How to Visit the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Like a Local
Hey, there cool kids, madam Cleo the psychic here. Let me guess, you’re traveling to New York City and plan on visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Know it, kind of like John Edwards on Crossing Over. LoL.
Duh, I’m not really a psychic or else I’d be a millionaire endlessly traveling the world. Nope, no extraordinary mental or predictive capabilities here.
I do believe that you’re here because you want to visit the MET… like a boss, I mean local.
That’s easier said than done.This museum is insanely large and as a result, can easily overwhelm any first time visitor. (We’re talking Louvre
big people. Okay, not quite THAT big but rather large and in charge for sure).
So what’s a non-native New Yorker to do?
Well never fear! This New Yorker is a museum nerd of sorts. So on any given weekend, I’ll just be walking through New York City and inevitably, somehow, end up at the MET.
Which is Great Because:
Now I can share all my insider tips with you so that you can make the most out of your next visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On the Down Side Though:
You MUST accept the fact that you physically CANNOT see the entire museum in one day unless you want to kill yourself in the process.
If you usee these tips then you can maximize your time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So rather than freaking out about what you DIDN’t see, instead, try and focus on all the amazing things that you did get to see, like the Temple of Dendur (one of the must-visit MET exhibits for anyone setting foot in this museum).
1. Check out the View from the Rooftop Garden
I am always surprised by the number of people who have absolutely no idea that the MET rooftop garden even exists.
But Yes, It’s True!
This isn’t some weird fable like the Lochness Monster of the Abominable Snowman. The MET really does have a rooftop terrace that provides you with spectacular views of Central Park and the surrounding city (And no, you won’t be able to watch anyone through their window. Get your mind out of the gutter people! LoL).
But How do I get there?
Like with most things at the MET, the rooftop isn’t easy to find. That’s why I highly recommend asking a handy-dandy employee to help you out.
if you have trouble talking to random strangers, then head to the top floor using the elevator near the European paintings and sculpture exhibitions on the second floor.
Since NYC gets hella cold in the winter, the rooftop is only open from the beginning May to the late fall, as weather permits. So don’t roll up in February expecting to jam out up on the roof (we’ll be having some fun…)
***The MET rooftop is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 12:00 am – 4:30 pm and on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (the Martini Bar opens at 5:30 pm).
Like with Most Things:
The earlier you arrive the better (i.e. it’s less crowded and there are fewer annoying people that you have to deal with. Sorry, I’m allergic to idiots).
2. Enjoy the Water Fountains Near the Entrance
Okay, so it’s really not shocking to learn that there are water fountains outside the museum. I mean, you see them in literally every photo of the museum, so this is old news.
What you may not know is that these fountains move!! Cool right? So while you’re munching on your salady/hot dogity goodness, you can watch the fountains dance around as they do the Macarena! Kidding, they just move around in different patterns but still fun to watch.
That while the fountains are fun to watch, it is not the most amazing water fountain show on the planet (Singapore this is not). Sure they move around a bit but there will be no explosions of confetti or winning lottery tickets coming your way.
***WARNING! If you sit on the right side of the steps at the entrance, you may be accosted by street performers who proclaim that you are “America’s Next Top Model” and basically force you to be part of their stupid ass show. They will then publically shame audience participants into giving them money. Yeah, thanks but no thanks. Plus, the show wasn’t Cirque de Solei or anything, so I would steer clear of this side of the steps.
3. Check out Belvedere Castle Behind the MET
One of my favorite things about the MET is that it sits right on Central Park (East Side).
If you’re visiting the MET, then you kind of have to explore Central Park too. But the Park is so big that it can be a challenge to navigate.
That”s Why I’m Here to Break it Down for You:
Belvedere Castle is insanely gorgeous is literally right behind the MET. Just think Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, only on a much smaller scale.
The castle is currently closed for repairs, so you can only see it from the outside.
But Added Bonus:
The Alice and Wonderland Statue, as well as the Bethesda Fountain (where you get all those iconic photos of passing rowboats with Tavern on the Green in the background), are both in the area. Therefore, you can easily check these sights out either before or after your visit to the MET.
4. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art Late at Night on Friday or Saturday (ie Party like an Art Nerd and Kick a Little A$$)
The Truth About the MET?
The layout sucks and makes absolutely no sense. Yeah, I hate to say it but the MET exhibits seem to be randomly strewn throughout the museum, with some galleries spanning more than one floor.
It’s easy to get totally lost and walk around aimlessly when the museum has a mind-boggling, two million square feet of exhibition space.
Instead of doing one hugely exhausting tour of the museum, do two or three smaller trips when viewing the best of the MET. This way, you can narrow your daily focus on a particular department and can avoid getting museumed out.
The best day to visit the MET is on Fridays and Saturdays when you have the most flexibility in your visit since the museum is open until 9:00 pm.
Generally speaking, the MET has the fewest visitors on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. So while you can visit at night, don’t expect to be the only one there. I mean, this is the City that never sleeps for a reason.
***I suggest treating the American Wing as a separate entity since it has about 24 period (not that kind of period) rooms, as well as some painting galleries on the mezzanine. Therefore, try and devout one entire day to explore this portion of the museum.
***To get to the MET on the subway, take the 4, 5, or 6 subway lines Uptown, to the 86th Street and Lexington subway station. The 6 also has a subway station on 77th street and Lexington.
5. Pay What You Wish Admission is ONLY for NY/NJ/CT residents
Ugh, as of March 1, 2018, the MET has changed it’s “Pay What You Wish Policy”. Now, every “Budget New York City” travel post will need to be changed asap. LOL. Seriously, the MET was one of the classic “cheap things to do in New York City”.
A Total Debbie Downer (Womp, Womp, Womp):
Now, the “Pay What You Wish Policy”, applies only to New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey residents that produce a valid ID.
But there is Good News:
You can procure Metropolitan Museum of Art tickets free if you are a member, patron, or under the age of 12. But since most of my audience is well over the age of twenty-five (this year will be the Twelfth anniversary of my twenty-first birthday. Shh), chances are that options one and two are the only realistic ways that you can obtain free tickets.
Anyone else in the audience will have to pay $25 for an adult ticket, $17 for a senior ticket, and $12 for a student ticket (also the size of a typical donation or the answer to the overly common question, “How much should I pay at the MET?”)
When you buy a ticket, the ticket is valid for three consecutive days (raise that art nerd roof. Woot, woot) but the ticket is valid for the MET Fifth Avenue, the MET Breuer exhibitions, and the MET Cloisters.
Paying more sucks, but it isn’t all bad. At least the money is going towards a good cause (sadly not straight into my pocket though).
***Looking for MET express tickets? Just order those bad boys online or at a ticket machine. Just be forewarned that you will ONLY be able to purchase “pay what you wish tickets” from the admission desk. You know, from an actual person.
6. Enjoy live music on the terrace above the entrance
Talk about a fabulous, MET perk that very few people take advantage of.
In Fairness Though:
I feel like everyone is so caught up in seeing as much art as possible, that they forget to take the time to relax and enjoy the stunning beauty of the building itself.
Well, That’s Where I Come in:
To enjoy some free, live, piano music, simply walk through the main entrance, ascend the main staircase, turn right, or left, and walk back towards the front of the building.
You’ll see a posh little cafe where you can grab a drink and listen to the remarkably delightful piano player. Legit, I was really surprised at the caliber of the music. I expected elevator music and instead, heard music that I might actually want to sit and listen to. Who knew?
7. Take a Harry Potter themed tour of the MET (Muggles of the world, unite)
You know Harry Potter is taking over the world when you can find a Harry Potter themed tour at the MET.
And guess what?
It is awesome. You start by meeting at the enormous statue to the right of the main entrance. Once the entire group arrives, you’ll embark on a scavenger hunt in which you try and locate an assortment of hocruxes that are scattered throughout the museum.
No Idea What I’m Talking About?
Then this tour may NOT be for you. But just think of it as a way to learn about a bunch of MET artifacts that relate to either items or creatures found in the Harry Potter Books themselves.
You create your own house name, and story, using some of the artifacts found within the museum. All in all, a really fun and unique way for Harry Potter fans to experience the museum.
But How Much Does it Cost?
Tickets are $45 a person for an hour and a half walking tour of the MET and can be purchased through the FEVER website. Thicompanyny offers tours almost every day of the week, which start at either 11:00 am or 1:30 pm, depending on the day. Just make sure that you wear comfortable shoes because this tour does have quite a bit of walking.
Don’t listen to the company’s lies about “tickets running out”. Psshh, this tour happens all the time so I wouldn’t worry about tickets selling out.
The MET has nothing to do with this tour so if you ask anyone at the information desk about it, they will have no idea what you’re talking about (been there, done that).
***If you’re looking for a free tour of the MET, tours are offered every 15 minutes, starting at 10:30 am. Most of the museum highlights tours will give you a general overview of the museum. However, there are a few in-depth, themed tours that will delve into specific topics like Modern Art, Old Master paintings, etc.
***The museum also offers a kick-ass audio guide that you can rent for $7.00.
8. Avoid Eating at the MET
Honestly, this is probably the single most obvious piece of advice on my entire list.
Everyone knows that museums have crappy food that is totally overpriced (FYI, if you have to eat at the MET, eat in the basement since it’s the cheapest).
Well, Sort of:
Honestly, the MET has pretty decent food. The drawback though is that it is pretty expensive. So the question remains, “Where should you
The Upper East Side isn’t exactly known for it’s assortment of high-quality cuisine. As a result, out of towners generally have no idea where they can get a halfway decent meal, within a ten block radius of the Museum.
Well, You’re in Luck!
I am ALWAYS in the area and know a few decent places where you can score a good meal. Just remember that these places are all packed around lunch time (because of the aforementioned issue), so I highly recommend eating BEFORE you go to the MET. Fail to heed my advice and you may have to wait in line with the entire population of the Upper East Side (You’ve been warned).
So Where Can You get Your Foodie Swerve on?
My personal favorite is Bluestone Lane (1085 Fifth Avenue). Not only do they serve great lattes, but the majority of their food is healthy, reasonably priced ($15 a plate), and downright delicious. I personally love the Avocado Toast but everything on the menu is pretty much
paradise in your mouth.
Not Your Thing?
You can also hit up Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter 3 (220 East 81st Street); a really enticing place for families since they offer a full brunch menu (with both sweet and savory crepes), with Alice and Wonderland themed decor. From the vintage teacups to the glass-topped tables that encase an assortment of Alice and Wonderland memorabilia, this restaurant exudes fun while still serving delicious food at a decent price (Most entrees cost between $15 and $20. And no, they do not take reservations so eat early. Yes, an insanely weird but totally common tradition in NYC).
***There is also an Upper East Side Shake Shack too if you’re super picky. I mean legit, who doesn’t like Shake Shack?
What about a snack?
If you’re looking for something light, fun, and totally delicious, then head over to Sprinkles on 780 Lexington Avenue.
Not only are the cupcakes super yummy but they have a totally awesome and totally unique, cupcake ATM that dispenses cupcakes at the
mere push of a button (and obviously at the swipe of a credit card too). Just make sure that you stop here on your way TO the MET since this store is located on Lexington and 61st street (Almost twenty blocks below the MET. So just get your cupcakes to go and you can eat them in Central Park. Just be aware of the voracious squirrels).
9. Visit the Guggenheim and the Frick Collection
They call this portion of Fifth Avenue, “Museum Mile” and for a very good reason.I mean, you literally have the Frick Collection and the Guggenheim right down the street.
I absolutely recommend taking full advantage of this fact by visiting all three museums at the same time, if you can.
What’s the Best Way to do this?
Well, since the Guggenheim offers “pay what you wish” tickets on Saturday nights between 5:45 and 7:45 pm, I would definitely visit the Guggenheim then. Just expect a long line since everyone wants to get in on the reduced price ticket action.
The Frick Collection has “pay what you wish” hours on Wednesdays, between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm. However, that time sucks for most people who actually have to work for a living and aren’t independently wealthy (Nope, I’m not bitter), Therefore, I suggest visiting on the first Friday of the month (except September and January), when admission is free between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
10. Don’t Forget the Cloisters!
Perched at the tippy top a hill, in Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters are without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and totally under-appreciated sights in all of New City.
On the Down Side:
The Cloisters can be a total pain in the ass to get to since they are no where near the MET on Fifth Avenue, However, that’s what modern technology and Zipcars are for. Just hop in one these bad boy’s and let your GPS do the rest.
Believe it Or Not:
The Cloisters are a rather eclectic assortment of architectural pieces, from European monasteries, that include collections of frescoes, tapestries, and paintings.
But it Gets Better:
This stunning array of antiquities actually surrounds a romantic courtyard that is interconnected by a series of majestic archways that are all topped with Moorish style, terra-cotta roofs.
Wait, There’s More!
Don’t leave without seeing The Hunt of the Unicorn, (a 16th-century tapestry), the 15th-century Annunciation Triptych (a Merode Altarpiece), the 12th-century Saint-Guilhem cloister, and the Bonnefant cloister (an assortment of botanicals that were used in a multitude of magical and medicinal ceremonies during the Middle Ages).
Wait, I Don’t Think This is the First Time that We MET (See, I made a not so funny, funny)…
Wow, I really need to work on condensing my posts. Either that or New York City needs to work on having smaller museums that give you very little to talk about
This concludes my rather varied assortment of hopefully useful, insider tips about the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hopefully, you can use these travel hacks to get crunk at the MET! Kidding, I just want you to have more fun and stress less.
Stress-free is the way to be. I mean, museums are supposed to be fun (at least for all my fellow, card-carrying members of the museum nerd herd). So don’t freak out and drive yourself insane by trying to set everything in one day. All you’ll end up with are really sore feet and a possible heart condition.
Let go of your inner planaholic (Totally made up word. Let’s roll with it) and just go with the flow. You can also eat your feelings at Sprinkles by getting a six pack of cupcakes for yourself. I promise I won’t blow up your spot and tell people that you’re not really throwing a party (wink, wink).
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