: The museum offers free admission to the following: Blue Star Families, EBT/SNAP Card holders, Cool Culture Family Program. Kids under 12 months are always free.

How to Get Discounted Admission to the Children's Museum of Manhattan: If you have an ACM reciprocal logo on your membership card from another children’s museum, you will receive discounted admission for up to 6 individuals.

212 West 83rd St.
Upper West Side

4. New York Hall of Science

Located in Queens, visiting this exciting place is the perfect way to get your little one interested in science at a young age. Lots of hands-on exhibits, often interactive, on sound, light, atoms, microbes and astronomy capture children’s attention, bringing science to life in a fun and interesting way. Designed for children ages 5-to-15 years old.

How to Get In the New York Hall of Science for Free: NYSCI participates in a number of specialty Museum Access Programs, including Cool Culture, Urban Advantage, ASTC, and ACM member reciprocity. Fridays from 2-5 p.m., Community Hour tickets are free and available for reservation. Children under the age of 2 are also free.

47-01 111th St.

5. Queens Museum

The Queens Museum is most famous for the Panorama, built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. This 9,335-square-foot architectural model includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs—that’s a total of 895,000 individual structures. It’s worth the visit just to see the Panorama alone. We also love their variety of inclusive family programming. 

How to Get In for Free: Pay what you wish—always; kids under the age of 18 are always free. 

New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park

6. The Museum of Chinese in America

MOCA is a manageable size, but it covers 160 years of fascinating Chinese American history in an artfully arranged space by famous designer/artist Maya Lin. It was crafted to engage visitors from the elderly to small children, and presents a very real look at the lives of Chinese-American immigrants and families, displaying household items, salvaged objects from Chinatown stores, clothing, photographs, and films. The museum also hosts family events like Festivals and drop-in arts workshops.

How to Get In the Museum of Chinese in America for Free: For Manhattan Chinatown and Two Bridges residents the amount you pay is up to you; Free and discounted admissions is available through Cool Culture and Culture Connected, a new NYC access program developed by ArtsConnection and designed to link families to the arts through virtual activities, EBT discounts, and reduced-price events.  

215 Centre St.

7. Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum holds New York City’s second largest art collection with roughly 1.5 million pieces of artwork and includes everything from contemporary art to Egyptian antiquities dating back to 3500 B.C. The museum also holds a significant collection of American art, including artists such as Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Edgar Degas, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Max Weber. 

How to Get In the Brooklyn Museum for Free: Healthcare workers and active-duty military personnel and their families receive free general admission. Kids 3 & under are always free.

200 Eastern Parkway
Prospect Heights/Crown Heights

8. Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art is often called the most influential museum of modern art in the world. And after one visit, you'll understand why. The museum’s collection offers an overview of modern and contemporary art, including architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books, and artist’s books, film, and electronic media. The sculpture garden is a must-see on your visit; let the kids wander around the tranquil outdoor area, and get up close to some fascinating sculptures. Check out their family events calendar for free activities and tours for your short stacks. They even have a website especially for kids to help your young ones get hyped for their visit.

How to Get In the Museum of Modern Art for Free: Thanks to UNIQLO NYC Nights tickets are free for NYC residents on the first Friday of every month, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., made possible by UNIQLO. Children aged 16 & under are always free.

Good to Know: Admission to MoMA PS1 is currently free for all NYC residents thanks to The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. 

11 West 53rd St.

9. DiMenna Children’s History Museum

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum is a part of the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, which is the oldest museum in NYC and has a collection of 1.6 million artworks that illustrate the rich heritage of the city and state. The children’s museum is designed for older children, ages 8-13, but kids of all ages are welcome. It’s an interactive, 4,500-square-foot space that invites kids to explore American history through lots of hands-on activities. Everything in the museum is child-sized and tells stories through the eyes of historically significant New Yorkers when they were kids. The NYHS also has a great selection of family programs to entertain and educate people of all ages, so your younger offspring can do something tailored to their ages.

How to Get In the DiMenna Children's History Museum for Free: Pay what you wish on Fridays from 6-8 p.m. Kids ages 5 & under are always free.

170 Central Park West
Upper West Side

10. Museum of the City of NY

The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the past, present, and future of the city. It hosts many great family programs, cultural heritage celebrations, and story/activity time for little ones in conjunction with exhibits like NYC at Its Core, which traces the city’s growth from a small Dutch village to the "Capital of the World."

How to Get In for Free: Pay-what-you-wish admission is only available at ticket counters. Visitors ages 19 & under are always free.

1220 5th Ave.
East Harlem

11. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Museum is well-known for the cylindrical museum building (conceived as a "Temple of the Spirit,") and walking through the unusual space can be a cool experience for kids and grown-ups alike. It’s the permanent home of an impressive collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year.

How to Get In the Guggenheim for Free: Pay what you wish every Saturday between 6-8 p.m. (but be prepared for long lines). Kids 12 & under are always free. The Guggenheim also offers free admission to Cool Culture Family Pass and Culture Pass holders, 

How to Get in the Guggenheim for Discounted Admission: Present your AAA membership card, US Military ID, New York Attraction Pass, CityPASS, New York Explorer Pass, or New York Pass to Visitor Experience staff when you arrive at the museum.

1071 5th Ave.
Upper East Side

12. The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum’s exhibitions explore the intersection of art and Jewish culture. Kids will love the Museum’s simulated archaeological dig, which highlights replicas from ancient to modern times in a hands-on experience. The Drop In Dig is open on the second Sunday of each month.

How to Get In the Jewish Museum for Free: On select Jewish Holidays the Museum is open and admission is free. Free admission on Saturdays is made possible by Mildred and George Weissman, and other generous donors. And  free admission is offered to community partners and affiliates, visitors with disabilities and their caregiver, and SNAP/EBT cardholders.

1109 5th Ave.
Upper East Side

13. El Museo del Barrio

The Museo welcomes visitors of all backgrounds to discover the arts of Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. They have wide-ranging collections and exhibitions, complemented by visual and performing arts series, cultural celebrations, and educational programs.

How to Get In the El Museo del Barrio for Free: Pay what you wish and kids under age 12 are always free.

1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th St.
East Harlem

14. Staten Island Museum

While the Staten Island Children’s Museum charges a small fee, your progeny can enjoy this museum gratis (admission price is suggested donation). This small gem, founded in 1881, has eclectic collections that can capture the interest of all ages, like The Hall of Science, The Treasure Box Gallery, which displays art objects from five continents and across eras, and the Remember the Mastodon exhibit, which explores the lives of those huge former residents of the island. They have two locations, so make sure to check ahead to see where to find different collections and exhibits.

How to Get In the Staten Island Museum for Free: Admission is a suggested donation; kids under 2 are free.

1000 Richmond Terrace Building A
Staten Island

15. The Whitney Museum of American Art 

The premier museum for 20th-century American art, the Whitney is also worth a trip to see the relatively new Renzo Piano-designed building nestling The Highline. In addition to the impressive art collection, engaging exhibits (including the influential survey of the current art scene, the Biennial) and sweeping galleries, take in stunning views of the Hudson and surrounding cityscape both inside and out. (The museum features a few outdoor terraces that also showcase large-scale pieces.)

How to Get In the Whitney Museum of American Art for Free: All visitors enjoy Pay-What-You-Wish admission each Friday from 7–10 pm. Kids 18 and under, along with active and military veterans are always free. Members of AAM, ICOM, and Cool Culture; reciprocal museum members also receive free admission. SNAP/EBT cardholders receive one free admission per visit (kids are always free). IDNYC cardholders are able to receive free admission on select dates.

The Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevort St.

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