When kids visit a museum on a school field trip or with family it is such a memorable experience! However, it can also be expensive when you factor in multiple tickets, transportation, and parking. That is why free admission, Pay-What-You-Wish, free days and free hours are so beneficial for NYC parents. In the five boroughs, including Long Island, there are many enriching museums to choose from. This list shows “free” museums that kids, or the whole family, would love to visit and explore!
Looking for more budget-friendly family activities? Check out The 6 Best Picnic Spots for Families in NYC!
American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park W, New York, NY 10024-5102
Pay-What-You-Wish for NY, NJ, CT residents
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the most popular museums in New York, yet they have an unending devotion to scientific research and education. If you would like to visit, then look into the Pay-What-You-Wish option. It allows up to 4 tickets, but does not include special exhibitions. Although, their permanent collection is nothing to sigh at. There is the Hall of Biodiversity, Hall of Meteorites, Hall of Asian Mammals, and much more. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and timed tickets are required. You can find more information about Pay-What-You-Wish here.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028
Pay-What-You-Wish for NY residents and NY, NJ, CT students; Children 12 and under are free
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the leading places to go to see art from all over the world and 5,000 years into the past. The museum encourages the study of fine art and I’m sure your kids will learn a lot when they visit. Besides the Met’s extensive collection they have several exhibitions open at the moment, which span from Dutch masterpieces to afrofuturism. The Met is open Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday. You can find more information about Pay-What-You-Wish here.
Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016
Fridays 5 to 7pm are free; Children 12 and under are free
As most know the Morgan Library & Museum began as a private collection and has grown. It remains open to the public to educate and bring attention to classic materials. Current exhibitions include Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in Community, J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library, and more. The permanent collection offers pieces from Henry David Thoreau, Mozart, and Johann Gutenberg. The library and museum are open Tuesday through Sunday. Purchasing timed tickets in advance is recommended. You can find more information about admission here.
2 E 91st St., New York NY 10128
Pay-What-You-Wish every Thursday through Monday from 5 to 6pm; Guests 18 and under are free
Cooper Hewitt is a museum devoted to the promotion of design through community discussion and interaction with design, art, and science. Their current exhibitions are Design and Healing, Nature by Design and Duro Olowu Selects. They also offer many educational programs, some are virtual. Just check their calendar! Cooper Hewitt and garden are open Thursday through Monday and timed tickets are required. You can find more information about admission here.
The Old Stone House
336 3rd St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
Admission is free
The Old Stone House likes to teach national and local history as it has Dutch roots and is the site of the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn. They also support the community with native plant gardens, educational programs, and local artist showings. The current exhibition, on the second floor, is Brooklyn Utopias, where local artists create an ideal place. The Old Stone House is open Friday through Sunday for walk-ins. Only ten people can be in the house at a time. You can find more information about admission here.
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11238
Suggested Admission for general collections; Children 19 and under are free for general collections; First Saturdays are free
The Brooklyn Museum looks to inform and expand the mindset of its visitors, because they believe art can create connections to the world around us. If your kids are interested in art then this museum will show the true power of artwork. Current exhibitions include antiquities, Andy Warhol: Revelation, a Covid-19 memorial, Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas and more. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and it is recommended that you reserve tickets ahead of time. You can find more information about admission here.
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens, NY 11004
Admission is free
Queens County Farm Museum dates back to the 1600s and is one of the oldest portions of undisturbed land. Historic farm buildings, greenhouses, and livestock preside on the 47 acre plot. If your children are excited about animals and farm-to-table this could be a trip they never forget. The farm offers tours, educational programs, hayrides, and volunteer farm days. The grounds are open 7 days a week. You can find more information about admission here.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Building, Queens, NY
The Queens Museum features visual arts and educational programs for New Yorkers, specifically Queens residents. Some current exhibitions include work by Christine Sun Kim and Stephanie Dinkins. Their permanent collection offers a panorama of NYC and items from the World’s Fair. Your kids are bound to be entertained with these eclectic showings. Don’t forget to check out the drop-in art making sessions! The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and they request that you book online tickets. You can find more information about admission here.
Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, NY 11106
Admission is free
Socrates Sculpture Park believes in supporting artists and the community through public art which can improve the environment and humanity. Visiting this park would be a fun experience where kids can enjoy the weather and learn about sculpture. Current exhibitions include Steel Bodies and Subterranean Tropicalia Projects. They even offer yoga and meditation regularly. The park is open 365 days a year. You can find more information about admission here.
Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York 10456
Admission is free
The Bronx Museum of the Arts is a contemporary art museum concerned with diversity and the urban experience. Current exhibitions include work from Brooklyn-born photographer Jamel Shabazz and artist Bang Geul Han. Visiting could be a great way to open children’s horizons to new perspectives. The Museum is also offering plenty of virtual opportunities, such as tours and studios. Otherwise, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. You can reserve tickets, but walk-ins are welcome. You can find more information about admission here.
Van Cortlandt House Museum
West 246th St., Bronx, NY 10471
Children 12 and under are free; Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors
The Van Cortlandt House Museum has a long history with ties to New York. It is maintained by The National Society of Colonial Dames so that you can visit and learn about life in the 1700s and 1800s. If you are already in Van Cortlandt Park for a hike or picnic this may be a fun and educational addition to your day. It is requested that visitors call ahead to see if the museum is open. The museum is generally open Friday through Sunday for self-guided tours. You can find more information about admission here.
Staten Island Museum
1000 Richmond Terrace, Building A, Staten Island, New York 10301
The Staten Island Museum encourages education with its science, history, art, and environmental related collections. Besides a large permanent collection, the current exhibition is Magicicada which utilizes the Museum’s collection of cicadas. They also have an online exhibition which celebrates the 140th anniversary of the museum! Making this trip with the little ones is perfect for a fun, well-rounded experience. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and you have the option to buy tickets online. You can find more information about admission here.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301
Outdoor Grounds and Gardens are free; First Fridays are free; Children 5 and under are free
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden combines history, art, agriculture and architecture to form an enriching educational experience. It is the main campus for other museums such as The Staten Island Museum. However, for Snug Harbor in particular the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art and Chinese Scholar’s Garden require admission. Yet, there is a lot to do on the grounds, such as visiting different gardens and attending weekend events. They are open Wednesday through Sunday and ask that you book tickets ahead of time. You can find more information about admission here.
The Heckscher Museum of Art
2 Prime Ave., Huntington, NY 11743
Children 13 and under are free
The Heckscher Museum of Art has a lot of dedicated members who have contributed to and are still supporting the museum’s collection of art. The museum is very involved in art education for K-12. If you are planning a fun visit, current and upcoming exhibitions include Lunar Art, art from the best Long Island art students and contemporary Asian and Asian American art. They are open Thursday through Sunday and ask visitors to book timed tickets.You can find more information about admission here.