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While we love saving money in New York City, we’ve got more up-to-date, budget friendly travel tips with the following helpful links:
Everyone knows that Central Park and Times Square are free to visit.
But not many people know about these other places and attractions your family can experience for free (or almost free!).
Just when you thought you couldn’t afford MoMA admission!
Admission is free for all kids ages 16 and under all the time. It’s also free Friday evenings from 4-8 p.m. for everyone, thanks to UNIQLO Free Friday Nights.
Or consider joining a free Family Art Workshop for kids ages 8-10. These run on the weekends, and kids must be accompanied by one adult. You’d have to pay admission to do this since it’s not offered on Friday evenings.
Governor’s Island is 172 acres of park and recreational opportunities located in New York Harbor — you can get there by ferry.
Every summer, The Children’s Museum of the Arts sponsors a program on Governor’s Island where kids can attend workshops on painting, theater and making collages — all for free.
The island closes October 31 and opens May 1 every year.
Experience the history of the moving image — from the birth of cinema in the nineteenth century, to the Golden Age of cinema, to the arrival of gaming.
The Museum of the Moving Image is the only museum in the U.S. that focuses only on celebrating images moving on a screen, so if you are raising a movie buff or a gaming enthusiast, it’s a must-see.
Get free admission from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays.
If your family likes science, check out the New York Hall of Science, because it offers interactive learning experiences presented in playful, fun ways that engage kids while teaching them about STEM.
You can sign up for workshops where kids do hands-on activities or just walk around and look at the exhibits — covering everything from ecology to medical breakthroughs.
Get free general admission on Fridays, 2–5 p.m. and Sundays, 10–11 a.m., except during World Maker Faire.
5. Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals and 650 species, making it the biggest metropolitan zoo in the U.S.
Plus there are always special exhibits like Dinosaur Safari, where you can take a realistic “safari” through the time when dinosaurs lived.
You can get free admission to the zoo on Wednesdays.
Tour the bank and especially the basement where the Federal Reserve holds gold that belongs to the U.S. government, foreign governments and central banks.
It’s a vault with actual gold locked behind bars — you can see the gold through the bars — kids will love it.
Sign up for a free tour Monday-Friday at 1 and 2 p.m.
Dating back to 1697, the Queens County Farm is 47 acres and New York’s largest parcel of farmland still being farmed.
Plus there are historic buildings, orchards and more to tour.
The farm offers free admission every day except during special events and is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
The regular price is $40 per person, but every Saturday at 4 p.m., you can get free admission to Bargemusic.
Bargemusic hosts chamber music concerts — or small quartet ensembles. The quirky and cool thing about it is that it’s all located inside a floating barge near Brooklyn Bridge.
Free concerts are geared toward sparking children’s interest in music.
Inside the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, look for the National Museum of the American Indian.
There are music and dance performances and tons of educational materials about the diversity of Native peoples of the Americas.
Best part? The museum is free all the time.
If you’re looking to escape the bustle of the city for a few hours, consider visiting Queens Botanical Gardens — it’s 39 acres of flowers, trees, ponds and more.
Walk through on your own and enjoy nature right in the middle of New York City.
Check it out during free admission hours from April-October — 3-6 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 9-11 a.m. on Sundays. If you visit from November-March, admission is always free.
OK, so it’s not nearly as big as the Bronx Zoo, but it’s still 8 acres of wildlife and arguably better for small children since you can cover the whole thing in under two hours.
Staten Island Zoo offers free admission on Wednesdays from 2-4:45 p.m.
Grand Central Station was built with wow-factor in mind from the very beginning. In fact, designers wanted people to arrive and feel as though they had landed in a palace.
This explains the ornate architecture of the building, making the station a must-see attraction.
It’s free to walk in and check out the terminal — consider stopping into one of the restaurants for a classic meal of clam chowder.
When the barge is docked on Saturdays 1-5 p.m. and Thursdays 4-8 p.m., you can score a free tour.
The barge was buried in mud for 23 years when its current owner bought it for one dollar and completely restored it.
Now it’s a museum that hosts theater and circus-like performances.
Your kids may not remember 9/11 but I bet you do.
Stop by the memorial on the site of the original World Trade Center and then visit the museum to learn about what happened and also see original building remnants of the towers.
There’s free admission for all on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to close.
15. Houdini Museum
If your kids like magic tricks and the history of magic, visit the Houdini Museum located inside the Fantasma Magic store on 35th street.
Admission is always free, and you might even rub shoulders with actual magicians who are known to frequent the site.
16. Free Summer Theatre
There’s so much theater in New York, and summer is prime time to catch free shows. Here are a few places to look:
- Theatreworks: Plays that are mostly based on kids’ stories or popular kids’ books — geared toward kids.
- Public Theater — Shakespeare in the Park: Better for older children and teens, summer Public Theater plays are all Shakespeare. Plan to wait in line the day of a show for free tickets. There are multiple locations throughout the five boroughs to wait.
- PuppetMobile: All performances are free and located in New York City parks.
In New York City, it’s common for activities to be free, followed by a request to make a donation. “Pay as you wish” hours for Brooklyn Children’s Museum are on Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. and on Sundays from 4-7 p.m.
Check out Totally Tots if you have kids ages 6 and under — there are water and sand activities, blocks and more.
Or visit the Color Lab where kids can make original works of art inspired by Black artists.
Lewis H. Latimer was an African American Inventor and Humanist, and his home has been converted into a museum.
Inside the house, you’ll find the Tinker Lab, where kids can use various programs to learn coding, which the museum sees as vital to help kids succeed in the 21st century.
Tinker Lab is “pay as you wish” for parties of six or less.
Aquariums are typically pretty spendy, and New York Aquarium tickets can reach close to $30 per person.
But on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. until last entry, it’s “pay as you wish.”
Make sure you check out the aquatheater if you visit — you’ll see trainers interacting with sea lions, and your kids will see how smart animals can be!