Are you a museum junkie who is looking for an insider’s guide to some super cool museums in NYC? Well, if you are then you’re in luck because I am a bit of a museum fanatic.
I’ve also been living in the New York City area for well over twenty years and want to share all of my secret, expert tips on how to visit some of the best museums in NYC with you.
Because as you probably already know, New York City is home to some of the best museums in the world.
And not just one or two world-class institutions either. We’re talking about hundreds, maybe even thousands of different inspiring cultural institutions that are just waiting to be explored.
I mean, there is quite literally an amazing NYC museum out there for EVERY interest. So, if you’re fascinated by something like cats that wear Santa hats, then chances are pretty high that there is a museum in NYC for you (okay, maybe not that EXACT topic but you know what I’m trying to say).
But with so many cool museums in NYC, it can be difficult to know exactly what the best museums to visit in NYC are, what museum is free today in NYC, and so much more.
And that’s why I’ve created this guide for you. I want to help you enjoy your time in NYC and create the perfect 4 days in NYC itinerary for you!
I mean, I’ve been an unofficial tour guide for countless friends and family members who were visiting New York City for the first time. Therefore, I know just how stressful planning a trip to New York City can be.
That’s why I developed this post right here. I want to take the stress out of planning a trip to NYC so that you can focus on enjoying yourself and not freak out because you accidentally wasted time trying to visit the Guggenheim and, SURPRISE, it was closed.
Yup, I’ve definitely been there and done that in other cities and it is very unfun indeed.
So, save yourself a whole lot of stress and hassle by checking out this uber-fab guide to some of the coolest museums in NYC!
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Where to Stay When Visiting Super Cool Museums in NYC
Okay. So before we swan dive headfirst into this hella awesome post about cool museums in NYC, let’s first discuss accommodation options and where you should stay during your time in New York.
Because I’m gonna keep it real for you. New York is expensive with a capital “E”. Therefore, it will be a bit of a challenge to find a hotel/hostel that costs less than $100 per night.
However, you can find well-priced hotel rooms if you know where to look and if you have a little help from a friendly local like me.
So, here are some of my picks for the tops hotels in NYC.
Pod 39 – Hidden away inside the always lovely Murray Hill neighborhood (They also have the hella best Indian food in the city is also here too), this uber-modern, super posh pod hotel has a fantastic assortment of rooms that start at just $120 per night. And yes, that price is ridiculously cheap for NYC.
Are they on the smallish side of things? Yeah, for sure. But where their rooms lack in space they more than make up for with modern amenities, friendliness, and an insane level of cleanliness.
So, if you stay at Pod 39, you’ll have everything you need for a comfy, although slightly cozy, stay, And, added bonus? You’ll actually get to stay inside an awesome, residential home from 1918 and can choose between queen-size beds or stainless-steel bunk beds with TVs and bedside shelves. Yup, feel free to “oh” and “ah” at will.
414 Hotel – I love this hotel for a bunch of different reasons. Not only is it conveniently located in Hell’s Kitchen (this neighborhood is literally a stone’s throw away from Times Square, on the west side), but chic rooms here also start at just $159 per night.
They also include a ton of different modern amenities like mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks. So, even though the rooms here are well-priced, this hotel doesn’t skimp on the quality of their service or on the cleanliness of their facilities.
Heck, there’s even a working fireplace in the lobby that you can get all ultra-cozy by and the staff here are super-duper nice and only too happy to help you with anything you need,
The James New York – Tucked away in the always popular neighborhood of SOHO is this insanely posh hotel of awesome. It’s also well-located and known for its comfy, clean, and just overall wonderful refreshing rooms that start at a mere $177 per night.
All rooms here also feature wonderfully snazzy things like high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, complimentary toiletries, and soft AF linens made from all-natural textiles,
Trust me, book a room here and you will 100% have absolutely no regrets. Because this place really is THAT awesome.
The Bowery Hotel – Well located in the uber-fabulous Nolita section of the city is this epic hotel right here. And if I had a trust fund to call my own I would totally stay here since rooms at this 5-star hotel start at a hefty, $300 per night.
However, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. So, all of the stylish rooms here come fully outfitted with free Wifi, free bike rentals, exquisite city views, and so much more.
Added bonus? You’ll enjoy next-level impeccable service that will make you feel like a legit king of New York (Anyone else digging the Newsies reference?). So, don’t be shy and book this hotel now to enjoy the most luxurious of stays in New York City.
Cool Museums in NYC – The Upper East Side
1. The MET
Otherwise known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this museum is perhaps one of the premiere art museums in the entire world.
So, what can I actually say about this ultra-rad museum that has not already been said a thousand times before?
After all, The MET is pretty damn epic since it was founded in ye olde 1880 and currently houses 36,000 different artifacts that span nearly 5,000 years of history – an exceptional collection of artwork that originates in every country and time period imaginable.
That’s why, for hundreds of years, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been systematically bewitching the minds and hearts of visitors from all over the globe. It’s a magical place that has this uncanny ability to transport you into an entirely different time and place.
However, the awe-inspiring beauty of this museum doesn’t just lie in the past. It’s an institution that is continually at the forefront of innovation and features a wealth of rotating exhibits that expose people to the incredible creative diversity of the modern art world.
So, whether you are stuck in the past, living in the future, or looking for a whole new world, there is something for everyone at one of the coolest museums in NYC.
Also, fair warning, it should come as no surprise to you that there is NO WAY that you’ll be able to see this entire museum in a single day.
Therefore, don’t even try. But on the plus side, this museum rarely FEELS crowded since it’s just so damn big.
PSST…Just a friendly reminder that while the MET USED to have, “pay what you wish” admission, those days have long since gone. That’s why only residents of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania can now get pay what you wish tickets – at least if you present a valid form of ID.
Pro Tip: Not surprisingly, The MET easily one of the most popular museums in NYC. Therefore, lines can be extremely long, even on weekday mornings. So, be sure to pre-book your skip-the-line ticket to the MET before you visit and to avoid this place like a plague on the weekend since it is packed with people. You should also visit the Cloisters while you’re in the area since it’s a highly underrated branch of this museum. For more tips, you can read my insider’s guide to the MET.
Address: 1000 5th Avenue, New York, New York (Between East 80th and East 84th Street),
Price: Pay what you wish for NJ, NY, and PA residents with a valid form of ID. Everyone else will have to pay $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students (free children under 12.).
Hours: Open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 4,5, or 6 train to the 86th Street station and walk from here.
2. The Frick Collection
Sadly, I had never even heard of this place until a couple of years ago. And you know what? That kind of hurts my soul since this museum is so freaking awesome and just one of the many cool museums in NYC.
It’s nestled along Fifth Avenue on NYC’s famed Upper East Side and features a vast collection of intricate gold gilded, French ceramic ware that is nothing short of mind-blowing.
So, If you choose to visit this museum for yourself (and you 100% should), head straight to the basement and admire the awesomeness within. And yes, that’s a direct order!!!
After that, take your time wandering through the wealth of galleries that fill the inside of the former mansion of Henry Clay Frick.
Along the way, you’ll discover a dazzling array of sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and furniture that serve as an everlasting monument to one of the greatest art collectors of all time.
Plus, added awesomeness? There are no stark and austere, pale white museum galleries here. Nope, not a chance.
Instead, imagine masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art all hung inside the serene and intimate setting of a home – a former private residence that makes you feel at ease and as though you have just stepped inside to visit an old friend.
As a result, this place feels like a true oasis of peace and tranquility amidst the interminable hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps.
I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t feel serene AF admiring works of art from a stone bench in the center of the building? You know, a quiet little spot that overlooks a scenic courtyard with a fountain that is lined with immaculate shrubbery and illuminated by a glass skylight.
Yup, talk about the stuff that museum lover dreams are made of. On top of all that though, each of the sixteen different galleries here features a unique selection of fine art that is arranged without regard to period or national origin (to commemorate the way Mr. Frick himself enjoyed the art he loved so much0.
So, be sure to check it out for yourself and see what all the awesomeness is about.
Pro Tip: Visit on the first Friday of the month, between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, and you’ll enjoy free admission to the museum (except for the months of January and September).
Address: 1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021
Price: Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for. seniors 65+ and disabled visitors, and $12 for students and kids between 10 and 17.
Hours: Open Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There; Take the 6 train here, get off at 68th street station, and walk to the museum from here.
3. The Guggenheim
The Guggenheim, or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum if you want to get all fancy about it, is basically like a straight-up, modern art mecca of the world.
And that makes sense since this is one of those cool museums in NYC that is home to an astounding number of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art masterpieces.
Sprinkle in an astounding number of special exhibitions that rotate in and out of the institution and you have the stuff that cool art museums in NYC are made of.
However, art is not the only thing that people come here to admire. Because in truth, much of the artistry of the Guggenheim is entrenched in the beauty of the building that houses these masterpieces of modern art.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this iconic cylindrical building, wider at the top than the bottom, was actually designed to be a “temple of the spirit” – a concept you can see embodied in the ramp-like-gallery that swirls up and around the outer edges of the building.
It’s a stunning, continuous spiral that culminates in a masterful, almost spirit-like, ceiling skylight. Translation? Bring your camera because you will get some AMAZING, unique NYC photo ops here (My friend was dying of boredom as I took like a billion pictures. That and the security guard yelled at me for leaning over the edge. Oooopppsss).
Anyway, if you do decide to visit (PSST…get your tickets in advance now) pick up a free audio guide and enjoy the stunning array of works here that were done by total greats like Kandinsky, Picasso, Pollock, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas.
Pro Tip: Have a coffee at Cafe 3 on the third floor and enjoy lovely views of nearby Central Park. You can also visit on Saturdays between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm to enjoy “pay what you wish” ticket prices
Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors 65+ and visitors with disabilities, and free for members/kids 12 and under (avoid lines and get your tickets in advance now).
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: Hop the 4,5,6 or Q train (get off at 86th street station and walk from there).
4. Neue Gallerie
Easily one of the many cool art museums in NYC, the Neue Gallerie is a relatively recent addition to NYC’s ultra-snazzy, upper east side.
It sits along NYC’s famed Museum Mile (like many of the other cool museums in NYC on this list) and is definitely small in size.
But what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with exquisite content since this institution specializes in displaying art from various 20th century, German and Austrian artists.
That’s why, during your visit, you should 100% explore the museum’s two unique collections since the one on the second floor is dedicated to works done by Austrian artists, while the one on the third floor is dedicated to works done by German artists.
Also of special note is a beyond gorgeous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (aka the lady in gold) done by Gustav Klimt in 1907 (it’s worth a cool, $135 million), in addition to works done by Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Egon Schiele.
And added bonus? This is one of those Manhattan museums in NYC that also sits inside the historic, totally exquisite, William Starr Miller House, which is located on the corner of 86th street and 5th avenue.
Yup, thought I’d throw that little nugget of knowledge in there for you just in case you needed a little extra incentive to visit.
Address: 1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Hours: The museum is open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and closed on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $12 for students and educators.
How to Get There: Take the 4,5, or 6 train to the 86th Street station.
5. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Honestly, the Cooper Hewitt museum is one of those cool museums in NYC that is totally underrated, IMHO.
But in fairness, it also sits on the upper east side, quietly tucked away in between titans of the museum world like the Guggenheim and the MET.
It’s a really neat place though since it’s an institution with various installations that examine the incredible ways in which innovative design concepts touch people’s lives and make the world a more beautiful place to live (talk about a Kodak moment).
Before you step inside though, be sure to grab a photo of the museum’s picturesque courtyard before walking through the doors of one of the super rad, Manhattan museums in NYC.
Once your ticket sitch (aka situation) is squared away though, marvel at a wealth of super fun, interactive exhibits that everyone in your entire family will love (even that angsty AF teen who hates EVERYTHING).
Because this place, well, it’s definitely unlike any museum you’ve ever seen before and is brimming over with quirky exhibits that include furry walls, chairs that vibrate to mimic everyday activities, and a scratch and sniff wall a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
However, per usual, certain immersive experiences at one of the many cool museums in NYC are temporary and routinely rotate in and out of the building.
So, for the latest info on all of the museum’s awesome happenings, be sure to visit their website and get the inside scoop on what’s happening at the Cooper Hewitt.
And although I personally don’t recommend buying anything at their over-priced gift shop, I’d try to save time for a look since this place reminds me whole lot of IKEA, but on roids.
Yeah, I’m not normally much of a gift shop person but it’s worth a peek since they have just about everything here, including kitchenware, home textiles, stationery, and more.
FYI, Cooper Hewitt is also within walking distance of Russ and Daughters (in the Jewish Museum) – a beyond epic eatery that is home to one of the best brunch spots up in NYC.
That’s why this would be an amazing place to stop for a bite either before or after your visit (hint, hint)!
Pro Tip: Try and visit on Tuesdays between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm to enjjoy pay what you wish admission prices.
Address: 2 E 91st St, New York, NY
Hours: Open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, with extended hours on Tuesdays.
Price: Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for visitors with disabilities, $12 for seniors over 62, $9 for students, and free for children under 18.
How to Get There: Take either the 4 or 5 to the 86th street station.
Cool Museums in NYC – The Upper West Side
6. The Museum of Natural History
Located just across the park from the MET is this epic museum, complete with its very own library and planetarium.
It’s not only one of the largest in the world, with 28 interconnected buildings that house 45 permanent exhibition halls filled with 33 million specimens, but it basically makes you feel like you’ve walked into a real-life version of Jurassic Park – only better since nothing here will try to swallow you whole.
However, the true beauty of this haven for lovers of the natural world is the fact that this place makes the world of science come alive for visitors (psst..get your tickets now since advance reservations are required).
It’s also an incredibly special place where you can see, touch, taste (sometimes yes but mostly, don’t lick the displays. LoL), and hear exactly how the world around us was created and shaped.
Because from dinosaur skeletons to meteorites to rocks, to cultural artifacts, this museum really does have it all. A fact that is only too fitting since the Natural History Museum is one of the premier, scientific research institutions in the world.
Yup! It houses more than 200 scientists working across a variety of disciplines like anthropology, astrophysics, and biology.
And lest you think this museum is just for kids, One Step Beyond will prove you wrong! Because each month (not right now but in the future when things go back to normal), One Step Beyond presents a different DJ performing in the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space.
Plus, after enjoying the insane dance party, guests can actually take a walk up the Cosmic Pathway to the Hayden Big Bang Theater and journey through the virtual universe, to the alluring voice of none other than Liam Neeson, for just $25 per person, from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am.
However, not surprisingly, this innovative event is popular, so purchase tickets online, to guarantee admission.
Pro Tip: Visit the Hayden Planetarium while you’re here. It sits inside the Rose Center for Earth and is, no joke, one of the best planetariums in the world. If you have time, “Dark Universe” is a great production that uses exceptional special effects to hurtle you into space and show you exactly how the universe came into being. Also, do NOT eat at the basement cafeteria. It’s expensive and crowded and, just, no.
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5102
Hours: Currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Price: Tickets are $28 for adults, $22.50 for seniors (60+) and students with a valid ID (discount tickets are available for residents of NY, NJ, and CT with valid ID), and $16.50 for children between 3 and 12, Like most places in NYC, you need to reserve your tickets in advance..like now.
How to Get There: Take the B (weekdays only) or C train to 81st Street station and walk to the museum there. You can also take the 1 train to Broadway and West 79th Street and walk from there.
7. New York Historical Society
Okay, I know a historical society doesn’t exactly sound like one of the many cool museums in NYC, but, come on guys, hear me out!
Because this is one of those Manhattan museums in NYC that is cool with a capital “C”. Sure, the name may make it sound a little antiquated, but, you know what?
That makes total sense when you realize that this institution was first founded in 1804 (making it NYC’s oldest museum) to preserve the city’s large wealth of historical and cultural artifacts.
Fast forward a couple of hundred yours and this building on Central Park west now houses more than 60,000 intriguing artifacts that include super-nifty things like:
- George Washington’s inauguration chair
- A leg brace donned by President Franklin D Roosevelt
- A door from Jack Stewart’s house that was covered in graffiti
- A ceiling mural by Keith Haring that sits above the admissions desk
- And so much more.
There are even several interactive kiosks here that make the entire learning process infinitely more fun.
And although this institution is nestled inside a beautiful pre-war mansion, the entire interior has been redesigned with a little modern pazazz to make this place a whole lot more visitor-friendly.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave without visiting the Immersive Center for Women’s History on the fourth floor, And if you have kids, definitely check out the on-site children’s museum too. The museum also offers “pay what you wish” admission on Fridays between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
Address: 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Friday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday/Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for seniors/military personnel, $13 for students, $6 for kids (5-13), and free for children under four (You can also save a bit of money by getting a New York Explorer Pass now, which includes admission to this museum. But if you’re not sure about the pass, you can read my full review here).
How to Get Here: Take either the B or C train to 81st Street station or the 1 train to 79th street station and walk from there.
8. American Folk Art Museum
First opened in ye olde 1962 (jk, it’s really not THAT long ago), this is one of those quiet little Manhattan museums in NYC that gives you a sneak peek into some of the USA’s earliest known pieces of art.
Because believe it or not, this not-so-large museum is home to a whopping seven thousand works of art. And while they’re not all on display at any given time, each item displayed here is totally unique and can date all the way back to the 18th century.
Therefore, you’ll find an eclectic collection of pieces here that include wood carvings, stone statues, quilts, ceramics, carousel animals, and much more – many of which were created by novice self-taught artists with no formal training.
Whatever you do though, do not leave without visiting the enormous collection of illustrations from Henry Darger and the super cool gift shop with a ton of unique items for sale.
FYI, various temporary exhibits also constantly rotate in and out of this place on the reg so there’s always something new to see here.
Pro Tip: Although this is definitely one of the many cool museums in NYC, it’s also small. Therefore, you can definitely skip it if you’re short on time. But, if it’s like your 10,000th trip to the city and you’re looking for something new to do, then this is a great spot to check out. They also have free music on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm and Fridays at 5:30 pm.
Address: 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), New York, NY 10023
Price: Free but you will need to reserve a ticket online prior to visiting (one of the awesome free museums in NYC).
Hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 66 Street and Lincoln Center and walk to the museum from there.
Cool Museums in NYC – Mid-town
9. Morgan Library and Museum
If you mosey on down to mid-town, you’ll find the ever-awesome Morgan Library and Museum – one of those cool museums in NYC that sits right down the street from Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, AND Times Square.
More than that though, this place is straight-up next-level beautiful since it’s basically like a real-life version of the library featured in Beauty and the Beast.
It also houses a ton of fascinating exhibits that sit inside some of the fully restored rooms that made up Mr. Morgan’s personal library – rooms that may or may not (spoiler alert, they do) contain a copy of the Guttenberg Bible (the first book ever printed) and an original composition from Mozart.
I know. I had to pick my jaw up off the ground too since there was a lot of plush, velvet decor.
Add in some stunning, vintage architecture, free live jazz performances on Fridays, and a series of legit interesting rotating exhibits, and you’d be forgiven for basically moving right in.
I mean, I’d forgive you for moving in, but the staff might not. But a visit is just as good and has the added benefit of being less devoid of selfie-stick-wielding tourists than the nearby New York Public Library.
Pro Tip: Try to plan your visit for free Friday, when a visit to the museum is free from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. However, advanced reservations are required so definitely book your tickets about a week in advance.
Address: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016
Price: Tickets are $22 for adults, $14 for seniors (65+), $13 for students with an ID, and free for children 12 and under.
Hours: Open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.
How to Get There: You can take the 7 train to 5th avenue and Bryant Park, the 4/5/6 to Grand Central, or basically any other train to Times Square and just walk from there.
10. Spyscape Spy Museum
Just call me Bond…James Bond. Okay, I kid, I kid. Because I am by far and in a way the clumsiest human on the planet. So yeah, James Bond I most certainly am not.
However, even though I am no professional spy, I still adore the Spyscape Spy Museum and think it’s one of many cool museums in NYC.
Because during your visit, you’ll understand exactly what it takes to become a real-life spy and the skills they need to live a covert life and remain virtually undetected for years at a time.
So, if you want to all about the not-so-hidden arts of cryptography and cyberhacking, then this fun, interactive museum in the place for you.
But wait, because inquiring minds wanna know! How much does it cost to be a spy for the day? Well, apparently $40, at least at the Spyscape facility.
And while you won’t leave with full access to Quantico, it’s a small price to pay for all the spy-related glory and cyber snooping skills that you’ll pick up while in this museum of pure awesome.
So, grab your ticket now and step inside for a full-on, super immersive experience that starts with a preliminary briefing, during which you’ll receive a personalized wristband that is your ticket to eternal spy glory.
Now, once this initial debriefing is complete, you’ll then walk through the museum and scan your wristband before entering various parts of the museum.
This way, the museum can assess your overall skills and keep track of your performance as you participate in various challenges to help you understand what real-life qualities you’ll need to be an actual spy.
And in case you were wondering, all the tasks here are totally legit since this museum uses an actual profiling system, developed by the former head of British Intelligence, to figure out what spy-related job would be best for you.
In total, there are ten different spy-related careers that could be perfect for you, and they include everything from analyst to spymaster (spoiler alert…I was not a spymaster. So excuse me while I go sob in the corner).
Yeah, I got handler. And I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that.
But what I do know is that I love Spyscape and think it one of the many cool museums in NYC since everyone will love visiting, even if you’re not into museums.
So, visit today, test your spy skills, and leave with this interactive museum in NYC with the experience of a lifetime, as cliche as that sounds. Because truth be told this is probably one of the best museums in NYC…at least IMHO.
Address: 928 8th Ave, New York, NY
Hours: Open Thursday 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Friday 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Sunday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. FYI, the last admission is also 90 minutes before closing.
Price: General admission is $39 for adults and $32 for everyone else. But, Spyscape also offers a bunch of different, special experiences too (loved my visit so be sure to get your tickets now!).
How to Get There: Take the W Line and get off at 57th Street Station.
This place is kind of sort of awesome because it is basically the Micheal Jordan of the modern art world (and if you don’t know who that is, you should so go to Wikipedia now. That is your mission!).
I mean, everywhere you turn, you’ll find galleries brimming over with masterpieces from such powerhouse artists like Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Pollock, Bourgeois, etc.(I don’t think I need to go on. You get the idea. GO NOW!).
And since this museum first opened its doors in 1929, MoMA (Total side note, I hate writing MoMA because autocorrect always turns it into mama. So if you see mama, don’t be alarmed) has acquired more than 200,000 pieces of art.
An array of stunning pieces from artists who find unique ways to represent art and challenge people’s conceptions of what art really is and the variety of emotions that it can evoke.
For people like me, who really don’t know anything about modern art, it’s an inspiring crash course in all that is beautiful and addictive about modern art (While this is true, some of the stuff was way beyond me, but I’m still glad I went).
So, if you feel like visiting one of the cool museums in NYC for yourself, definitely prepare to spend the day here since MoMA’s permanent collection spans a grand total of four different levels, with prints, illustrated books, and unmissable Contemporary Galleries on level two; architecture, design, drawings and photography on level three; and painting and sculpture on levels four and five.
Also, just as an FYI, the museum’s most famous works are on the top two floors. Therefore, be sure to start at the top and work your way down.
And before you leave, don’t forget to check out the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, which is adorned with sculptures from greats like Matisse, Miró, and Picasso.
Yup, just an all-around great place to spend the day in NYC so be sure to book your tickets now!
Pro Tip: Want the awesomeness of MOMA but without the insane crowds? Then check out MOMA PS1 in Queens or the MOMA design store in lower Manhattan. Both are awesome and give you a real feel for the beauty of MOMA.
MOMA also has free Fridays where you can enjoy free admission between 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm, although they are currently suspended and the museum now closes at 5:30 pm Fridays.
Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Open daily from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for seniors (65+) and visitors with disabilities, $14 for students, and free for children 16 and under.
How to Get There: Take the N, R, or W train to 57th Street and 7th Avenue and walk to the museum from there.
Cool Museums in NYC – Lower Manhattan
12. The Tenement Museum
Say hello to one of my all-time favorite cool museums in NYC, The Tenement Museum.
Because this place? Well, it basically transports you back in time as it recreates the horrendous conditions that immigrants were forced to endure in 1863 at 97 Orchard Street.
Yup, good old New York, New York was not a super fun place to live back in the day.
Also, because this museum is basically a full-scale representation of a tenement from back in the day, it will be small and won’t be able to fit a ton of people.
You also can’t go it alone and visit by yourself. So yes, you will need to book tickets in advance and visit as part of a 90-minute, organized tour.
Thankfully though, you have a variety of super cool themed tours to choose from, like under one roof, shop life, sweatshop workers, hard times, building on the lower east side, Irish outsiders (They also have a neat food of the Lower East Side tour for $45 per person), etc.
So, save your spot on one of these snazzy little tours and experience the dark, dank, cramped, and dirty living conditions that residents endured (the museum is actually very clean but you know what I mean).
Because the truly awesome thing about the Tenement Museum is that it doesn’t just present you with artifacts that you look at through a shiny glass case.
Oh, hell to the no. Rather, it allows you to personally experience a unique period in history by putting you in the same exact situations that residents themselves faced.
That’s why, if you’re a hardcore history nerd like me, then you’ll want to take a look at their website and pre-book a ticket stat (do this well in advance since tickets sell out quickly)!
Address: Located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.
Price: Tickets are between $27 and $29 per person.
Hours: Open every day from 10 am to 6:30 pm.
How to Get There: You can either take the F or the J to Delancey Street Station.
13. Ellis Island
Not gonna lie, I am hardcore obsessed with this museum. Yeah, it’s easily one of my fave cool museums in NYC
That’s because unlike the nearby Statue of Liberty tour, a trip to Ellis Island is a wonderfully interesting experience that is well worth your time.
And if it’s your first time to the city that never sleeps, then you may want to consider snagging a pretty reasonably priced combination ticket to Ellis Island AND the Statue of Liberty (it’s only $20, and a trip to both landmarks is included).
You’ll also want to avoid the queues and book your ticket well in advance. Not that you have much of a choice right now but you know what I mean.
If I were you, I’d also plan on spending most of your time on Ellis Island since this place was an iconic immigrant gateway into the United States throughout the early 1900s.
Because when you think of historic immigration to the United States, I bet Ellis Island is the first thing that comes to mind.
In truth though, only steerage class passengers (12 million of them, to be exact, entered the country between 1892 and 1924) actually passed through this iconic entranceway when immigrating to the USA.
And even though Ellis Island is no longer in active use, you can still hop on a ferry and explore the three-level Immigration Museum that currently stands here.
It’s home to a wealth of fascinating exhibits (imagine personal objects, photographs, and official documents) and intriguing narratives that tell the incredible history of people who decided to leave everything behind and embark on a brand new life in a brand new world.
Now, after you arrive via the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, be sure to hit up the museum lobby for a free audio guide that will give you epic info on all of the artifacts that you’ll see on display here.
You know, things like Through America’s Gate (it explains the rigorous examination process that people endured upon arrival), the Peak Immigration Years (it helps you understand why people came to this country and what their life was like upon arrival), the third floor, which features remnants from when the building fell into disrepair (imagine trashed chairs, desks, etc.), and so much more.
Address: 17 Battery Place #210
Price: Tickets are $19.25 for adults, $14 for seniors 62+, $9 for children between 4 and 12, and free for kids 3 and under.
Hours: The museum is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm but check their website for any seasonal time changes.
How to Get There: Take the 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green and then walk to the ferry terminal in Battery Park.
14. 9/11 Museum and Memorial
Brace yourself before you visit this Manhattan museum in NYC. Because not surprisingly, it’s incredibly painful to visit since it brings all the events of that tragic day back to life.
And as someone who was in NYC that fateful day, I remember those events all too well.
This is also one of those cool museums in NYC that is actually two sites in one. So, if you really don’t want to visit the National September 11th Museum, you could always just pay your respects at the September 11th Memorial and skip the museum entirely.
Although, you’d definitely be missing out. Because while the museum is truly heartbreaking, it’s extremely well done and does a great job of paying tribute to all those who lost their lives that day.
Yes, tickets are a little expensive, but the museum showcases a ton of great exhibits and even houses what remains from the original towers. s.
So, grab a pair of tissues (you’ll need it) and make your way through a heartbreaking amalgamation of artifacts, videos, and photos that tell the story of that fateful day in American history.
To start, you’ll enter through the museum’s glass entranceway and pavilion (it’s meant to represent a broken tower) and then descend via escalator to the basement of the museum.
Along the way, you’ll see a series of 70-foot tall steel beams that once made up the base of the North Tower.
After taking in this solemn sight, explore the exhibits here, including Survivors Staircase (used by survivors to flee the building), the Foundation Hall (there’s a WTC retaining wall here and a column filled with inspirational messages, missing person posters, victim memorials, etc.), a destroyed Engine Company 21 Fire Truck, etc.
There’s even a devastatingly sad but important part of the museum that is entitled “In Memoriam”. It’s made up of a series of walls that are lined with the names and photos of everyone who died because of these terrorist attacks.
Honestly, it’s really hard to go through but important since we never want to forget that day and the innocent victims who lost their lives.
So, although it will be a tough visit, definitely book your tickets online ASAP since the museum currently offers mandatory timed admission to protect visitors during the pandemic.
Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
Hours: The 9/11 Memorial is currently open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm while the museum is open Thursday through Monday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Museum tickets are $26 for adults, $20 for young adults (13-17)/seniors (65+)/college students, and $18 for US veterans.
How to Get there: Take the 1 to Rector Street, the 2/3 train to Park Place, or the 4/5 to Wall Street station and walk from there.
15. The National Museum of the American Indian
Guess what? This is one of those free museums in NYC that you are totally gonna love!
Because it’s also one of those cool museums in NYC that is actually a part of the Smithsonian too (you know, the one in Washington DC)! Yup, kind of shocking (at least to me, but totally true) but 110% true.
So, get your nerd-erific freak on at this stunning, beaux-arts building which was once served as the New York Customs House in 1907.
Since then though, this structure had been totally transformed into a cool and unusual NYC museum that introduces visitors to anything and everything related to Native American culture.
Also, during your visit, be on the lookout for four massive female sculptures that sit just outside the building. They were designed by an artist by the name of Daniel Chester French and symbolize (from left to right) the continents of Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa respectively.
However, once you finally do make your way into the vast rotunda of this museum (it features an epic, 140-ton skylight at the top), walk through a series of innovative galleries that feature rotating exhibits on Native American culture, art, lifestyles, and traditions.
Afterward, visit their incredible permanent collection, which houses Native American technologies in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center and explains the incredible diversity of Native American culture through decorative arts, textiles, and various ceremonial objects.
And if you have time, take a moment to watch one of the live dance or musical performances that are typically held here (FYI, children’s book readings, craft seminars, film showings, and educational workshops are also held here too).
They’re super fun and a great way to create a lasting, first-hand experience with native American culture.
Address: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Thursdays until 8:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the R/W train to Whitehall Street station or the 4/5/6 train to Bowling Green and walk to the museum from there.
16. The Whitney Museum of American Art
This is another one of those cool art museums in NYC that you’re totally gonna love. I mean, not only does it sit right along the Highline (in Chelsea), but it recently opened in 2015 and is now one of those cool museums in NYC that no art lover should miss!
Come to think of it, even if you’re not a big fan of modern art, you should still visit anyway since this 63,000 square foot building is overflowing with an insane collection of 20th and 21st contemporary American art from greats like Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, etc.
And added bonus? Head straight for the rooftop to get sick panoramic views of the nearby Hudson River. Or, simply visit to check out one of the uber-awesome rotating exhibits that the Whitney routinely showcases.
Pro Tip: To save a bit of cold, hard cash, try visiting on Fridays, between 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm, when the museum offers patrons pay-what-you-wish for tickets. But, per usual, definitely book your tickets well in advance to avoid long lines.
Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014
Hours: Open 11:30 am to 6:00 pm Mondays and Thursdays, 1:30 pm to 9:00 pm Fridays, and 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays (Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students/seniors/disabled visitors, and free for anyone 18 and under.
How to Get There: Take the A/C/E train from Times Square to 14th Street/8th Avenue and walk to the museum from there.
17, The New Museum
I love cool museums in NYC, yes I do, I love cool museums in NYC, how about you?
Okay, yeah, I’ll stop being beyond weird now. But what I’m trying to say is that this is one of those cool museums in NYC that not only showcases awesome art, but that is slightly less popular than the MET and MOMA.
Therefore, the crowdage here won’t be as intense as some of the other cool art museums in NYC on this list.
Because this bad boy of the museum world was first founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker and is currently hidden away in New York’s lower east side, right by the Bowery.
But don’t let that fact detour you from visiting since this a premier destination for anyone who loves contemporary art.
No really! Step inside for even a hot minute and you’ll quickly discover pieces from Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Joan Jonas, Mary Kelly, and Andres Serrano, just to name a few.
This is also one of those fun museums in NYC that has the added benefit of having an exquisite, rooftop area where you can enjoy sweeping panoramas of the surrounding neighborhood (okay, the area isn’t THAT scenic but it’s still a nice view).
More than that though, the New Museum is a modern, beautifully decorated building where you can discover the latest and greatest works in contemporary art, including a wealth of temporary art exhibits that continually move in and out of the museum.
Pro Tip: If you want to save a little extra money, stop by on the first Saturday of the month, when the New Museum has special events and features free admission for two adults per family.
Address: 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
Hours: Open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Thursday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Friday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors/visitors with disabilities, $12 for students, and free for anyone 18 and under.
How to Get There: Visitors can use the N, R, J, Z, 6, B, D, F, and M trains to get there.
18. Museum of Ice Cream NYC
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream…and the Museum of Ice Cream NYC.
Yup, it’s one of those super interactive museums in NYC that is basically every Instagrammer’s idea of total, next-level paradise since there are photo ops aplenty here.
More than that though, this wonderfully pink museum in SOHO enthusiastically welcomes you into the whimsical world of ice cream with a series of vibrant, interactive displays that feature ice cream cones, spinkles, and basically anything else related to the dessert-y goodness that is ice cream.
Is it small? Kind of. Is it culturally enriching? Probably not. But it’s one of those cool museums in NYC that the kids will love and that will provide you with ample photo ops for your Insta feed.
And, added bonus? There’s a freakin’ three-story slide inside, a hall of giant scoops, a floating table of desserts (what is this Harry Potter wizardry?), a “Queen Beehive”, a sprinkle pool, and an MTA-like “Celestial Subway”.
Yeah, you’ll just have to visit for yourself to understand the eternal glory that is the ice cream museum. Just do yourself a solid and book your tickets WAY in advance since, not surprisingly, this place is hella popular.
Address: 558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Open Thursday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 are to 6:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $39 for adults and free for children 2 and under.
How to Get There: Take the R/W Train to Prince Street Station or the B/B/F/M train to Lafayette Street and walk from there.
Just in case you were wondering, no, I didn’t misspell the name of one of the cool museums in NYC.
Because it really is known as MMuseumm (pronounced like museum) and is a fun museum in NYC that sits inside an unassuming, 60-square-foot freight elevator in the heart of NYC’s Chinatown.
Home to a continually rotating array of often overlooked everyday objects like gluten-free Holy Communion wafers, bread clips, a hot water coil from Lithuania, a plastic glove from Paradise Valley, and a shoe that was once thrown at George W. Bush. this quirky museum in NYC is easily one of the more unusual things to do in NYC.
So, step inside (if you dare since it’s kind of cramped) and explore a museum that explains the history of the modern world using, “object journalism”. Yup, their term, not mine.
It also has extremely limited hours (see below) and sits inside a super small space that gets hella hot in the summer, so plan accordingly.
Pro Tip: The museum is currently closed for obvious reasons but is scheduled to re-open really soon.
Address: 4 Cortlandt Alley, New York, NY 10013
Hours: Open to the public Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm, with visits available by appointment only at other times (Just send an email to [email protected]).
Price: $5 is a recommended donation but there is no set fee.
How to Get There: Take either the 4/5/6 line or the J/Z train to Canal Street Station.
Other Cool Museums in NYC – Brooklyn and Beyond
20. Brooklyn Museum
While this museum is not as easily accessible as its more famous, Manhattan brethren, this is one of those cool museums in NYC that stands apart for its uncanny ability to represent both the ancient and modern world.
That’s because this amazing place is home to more than 1.5 million objects that include ancient artifacts, 19th-century period rooms, sculptures, and paintings from across several centuries.
Add in a slew of ultra-rad rotating exhibits that continually challenge both the way we see ourselves and the possibilities of the world around us and you have the stuff that museum-goer dreams are made of.
And although this museum is popular in its own right, the massive, five-story building here does a great job of dispersing tourist traffic – making this structure feel a whole lot less crowded than may museums in Manhattan.
Additionally, the first Saturday of every month (except September) features special live music and performance art events that continue throughout the evening (Translation? Until 11:00 pm).
So, if you have the time for it, definitely check out one of these events since it’s a unique way to experience amazing artwork.
I mean, just imagine looking at artwork, while dancing under the expansive, museum ceiling and listening to live music bounce around and you have some idea of just how awesome this experience really is (FYI, this event is currently on pause but I’m sure it will resume in the future).
Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Price: Tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for seniors (65+) and visitors with disabilities and students with a vaid ID, and free for anyone 19 and under.
Hours: Open Wednesday/Thursday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Friday/Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm (galleries close 15 minutes before closing).
How to Get There: Take the 2 or 3 to the eastern parkway/Brooklyn Museum stop and walk from there.
21. The New York Transit Museum
Easily one of the cool museums in NYC, The New York Transit Museum is owned and operated by the MTA (there’s a small outpost in Grand Central that you can check out too) and sits inside the old Court Street Station in Brooklyn.
Believe it or not, the station was actually decommissioned way back in 1936 and is now the uber-cool home of an eclectic assortment of vintage trains and buses – vehicles that now introduce visitors to the historic development of the public transportation system in New York City.
To see some of the oldest artifacts in the museum, visit the “On the Street: Trolleys and Buses” exhibition, which details the rise of fuel technology in buses and features an array of subway cars that date back to 1916.
Heck, there are even some wooden elevated cars here that go all the way back to 1903!
Other super cool museum highlights include “Grand by Design” (a celebration of Grand Central Terminal), “The Dr. George T.F Rahilly Trolley and Bus Study Center” (to scale models of vintage trolleys and cars), “No Spitting on the Platform” (a collection of historic transportation signage), “Moving the Millions” (talks about the history of the NYC subway), and more.
However, the real appeal of any visit here is a stroll back into yesteryear as you meander through the collection of antique buses and trains that now call this place home -some of which date all the way back to the 1940s.
So, stop by today and experience one of the most interactive museums in NYC (The museum is currently closed but I’m sure it will about again soon).
Address: 99 Schermerhorn St Brooklyn, New York, 11201
Price: Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children (2-17) and seniors (62+), and free on Wednesdays.
Hours: Open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Saturday/Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
How to Get There: If you’re coming here from Manhattan, take the 4 or 5 train to Borough Hall station and then walk to the museum from there.
22. The Museum of the Moving Image
Before there was Hollywood…there was Queens, NY. No, really. I pinkie promise I’m not lying here. It’s just one of those totally random facts that you could definitely use to win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
But anyway, per usual, I digress. No, what I’m trying to say (poorly) is that prior to the film industry’s big move to Hollywood, CA in the 1930s, most major motion pictures were actually made right in good old Queens, NY.
In fact, classic films like The Return of Sherlock Holmes (or, the first Sherlock Holmes film to have sound) were shot in the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens – a building that was first created in the 1920s and that is currently at the heart of a historic district since it was also used to film Goodfellas, Carlito’s Way, and Sesame Street.
And then in 1988, the entire structure was converted into the aptly named Museum of the Movie Image, a facility that pays homage to all things art, history, and technology as they relate to film.
So, if you should ever find yourself in good old Astoria, Queens, step inside and look back at NYC’s historic contribution to the movie industry.
Because real talk? This is the ONLY museum in the country dedicated to the history of the moving image – a building that contains more than 130,000 super fun film-related items.
You know, like an epic exhibit on the man, the myth, the legend, Jim Henson, otherwise known as the immortal creator of the Muppets. And let’s be honest, any museum that talks about the muppets is totally okay in my book.
Pro Tip: Stop by on Fridays for FREE admission between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. And since you’re in Astoria anyway, grab a bite to eat at Ovelia since it’s one of my absolute FAVE restaurants in the area
Address: 36-01 35th Ave, Astoria, NY 11106, United States
Price: Tickets cost between $9 and $15 per person.
Hours: Open Wednesday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Friday from 10:30 am to 8:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the E, M, or R train to Steinway Street station and walk to the museum from there.
Map of All the Super Cool Museums in NYC
Other New York City Travel Resources You Will Love
- 80+ Cool and Unusual Things to do in New York City
- 18 Tourist Traps to Avoid in NYC
- A Quick and Easy NYC Subway Guide
- How to Get from JFK to Manhattan
- How to Get from Newark to Manhattan
- The Ultimate NYC Bucket List
There you have it! Because that just about wraps up this epic guide to 22 cool museums in NYC!
Tell me, what did you think? Did all of your fave museums in NYC make this list? If not then let me know in the comments below!
And if you found this post helpful, feel free to pin it now so that you can read it again later!