One of the commercial travel deals sites that I follow is Travelzoo.
They regularly send out enticing offers — not just for flights and hotels, but also for shows and cultural attractions at a deep discount.
Economize on Visits to the Met
Travelzoo is offering admission tickets to the Met for $19, or four tickets for $60.
The usual “recommended” admission to the museum is $25 per adult, and free for children under 12.
The regular fee includes admission to the museum including all special exhibits plus same-week admission to The Cloisters. The website states: “To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.”
But when you go the purchase tickets page, you see this notice in the fine print:
If you would like to pay less than full recommended admission, please go directly to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to pay as you wish.
I turns out that that the Met and a number of other New York City institutions are required to accept voluntary donations for admission.
You can pay whatever you want, every day, all year long.
The execution of this policy was the subject of some litigation in 2013. The lawsuit contended that the museum was obscuring the option to pay less than full price, because the sign by the entrance indicated “suggested donation” in small print. You can read more about this issue in The Atlantic and the New York Times.
I have fond memories of visiting the Met and the Cloisters as a kid. Both were pretty magical places, where I felt transported back in time.
I think the admission fee is fully worth it to visit a world class art museum. However, if the cost of admission is holding your family back from a visit, know that you can pay what you wish and it is perfectly okay.
Pay What You Wish at the American Museum of Natural History
Some other New York museums that have the pay what you wish policy are the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
The Natural History museum is a perennial favorite for families with young children. The last time we visited, I was shocked at the ticket prices, and considered them restrictive to most families. I am glad to learn that this museum with its dinosaurs and dioramas is accessible to New Yorkers and visitors alike through the “pay what you wish” policy.
Another family-friendly attraction is the Bronx Zoo. There, the “pay what you wish” admissions policy is in effect on Wednesdays.
Some New York City museums offer free admission on one evening per week.
You can see a complete list of free museum days and pay what you wish museums here.