Free museums in New York: A calendar for every day of the week

Frick Collection New York
The Frick Collection is "pay as you wish" on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Callandresponse

By Suzanne Russo in New York—

Regular admission to the MoMA: $20. An adult ticket to the Guggenheim: $18. A calendar of free hours at New York’s favorite museums: priceless. Hang on to your hats, Cheapos. Follow our list and you can spend an entire week in New York museums without forking out a cent in admission fees!

Monday

Let it be known that many of the smaller museums are closed on Mondays. That being said, many do stay open, and some even for free.

The Museum at Eldridge Street (12 Eldridge Street, Manhattan) is worth visiting for the building alone. Adorned with spectacular stained-glass and 19th-century gas fixtures, the impeccably restored landmark building dates back to 1887, and its museum tells the story of generations of Jewish in New York. Admission is free on Mondays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Monday is also the day to check out some of the “free all the time” museums:

At the Rose Museum on the second floor of Carnegie Hall (154 West 57th Street, Manhattan), you can dabble in a little music memorabilia.

The Madame Alexander Doll Factory (615 West 131st Street, Manhattan) also offers an interesting, if a tad creepy, expedition. Free guided tours depart every 45 minutes Monday through Friday, starting at 9:30 a.m., with the last tour at 4:15 p.m. On the tour you’ll learn the history of the company and see more than 600 dolls made from the 1920s to today, including a few prototypes that were never manufactured (First Lady doll, anyone?).

Tuesday

Get a taste of the highbrow at the Morgan Library & Museum (29 East 36th Street, Manhattan), home to some of the rarest books and manuscripts in the world. Admission to the McKim rooms, former private study of Pierpont Morgan himself, is free every Tuesday from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Inside those gilded walls you’ll spot some of the lush original furnishings, along with precious items from the Morgan collection, including his life mask of George Washington (don’t go trying to steal that now) and copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Star-Spangled Banner.

If you’re after a bit of fresh air, you’re also, uh, free, to commune with the flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Ave, Brooklyn) every Tuesday during opening hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in winter months, until 6 p.m. from mid-March to mid-November). Admission, incidentally, is free on all weekdays in winter.

Wednesday

Wednesday is not the friendliest of weekdays to museum freeloaders in New York—or at least for those unwilling to leave Manhattan. If you head up to the Bronx, however, you can get free entry to the pre-Revoluntionary War Van Cortlandt House (Broadway at West 246th Street, Bronx). Washington himself (not to be confused with his life mask) is said to have sheltered there at the beginning and end of the war.

If the the Bronx is too much of a schlep for you, today’s a good day to hit up museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Both post suggested donations but technically have “open donation” policies every day.

Thursday

Thursday night kicks off a weekend of free museum festivities. Start it right with with some contemporary art at the New Museum (235 Bowery, Manhattan), free from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Uptown, the the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center is a cool public space with two vertical gardens, some impressive architecture and rotating art installations. On Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m., it’s also a performance space. Free shows might feature anything from spoken word to country or world music, or talent from The Juilliard School, Jazz at Lincoln Center and more. In short, anything goes. Check this calendar of events to see what’s happening every night, and note that you should arrive early because capacity is limited for this popular event.

Friday

Welcome to the free museum free-for-all that is Friday night in New York City. Behold, Cheapos, the museum is your oyster:

Free admission or pay what you wish on Friday nights:

Museum of the Moving Image: 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.; 35 Avenue at 37 Street, Astoria, Queens

Museum of Modern Art: 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.; 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan

International Center of Photography: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.; 1114 Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan

Whitney Museum of American Art: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.; 945 Madison Avenue, Manhattan

New York Historic Society: 6 pm. – 8 p.m.; 170 Central Park West, Manhattan

Saturday

The massive art collection (and incredible architecture) at the Guggenheim (1071 5th Avenue, Manhattan) can be enjoyed for free on Saturday evenings from 5:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m.

Other Saturday festivities are limited to once a month:

The Brooklyn Museum of Art (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn) dominates first Saturdays, with free admission, plus live entertainment, from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Learn more here.

El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Avenue, Manhattan) hosts “SUPER SABADO” on the third Saturday of the month, in all months except January and August. Admission is free from 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and events range from film screenings to walking tours.

Sunday

Round out the week with some fine art, housed in a gorgeous mansion at the Frick Museum (1 East 70th Street, Manhattan), pay what you wish from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

For a livelier vibe, head uptown to the Studio Museum (144 West 125th Street, Manhattan) in Harlem, where Target Free Sundays grant free access to the vast and provocative collection of art, as well as access to special tours, talks and hands-on activities.

About the author

Suzanne Russo
About the author: Suzanne Russo thinks of herself as equal parts California Girl and New Yorker. She moved from San Francisco to New York four years ago to pursue her MA in English, and her obsession with all things New York life and history hasn’t dwindled yet. She is a freelance writer, director of the San Francisco-sponsored, New York literary pub crawl, Lit Crawl, and constant wanderer.
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Cheapo Comments

4 Responses to “Free museums in New York: A calendar for every day of the week”
  • Museum Lady says:

    Great guide to New York’s notoriously expensive museums, Suzanne. Now if only the Bodies exhibit had a free day! At $40 a ticket, I guess I’ll have to settle for the ‘bodies’ at the American Natural History Museum.

  • Hey! The Morgan Library is open Friday evenings FREE from 7 to 9 – now, that’s a good deal.

  • Why doesn’t New York City have a pass like the Museum Pass in Paris or the Roma Pass in Rome?

    • Suzanne Russo Suzanne says:

      Hi Steve, New York actually does have a City Pass (http://www.citypass.com/new-york) which grants free admission to some museums and discounts to others. In my opinion, though, the price ($79) isn’t all that worth it unless you intend to do all the tings it offers. Even then, given that it covers the Met and the American Museum of Natural History (which are both technically suggested donation) you can probably see what you want to for cheaper without the pass…

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