Discover contemporary artists at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
Discover contemporary artists at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

10 Free Things To Do in the Bronx When it's Freezing

The winter months can feel long, especially post-holidays when little ones are bound to get a touch of cabin fever. Having an easy go-to spot where the kids can blow off some steam is a must, and it's even better if that standby is FREE! Indoor public atriums, NYC bookstores, and museums and cultural centers with FREE admission abound citywide and make great stops for beating the winter blues. Whether you're a Bronxite wanting to stay closer to home or are just visiting the northernmost borough, we've rounded up 10 free things to do in the Bronx this season.

The borough is rich with no-cost, family-friendly spots kids can explore—from local libraries to museums, gardens, galleries, and the Bronx’s own indie bookshop. We’ve rounded up our top picks for FREE things to do in the Bronx when it's freezing.

Meet a new friend in the Bronx Zoo's World of Reptiles.  

1. Go wild at the Bronx Zoo

You may not think of the Bronx Zoo as an escape from the cold, but several indoor exhibits are open year-round and offer a balmy escape from the cold. General admission is FREE on Wednesdays and while some exhibits, like Congo Gorilla Forest and JungleWorld are paid experiences, families can explore Madagascar!, the World of Reptiles, and the Mouse House without Total Experience tickets. The Dancing Crane Cafe is also open year-round and offers a convenient and warm spot for lunch between exhibits.

Create a masterpiece from nature at the Everett Children's Adventure Garden's Discovery Center at the New York Botanical Garden. 

2. Commune with nature at the New York Botanical Garden

Adjacent to the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden also offers an indoor reprieve for kids and families. The 12-acre Everett Children's Adventure Garden is included in general admission, which is FREE all day on Wednesdays and from 9-10am on Saturdays. It features climbing boulders, a hedge maze, and—most importantly during winter months—an on-site, indoor Discovery Center with drop-in programming and lots of hands-on, guided activities for kids.

3. Peruse the stacks at The Lit. Bar

When Barnes & Noble closed its Bronx location in 2016, the Bronx had the sad distinction of being NYC’s only borough without a bookstore. Noelle Santos made headlines with her vision for an indie shop, utilizing an aggressive social media and crowdfunding campaign to bring her vision to life. The Lit. Bar features books for all ages, a cafe serving wine and beer, book readings/signings, and more. Early-morning kid-lit plans are in the works.

Get crafty during a drop-in, hands-on workshop at Wave Hill. 

4. Get artsy at Wave Hill

This beautiful public garden and cultural space is a true Bronx treasure and offers FREE admission for all on Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 9am-noon; children ages 5 and under are always admitted for free. Located in Riverdale, Wave Hill boasts sweeping views of the Hudson River, an art gallery, curated gardens, and beautiful woodlands, plus lots of family-friendly programming. One of its most popular workshops (at least for my family) is the Family Art Project held every Saturday and Sunday in the Sally & Gilbert Kerlin Learning Center. This hands-on workshop encourages kids to unleash their creativity with artist-led, nature-inspired art projects that change weekly. Art supplies and materials are provided. Just show up and dive in.

Explore exhibits by culturally diverse contemporary artists. 

5. Peep contemporary pieces at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

This vibrant museum and cultural center is FREE at all times and features a permanent arts collection and rotating contemporary exhibitions by culturally diverse artists. Its educational programming promotes arts accessibility for students of all ages, as does its public events.

Wander through the Lehman College Art Gallery.  

6. Explore the Lehman College Art Gallery

This always FREE family-friendly art gallery is located on the sprawling campus of Lehman College. Explore beautiful rotating exhibitions at any time. Select Sunday afternoons are particularly family-friendly with Sunday Family Art. Enjoy a guided tour of the gallery followed by a drop-in studio workshop. Check the website for upcoming dates.

7. See what's happening at the Andrew Freedman Home

This arts and cultural center features rotating art exhibitions and community events including a pop-up bookshop this January, musical performances, and more. Admission and programming are FREE.

8. Study history at Fort Schuyler's Maritime Industry Museum

A must-see for budding historians and maritime buffs, this museum is located on the campus of Maritime College and is always completely FREE to visit. With hundreds of model ships and dioramas, expansive halls, and two levels of exhibition space, it's a great place to get out of the cold with little ones. Another reason to visit: You can enjoy the stunning water views from under the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Explore the bright and cheery Longwood Art Gallery. 

9. Visit the Longwood Art Gallery

Enjoy contemporary art exhibitions by local artists in this bright and sun-filled gallery, whose FREE admission is made possible by the Bronx Council on the Arts in collaboration with Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture. Located on the campus of Hostos Community College, it’s just the spot to while away a chilly afternoon.

10. Enjoy fun programs at a New York Public Library branch

The Bronx is home to 35 branches of the New York Public Library and all offer free programming for kids and teens. The Bronx Library Center is the largest public library in the Bronx spanning six floors and offering robust family-friendly programming and learning spaces, including the Latino and Puerto Rican Cultural Center on the fourth floor, and a dedicated children’s space on the second floor. The Woodstock Library reopened in 2017 following an impressive $11 million renovation, and the Belmont Library and Enrico Fermi Cultural Center is in the Bronx’s Little Italy and features a lovely, spacious foyer with a live palm tree, potted plants, and space to roam and sit. It's flooded in sunlight from overhead skylights providing a perfect reprieve from biting winter winds.

Photos courtesy of the venues

Places featured in this article:

Wave Hill - Public Garden and Cultural Center (call) (718) 549-3200 (map ) 675 W 252nd Streeet Bronx, NY
The Lit. Bar (call) 347- 955-3610 (map ) 131 Alexander Avenue Bronx, NY 10454
Bronx Museum of the Arts (call) (718) 681-6000 (map ) 1040 Grand Concourse Bronx, NY 10456
Lehman College Art Gallery (call) 718-960-8731 (map ) 250 Bedford Park Blvd West Bronx, NY 10468
Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College (call) 718-518-6728 (map ) 450 Grand Concourse Bronx, NY 10451
Andrew Freedman Home (map ) 1125 Grand Concourse Bronx, NY
Maritime Industry Museum (call) 718-409-7218 (map ) 6 Pennyfield Avenue Bronx, NY 10465
Family Art Project: Dear Decay
Wave Hill - 10:00 AM Pick
Bronx Zoo: Boo at the Zoo
The Bronx Zoo - 11:00 AM Pick
The Amazing Maize Maze at Queens County Farm
Queens County Farm Museum - 11:00 AM Pick
Queens Farm Pumpkin Patch
Queens County Farm Museum - 11:00 AM Pick
Queens Botanical Garden Pumpkin Patch
Queens Botanical Garden - 11:00 AM Pick
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