The Brooklyn Museum — Brooklyn
At 200 Eastern Parkway, this museum has suggested admission prices, allowing people to pay what they wish. There are also free admission opportunities from 5 to 10 p.m. every Thursday, and from 5 to 11 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month, except January and September. There’s special programming for the free First Saturdays, including this Dec. 7 with music, book and poetry readings, a film screening, and hands-on art for people to create textile-based pieces. More info at brooklynmuseum.org.
The National Museum of the American Indian — Lower Manhattan
The museum, at 1 Bowling Green, offers free admission and is in the beautiful and historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building. It explores and celebrates the diversity of Native Americans through exhibitions and programs, including a new exhibit called “Stretching the Canvas,” about Native contributions to American painting throughout the 20th century. More info at americanindian.si.edu.
MoMA PS1 — Queens
This Long Island City museum is free for NYC residents and is one of the country’s biggest nonprofit arts centers. The focus is largely on experimental art that is thought provoking, such as a new exhibit, “Theater of Operations,” which explores American’s military involvement in Iraq during the past 30 years. More info at moma.org/ps1.
The New-York Historical Society — Upper West Side
This museum is just below the Museum of Natural History, and visitors can pay what they want every Friday from 6-8 p.m. It’s the city’s oldest museum, and features important art and artifacts from New York and American history. A new section at the Center for the Study of American Culture includes interactive exploration of the museum’s collection, including George Washington’s camp bed from Valley Forge, the draft wheel used in the 1863 lottery that sparked the Civil War Draft Riots, and 100 Tiffany Lamps, which is one of the biggest collections of Tiffany glasswork. More info at nyhistory.org.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts — The Bronx
This museum, at 1040 Grand Concourse, offers free admission and over 2,000 works of art across all types of media. The museum offers educational programs, events like Moth StorySLAMs, and contemporary art exhibitions, such as a current exhibit on street art called “Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987.” More info at bronxmuseum.org.
Honorable mention to two NYC museum classics: the American Museum of Natural History lets visitors pay what they want for admission, and the same goes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for residents of the tri-state area, who can also bring one guest for the pay-as-you-wish admission.