NYC has some of the world’s best museums, most of which charge admission, or suggested admission, to $25.
Even though many have FREE admission days or evenings, there also are top museums FREE to visit any time, with no admission fee ever.
Any one of these six FREE museums is worth a visit, whether you are a resident NYC cheapskate or a visiting cheapskate.
And, of course, each of these FREE museums will happily accept a donation.
The NYC outpost of the NMAI, the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC, is in Lower Manhattan, a great destination for architectural buffs and for those who appreciate the culture and contributions of Native Americans from the North Pole to the South Pole.
Exhibits are in a Beaux Arts building designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, with a rotunda that reminds me of the US Capitol, and with carved statues by Daniel Chester French, who also sculpted the iconic statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. There are permanent and rotating exhibits, and films and lectures are also FREE.
The NYC-based Thunderbird American Indian Dancers (one of the members is pictured here) perform here often, and the pre-holiday Native American Art Market brings juried artisans from around the world to what we think is the best arts and crafts market of the season.
- Open daily year-round, 10am to 5pm, Thurs. until 8pm.
- Closed Dec. 25th, Open July 4th and New Year’s Day.
This is a treasure of Spanish art and artifacts, from Bronze age tools to paintings by Goya, El Greco and Velasquez and more, including an extensive collection of historic textiles and photographs reflecting Spanish life in the Old World and the New World, in North and South America.
The ceramics and silver collection includes pieces from around the time Columbus was discovering America, and there’s another section of medieval Christian religious items, plus Islamic items reflecting the Moorish influence on Spain.
Look for the huge bronze sculpture of El Cid on his horse, at the entrance. FREE.
- 63 West 155th St. at Broadway
- Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4:30pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.
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It’s FREE to enjoy the photos, programs and musical instruments of world-famous artists who have performed here and recorded albums here. Displays chronicle the history of the 1881 building, built by Andrew Carnegie and saved from demolition in the 1950s by violinist Isaac Stern.
Photos, programs and artifacts of its famous musicians are displayed, from opening night with Tchaikovsky conducting, to more recent performances by The Beach Boys.
Arturo Toscanini’s baton and Benny Goodman’s clarinet share the spotlight with album covers of musical icons who recorded live performances here, including Judy Garland, Harry Belafonte and Duke Ellington. His signature composition, “Take the A Train”, is about the subway that links Harlem (125th St. stop) and Carnegie Hall (59th St. stop).
- Open daily 11am-4:30pm. Closed July 1 to October 1.
This fine little museum isn’t just under the radar, it’s under the ground, in the basement of an office building a block from Rockefeller Center, and it’s one of NYC’s best kept secrets, steps from noisy and crowded Fifth Avenue. There’s are rotating exhibits around a theme, such as Gods and Mortals, always featuring priceless mosaics, statues and pottery from Ancient Greece, many on loan from top international museuems.
In addition to free admission, there are FREE guided tours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1PM by scholars of archeology and ancient history and regular family-friendly events, such as scavenger hunts to find historic tidbits around the exhibit.
The Onassis Cultural Center in NYC is funded by the Onassis Foundation, founded by the late shipping and airline magnate Aristotle Onassis, equally famous for marrying Jackie Kennedy after the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
The foundation works with educational and cultural institutions throughout the USA to promote Greek culture.
- Open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm. 645 Fifth Ave. at 51st St.
- Note that entrance is on 51st between Fifth and Madison Aves, not on Fifth.
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This is a combination library, geneology center and museum for archiving and displaying Jewish history, culture and heritage. heritage. The collection represents five Jewish partner organizations, to comprise the world’s largest and most comprehensive archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel.
The collections span a thousand years, with more than 5 miles of archival documents (in dozens of languages and alphabet systems), more than 500,000 volumes, as well as thousands of artworks, textiles, ritual objects, recordings, films, and photographs.
There are rotating exhibits focusing on a theme, such as the German roots of Zionism, and regular lectures by visiting scholars, also FREE.
- 15 West 16th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves.
- Open Sunday through Friday, hours vary by day (Sunday, 11am to 5pm, Monday and Wednesday, 9:30am to 8pm, Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30am to 5pm, Friday: 9:30am to 4pm.
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Simply the most fashionable museum in NYC, since it’s within the world-famous Fashion Institute of Technology, which has trained many world-class designers.
There are rotating exhibits which focus on a theme, such as clothing influenced by nature, a single designer such as Yves. St. Laurent, item of clothing, such as lingerie, or a period of fashion, such as the Victorian era, or even a color.
There are also FREE exhibits showcasing student talent. The museum also has one of the largest collections of fashion photography and textiles in the world.
- Seventh Ave. at 27th St., at the edge of the NYC Garment Center.
- Open Tues – Fri Noon – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm. Closed on Legal holidays.