Students traveling on a budget often find first-rate cultural attractions far beyond their economic reach—ditto for parents with several kids in tow. But in New York City, some of the world’s top museums admit college students and kids free of charge or at a reduced rate. A student ID (or merely a youthful visage) can also score steep discounts for tours of iconic landmarks, tickets to Broadway shows and even performances at Carnegie Hall. We’ve rounded up 15 of the best deals around town for kids and students, but within the City’s unparalleled cultural offerings, there are countless ways to save. For instance, through Arts Connection High 5, teens aged 13–18 (or any students enrolled in grades 6–12) can purchase tickets to popular theater, dance and musical performances for just $5 each, while admission to some of the City’s top museums goes for just $2.50 per person. Ticket availability is updated on a daily basis, so check out High Five’s events calendar regularly. And be sure to visit nycgo.com’s Arts & Entertainment section for even more bargains for kids and students.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Home to the world’s finest collection of modern art, MoMA is as significant a showcase for modern masterworks as it is an innovator of art-world trends and an incubator of game-changing conceptions of art itself. Beloved by New Yorkers and visitors alike, MoMA reduces its $20 general admission fee to $12 for students (and offers free admission for kids 16 and under).
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens
Situated high above the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters holds much of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extensive collection of European medieval art and architecture. In fact, the building itself incorporates portions of five French medieval cloisters. As much a bucolic escape from Manhattan’s urban bustle as a striking tribute to an artistically significant time period, the Cloisters admits students for $10 (half the $20 general admission fee) and children 12 and under and all NYC public school students free of charge.
The largest art museum in the borough (and second only to the Met citywide), the Brooklyn Museum‘s sprawling collection spans cultures and artistic movements, with wings devoted to the arts of Egypt, Asia, Africa and the Islamic world, priceless works by European old masters and fascinating galleries of contemporary, decorative and feminist art. Students can take it all in for just $6—a real bargain given that they could spend an entire day browsing the museum’s vast collections. Children 12 and under get in free; general admission is $10.
The Frick Collection
The opulent Fifth Avenue mansion that houses The Frick Collection—built by steel magnate Henry Clay Frick almost a century ago—is a glorious museum in and of itself, offering a glimpse into the lavish world of the Manhattan elite. But Frick’s private art collection is the main attraction here. The European masterpieces (Rembrandt, El Greco, Renoir, Monet), sculptures and sumptuous decorative objects make this intimate museum a treasure of international significance. Regular admission runs $18, but a student ID will get you in for just $5.
Composed of six differently sized rectangles stacked upon one another, the New Museum‘s new building, rising up from low-rise tenement neighbors on the Bowery, has made as big a splash on Lower Manhattan’s cityscape as the museum itself has in the world of contemporary art. Since 1977, the New Museum has challenged New Yorkers with thought-provoking contemporary works by esteemed artists from around the globe. Students can get in for just $8 with their IDs (compared with $12 for general admission), while anyone 18 years of age and under is admitted for free. Parents should check the New Museum’s website to see if the current exhibition is appropriate for children.
Many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows reserve a limited number of seats for students and sell tickets at a drastically reduced rate. Be sure to arrive at the box office early, though. These tickets generally sell out quickly.
After a short Off-Broadway run, the new musical Fela!—an electrifying portrait of the life of pioneering Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti—regularly gets Broadway audiences boogying in their seats to the infectious rhythms of the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. You can get a student rush ticket for just $27. Be sure to bring your student ID and get to the box office early: they’re distributed two hours prior to the start of the performance.
Rock of Ages
If you’re jonesing for a night of classic ‘80s throwbacks, look no further than new musical Rock of Ages. The love story between "a small-town girl" and "a city boy" is set to a sound track of the decade’s raddest hits by Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar and more. Show up at the box office two hours before curtain to enter your name in a ticket lottery. Winners will be offered tickets at $26.50 each, and remaining seats will sell to students for $36.50.
Billy Elliot the Musical
Based on the popular film of the same name, Billy Elliot won 10 Tonys in 2009, including Best Musical, Best Director (Stephen Daldry), Best Choreographer (Peter Darling) and Best Book (Lee Hall—who also received a nomination with Elton John for their music and lyrics). The uplifting tale of a young boy’s courageous entrée into the world of ballet is popular with kids and their parents alike. Student rush tickets are available for $41.50 two hours before curtain on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
If you find foulmouthed, naughty puppets a little unsettling, perhaps Avenue Q isn’t for you. If they pique your interest, however, the 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Musical should prove to be a riotous journey into unfettered hilarity (though not appropriate for the little ones). Rush tickets for $26.50 are distributed on the day of the performance, when the box office opens.
More performance art than play, Fuerza Bruta is a true spectacle that will get your heart pounding and your senses surging. Audience members mill through the stark space with necks atilt as they watch stunning performances above them—including women dancing in a pool of water suspended from the ceiling, a man running through moving walls and other mind-blowing aerial feats. At just $25, rush tickets, which go on sale two hours prior to each show, will save you $50 on admission.
Contrary to popular belief, it is indeed possible to get to Carnegie Hall without all that practice, practice, practice (and without breaking the bank, either). Select performances—which are updated weekly at carnegiehall.org—reserve seats for students at the shocking price tag of just $10, putting top-notch performances on one of the world’s most famous stages within easy reach. Student rush tickets can be purchased at the box office as soon as a performance is listed (but rush-ticket sales stop an hour before curtain).
United Nations Tour
Entering the UN General Assembly Hall—where world leaders have made some of the modern era’s most groundbreaking decisions—is an enlightening experience. Expert guides teach visitors about the history and structure of the United Nations while showing them valuable artifacts and artwork from around the globe, the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly Hall itself and more. Tours are offered in more than 15 languages, but be sure to call to find out which languages will be offered on a given day. A student ID reduces the price of a tour from $16 to $11.
Gracie Mansion Tour
Located on what is now the densely populated Upper East Side, Gracie Mansion was built as a country home back in 1799. Now the official residence of New York City’s mayor (though not currently in use by Mayor Mike Bloomberg), the historic estate—on 11 acres of prime waterfront real estate—opens its doors for public tours most Wednesdays, showing visitors the gracious living quarters of NYC’s mayors, from Fiorello La Guardia to Rudy Giuliani. Reservations are required; they can be made by calling 311 or 212-639-9675 from outside the City. Though a tour will run adults $7, students are admitted for free.
Metropolitan Opera House Backstage Tour
Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House, among the world’s most prestigious concert halls, lets visitors go behind the scenes where some of opera’s most legendary performances have taken shape. See the dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, set and costume workshops and the illustrious stage on which Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo have prepared and performed. The general public pays $16 for a 90-minute tour, but students are charged just $10. (Tours are only offered during the performance season.)
Lincoln Center Tour
Providing a stage for 12 resident performing arts organizations (the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, to name a few), this colossal cultural center’s 22 venues host thousands of performances and educational programs annually. Take a guided tour of some of the buildings that make up Lincoln Center, including Avery Fisher Hall (home of the New York Philharmonic) and the David H. Koch Theater (where the New York City Ballet performs). If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a rehearsal in progress. Tours begin from the new David Rubenstein Atrium, located on Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets. A student ID will get you on a tour for $12 (reduced from $15).