When the temperature drops, the streets might start to be a little emptier in NYC – but that’s not to say people are staying home. You’ll most likely find all of New York packed into one of its incredible museums. Looking at the list can be exhaustive, so here’s a locals guide to the best museums in NYC (as well as the best deals in town).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Or Met, because no one has time for that mouthful. The Met is my all time favorite museum, no contest. And the best part is, as one of NYC’s public museums, it’s FREE. When you enter, there is a suggested donation of $25, but this is just a suggestion. When I go, I give a few dollars. Former Mayor Bloomberg felt art should be accessible to all, and didn’t want people to miss out on such an amazing cultural experience due to price.
I always start with the Egyptian wing – at this point I’ve seen it well over 20 times. But when you see the Temple of Dendur, you’ll understand why. It is an ancient Egyptian temple reconstructed inside the museum, and the only one in the western hemisphere.
From there you can spend hours seeing the greek and roman sculptures, Europeans painting, colonial American houses and room. There’s modern art where you can stare at Monets and Seurats, or the always incredible costume gala. You could spend 4 hours here and still not have finished the museum. Make sure you look at the map and see if there’s anything important to you, otherwise you’ll find yourself pressed for time (or in my case turned around, lost, and on the other side of the museum than you meant to be.
The Museum of Natural History
Similar to the met, it’s also suggested donation, so pay what you feel is appropriate.
I always start at the top and work down, which means first up is the Dinosaurs. As a kid, we had a once yearly trip to see the dinosaurs, and somehow they never got old. As an adult, I think I’m more fascinated than I was a child. Especially with the new discovery of dinosaurs being covered in feathers, I could have spent 3 hours on just the Dinosaur floor alone.
Heading down, there’s the most incredible display cases you have every seen. Chose any region in the world, and there it is, wildlife and ecology displayed to perfection before your eyes. You can visit Africa and China and hop to India all within an hour.
There are displays with the indigenous people of the land. Sometimes in history, we brush over the people that lived in America for thousands of years before we did. The Museum has a huge section dedicated to teaching us about their culture and life.
There’s so much more to the museum, but a not to miss in the Hayden Planetarium. With Neil Degrass Tyson as the director, you’ll remember exactly why you wanted to be an astronaut when you were little, and just how freaking cool space really is.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Unfortunately a full admission museum, but the art inside is some of the most prized in the world. Conveniently, I used my college ID (thank goodness for no expiration dates) to go for free – just one of the ways to go for free. See here for the complete list
Going on Fridays from 4-8 is also a great time, a the museum has free admission then. Children under 16 also can go for free.
The collection is extensive, but you’ll know the big guys by the crowds around them (ie starry night).
Once and a while there are timed exhibits within the museum that require a second ticket – check those out too. Better to have the ticket than to get to the end of the da and realize how much you did want to go. I saw the most incredible Henri Matisse exhibit as one of the timed ticket shows.
Museum of the City of NY
While a smaller museum, the temporary exhibits here can be extraordinary. This is also a donation based museum. They range from the history of NYC (incredibly interesting honestly) to featuring art work from prominent New Yorkers, to exhibits questions elements of NYC culture. I always find the exhibits I wasn’t super excited about here end up being terrific.
The Guggenheim was not exactly my cup of tea. Their permanent collection was fantastic – Picasso, Kandinsky, Seurat all in a row – but most of the museum is the temporary exhibits, and I didn’t particular like the temporary exhibits. Check the temporary exhibits before visiting. It’ a steep price if you don’t like/have an interest in 2/3 of the museum.
The NYC Public Library
A library? No not a typo. The New York Public Library is more museum than Library. Located right on Fifth Avenue next to Bryant Park, it’s a refuge from the craziness of midtown. The architecture of the building is out of this world, and it’s decked with portraits, paintings and sculptures. It’s free to walk around, and you might find yourself in grossed in a book by the end of it.
Bryant Park is one of the most incredible parks in NYC. Whether your napping and picnicking on the grass, people watching, or drinking and eating at one it’s its several restaurants, it’s possible to forget that Times Square is just a block away. The entire park has great views of the library, making this a great combo for when you want a quick museum trip in a central area.
The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum
People sometimes complain art can be stuffy and boring. The Cooper Hewitt has solved this problem, making the museum interactive and a design playground. The Museum has these “pen” devices created by Bloomberg that allow you to tap into the Museums interactive and digital experiences. You can save your favorite works to reference later in your own online gallery, so gone are the days of taking a million photos and forgetting what you snapped the photo of.
The instillations are also interactive. When I went, we were able to make our own moving wallpaper, create our own Pixar characters, and play in gravity defying furniture. While not free, the Museum has a lot of discounted ticket options.
As with all the others, the museum gets top notch temporary exhibits, so make sure to give them a look.
Still on my list to visit:
The Tenement Museum
Have you done any other Museums in NY that haven’t made it to my list? Drop a line in the comments and let me know you’re favorites!