If you know of other ways and places to get in free, let me know and I'll add it to the list!
Bank of America Museums on Us (nationwide)
Got a Bank of America ATM, credit, or check card? Each card holder can get into a bunch of museums free on the first full weekend of each month. Check website to find participating museums (or zoos and gardens) near you. In the New York City area, this deal gets you into (sadly, the Guggenheim and MoMA museums aren't included anymore):
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org)
- Whitney Museum of American Art (whitney.org)
- New York Historical Society (nyhistory.org)
- Brooklyn Children's Museum (brooklynkids.org)
- Queens Museum of Art (queensmuseum.org)
- Staten Island Children's Museum (statenislandkids.org)
Museum Day - courtesy Smithsonian Magazine (nationwide)
Go to the website and print out a coupon good for free admission for 2 people on Sept 28, 2013. Check back in the spring to find the date for 2014.
National Parks Fee-Free Days (Thanks thesoxgap!)
While many of our national parks never charge entrance fees, many others do. In 2013, these are the dates that all of the national parks waived fees. I'm guessing similar dates will be free in 2014.
- Jan 20, 2014 (Martin Luther King, Jr Day)
- Feb 15-17, 2014 (Presidents Day Weekend)
- Apr 19-20, 2014 (opening weekend of National Park Week)
- Aug 25, 2014 (National Park Service birthday)
- Sept 27, 2014 (National Public Lands Day)
- Nov 11, 2014 (Veterans Day)
National Parks Annual Pass
- You can get a free annual pass if you're in the U.S. Military:
Available to U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members.
- You can get a free annual pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities.
- Only $10 for a lifetime pass if you're 62 years old and older.
NYC Museums, Zoos, Aquariums, Gardens...
American Museum of Natural History
Suggested general admission is $22. Should you wish to pay less than the suggested admission, you may do so by purchasing tickets at any admissions desk at the Museum.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I love that this museum is open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights. From May to late autumn, don't miss a trip up to the rooftop.The recommended admission fee is $25 but if you hand over less money and ask for "One adult please," then they'll still let you into the museum. Also, The Museum participates in several programs that include free admission for students. All New York City public school students, along with students from Bard Graduate Center, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, may visit the Museum for free. Please check with your school administrator to see if your student ID allows free admission to the Museum.
This is a branch of The Met devoted to medieval art and architecture. I really liked wandering the surrounding grounds of the museum. Just as at the main branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the recommended admission fee is $25 but you can get in for less at the admissions desk. Also, The Museum participates in several programs that include free admission for students. All New York City public school students, along with students from Bard Graduate Center, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, may visit the Museum for free. Please check with your school administrator to see if your student ID allows free admission to the Museum.
The Guggenheim Museum
Pay-what-you-wish on Saturdays from 5:45 pm to 7:45 pm (last ticket issued at 7:15 pm). Line here gets long and doesn't seem to move very quickly.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Admission is free for all visitors during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, held every Friday evening from 4pm to 8pm. Line here gets long but moves quickly so don't be discouraged. You can visit the outdoor sculpture garden free in the mornings from 9am-10:15am (except for inclement weather and during maintenance)
American Folk Art Museum
Admission is free
Museum of Arts and Design
Thursdays and Fridays are pay-what-you-wish from 6pm to 9pm.
The Frick Collection
On Sundays, pay what you wish from 11am to 1pm.
Museum of Chinese in America
Free admission on Thursdays, sponsored by Target.
Free on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-8pm.
Admission is free to all on Friday nights, 6pm - 9pm.
Museum of the City of New York
This is another museum that asks for a suggested donation ($10) for admission.
- Teachers/Educators, Columbia University and NYU students, employees of the City of New York, AAM (American Association of Museums) members, employees of other museums, and active military all receive free admission to the Museum (with valid I.D.).
- If you live or work in East Harlem above 103rd Street, visit the Museum free of charge. Mention “I’m a neighbor,” and the suggested admission charge will be waived.
The Morgan Library and Museum
Admission is free Fridays 7pm-9pm. Admission to the McKim rooms is free during the following times: Tuesday 3-5pm, Friday 7-9pm, Sunday 4-6pm The McKim rooms just finished a multi-million-dollar restoration that looks fabulous.
The New Museum
Thursday nights are pay-what-you-wish from 7pm to 9pm (suggested minimum of $2). Seems to have a rooftop lounge, the Sky Room, on weekends.
The Noguchi Museum
On the first Friday of every month year-round, Museum admission is pay-what-you-wish.
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Admission to exhibitions is free.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Pay-what-you-wish admission on Fridays 6-9pm.
Children's Museum of Manhattan
On the first Friday of every month admission is free from 5 – 8pm, sponsored by Target.
International Center for Photography
Voluntary donation for admission on Fridays, 5-8pm.
Wednesdays have a suggested donation of $16. Also, on Winter Wednesdays, the Total Experience tickets are $9.95 (instead of $21 or $24)
New York Aquarium
While they continue to rebuild and recover from Hurricane Sandy, admission has been reduced to $9.95. Admission on Summer Fridays from 4pm to closing and on Fall/Winter/Spring Fridays from 3pm to closing is by pay-what-you-wish donation. Recommended donation is $5 per person.
Cooper Hewitt Design Museum
Currently closed for renovations until some time in 2014. It used to have free admission Tuesday nights 5pm to 9pm.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Suggested donation of $12 to go. I was surprised to realize this was a much bigger museum than I had thought. Target sponsors free Target First Saturdays 5-11pm.
New York Botanical Gardens (grounds only)
Grounds admission is free to everyone all day on Wednesdays and from 9-10am on Saturdays.
This does NOT include admission to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Special Exhibitions, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Rock Garden, or Tram Tour.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Free on Tuesdays as well as from 10am-12pm Saturdays. Also free on winter weekdays (November through February). In addition, seniors can go free on Fridays. This reminds me of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. I like how BBG has a page telling you what's blooming: Plants in Bloom
OTHER FREE NYC ATTRACTIONS
Staten Island Ferry
It's about a 25-30 minute ride each way to Staten Island. Free ferry ride lets you enjoy views of Lower Manhattan, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. It even runs 24 hours a day so you don't have to be worried about getting stranded. Oh and it's a commuter ferry so avoid rush hour.
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
I know this isn't technically a museum but this is a beautiful church and it's gigantic (largest Gothic church in the world; largest church in the U.S.). Free to go in though a suggested donation of $10 is appreciated. Also free to walk the grounds. There are 3 peacocks living on the grounds; one of them is a white peacock! If you have the time, I highly recommend going on their Vertical Tour too even though it's not free (costs $15).
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Also a big church. It's the largest decorated Gothic church. Offers free guided tours though donations are accepted.
Even has free guided tours
New York Public Library
A beautiful building to wander around. Also has free guided tours.
Grand Central Terminal
Site of my favorite flash mob video. Plenty of shops and places to eat.
Clogged with tourists. Characters that pose for photos with you and then demand tips. Nice to just sit and let your feet recover at the end of a long day.
Bryant Park (ice skating)
Free admission for ice skating. You can rent skates for $15. Also, there are free lockers (and you can buy a lock for $9 if you didn't bring one.)