I love museums and always research upcoming/current art exhibits when traveling to different cities. I’ve been going to NYC since 2012 and for the past couple of years have spent a few months living in Manhattan. This post is for anyone who’s visiting New York on a budget and wants to save money by visiting NYC museums on their free admission days. Read the post to find out the best free times to visit NYC museums.
One of the things I love most about New York City apart from its incredible dining scene and my dear friends that live there is the art. As a graphic designer, it’s no surprise that I love art in all forms. And, NYC certainly delivers from street art to public art and my favorite, its museums.From Rodin to Warhol, some of the best art in the world resides in New York City. And, having spent a few months living in Manhattan, I got to spend time with the works of some of my favorite artists, and ended up discovering a few new ones as well.
It’s a good thing I was able to visit the Met before the changes to their admission policy go into effect. In case you hadn’t heard, beginning on the 1st of March, you will no longer be able to pay a suggested donation if you’re a tourist visiting the Met. The pay-what-you-wish policy will only apply only to NY state residents. Everybody else will have to pay the full fee.
Free (or Almost Free) Times to Visit NYC Museums
NYC can be an expensive city to visit, but don’t let the cost of museums deter you from planning a visit. A majority of New York City museums have free days or times when admission is pay what you wish. Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend checking out when you find yourself in New York.
Ever since listening to A Piece of Work, a podcast hosted by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, going to explore the MoMA has been on my museum to-do list. I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen especially if you don’t really get modern art – Abbi talks to museum curators to answer questions to some of the museum’s most popular and interesting pieces. My first visit to MoMA happened to be on a date and while I normally prefer visiting museums on my own, it can be quite fun with the right person!
Highlights: The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Water Lillies by Monet, Salvador Dali, Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso (pictured)
MoMA Free Day: Every Friday from 4pm-8pm
The Jewish Museum
Conveniently located on Museum Mile in New York City’s Upper East Side neighborhood, the Jewish Museum focuses on art and Jewish culture. And, architecture lovers will absolutely be thrilled that the museum is housed in the former Warburg mansion, built in the Renaissance style.
Highlights: Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol, Man with Beard by Marc Chagall
The Jewish Museum Free Day: Every Saturday; Thursdays 5pm-8pm pay what you wish
The Guggenheim first introduced me to my favorite artist, James Turrell, and for that I’m ever grateful. Another contemporary art museum, the works displayed are ever-changing as they are always on rotation with the two other Guggenheim museums located in Bilbao, Spain, and Venice, Italy and always have special exhibits on display.
The building itself is a work of art and walking up the museum’s spiral staircase makes for a unique experience. Unless there’s a special exhibit you’re dying to see, I would avoid the $25 entrance fee and wait until their pay what you wish hours on Saturday.
Guggenheim Free Day: Every Saturday 5:45pm-7:45pm, pay what you wish
Rubin Museum of Art
Housed in the former Barneys building, the Rubin houses an extensive collection of Asian art from the Himalayas, and surrounding areas, placing an emphasis on Tibetan art. As a yogi and someone who’s interested in yoga philosophy, I cannot recommend the Rubin highly enough.
In The Second Buddha: Master of Time, the future is projected from the past. Opening 2/2, this new exhibition invites to discover the legends of the tantric master Padmasambhava. An iconic figure in Tibetan culture celebrated as “The Second Buddha,” Padmasambhava is known for bringing Buddhism to Tibet and is believed to have concealed treasure teachings for future discovery. Contemplate time with art from the 13th to 20th century, and augmented reality.
My first trip was on a cold Friday night during The World is Sound exhibit. One of the rooms was completely white with benches to lay on while you listened to an audio of people chanting OM. I left the room with my whole body vibrating…it was incredible.
While the galleries weren’t crowded, the K2 lounge area was popping! I guess that’s what you should expect when it’s 2-for-1 special on select beer, wine, and well drinks at happy hour.
Rubin Museum of Art Free Day: Every Friday 6-10pm
The Whitney Museum of American Art
If you’re not familiar with many American artists, then a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art will sort you right out! The Whitney was founded by American socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and focuses on American art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The building is located at one of the entrances to the High Line park so here’s what I suggest you do on a Friday afternoon: start with lunch (try Mission Ceviche) at Gansevoort Market on W 14th St, then walk over to the famed-Chelsea Market. From there head over to the High Line, and if you time it right, catch sunset over the Hudson River before walking down to The Whitney on the corner of Gansevoort St and Washington St for the museum’s Friday free hours.
The Whitney Free Day: Every Friday 7:00 to 9:30pm
Are you a fan of Klimt? After immersing myself in all-things Klimt during my trip to Vienna, and watching Woman in Gold, I had to see Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer in person. The museum focuses on arts – paintings, sculpture, photography – from Austria and Germany between 1890 and 1940.
But what draws most people to the Neue Galerie is Klimt. Once you’re done in the galleries I highly recommend having lunch and a Wiener melange at Café Sabarsky – it’ll take you back to old-world Austria.
Neue Galerie Free Day: First Friday of the month 6pm-8pm
I am a huge fan of Beaux-Arts style buildings, which is why you’ll always find me admiring the Brooklyn Museum from the outside before I walk in. The museum at 560,000 sq ft is New York’s second largest by size and houses an expansive collection of art from Egypt, Europe, African, Oceania, and Japan.
It’s easy to get lost AND overwhelmed in the museum’s collections, so a general rule of thumb that gets me through any large museum is to focus on a particular time period, or exhibit and just see that. They currently have a wonderful exhibit on sculptures by Rodin – as part of Rodin100, a worldwide series of major Rodin exhibitions in 2017 commemorating the centennial of the artist’s death – that I highly recommend.
Brooklyn Museum Free Day: Every day pay what you wish; free every Saturday 5pm-11pm
The Cooper Hewitt is a Smithsonian Museum that focuses on design and is one of three Smithsonian Museums located in New York City. Exhibits at the museum explore the culture and history of design throughout the years – which is something I love as a designer.
My favorite part of the museum is the immersive experiences throughout, and in particular the Immersion Room. It offers visitors a chance to sketch their own designs on a computer and then project it as wallpaper on the walls at full scale…it’s very easy to get lost in that room and come up with creative designs!
The Cooper Hewitt Free Day: Every Saturday 6-9pm, pay what you wish
Housed in one of New York’s landmark buildings, The Frick Mansion, the Frick holds a collection of art that has been amassed by Henry Clay Frick. Frick always intended for his house and collection to be converted into a museum, and the way he displayed his art collection is still intact in the galleries. The museum is known for its impressive collection of old master works of art and has a number of lovely Vemeer’s on display.
The Frick Free Day: First Friday of the month (except September and January), from 6pm-9pm; Wednesdays 2pm-6pm pay what you wish
LIKE IT? PINT IT!