Culture For Free: How To Museum Hop Without Opening Your Wallet

October 10, 2011 6:00 AM

Photo Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Maude Standish

Just because you are broke, doesn’t mean you can’t have an afternoon of culture in New York City. Many museums in the city offer free days or at the very least suggest a donation, making them the perfect place for those looking to learn a thing or two and save some cash. Here are a few of our favorites.

Museum of Modern Art

11 West 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400
Hours: Wed to Mon 10:30am-5:30pm; Tues closed
Free 4pm to close on Fridays.
Website & Reviews

Free on Friday evenings, this museum is well worth the massive line that circles the block to get in on freebie night. Don’t stress the line, just grab a hot dog, sit back and people watch until you get to the front. Though this museum can feel a little bit like a packed super-mall on an “Everything Must Go!” day, the troves of people staring exhaustedly as they ride the escalator are well-worth it for the Museum’s excellent permanent collection and great visiting exhibitions. And if overall mall aura gets your consumer blood boiling, head to the great gift store. Come on, you didn’t pay to get in and can totally afford a postcard.

The Swiss Institute

495 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(212) 925-2035
Hours: Tues to Sat 11am-6pm; Mon
Free: Wednesday to Sunday, 12 – 6 PM
Website & Reviews

Perhaps because most of its patrons are broke artists or because when the Swiss Institute was first founded and only occupied two living rooms in 1986 it was run by all volunteers, this excellent museum is free to the public. The Swiss Institute routinely has some of the most thrilling international art exhibits, as well as artist talks and screenings.

metropolitan museum of art Culture For Free: How To Museum Hop Without Opening Your Wallet

Photo Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028
(212) 535-7710
Hours/Suggested Donation: Tues to Thurs 9:30am-5:30pm; Fri to Sat 9:30am-9pm; Sun 9:30am-5:30pm
Website & Reviews

Maybe you have heard of it before? While, this museum is not “technically” free. Just like a lot of other institutions in New York, it is a suggested donation. When we are flush we tend to pay full price, but when we are broke (ahem, like now…) we tend to suggest the donation be just a dollar. Whether you are in from out of town or just looking for a way to fill your unemployed hours, this massive museum can provide endless wandering and daydreaming.

museum of moving image photo by janette pellegrini getty images Culture For Free: How To Museum Hop Without Opening Your Wallet

Photo by Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images

The Museum of Moving Image

36-01 35 Avenue at 37th St
Astoria, NY 11106
(718) 784-0077
Hours/Suggested Donation: Tues to Thurs 10:30am-5pm; Fri 10:30am-7pm; Mon Closed
Website & Reviews

Another “suggested donation” spot, the Museum of Moving Image is a great way to learn the history behind how you spend your lazy Sunday’s watching movies. Not only does the museum offer fascinating exhibits on specific movie and television luminaries, it has a standing exhibit on the history of the medium. Overall, it’s good spot if you have an insatiable thirst for all things retro or just want to experience an oddly futuristic museum that seems like a science fiction lover’s wet dream.

MoMa PS1

22-24 Jackson Ave at the intersection of 46th Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 784-2084
Hours/Suggested Donation: Thurs to Mon 12pm-6pm; Tues to Wed Closed
Website & Reviews

Okay, so it’s a yet another “suggested donation” museum and affiliated with the MoMa, but this satellite space couldn’t be more of a different experience than the Manhattan mothership. As the name suggests, this museum is housed in a old school—not only do the rooms still have the lingering feeling of class in session, but the museum has a great outdoor sculpture garden. Rarely crowded expect when there are big events, this museum offers an intimate experience with young, upcoming artists.

Maude is the research director for trend forecasting company Trendera and writes daily for The (T) Files. In her spare time she tries to enjoy New York on a budget and is writing a screenplay.

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