New York can be a very extensive place to live in visit. As a local (especially when I was a broke college student!) learned about and took advantage of free and pay what you wish days at zoos, museums, botanical gardens not to mention rush tickets for shows, operas, and ballets.
Here is my complete list for zoos and botanical gardens. Don’t forget to also check my complete list of free and pay what you wish museum days and see how to tour New York on a budget.
General admission is free all day on Wednesdays.
New York Aquarium
Admission on on Wednesday 3:00pm to last entry is by pay-what-you-wish donation.
Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and the Staten Island Zoo do not have free admission days, however their tickets are $10 for adults and less for everyone else.
New York Botanical Gardens
Grounds Admission is free to everyone all day on Wednesdays. Admission is also free on Saturday from 9 am to 10 am. This does not include admission to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Special Exhibitions, Rock Garden, or Tram Tour.
From Armed Forces Day through Labor Day they offer complimentary Garden Pass access to active duty military, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, National Guard, and Reserve members, with up to five family members.
The military ID holder can either be active duty service member or other dependent family member with the appropriate ID card. The active duty member does not have to be present for family members to use the program, just bring DD Form 1173 ID Card, or DD Form 1173-1 ID Card.
The New York Botanical Garden also participates in the IDNYC program. It provides complimentary Community Grounds Membership to all New York City residents with valid IDNYC cards.
Cool Culture eligible families enjoy access to NYC’s world class cultural institutions. Family Pass holders receive complimentary All-Garden Pass access for up to five family members per visit with valid Family Pass and photo ID through May 7, 2020. From May 8–November 1, 2020, Cool Culture families enjoy complimentary Garden Pass access.
For more free and discounted information the see the New York Botanical Gardens discount page.
Queens Botanical Gardens
Admission is free on Wednesdays from 3 to 6pm, and on Sundays from 9 to 11am. Note that free hours are suspended on festivals and special event days.
FREE admission November through March
Cool Culture: Free admission for up to five family members. Not valid on festival days (noted above).
CUNY Students pay only $2 admission.
Closed on Mondays, except Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Admission is free Friday mornings before 12 pm March through November.
Admission is free Tuesday through Friday from December through February.
Children under 12 are always free.
The gardens are closed Sunday.
Snug Harbor Botanical Garden
The main campus is free of charge to the public. Their Chinese Scholar’s Garden theirCenter for Contemporary Art are free for active military and children 5 and under. (For adults these areas are only $5 and $4 for seniors and students.)
Central Park CONSERVATORY GARDEN
Always free admission.
6BC Garden, located at 624 East 6th St. between Avenues B & C is an urban botnical garden. Admission is always free.