For culturally curious kids and their moms and dads on a budget, these family-friendly institutions—all of which offer specific days or hours of free entrance—provide inspiring educational outings.
Brooklyn Children's Museum
Free Thursdays, 2–6pm.
Spend a few hours at this Crown Heights institution, home to around 30,000 artifacts and objects (plus a few live creatures) with an emphasis on hands-on learning. There's even a special section, Totally Tots, for children 5 and under—a testament to the museum's education-for-all-ages mentality.
Children's Museum of Manhattan
Free every first Friday of the month, 5–8pm.
Little museumgoers dance, run, solve problems, design and make music at this Upper West Side spot. Exhibitions focus on health, diversity and just plain fun things like cartoons, while workshops and special events serve to captivate visitors whenever they choose to visit.
Museum of the Moving Image
Free for kids under 3 and free Fridays, 4–8pm.
Budding cinephiles can head to Astoria for the country's biggest collection of moving-image artifacts. This interactive institution pays tribute to all aspects of movies, television shows and digital media, from technology to social impact.
New York Hall of Science
Free Fridays, 2–5pm, and Sundays, 10–11am.
Kids get hands-on with science and technology at this Queens institution that features more than 450 exhibitions. There are a few worthwhile things to spend money on during your visit: a round of Rocket Park Mini Golf, a turn in the 60,000-square-foot Science Playground and a screening inside the 3-D theater.
Queens County Farm Museum
Grounds free daily (check to see if a ticketed public event is occurring).
Take the kids to this working farm and check out goats, hens and pigs; the orchard (from which you can purchase apples on October weekends); and old farm buildings.
Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge
Free Thursdays, 4–8pm, and Saturdays, 1–5pm.
Come tour this history wooden barge that is moored down on Brooklyn's Red Hook, not far from the Fairway Market. Check to see if a performance is taking place—perhaps a magic-, music- or history-related event that may cost money.