While New York City is undoubtedly an expensive spot for a family vacation (or resident) there are so many free activities in the city that you can start to feel resentful when you have to shell out cash. Many of the city’s cultural institutions have a suggested admission policy where you can literally pay a penny to enter.
The catch is that this is just for general admission: no special exhibits, IMAX movies or audio tours. The other caveat is that you can’t buy these online in advance; if you try, you have to pay the full suggested amount.
The American Museum of Natural History has a suggested general admission of $19 that includes 45 museum halls and the Rose Center for Earth and Space but no IMAX film, planetarium show, or live-animal exhibits (like the butterfly conservatory). But you can still lose yourself for days at this massive museum, with dinosaur halls, a Discovery Center for ages 5-12, mammal dioramas, meteorites, minerals and gems, and ocean life exhibit.
At The Metropolitan Museum of Art, kids 12 and under are always free, and the recommended adult admission is $25. The massive Met has over 400 galleries, with the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, medieval stained glass and tapestries, armour gallery and newly renovated galleries of Islamic Art particular crowd pleasers.
This museum is actually a two-fer; you get same-day admission to The Cloisters museum and gardens.
The Museum of the City of New York also does not charge for kids 12 and under, and suggests admission of $10. Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, open through September 15, 2013, has lots of models of new micro-apartments, designed to house New York’s many single person households. Kids will like the ingeniously designed full-sized 325 square foot apartment. There is also a short multimedia experience on New York history, great for any visitor to NYC.