To keep costs at bay on a family outing in the Big Apple, consider visiting a museum or sight with free admission. We’ve highlighted a slew of New York City's fantastic attractions that welcome patrons at no cost, proving that even in a major metropolitan area known for its high price tags, affordable thrills are within reach.
New York's Best Free Attractions: The Top 10 Free Museums and Sites to Visit in New York City
1. BRIC House - 647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Launched in 1979, the Brooklyn art and community center known as BRIC features a range of talent beyond its modern, fluorescent-lit street facade. Events in this space vary: depending on BRIC’s schedule, one may attend a poetry slam, a jazz jam, a silent auction or an off-beat lecture. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, check out the 3,000-square-foot gallery that houses work by artists on the rise under its 18-foot-ceilings. Univision is partnered with the current exhibition, “¿What’s the Meaning of This?” a solo show by Juan Sánchez dealing with the specific culture of Puerto Ricans living in Brooklyn. After exploring this creative hearth, grab a bite at Hungry Ghost café, a Brooklyn chain well-versed in baked goods and latte design.
2. Hamilton Grange National Memorial - 414 West 141st St, New York, NY 10031
Have history nerds in the family? Look no further than the Harlem home of Alexander Hamilton, a powerful figure in the shaping of the U.S. Constitution and a member of President George Washington’s Cabinet who died during a famous duel with a sitting Vice President. Due to a redesign of the urban grid and restoration of its parts, the house and its foundation have moved twice since its construction in 1802—as recently as 2008. Hamilton only lived in the house for two years before his death, but visitors may view completely furnished period rooms Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with or without a park ranger for guidance.
3. Federal Reserve Bank of New York - 44 Maiden Ln, New York, NY 10038
The chance to see the world’s largest vault of gold doesn’t cost a dime. It will take some planning however, as one must make a reservation within 30 days of the visit, be over 16 and have government-issued I.D. With almost seven tons of gold bullion locked 80 feet under the streets of Manhattan, the Federal Reserve Bank holds this timeless form of currency for mostly foreign banks and governments. Remain patient during the tour; you’ll have to wait through a potentially dull speech about commodities before seeing a sight reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. Public visits are limited to 1 and 2 p.m. slots from Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays.
4. Children’s Museum of Manhattan - 212 West 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
If the kids need an environment that caters to their interests (and attention span), head to the Target-sponsored Free First Friday Night at CMOM. The venue might get crowded, but you’ll save on what is normally a $12 fee for both adults and children. Exhibits include “Adventures with Dora and Diego,” in which Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer’s world comes alive; “NYC + Me,” an cutesy reimagining of city life with interactive elements and “Playworks,” an assemblage of hands-on entertainment designed to enrich little ones four and under. First Friday Nights occur monthly from 5 to 8 p.m., after the museum normally closes.
5. Socrates Sculpture Park - 32 Vernon Blvd, Astoria, NY 11106
When the weather’s pleasant, venture into Queens for an exceptional park that was once a landfill and illegal dumpsite along the East River bank, but has since blossomed into a thriving sculpture park and artsy gathering space. Right now, visitors can view pieces from creators participating in the EAF15 fellowship, a banner-type installation depicting a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Havana (in 2009, the first of its kind) and a large pyramid covered in moss, the most recognizable sculpture in the park. Socrates attracts hip yoga lovers, people interested in meditation and anyone seeking a good place to take an interesting photo.
6. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art - 26 Wooster St, New York, NY 10013
Many galleries appeal to a niche, but Leslie-Lohman, the only dedicated LGBTQ art museum in the world, is truly a standout in its field. With its pioneer status comes a contentious history, yet it and its 22,000 pieces stand defiantly in the less-than-a-decade-old SoHo location. Leslie-Lohman’s body of work spans through mediums and unites queer, campy and bold contributions to the art world, including those of Andy Warhol, Catherine Opie and other well-known innovators. A temporary exhibition, “On the Domestic Front: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life” engages with questions about identity politics and separates 70 pieces into themes of home, work, play and fantasy. Keep in mind, however, that this content may not be appropriate for youngsters. Leslie-Lohman’s hours run from 12 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and 12 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
7. The Museum at FIT - 227 West 27th St, New York, NY 10001
N.Y.C. represents different things to different people, but out-of-towners and locals alike are quick to notice the city’s influence on fashion, even struggling to remember a time when this wasn’t the case. Go directly to the source and find out more from “the most fashionable museum in New York City,” a haven for anyone even vaguely interested in clothing: MFIT has ancient textiles, iconic Chanel items and many, many mannequins. Visit now and catch the tail-end of “Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch,” a gallery of whimsical looks from a Swiss-born AIDS activist, ending December 5th. MFIT, located in Chelsea, is open Tuesday to Friday 12 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—always free.
8. The New Museum - 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
Hard to miss with seven stories of gallery spaces, this imposing metal structure is a dedicated contemporary art museum on the Lower East Side. New Museum offers “pay what you wish” admission from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday evenings, a far cry from $16 general admission at other times. Many exhibitions here are unconventional, such as the multimedia installation from Wynne Greenwood, “Kelly,” that utilizes cardboard, old TV sets and everything in between.
A café accessible through the lobby sells Intelligentsia coffee and a variety of baked goods, adding to the minimalism of the art observing experience. Kids (who are free under 19) may not understand how deep art is to older folks, but they might enjoy the panoramic view of Manhattan from the rooftop.
9. National Museum of the American Indian - 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Celebrate Native heritage and understand the culture that predates our country by stopping by this reasonable gem within the U.S. Custom House. Despite being in NYC and not Washington, D.C., NMAI is affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum and boasts significant collections like “Infinity of Nations,” a permanent collection of items from North, South and Central American indigenous tribes; “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed” zones in on gold- and jade-adorned pieces from a more specific area. It’s a quick stop in lower Manhattan that offers beauty and intrigue. NMAI is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, save for Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
10. Museum of Modern Art - 11 West 53 St, New York, NY 10019
MoMa has name recognition both inside and out: its walls adorned with the likes of Jackson Pollock and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” command respect from investors and benefactors, and most people will know how to show you the way to this museum. It’s expected that good art will cost money to at least look at, but even at MoMa this is not entirely true. Though regular admission is a whopping $25, on UNIQLO Free Friday Nights (every Friday) from 4 to 8 p.m. one can access every Museum gallery and exhibition, although lines are unavoidable. At the moment, MoMa has a showing of Picasso sculptures and a macabre collection of WWII battle carnage photos and sketches.
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This article was written by Juliana Cohen and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist, Lexi Perman.