20 sometimes-free New York City attractions
New York City is one of the most remarkable places on the planet for the wealth of world-class attractions all in one place, but taking a bite of the Big Apple can often take a bite out of your wallet. We’ve written before about 25 free things to do in New York, highlighting our favorite sights, tours and attractions that never cost money, but sometimes ticket-admission spots have free entry times, too. Here’s some of our favorite places for free attractions at specific times.
The American Museum of Natural History is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan © Lady-Photo / Getty Images
American Museum of Natural History
Free its last hour (4:45-5:45pm), the American Museum of Natural History’s admission price is ‘suggested’ at all other times (so free, if you have the chutzpah to suggest $0). Central Park West & 79th St, Upper West Side.
Bargemusic Music in Motion
On Saturdays at 4pm, enjoy an hour-long concert aboard a barge on the East River, followed by Q&A session with the musicians. 1 Water Street, Brooklyn.
Books Beneath the Bridge
On Monday nights throughout July and August, prominent authors such as Martin Amis, Patti Smith and Paul Auster read their works to a captive audience in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Launched in 1979 as a way to entice people to come to Prospect Park, this annual summer festival hosts free concerts, movies and dance performances at the Prospect Park Bandshell. 141 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free Tuesday, 10am to noon Saturday and weekdays in winter (Nov-Feb). Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Museum is free the first Saturday of the month, when there’s big wine-sipping, DJ parties that draw half the neighborhood. 200 Eastern Parkway, at Washington Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
Tigers are a prime attraction at the Bronx Zoo in New York City © Gowri Vallaban Panneer Selvam / Getty Images
Pay what you wish to get into the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday. 2300 Southern Blvd, The Bronx.
El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio is free the third Saturday of the month. 1230 Fifth Ave between 104th & 105th Sts, Spanish Harlem.
Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum
Pay what you wish at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum on the first Friday of the month. 9-01 33rd Rd, Astoria, Queens.
Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
Opera-hop throughout the five boroughs to enjoy some of The Met’s finest (and emerging) talents singing under the stars.
Movement Research at the Judson Church
On Monday evenings during its fall/winter and spring seasons, Movement Research hosts free dance performances that act as a forum for experimentation, emerging ideas and works in progress. 55 Washington Square, Greenwich Village.
Movies in the Park
Unless you’re doing it for the air-conditioning, you can avoid setting foot inside a cinema all summer long by satiating your inner film buff at the outdoor screenings held in parks across the city, including Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and McCarren Park.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is often referred to by its acronym, MoMA. © PpcCreativeStudio / Getty Images
Museum of Modern Art
Entry to the Museum of Modern Art is free from 4-8pm on Friday. Gets busy. 11 W 53rd St, between Fifth & Sixth Aves, Midtown West.
Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image is free from 4-8pm Friday. 35th Ave, at 36th St, Astoria, Queens.
The Neue Galerie is free from 6-8pm on the first Friday of the month. 1048 Fifth Ave at 86th St, Upper East Side.
New York Botanical Garden
Explore the New York Botanical Garden for free on Wednesday, and 9-10am Saturday. Bronx River Pkwy & Fordham Rd, The Bronx.
The NYC Botanical Garden displays a recreation of Monet’s garden © Boogich / Getty Images
New York Historical Society
Pay what you wish at the New York Historical Society from 6-8pm on Friday. 2 W 77th St at Central Park West, Upper West Side.
Pete’s Reading Series
Held every other Thursday at 7:30pm, this intimate reading event at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn hosts both rising stars and literary greats. 709 Lorimer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Studio Museum in Harlem
The Studio Museum in Harlem is free on Sunday. 144 W 125th St at Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, Harlem.
Upright Citizens Brigade Theater
Head to the Thursday Open Mic Night to see up-and-coming comedians dole out their best material in the hopes of following in the footsteps of UCB alumni like Aziz Ansari, Kate McKinnon and Amy Poehler. 307 W 26th St, Chelsea.
Click Here: Sports Water Bottles
Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden and associated cultural center, are free 9am to noon Tuesday and Saturday. W 249th St at Independence Ave, Riverdale, The Bronx.
Article originally published in 2011 and updated in 2017 by Mikki Brammer. Updated again, May 2019.
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