Free Museums in New York City

Updated: Januar 16, 2024

Our local tour guides love museums of all kinds, from art museums to historical museums, from cultural institutions to memorials, and more.

We love them even more when they are free!

This post covers museums in NYC that always offer free admission as well as those that have free days and free hours.

But before we get started, sign up for our NYC travel guide, a free audio tour download, and a chance to win $100.

We wrote this post with the extensive knowledge of our NYC tour guides as well as members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group.

This group of more than 200k members consists of New Yorkers, returning visitors to NYC, and newbies to the city.

You don't need to become a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

At the bottom of this post, there are some recommendations from members of the group.


FREE MUSEUMS IN NEW YORK FOR TOURISTS

Despite often not advertising it, the museums below can be visited for free at any time.

"Free" means pay-what-you-wish (donation).

You can enter without giving anything, but you might want to pay what you can.

Note that special exhibitions usually require a paid ticket.

Free New York Museums

Beneath this section, we go over museums that are sometimes-free as they offer free days or free hours.

Also, some NYC museums have free entry for individuals with unique status, such as military members, students, seniors, etc. Always check the website to see if you are eligible for free entry.

TIP: On a budget? Check out our post on Free Things to Do in NYC and the Budget Tips section of this post.


New York Public Library

This library is an NYC icon. Though not a museum, there are fantastic literary artifacts on display, and the library inside and out is gorgeous!

You can explore the library’s exhibits on your own or you can take one of the free tours.

Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018 (map)

TIP: The NYPL is a stop on our guided Midtown Manhattan Tour as well as our GPS-led audio tour.


Museum of the City of New York

To take advantage of this museum's pay-what-you-wish admission, you must get your tickets at the museum ticket counter.

If you want to get tickets in advance online, you must pay full price.

The MCNY is dedicated to preserving NYC’s history and has an impressive collection of historic artifacts, documents, photographs, drawings, and much more.

This museum is excellent for children due to its educational programs.

It's also one of the museums included in Museum Mile on the Upper East Side.

Address: 1220 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029 (map)


National Museum of the American Indian

The collection of native American Indian artifacts is outstanding. This museum is kid-friendly as well.

The museum is housed in the historic and stunning Beaux-Arts building, the former Alexander Hamilton Customs House.

Address: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004 (map)

TIP: This museum is located in Lower Manhattan, which has so much more to see. See what there is to do in Lower Manhattan.


The Bushwick Collective

Although this isn't an enclosed museum, this area of street art and graffiti is a curated space that invites some of the most talented artists in the world to produce work here.

Read more about the Bushwick Collective with tips on getting there, what to expect, and other useful information.

Or you might like to visit with us! Our free Bushwick Street Art Tour runs daily.

Address: 427 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map)


Brooklyn Museum

While General Admission is listed with a price, it is a suggested contribution. It is written in very small print on the website but trust us -- it's free!

With 1.5 million works of art, objects, and antiquities, this museum is well known for its excellent Egyptian and African art collections.

It also has outstanding modern artworks and cutting-edge exhibitions.

They also have an impressive early American paintings collection. Their special exhibitions are of world-class quality.

Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238 (map)

TIP: While you are there, take advantage of all the great things you can do in Brooklyn.


El Museo del Barrio

This is the only museum in NYC that showcases Latino cultures extensively.

See works by artists of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American heritage as well as enjoy their cultural festivities, youth, and educational programming, and literary discussions.

Address: 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029 (map)

TIP: The museum is located in the southern part of Harlem, a neighborhood worth checking out. See our post about all the things to do in Harlem.


NYC Travel Tips & Hacks Facebook Group

American Folk Art Museum 

This museum celebrates the work of Folk artists which means they are completely self-taught and have not had any formal artistic training.

Its collection is surprisingly large with over 7,000 objects. Among them are artworks of all mediums from four centuries and nearly every continent.

Address: 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023 (map)

TIP: The museum is right across Lincoln Center, so go have a look at this marvelous complex or take a paid tour.


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Located in Harlem, this is one of the world’s top institutions devoted to the preservation and exhibition of materials focused on African American and African experiences.

They have over 10 million objects, artifacts, documents, recordings, art pieces, and more.

TIP: The Schomburg Center is a stop on several of our tours of Harlem, including our GPS-led audio tour.


Queens Museum

The museum’s mission is to offer a look into the diversity of the Queens community.

It's best known for its massive panorama of New York City. It is a 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs, created for the 1964 World’s Fair, held on the museum grounds.

While it is free to enter, the museum requests that visitors reserve a timed entry ticket.

Address: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Building, Queens, NY 11368 (map)


Bronx Museum

Spotlights the modern artworks of artists who are either Bronx-based or of African, Latino and Asian ancestry.

The museum’s 800-plus paintings, photographs and sculptures are housed in a 33,000-square-foot converted synagogue with a splendid three-story, glass-enclosed atrium.

Address: 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456 (map)


South Street Seaport Museum

Note that entry is free when you check in at the museum. Advance tickets online are full price.

Located in the South Street Seaport historic district, this small but interesting museum includes artifacts of New York City’s long maritime history.

Plus you can visit its fleet of ships docked on the East River at nearby Pier 16 and even enter the Wavertree, a tall ship dating back to 1885. 

Address: 12 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038 (map)


Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial

This house dating from 1802 was the home of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers and founder of the U.S. Treasury system.

You can see historically furnished rooms either on a ranger-guided tour and talk or on your own.

Address:414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031 (map)

TIP: Hamilton is buried in Lower Manhattan. Learn about the duel with Aaron Burr that led to his death on our pay-what-you-wish Lower Manhattan Tour or with our GPS-led audio tour.


Federal Reserve Bank

This is one of the 12 Federal Reserve banks in the U.S. Their vault holds 900 tons of gold, which you can see on one of their free tours.

*Note that as of January 2024, tours are currently suspended with no future restart date set.

There is also a small but excellent museum where you can see rare coins and learn about the history of money and finance.

The Federal Reserve Bank is a stop on several of our tours of Lower Manhattan, including our GPS-led audio tour.


Other Always-Free Museums

Just because we didn't write about them above, doesn't mean these below aren't outstanding. Check them out!

Historical Museums

Cultural Museums

Art Museums

Art Galleries

Commemorative Museums and Memorials

Gardens


MUSEUMS THAT ARE FREE FOR NYC RESIDENTS

Many museums that normally require a paid ticket for entry have special days or specific hours set aside for free entry.

Most of these locations are only going to offer free admission to NYC residents, so if you're visiting from out of town, you might not be able to rely on these free hours as an option.

Keep in mind that free days and free hours attract lots of other visitors and you may experience crowds, especially in the peak travel seasons.

Again, you will see phrases like suggested admission, by donation, or pay-what-you-wish together with specific days and times when you can enter for free.

TIP: For other activities that are free and inexpensive all the time, see our guide to NYC on a budget for suggestions.


National September 11th Museum

This museum is free on Mondays from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Reservations are required.

Tickets become available starting each Monday at 7:00 am. Limit 4 tickets per person.

This special museum has several different exhibits that detail the history of 9/11 and the World Trade Center.

It is next to the 9/11 Memorial which is free to visit.

The museum is included for free anytime with most tourist attraction passes.

Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007 (map)


Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim has pay-what-you-wish hours on Saturdays from 6 pm - 8 pm. There is a $1 per person minimum donation though you may donate more.

Note that you must get tickets in advance. Tickets for pay-what-you-wish hours are released on Mondays at 12 pm for the following Saturday.

Ticket quantities are limited and sell out quickly. Read more here.

The Guggenheim specializes in Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, early Modern, and contemporary art.

Included for free anytime with most tourist attraction passes.

Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128 (map)


Whitney Museum of American Art

Entry is free on Fridays from 7 pm to 10:00 pm.

This museum focuses exclusively on contemporary American art from 20th and 21st Century artists.

It's known worldwide for its Biennial Exhibit.

Included for free anytime with most tourist attraction passes.

Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014 (map)

TIP: The Whitney is located at the southern end of the High Line park. You might want to save some time to take a stroll!


New-York Historical Society

Entry is free on Fridays from 6 pm - 8 pm.

This is the oldest museum in NYC and its mission is to help visitors learn about the city’s rich past.

Their collection of artifacts and objects some as old as four centuries is impressive.

Address: 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024 (map)


Frick Collection

Entry is free on Thursdays from 2 pm - 6 pm.

Opened in 1935 and housed in one of the few remaining Gilded Age mansions and formerly owned by Henry Clay Frick.

This museum’s atmosphere is as beautiful as its artwork by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Whistler.

Address: 1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021 (map)


Morgan Library & Museum

Free on Fridays from 5 pm - 7 pm. Reservations are required.

This library consists of J. Pierpont Morgan’s exquisite collection of rare books and manuscripts, drawings, and artifacts.

It is housed in one of the finest examples of neoclassical buildings in America.

Admission to the historic rooms of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library is free on Tuesday and Sunday from 3 to 5 pm. No reservations are not required.

Address: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 (map)

TIP: Find out what else there is to see and do in Midtown Manhattan.


Bronx Zoo

Free on Wednesdays. Note that some rides and exhibits require separate tickets.

This is the world’s largest metropolitan zoo and is home to over 6,000 animals.

Visit the Monkey House, Jungle World, the World of Darkness, and the Congo Gorilla Forest.

Address: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460 (map)

TIP: Why not visit nearby famous Arthur Avenue, the 'other' Little Italy? Our guide to Arthur Avenue steers you to the best food in the area.


Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Free on the last Friday of April, June, July, August and September from 5 pm - 9 pm.

This popular museum is housed in and on an aircraft carrier whose exhibits include a Concorde, a submarine & a space shuttle. Very interactive and great for kids.

Address: Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036 (map)


Jewish Museum   

Free on Saturdays, though some exhibitions are closed in observance of the Sabbath.

Admission is free on select Jewish holidays as well.

Bank of America cardholders can enter for free on the first weekend of every month.

An excellent collection of Judaica, and exhibits of modern and contemporary art.

Also has an outpost of Russ & Daughters, the famous Lower East Side food shop. Enjoy Kosher delicacies like bagels and lox.

Address: 1109 5th Ave &, E 92nd St, New York, 10128 (map)

TIP: You can see the original Russ and Daughters on our Lower East Side Food Tour


Other Sometimes-Free Museums

These also have free days/hours for tourists and residents.

Mondays

Tuesdays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Select Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

First Weekend of Each Month- Bank of America Card Holders

These museums are free to enter for Bank of America cardholders. Admission excludes special exhibitions and ticketed shows.

Read more about the Museums on Us program.


MUSEUMS THAT ARE FREE FOR NEW YORK RESIDENTS

Residents of New York City, NY State, or the tri-state area can enter for free with some restrictions.


American Museum of Natural History

Residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can enter the museum for free. 

Other visitors must pay full price.

Two things to note about the free entry at this museum.

If you want to get tickets in advance online, you must pay the full price.

Also, when you enter for free, you will not have access to the Hayden Planetarium Show or the IMAX.

Address: 200 Central Park W. New York, NY 10024 (map)

TIP: Central Park is right next to the museum. Plus, there are many things to do in the neighborhood, the Upper West Side.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York State residents, and New York, New Jersey and Connecticut students can enter by suggested donation. Proof of address is required.

This is one of the top museums in the world and its permanent collection of over two million works includes pieces from several different periods in human history.

Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028 (map)


Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

The MOMA is free on the first Friday of every month from 4 pm to 8 pm for residents of New York City with ID. You must reserve tickets in advance

Children under 16 can always enter for free.

This is a 'must-see' attraction if you love modern art as it is one of the most prestigious modern art museums in the world.

Address:11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019 (map)


MUSEUMS INCLUDED IN TOURIST PASSES

Entry to some number of ticketed museums is included in most tourist attraction passes, which bundle several tours and attractions, including museums, into one pass at a flat rate price.

By purchasing a tourist pass, you can save anywhere between 15-55% off museum tickets depending on the pass.

Also, having a pass saves you time because you don’t have to wait online to purchase tickets and some passes offer ‘skip-the-line’ privileges.

Buying a tourist pass makes a lot of sense if you are planning on visiting several museums, especially those that require a paid ticket.

With the major art museums costing $25 each, you’d be wise to consider a pass if you plan on going to 3 or more such museums.

Be sure to read our post that explains and compares all of the tourist attraction passes.


Statue of Liberty Museum

Visiting Lady Liberty is likely on your list of “must-see” attractions in NYC.

Though you cannot visit for free, you can lower your costs if you purchase a tourist pass that includes a cruise ticket to the Statue of Liberty.

Address: Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004 (map)


Ellis Island Immigration Museum

This fascinating museum explores the experience of the more than 12 million immigrants who passed through the island upon their arrival in the United States.

Address: Ellis Island Bridge, Jersey City, NJ 10280 (map)


Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

This very popular museum, located on an aircraft carrier is very engaging. Its mission is to educate the public about the history and science of sea, air, and space travel.

It is very interactive and great for kids.

Tickets are pricey, and though they have free hours one Friday a month, the best way to save on tickets is to consider a tourist pass.

Address: Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036 (map)


Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

The New York location of this world-famous wax museum has all the famous figures you expect to see.

There are also some exciting special exhibits such as the Ghostbusters virtual reality experience and the Marvel Super Heroes 4D Experience.

Address: 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036 (map)


New York Transit Museum

This unique museum is located in an actual 1936 subway station. You can step inside real vintage subway cars and learn about the fascinating history of NYC’s famous subway system.

This museum is a good choice if you are visiting with children. They have no free hours but are included for free in many tourist passes.

Address: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map)


9/11 Museum Workshop

Located in the neighborhood of Chelsea, this museum focuses on the recovery following the 9/11 attacks and is geared toward families.

It is especially good for younger children since the topic at hand is a sensitive one.

Address: 420 W 14th St fl 2, New York, NY 10014 (map)


Fraunces Tavern Museum

This is the only Manhattan museum that is dedicated to Revolutionary War history.

Fraunces Tavern was where George Washington bid farewell to all of his officers in 1783, at the end of the American Revolution.

Listen to local tour guide Renee talk about the importance of Fraunces Tavern.

Address: 54 Pearl St 2nd floor, New York, NY 10004 (map)


Other Museums (and Attractions) Included in Tourist Passes


MUSEUMS WITH FREE ENTRY ON CERTAIN EVENINGS

The below museums and galleries stay open relatively late on certain nights and are free to visit during the evening hours listed.

For more free nighttime attractions and activities, read our post on things to do at night in NYC, free things to do in NYC, and our master post on NYC Attractions.


KID-FRIENDLY

Below is a list of museums that are great for kids.

Some are specifically for children as their name implies. These are generally for children ages 8 and under.

The other museums are not focused on children but are still enjoyable for kids of all ages. Some even have special activities and events for kids.

Be sure to check the age limit for free admission before going.

Always free

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

For more kid-friendly museums and attractions, see our post on things to do with kids in NYC as well as our master post on NYC attractions.


TIPS FROM LOCALS AND TRAVELERS

As going to museums in NYC is one of the most popular things to do among locals and tourists, we have loads of comments about the city’s free museums.

Here are some suggestions from members of our New York City Travel Tips group on Facebook. All of these are mentioned in this post.

Gerlinde (and the 23 ‘likes’ her comment received) knows what many New Yorkers and visitors know -- that the New York Public Library is a fantastic place to visit, even if it isn't a museum!

Two lesser-known museums, but still worth checking out, came up in the group suggestions.

The Folk Art Museum is always free and all of the Morgan is free to visit on Fridays from 5 pm - 7 pm.

The always-free Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) museum came up several times.

Besides the FIT Museum, Deborah also recommends the National Museum of the American Indian which is always free and is excellent.

These are just a handful of the many suggestions our Facebook Travel Tips group made.

You don't have to be a member to search the group for specific recommendations though you might like to join and post a question about free museums to see which ones you might enjoy!


OTHER BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS

New York Walking Tours

About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: Januar 16th, 2024
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