I’ve been in the NY-Metro area since I moved to the USA, and perhaps one of the best things about living in the greatest city in the world is that once you know it well, you can have tons of fun for very little money. I studied Art history, so I am a BIG fan of museums. The great news is that you don’t have to pay a ton of money to enjoy NYC’s art scene. Most museums offer free or reduced rate dates, galleries become make shift bars (offering drinks & snacks to art lovers), and NYC is a museum in itself with some of the world’s greatest architecture. This post will guide you to enjoying art in Manhattan on a budget (future posts on the outer boroughs coming soon).
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK
The Metropolitan Museum (The Cloisters/The Breuer): This one is not 100% free, and there has been much controversy over the MET, but one thing holds true. Their fee is a “suggested donation”. This means that although the counter says the “suggested donation is $25” you can give as little or as much as you want. So when you go in, you can give as little as .25 cents. The best times to go to the met are either super early in the morning, or late during the day. These times are optimal for minimizing crowds. When you’re done, go out the main entrance and grab a potato knish and a hot dog from the veteran vendors. Slather on some mustard and enjoy a classic NYC treat.
I highly recommend going to the Cloisters. It is in Fort Tyron, so it is a longer subway ride, but it is so worth the trip. Pack a picnic, enjoy it in the park, and then visit one of NYC’s most special museums. The Cloisters is made up of multiple pieces of spolia from castles and churches in Europe and has an incredible Medieval art collection. There is also a Medieval garden and the most beautiful view of the Palisades.
- The MET 5th Ave is open 7 days a week
- The MET Breuer is closed Mondays
- The Cloisters are open 7 days a week
The Museum at FIT – Anyone who loves fashion needs to make a stop at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum. Besides fashion, there are talks, exhibits, book signings…and celebs…you never know who you will run into during a visit.
Address: 7th Avenue at 27th Street. 212-217-4530
The New York Public Libary: A library? A museum? Heck yeah! The NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, is a gorgeous monument of NYC’s Beaux Arts movement. It’s made of shiny white marble that contrasts beautifully against the concrete jungle. There’s an amazing children’s collection, don’t forget to say hello to Winnie the Pooh (he lives there). When you leave, don’t forget to take a picture with Patience and Fortitude, the library’s lions. Then head over to Bryant Park, grab a sandwich and enjoy many of the activities. In the Summer there are free movies. This is as close to Midtown as Manhattanites will venture, so go and enjoy the city as we do.
Address: 5th Avenue & 42nd Street. 917-275-6975
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – MONDAYS
Museum at Eldridge Street: New York City has a rich Jewish history. This is an incredible 19th Century Synagogue that has been restored. It is a great place to visit for its architecture, but they also hold great art programs. The Synagogue offers free tours Monday from 10 am to noon.
Address: 12 Eldridge Street. 212.219.0302
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – TUESDAYS
9/11 Memorial & Museum: It always pains me to write about this one, as this event changed the world. At least it did for me. I knew people whose names are inscribed at the site, some whose bodies were never found and left friends and family behind. The site is beautiful and the museum offers free entry on Tuesdays. The outside area is always open and always free. Just a tiny favor…don’t take smiling selfies here. Hate to be a jerk here, but this monument marks many people’s grief. Skip the selfies at any site that is a memorial, this is simply in bad taste.
Address: World Trade Center Museum at 180 Greenwich St. 212-266-5211 |
Morgan Library and Museum: Bibliophiles will rejoice. This library has one of the most beautiful collection of rare books and manuscripts. There are even concerts and shows on special nights. You can go to the Morgan for free Fridays from 7-9pm, and if you want to see the McKim rooms (Morgan’s private library, his study and the rotunda), you can go Tuesdays, 3-5 pm; Fridays from 7-9 pm; and Sundays, 4-6 pm.
Address: 225 Madison Ave. 212-685-0008
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – WEDNESDAYS
Museum of Jewish Heritage: This museum tells the story of the Holocaust from the eyes of those who suffered through it. It pays homage to their heritage and reminds us of what can happen when we let fear and anger control us. The museum offers free admission Wednesdays from 4-8 pm.
Address: 36 Battery Place. 646-437-4202
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – THURSDAYS
Museum of Arts and Design: This is the former American Crafts Museum, but it has evolved (or devolved) to become a museum of art and design. It’s a lovely museum right by Central Park. The museum has a bunch of volunteer docents who lead ldiscussion-based visits to museum highlights. These are available on a first-come basis, and these are “free” with admission. This museum offers a pay what you will from 6 to 9pm.
Addresss: 2 Columbus Circle, 212-299-7777
New Museum: This super modern, box looking building is where you go to see Contemporary art. The museum is also known for readings, shows, and even trivia. You can pay what you want from 7-9pm (their suggestion is $2). If you bring a men’s coat to donate, you get free entry any time.
Address: 235 Bowery, 212-219-1222
Museum of Chinese in America: This museum is fully dedicated to preserving and celebrating Chinese culture. They also put on some really cool cultural events. The museum is free the First Thursday of every month.
Address: 215 Centre St., 855-955-MOCA
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – FRIDAYS
Asia Society: The place for Asian art. It’s a small, but beautifully curated collection that includes art from 1000 BCE to the 1800’s. The majority of the pieces here belonged to John D Rockefeller and his wife. Free entry is available from September through June, 6-9pm.
Address: 725 Park Avenue., 212-288-6400
Japan Society: This space goes beyond to cover all Japanese art styles. There are paintings, exhibits, films, performances, and more. On top of that, the building is spectacular. The Japan Society offers free entry from 6-9pm.
Address: 333 East 47th Street, 212-715-1255
Museum of Modern Art: One of NYC’s best museums, it has some of the most beautiful masterpieces of Modern Art. This amazing space offers free entry on Fridays from 4-8pm.
The New-York Historical Society: This is the oldest museum in NYC. It tells the stories of America from a New Yorker’s point of view. It has an incredible collection and is a fabulous place to pick up souvenirs. The museum offers a “pay what you will” Fridays from 6-8pm.
Address: 170 Central Park West, 212-873-3400
Rubin Museum of Art: The Rubin is known for putting together thoughtful exhibits to encourage thought. The focus is on the Himalayas, India, and the surrounding area. This museum is free on Fridays from 6-10pm.
Address: 150 West 17th Street, 212-620-5000
Children’s Museum of Manhattan: This one is great if you have little ones. A fantastic place for kids to learn, take part in activities, and make friends. There’s free admission 5-8pm the first friday of the month.
Address: 212 West 83rd Street, 212-721-1223
Neue Galerie: The focus here is on 20th Century German and Austrian art. If you’re into Bauhaus, you’re going to love this place. There’s also a very nice cafe where you can recharge your batteries. The Neue offers free admission from 6 -8pm the first friday of every month.
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – SATURDAYS
The Jewish Museum: They have a fantastic collection of art from Jewish artists, and they put up some amazing exhibitions and programs. You can pay what you want on Thursdays from 5-8 or go in on Saturdays to enjoy free admission.
Address: 1109 5th Ave., 212-423-3200
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: I wrote one of my college papers on this museum. Needless to say, I like it. The secret here is start from the top and work your way down. You’ll enjoy pieces by Picasso, Kandinsky and Miró. Tickets are quite pricy, but you can pay what you want Saturdays from 5:45-7:45pm.
Address: 1071 5th Avenue, 212-423-3500
El Museo del Barrio: As a Colombian-American whose heart is tied to a Cuban-Dominican-American, I strongly urge you to check out the Museo del Barrio. It celebrates the many colors, shades and flavors of Latin Americans and their art. It sits in the north of Central Park, so when you’re done you can cross the street and get to know the more quiet areas of NYC’s most beloved green space. Admission is free the third Saturday of every month.
Address: 1230 5th Ave., 212-831-7272
FREE MUSEUMS IN NYC – SUNDAYS
The Frick: If you’re a lover of beautiful French things…you simply can’t miss the Frick. It’s set in an NYC mansion and houses Monets and Renoirs among others. It even hosts a concert series….you can listen free of charge from the garden courtyard. If you’d lik to go for free, schedule your trip on Sunday from 11am-1pm.
Address: 1 East 70th St., 212-288-0700
Studio Museum in Harlem: Harlem is one of NYC’s most vibrant neighborhoods (and one of its trendiest at the moment). Schedule a Sunday trip to The Studio Museum and make sure to make reservations at Red Rooster for Gospel Brunch. The museum showcases black artists (American and International), and has a great collection of photographs by James Van Der Zee.
Address: 144 West 125th Street. 212-864-4500
Galleries & shows to follow.