Pay-What-You-Wish and FREE Attractions in New York City

By: Staff -

Last Updated: July 28, 2017

There are a number of famous museums, exhibits, zoos and other typically expensive places to visit around the city, which offer “Pay-What-You-Wish” days and evenings. Pay what you wish is different from suggested donation museums (where you can always pay what you wish) or Target/UNIQLO Free days/nights (which are free times sponsored by Target and UNIQLO). Pay-what-you-wish is offered by the locations in question on specific days and times and these dates are not typically sponsored by a third party. The Bronx Zoo is an example of a place which typically charges a mandatory $15 entrance free. Every Wednesday though, the Zoo offers Pay-What-You-Wish and you can pay whatever your heart desires. I suggest a couple of bucks.


Below we are compiling yet another list. This list will be of places around the city that offer Pay-What-You-Wish. We’ll include times, days and a description of each location. We’ll continually add to and update this list as time goes on.


Bronx Zoo

Pay-What-You-Wish: Every Wednesday all day

The Wildlife Conservation Society

2300 Southern Blvd

Bronx, NY 10460

Information: (718) 367-1010


The Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States and does offer free admission on Pay-What-You-Wish Suggested Donation Wednesdays. The Bronx Zoo suggests a $15 donation, but don’t hesitate to drop down a dollar or two. (Hey, it is pay-what-you-wish) The suggested donation option only takes place on Wednesdays, so be sure to plan ahead. You should also take note that Wednesday is the day when many schools take fieldtrips to the zoo, so there will be large groups of kids around.


The Bronx Zoo is MASSIVE. If you really want to take in the whole thing, don’t try to rush through it in one day. Instead, visit two or three times and focus on a specific section of the zoo each time. There are special exhibits which charge an extra fee to get in. Most only cost a few bucks and are well worth it. Although there are more animals out and about during the summer months, you can avoid the crowds by visiting during the winter. Many exhibits are indoors, so no need to fear the cold.


Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Pay-What-You-Wish: Every Tuesday

900 Washington Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11225

Information: (718) 623-7200


The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the most famous outdoor spaces in the city. This garden hosts 12,000 different plant varieties on 52 acres, and is just a short 30-minute subway ride from the city. A stroll through these gardens will feel like a trip around the world, with everything from rainforests to deserts to tropical gardens. Plus, their Japanese gardens are said to be some of the best outside of Japan. To see what’s in bloom now, you can always check out their website.



Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Pay-What-You-Wish: Every Saturday 5:40pm to 7:50pm

1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)

New York, NY 10128

Information: (212) 423-3618


The Guggenheim was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in 1959 and is one of New York City’s most famous museums. The museum has different exhibits throughout the year with a focus on early-modern and contemporary art.


The Guggenheim looks amazing and just went under extensive renovations which were completed in 2008. Today, you can spend hours walking up and down the museum’s circular walkway. No need to worry about getting lost; round and round you’ll go as you pass some of the world's most impressive works of art.


The exterior is a work of art in itself. Visitors from around the world spend countless hours snapping photos and gazing at the museum’s magnificence. Central Park is just across the street and Madison Avenue shopping is a short couple of blocks away.


Entrance to the Guggenheim costs a whopping $18 per adult or $15 per student or senior. Children under the age of 12 get in for free. Sound a bit steep? Head on over every Saturday between 5:45 and 7:45 to take advantage of the Guggenheim’s Pay-What-You-Wish evening. Feel free to drop down a dollar or two.


Whitney Museum of American Art

FREE: Every Friday from 7pm to 10pm

945 Madison Ave at 75th Street

New York, NY 10021

Information: (212) 570-3600


This is another of the city’s most well-known museums. The Whitney focuses on 20th century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on living artists. This museum is known for showcasing American artists before they become well-known in the art world. If you’re looking to stay up-to-date on the next big thing in art, this is definitely the place to go.


General admission is regularly $18, but the Whitney does it’s best to make itself accessible to everyone. Admission is $14 if you’re under 25, and FREE if you’re under 18. They also have a pay-what-you-wish night every Friday from 6pm-9pm. So plop down a few bucks and explore the world of American art.


The New York Botanical Garden - Bronx

FREE: Every Wednesday all day & Saturdays 9am to 10am

Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road

Bronx, NY 10458

Information: (718) 817-8700 

New Museum for Contemporary Art

Pay-What-You-Wish Thursdays 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

235 Bowery New York, NY 10002


If you’re interested in contemporary art and/or want to walk through an amazingly designed building, you may want to check out the New Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum typically charges $18 per adult or $12 with a student ID. All children under 18 are always free, but the New Museum also has Museum Night every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. Everyone, even adults, get in for less! Their suggested donation is just $2.


If you’re in the mood for a nice hike and lots of amazing plants, flowers and even some wildlife, the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx may be for you. This place is not just for the ladies and be sure to wear your hiking boots (or at least sneakers) as you’ll find yourself walking through wetlands, on rock trails by the Bronx River and even looking out over a small waterfall.


The garden is large. You could easily spend an entire day walking around and never see it all. I’d suggest walking on trails off the beaten path. You’ll avoid the crowds and get some quiet time in. You can often go for a good while without seeing another person, even on weekends. There are several places to sit down and enjoy a picnic. We suggest bringing a few snacks and finding a nice, quite place to sit down and enjoy them.



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