The Unconventional Guide to the Best Free Museums in NYC

Sep 19, 2018

The Unconventional Guide to the Best Free Museums in NYC | Westgate New York City | Free Museum Days NYC
By Rich Weidman

The Unconventional Guide to the Best Free Museums in NYC

With prices to some of New York City’s most popular museums such as MoMA going for as high as $25 per person, museum goers headed to the Big Apple need to plan ahead to get the most bang for their buck. Fortunately, many top-notch NYC museums offer free admission all the time, during select times of the week or month, or on a “pay what you wish” basis. Join us as we uncover the secret behind getting free admission to New York City’s top museums, including art museums in NYC, children’s museums near Manhattan, niche museums close to our Grand Central Terminal hotel, natural history museums near Central Park and many more! Before we dive into detail, and just in case you're more of a TLDR; type of browser, here's a handy chart of which museums in Manhattan are free for which day:

MuseumMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Museum at Eldridge StreetFREE      
9-11 Memorial & Museum FREE     
Morgan Library & Museum FREE     
The Frick Collection  FREE    
Museum of Jewish Heritage  FREE    
Van Cortlandt House Museum  FREE    
Brooklyn Children’s Museum   FREE   
Children’s Museum of the Arts   FREE   
Museum of Arts and Design   FREE   
New Museum of Contemporary Art   FREE   
International Center for Photography    FREE  
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)    FREE  
Museum of the Moving Image    FREE  
New-York Historical Society    FREE  
Rubin Museum of Art    FREE  
Whitney Museum of American Art    FREE  
The Jewish Museum     FREE 
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum     FREE 
The Studio Museum in Harlem      FREE

And now for the deets! For starters, here is the definitive list of NYC museums that offer free admission or admission on a “pay what you wish” basis all the time:

Pay As You Wish Basis Free Museums

  • African Burial Ground National Monument (free): North America’s oldest and largest excavated African burial ground. Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007; (212) 637-2019.

  • American Folk Art Museum (free): Boasts the premier collection of American folk art in the United States. 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023; (212) 595-9533.

  • American Museum of Natural History (pay what you wish): Founded in 1869 and billed as “one of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions.” Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192; (212) 769-5100.

  • Bronx Museum of the Arts (pay what you wish): The flagship cultural institution of the Bronx highlights 20th century and contemporary art. 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456; (718) 681-6000.

  • Brooklyn Museum (pay what you wish): New York City’s third-largest museum houses a diverse selection of art and sculpture. 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052; (718) 638-5000.

  • The Cloisters (pay what you wish): The branch of the Met devoted to medieval European art, artifacts and architecture. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, New York, NY 10040; (212) 923-3700.

  • El Museo del Barrio (pay what you wish): Billed as “the nation’s leading Latino and Latin American cultural institution.” 1230 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10029; (212) 831-7272.

  • Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College (free): Features nearly 6,000 works of art from ancient to modern times. Klapper Hall, Queens College, Flushing, NY 11367; (718) 997-4747.

  • The Harbor Defense Museum (free): The only military museum in New York City. 230 Sheridan Loop, Brooklyn, NY 11252; (718) 630-4349.

  • International Print Center (free): A nonprofit arts institution “dedicated to innovative presentation of prints.” 508 W. 26th Street, New York, NY 10001; (212) 989-5090.

  • Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (free): Houses LGBT social, political and erotic art, and hosts talks and performances. 26 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013; (212) 431-2609.

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (pay what you wish for New York State residents): The largest art museum in the United States houses more than 2 million works of art. 1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028; (212) 535-7710.

  • Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (free): New York City’s only museum devoted solely to the art of fashion. 227 W. 27th Street, New York, NY 10001; (212) 217-4558.

  • National Museum of the American Indian (free): Part of the Smithsonian Institution that features a great selection of Native American art and artifacts. Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004; (212) 514-3700.

  • New York City Police Museum (pay what you wish): Showcases the history of the New York City Police Department, the world’s largest police service. 100 Old Slip, New York, NY 10005; (212) 480-3100.

  • MoMA PS1 (pay what you wish): Highlights “today’s most experimental, thought-provoking contemporary art.” 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101; (718) 784-2084.

  • Queens Museum (pay what you wish): Art museum and educational center that is home to the famous “Panorama of the City of New York.” Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York City Building, Corona, NY 11368; (718) 592-9700.

  • SculptureCenter (pay what you wish): A contemporary art museum founded in 1928. 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, NY 11101; (718) 361-1750.

  • Staten Island Museum (pay what you wish): The oldest cultural institution on Staten Island. 1000 Richmond Terrace, Building A, Staten Island, NY 10301; (718) 727-1135.

  • Waterfront Museum (free): Showcases NYC’s rich maritime history. 290 Conover Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231; (718) 624-4719.

Free NYC Museums on Mondays

  • Museum at Eldridge Street: Housed in the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue and featuring Jewish New York history and culture. Free admission between 10 AM and 5 PM. 12 Eldridge Street, New York, NY 10002; (212) 219-0302.

Free NYC Museums on Tuesdays

  • 9-11 Memorial & Museum: Remembers and honors the 2,983 victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Free admission 5 PM to 8 PM with reservation. 200 Liberty Street, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10281; (212) 312-8800.

  • Morgan Library & Museum: Museum and research library first begun by famed financier J. P. Morgan (1837-1913). Free admission 3 PM to 5 PM to the McKim rooms (Morgan’s library, study, rotunda and librarian’s office). Also free admission Fridays 4 PM to 6 PM and Sundays, 4 PM to 6 PM. 225 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016; (212) 685-0008.

Free NYC Museums on Wednesdays

  • The Frick Collection: Houses the impressive art collection of industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919). Pay what you wish between 2 PM and 6 PM (also Sundays between 11 AM and 1 PM). 1 E. 70th Street, New York, NY 10021; (212) 288-0700.

  • Museum of Jewish Heritage: Memorial dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust. Free admission 4 PM to 8 PM. 36 Battery Place, New York, NY 10280; (646) 437-4202.

  • Van Cortlandt House Museum: A National Historic Landmark located in the former Van Cortlandt family estate. Van Cortlandt Park, 6036 Broadway, Bronx, NY 10471; (718) 543-3344.

Free NYC Museums on Thursdays

  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum: Founded in 1899 as the first children’s museum in the world. Free admission between 3 PM and 5 PM. 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213; (718) 735-4400.

  • Children’s Museum of the Arts: A 10,000-square-foot museum featuring an international collection of children’s art. Free admission between 4 PM and 6 PM. 103 Charlton Street, New York, NY 10014; (212) 274-0986.

  • Museum of Arts and Design: Overlooks Central Park and showcases contemporary art and design. Free admission between 6 PM and 9 PM. 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019; (212) 299-7777.

  • New Museum of Contemporary Art: Founded in 1977 and highlights contemporary art from around the world. Pay what you wish between 7 PM and 9 PM. 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002; (212) 219-1222.

Free NYC Museums on Fridays

  • International Center for Photography: Billed as the “world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture.” Free admission between 5 PM and 8 PM. 250 Bowery, New York, NY 10012; (212) 857-0000.

  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art): One of the world’s largest and most influential museums of modern art. Free admission between 4 PM and 8 PM. 11 W. 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019; (212) 708-9400.

  • Museum of the Moving Image: Media museum that houses the largest collection of moving image artifacts in the United States. Free admission between 4 PM and 8 PM. 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106; (718) 777-6800.

  • New-York Historical Society: Established in 1804 as New York’s first museum. Pay what you wish between 6 PM and 8 PM. 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024; (212) 873-3400.

  • Rubin Museum of Art: Showcases an amazing collection of the art and cultures of the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions. Free admission between 7 PM and 10 PM. 150 W. 17th Street, New York, NY 10011; (212) 620-5000.

  • Whitney Museum of American Art: Houses one of the foremost collections of modern and contemporary American art. Pay what you wish between 7 PM and 10 PM. 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014; (212) 570-3600.

Free NYC Museums on Saturdays

  • The Jewish Museum: An art museum and repository of Jewish culture. Free admission between 11 AM and 5:45 PM. 1109 5th Avenue and E. 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128; (212) 423-3200.

  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Internationally acclaimed art museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Pay what you wish between 5:45 PM and 7:45 PM. 1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10128; (212) 423-3500.

Free NYC Museums on Sundays

  • The Studio Museum in Harlem: Showcases works of art by artists of African descent locally, nationally and internationally. 429 W. 127th Street, New York, NY 10027; (212) 864-4500.

Bonus Free NYC Museums Day!

  • Museum Day: Sponsored by Smithsonian Magazine, Museum Day will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, and offer free general admission for two people to the following NYC museums: American Folk Art Museum, Bard Graduate Center Gallery, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum, Morris-Jumel Mansion, Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, Museum of Arts and Design, Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York City Fire Museum, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, The Jewish Museum, The Rubin Museum of Art and Ukrainian Museum. Simply register and download a voucher from www.smithsonianmag.com to experience Museum Day NYC and discover all there is to see with Manhattan museums!

On thing is for sure, there's no shortage of museums in NYC to go and explore! If you're looking for things to do in New York City or just interested in various NYC points of interest or Manhattan landmarks, look no further than your premier selection for NYC resorts with Westgate New York Grand Central! Our midtown Manhattan suites are the crowning jewel of the midtown East corridor, right in the middle of all the best rooftop bars in midtown and perfectly positioned as the closest hotel near The United Nations!

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