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Free Museums in New York City

Updated: June 23, 2023

This post lists the museums in NYC with free admission, including cultural institutions, memorials, and art galleries. We also include those with free days.

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


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

However, free really means pay-what-you-wish (or donation). Technically, you can enter without giving anything, but you might want to pay what you can.

Free New York Museums

Note that special exhibitions usually require a paid ticket.

In addition to free museums, there are many attractions and activities that won’t cost you anything.

See our post about free things to do in New York City.

American Museum of Natural History

Residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can enter the museum for free. Two things to note about the free entry at his 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.

See our post on how to visit the American Museum of Natural History.

New York Public Library Tours

This library is an NYC icon. You will instantly recognize the two lions on the side of the grand staircase up to the entry.

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

Find out more about their tours here.

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

This museum is pay-what-you-wish admission but only when you get your tickets at the museum ticket counter.

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

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

Kids will enjoy the educational programs here. You can find more information on their website.

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.

Click here for more information on the museum.

TIP: This museum is located in Lower Manhattan, an area that has so much more to see. Our Guide to Lower Manhattan lists the multitude of activities, many of which are free.

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.

We have a post that goes into more detail about the Collective with tips on how to get here.

You could let us take you. Our free Bushwick Street Art Tour runs daily.

El Museo del Barrio

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.

Click here for more information.

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.

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.

Click here for more information on the museum.

Queens Museum

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

However, what it is best known for is its famous Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs, created for the 1964 World’s Fair, held on the museum grounds.

Click here for more information on this museum.

South Street Seaport Museum

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. 

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

Find more information on this museum here.

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.

See here for more information on this museum.

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.

Tours are offered every weekday but require reservations. See our post on how to make reservations.

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.

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.

Find out more information here.

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

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.

See their website for more information.

TIP: To see where he is buried, and hear about his duel with Aaron Burr, you can join our pay-what-you-wish Lower Manhattan Tour or explore on your own with our GPS-led audio tour.

Other Always-Free Museums 

Historical Museums

Cultural Museums

Art Museums

Art Galleries

Commemorative Museums and Memorials



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

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.

Fortunately, there are many other inexpensive things to do in the city.

Look at our guide to NYC on a budget for suggestions.

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.

National September 11th Museum

This museum is free on Mondays from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Reservations are required and become available starting each Monday at 7:00 a.m. Limit 4 tickets per person.

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

Included for free anytime with most tourist attraction discount passes.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

The MOMA is free on the first Friday of every month from 4 pm - 8 pm for residents of New York City with ID.

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.

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 discount passes.

Whitney Museum of American Art

Free on Fridays from 7 pm - 10:00 pm. This museum focuses exclusively on contemporary American art from 20th and 21st Century artists.

Known worldwide for its Biennial Exhibit.

Included for free anytime with most tourist attraction discount passes.

Brooklyn Museum

The museum's First Saturdays program offers free evening access starting at 5 pm on the first Saturday of each month. Advance registration is encouraged.

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

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

TIP: While you are in Brooklyn, take advantage of all the great activities you can do there. See our post about things to do in Brooklyn.

New-York Historical Society

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.

Included for free anytime with any multi-day bus ticket from TopView Tours

Frick Collection

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.

Morgan Library & Museum

Free on Fridays from 5 pm - 7 pm.

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.

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.

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.

Jewish Museum   

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

Admission is free on select Jewish holidays as well.

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.

Other Sometimes-Free Museums






Select Fridays




Entry to some number of ticketed museums is included in most tourist attraction discount 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 required 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 out post that explains and compares all of the tourist attraction discount 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.

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.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

This is a must-see museum, but tickets are $25 and they do not offer any free hours.

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.

See our post on other discounts and deals.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

The New York location of this world-famous wax museum has all the famous figures you expect to see as well as some exciting special exhibits such as the Ghostbusters virtual reality experience and the Marvel Super Heroes 4D Experience.

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.

While you are there, you might want to see more of Brooklyn. Take a look at our post about things to do in Brooklyn.

9/11 Tribute Museum

This museum focuses on the rescue and recovery aspects of the 9/11 tragedy. You can get an intimate look at the event through artifacts, films, and photos.

Ground Zero 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.

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.

Other Museums (and Attractions) Included in Tourist Passes


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.


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.

Always free






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.


New York Walking Tours

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: June 23rd, 2023
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