On Saturday, September 17, 2022, many cultural institutions will take part in the 18th annual Museum Day, allowing visitors to check out their spaces for free. Here in New York City, we don’t have to wait until mid-September to score some free days at the best museums. There are free days or deal days (pay as you wish) throughout the year!
Just how many museums are there in New York? It’s tough to get to an exact number, because it depends how you count. Are you including historic houses? Ethnographic collections? Science, or just art? Botanical gardens?
No matter how you count, there are a lot. In fact, it’s safe to say that in the Big Apple, the total number of museums hovers somewhere between eighty and a hundred. Wow! A hundred museums.
That number includes world-class collections of visual art, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and museums devoted to design, like the Cooper-Hewitt. There are also museums devoted to fashion,, ice cream, science, and, yes, even sex!
One thing is for sure: if you’re into experiencing art and culture, New York is the place to be. And that’s true even if you’re on a budget. Although entrance fees can be steep, you can get around them if you try. All you need to do is plan ahead. That’s because nearly every New York museum offers hours when admission is either free or pay what you wish. So of course, we dug deep and found the skinny on what is free when.
Because art and education should be available for everyone, before we get to those museum that offer free admission during a select few hours every week or month, let’s look at the ones that are always free to the public.
American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023
Godwin Ternbach Musuem at Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, 405 Klapper Hall, Flushing, NY 11367
Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY, 11232
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 West 27th St, New York, NY 10001
National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian Institution, 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd, Queens, NY 11106
Storefront for Art and Architecture, 97 Kenmare St, New York NY 10012
Waterfront Museum, 290 Conover St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Yeshiva University Museum, 15 W 16th St, New York, NY 10011
Pay What You Wish
It costs money to run a museum, so many museums use the strategy of Pay What You Wish. Basically, that means admission is free but there’s pressure to pay at least a token amount. If you can afford more, go for it! You’re supporting the arts! But if your money is really tight, don’t feel bad about not paying more. The point of Pay What You Wish is to make art accessible to people of all income levels and backgrounds.
So, without further ado, here are the museums that are pay what you wish:
American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, New York, NY 10040
El Museo del Barrio, 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
New York City Police Museum, 100 Old Slip, New York, NY 10005
P.S. 1 MoMA, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101
Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St, Queens, NY 11355
Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Building, Queens, NY 11368
SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves St, Long Island City, NY 11101
Staten Island Museum, 1000 Richmond Terr, Staten Island, NY 10301
Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027
Monthly free hours
Some museums also offer free evening or morning hours on a monthly or weekly basis. These are usually a way to attract new members (that’s why they sometimes co-exist with Pay What You Wish). These free hours can be fun because they may include special events, like programs, concerts or receptions.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum – Second weekend of the month, before 11 am
Brooklyn Museum – First Saturday, 5-11 pm
Neue Galerie – First Friday, 6-8pm
Noguchi Museum – First Friday (pay what you wish)
Weekly free hours
Museum at Eldridge Street, Mondays & Fridays (pay what you wish)
9/11 Memorial Museum – Tuesdays 5-8pm
Brooklyn Botanical Garden – Tuesday–Friday during December–February (pay what you wish)
Wave Hill – Tuesdays 9am-noon
Bronx Zoo – Wednesdays 10-11am (free all day for NYC residents)
Museum of Jewish Heritage – Thursdays 4-8pm
New York Botanical Garden – Wednesdays 3-36pm, April – October
Brooklyn Children’s Museum – Thursdays 2-5pm
International Center of Photography – Thursdays 6-9pm (suggested donation of $10)
Museum of Chinese in America – Wednesday-Sunday (until September 18, 2022)
New Museum – Thursdays 7-9pm
Morgan Library & Museum – Fridays 5-7pm
Museum of Modern Art – Fridays 4-8pm
Neue Galerie – Fridays 4-7pm
New-York Historical Society – Fridays 6-8pm (pay what you wish)
Rubin Museum of Art – Fridays 6-10pm
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Winter Weekdays from December to February (pay what you wish)
Jewish Museum – Saturdays
New York Botanical Garden – Wednesdays all day (NYC residents) or 10-11am (non-residents)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Saturdays 6-8pm (pay what you wish)
Wave Hill – Thursdays
Frick Collection – Thursdays 4 – 6pm (pay what you wish)
Queens Botanical Garden – Wednesdays 3-6pm; Sundays 9-11am