Why do we even care about the 8 best museums in New York City?
Are you a museum junkie who is looking for the best museums in New York City? Well, you are in luck because I am a bit of a museum fanatic myself, and New York City does have some of the best museums in the world.
Now, I know a lot of people think museums are boring or lame or not exciting, but I disagree. Not only do you get to learn about different cultures, but you get to understand them, which creates an appreciation and respect of other cultures that only comes from experience and knowledge. And the best part, you don’t have to leave the country. You can learn tolerance and cultural sensitivity without even leaving your home state!!
But besides increasing general awareness about the world, museums excite me because they transport you into a different world. Whether it’s a history, art, or science museum, you feel as though you are traveling to a different time and place, a place that you would have never experienced before. Sometimes, I even feel like Indiana Jones, going on a treacherous adventure and exploring the tombs of Egypt. Only, I don’t have to worry about mummies rising from the dead, sand getting in my eyes, or bugs eating me alive (I’m just kidding about everything except the sand in your eyes thing. I mean, you see all these movies where people bring mummies back from the dead and start the apocalypse, so I HAD to go there). Instead, you can explore the world from the comfort of an air conditioned, museum building, that serves food and drinks (I know being hungry and thirsty makes me super grumpy)!
And as a mostly, solo female traveler, I love the fact that museums are one of the few activities that are actually better done alone. I mean, it’s the worst when you’re with someone who is rushing through the museum, or someone who is dragging major ass and spending an hour at every painting. And you can’t leave them because you guys are together and the museum is huge (so you’ll never find them again), but you two have totally different museum styles and you just don’t know what to do. Or you could be like me and take a million pictures of everything, just to get the perfect shot, as your friends roll their eyes and tap their feet in impatience (No one wants to deal with THAT!).
Therefore, to avoid this entire, complicated mess, I find it better to go alone. That way, I can go through the museum at my own pace and don’t need to figure anyone else into my itinerary. But, the enormous bonus about museums, for solo travelers, is that visiting alone is not awkward at all since museums are pretty quiet. Sure, you can chat with your companion, but you are generally there for the exhibits so its not like you NEED someone to enjoy what you’re looking at (Going out to eat is one of those activities that is not really that great alone, so thank God for museums when you travel solo!!!).
So, it is for these reasons, and a million more, (Like museums teach us about the past so that we don’t have to repeat our mistakes in the future), that I have decided to create this list of the best museums in New York City. That, and New York City is huge, so it’s kind of hard to pick and choose which museums are the best. And let me tell you, I have been to some duds, and I just don’t want you to waste your time . So, without further ado, let the museum hopping adventure begin (FYI This list only reflects my opinion of the best museums. If you don’t agree, that’s totally okay. That and NYC is HUGE so there is no way I could go to EVERY museum in the City. Okay, that’s my disclaimer, I’ll stop now)!!!
8 Best Museums in New York City (Not in any particular order)
The Met – Otherwise known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on 1000 5th Avenue, New York, New York (Between East 80th and East 84th Street), this museum is perhaps one of the premiere art museums in the world. So, what can I say about this museum that has not already been said? The MET has over 5,000 years of art, from practically every country and every time period in human history. Since 1880, this museum has been bewitching the minds and hearts of people all over the globe. I think the true strength of this museum lies in it’s ability to transport you into an entirely different time and place; parts of the museum literally make you feel like you are in an entirely different country (to learn more about my trip to the MET, click here). But, the beauty of this museum does’t just lie in the past. This museum constantly brings in innovative, temporary exhibitions that expose people to the creative diversity of the modern art movement. So, whether you are stuck in the past, living in the future, or looking for a whole new world, there is something for everyone here. And admission is only suggested ($25), so you can pay whatever you want. I always use the subway, so I would take the 4,5,or 6 and get off at the 86th Street stop. From here, walk three blocks toward Central Park and then down two blocks to 84th Street. Since this museum is four city blocks long, it should be no surprise that there is NO WAY you can see the whole thing in one day. On the plus side, this museum never really FEELS crowded, because it’s so big, so you can arrive any time, between the hours of 10 am and 9 pm,Friday and Saturday, and between 10 am and 9pm, Sunday through Thursday.
***Want to learn more about the MET? Or not sure of the MET or MOMA is more your taste? Then check this helpful article here.
- The Frick Collection – Sadly, I had never even heard of this place until recently. And that hurts my soul because this museum is so freaking awesome. Located on 1 East 70th Street, you can just take the 6 train here, and hop off at the 68th street exit and enjoy the unimaginable beauty that
lies within. Seriously, I have been to a ton of museums in my time, but their collection of intricate gold gilded, French ceramic ware is nothing short of mind-blowing. If you visit this museum, head straight to the basement, and yes, that’s an order!!! But that’s not all this museum has to offer. Within the rooms of Henry Clay Frick’s former mansion, lie an assortment of sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and furniture that serve as an everlasting monument, to one of the greatest art collectors of all time. And there are no stark and austere, museum galleries here. Masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art, are all displayed in the serene and intimate setting of a home; a home that makes you feel at ease and like you are visiting an old friend. That’s why this museum feels like an oasis of peace amidst the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. I mean, who wouldn’t feel serene, admiring works of art from a stone bench that overlooks a scenic, courtyard and fountain,
lined with immaculate shrubbery and illuminated by a glass skylight that disperses light upon anything beneath it. On top of all this, each of sixteen galleries offers a unique presentation of works of art, that are 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 stop by the Frick Collection between 10 am and 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday (The first Friday of the month has extended hours from 6 pm to 9 pm), and between 11 am and 5 pm on Sundays. Tickets are $22 for adults, with audioguides and special exhibits included in the price of admission. I know the admission price is a bit steep, so I would suggest going either on the first Friday of the month, between 6 pm and 9pm, when admission is free, or on Sundays, when the cost of admission is pay what you wish. But no matter what, make sure you get here because this is the museum that all the native New Yorkers flock to, and for good reason!
- The Natural History Museum – Located on 79th Street, along Central Park West, this museum is one of the largest in the world, with 28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, that contain 33 million specimens, a planetarium and a library. But the size and scope of a museum is not as important as how a museum makes you feel about the items it
presents. And the true beauty of this haven for nature, is that it literally makes the world of science come alive, right before your eyes (Kind of like a real life, Night at the Museum only better because nothing is trying to kill you). You see the natural world evolve right before your eyes and you see why it is so important that we understand the inner workings of the world around us, and it’s creation. This is a 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. From dinosaur skeletons, to meteorites, to rocks, to cultural artifacts, this museum has it all. A fact that is only fitting since the Natural History Museum is one of the premier, scientific research institutions in the world, with more than 200 scientists working across such broad disciplines as anthropology, astrophysics, and biology. Now, in case you thought this museum was just for kids, One Step Beyond will totally prove you wrong! Each month, One Step Beyond presents a different DJ performing in the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space. 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 Nees0n (The next party is on March 24, with DJs Classics, Lloydski, and Alex Behnke) The party is from 9pm to 1 am, with tickets costing $25 (cash bar for adult beverages). This innovative event is popular, so purchase tickets online, to guarantee admission. And while
I love most of what this museum has to offer, I am NOT really a fan of is the assortment of stuffed animals that are on display throughout some of the galleries. And while I understand that historically, these specimens were used to expose people to and educated people about animals from all over the world, since zoos were not really in existence and travel abroad was quite difficult and expensive, these artifacts of the past feel rather archaic to me. While stuffed animal specimens are not something I enjoy, they are a good way for others to learn about animals that have been extinct for a very long time. To visit for yourself, the museum is open daily between 10am and 5:45 pm, with some holiday closings. I use the subway to get here and take either the B (weekdays only) andor the C to 81st Street. You can also take the 1 train to Broadway and West 79th Street (2 blocks West of the museum). Admission is $22 (which includes all special exhibitions, like the Cuba exhibit currently showing), but prices are suggested donations, so you can pay what you wish at the museum’s at the admissions desk (pro-tip: DO NOT eat in the basement cafeteria! It’s expensive and gets so crowded that you feel like you are trapped amongst a herd of cattle, getting ready to stampede. Do yourself a favor and eat elsewhere).
- The Guggenheim or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum– I feel like the Guggenheim is a modern art mecca of the world, and as it should be. This museum is home to an astounding number of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art masterpieces, as well as a number of special exhibitions that rotate in and out, throughout the year (Try saying that ten times fast. LoL). However, the art is not the only thing that people come here to admire. Some
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, the cylindrical building, wider at the top than the bottom, was designed to be a “temple of the spirit”. And you can see this concept embodied in the ramp like gallery that swirls up and around the outer edges of the building, in a continuous spiral that culminates in a masterful, almost spirit like, ceiling skylight. Translation? Bring your camera because you will get some AMAZING, unique photos 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). To learn more about this museum, and how to plan you visit, read about my visit to the Guggenheim here.
- The Tenement Museum – I visited this museum in high school, so my memories of this place are a little fuzzy. But, what I do remember, is that I was plunged, head first, into the world of a tenement resident at 97 Orchard Street. The entire building is recreated to mimic living conditions for American immigrants on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1863. And this was not an easy life. Conditions were cramped, access to necessities like plumbing and clean water was mediocre at best, disease spread like a wild fire, etc. Yet, these people survived . You begin to feel how difficult survival was, as you walk through the living space of ordinary, everyday citizens, who were trying to make a new life and starting a family, with limited means. Therefore, this museums a unique and special place. The Tenement Museum doesn’t just display the past, it allows you to become a part of the story but thrusting you back into the enduring difficulties of the past. As a result of this
unique experience, you begin to appreciate the extensive hardships that immigrants of the past, and present face. And this important because it is these, ordinary people that shape the social and moral fabric of our society today. And by recognizing the importance of this seemingly ordinary building, we recognize that immigrants, of the past and present, are in and of themselves important as the shapers of our future. Therefore, this museum helps instill a sense of love and compassion for people, who live you, struggle to make a life for themselves, in a foreign land; a tolerant and accepting viewpoint that many in the United States would do well to remember, given the current political climate of our nation. To visit this stellar place, take the B or D Subway to the Grand Street stop. Once you get off the subway, walk two blocks away from the Williamsburg Bridge on Delancey Street and turn left on Orchard Street. Walk a 1/2 block south to the Museum Shop 103 Orchard Street, between Delancey and Broome. This museum is quite popular and tours do sell out, so i recommend purchasing tickets here. Tickets are $25, and you can select from a multitude of really neat tour options like shop life, sweatshop workers, hard times and Irish outsiders (They also offer a cool looking, foods of the Lower East Side tour for $45). Tours run for about 90 minutes and have set times between 0:00 am – 6:30 pm Friday – Wednesday, and
10 am – 8:30 pm on Thursdays.
- Brooklyn Museum – While this museum is not as easily accessible as it’s more famous, Manhattan brethren, this museum stands apart in it’s ability to represent not only the ancient, with more than 1.5 million objects that include ancient artifacts, 19th-century period rooms, and sculptures and painting from across several centuries, but the modern as well. These rotating exhibits challenge both the way we see ourselves and the possibilities of the world around us (Current temporary exhibit is Georgia O’Keefe: Living Modern exhibit from March 3 – July 23). And while this museum is popular in it’s own right, the museum’s massive, five story building disperses tourist traffic so that the structure feels a lot less crowded than many of the museum
exhibits in Manhattan. Additionally, the first Saturday of every month (except September) features special live music and performance art events that continue throughout the evening, til 11pm. I highly recommend attending one of these events since it is a unique way to witness such beautiful artwork. Just envision admiring artwork, while dancing under the expansive, museum ceiling and listening to live music bounce melodically around cavernous museum structure. Truly an experience unlike any other. The museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10am – 6pm (open till 10pm on Thursdays). To get he
re, take either the 2 or 3 subway line to the eastern parkway/Brooklyn Museum stop. Once you arrive, you have your choice of three ticket options; a general admission ticket for $16, a special exhibit admission ticket for $20, or a combination ticket that allows you to see both for $23 (Combo ticket only available on weekends, from November through January).
- MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) -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, the galleries contain masterpieces of art from such powerhouse artists as Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenst
ein, Rothko, Pollock, Bourgeois, etc.(I don’t think I need to go on. You get the idea. GO NOW!). Since the museum first opened 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 obtained almost 200,000 artworks. The modern artists of this museum, find unique ways to represent art and challenge people’s conceptions of what art 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). MoMA’s permanent collection spans four levels, with prints, illustrated books and the unmissable
Contemporary Galleries on level two; architecture, design, drawings and photography on level three; and painting and sculpture on levels four and five (The most famous works of art are on the top two floors, so start at the top and work your way down). And don’t miss the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, which is adorned with the sculptures of such masters as Matisse, Miró and Picasso. MoMa is located at 11 West 53rd Street, which is an easy walk from Grand Central. It is open between 10:30am and 5:30pm daily, with extended hours until 8:00pm on Fridays. Admission is $25, unless you visit between 4pm and 8pm on a Friday evening because then… it’s FREE!!!
- Ellis Island – Ellis Island is America’s most historically significant, immigrant gateway into the country. And while only steerage class passengers entered the country through this island, over 12 million immigrants passed through this processing station between 1892 and 1924. Today, its three-level Immigration Museum that features narratives from both historians and immigrants themselves. These narratives help the personal objects, official documents, and photographs, displayed throughout the museum, come to life. I have had the pleasure of visiting this museum twice. And both times, I was astounded by the fortitude and perseverance of these largely unknown souls. I still cannot fathom how they were able to risk everything, and start a new life, in a completely foreign land, where they were largely ridiculed and treated as inferior people. But, Ellis Island does an excellent job of commemorating these people, making them matter, and letting their stories be heard. It’s like this museum
is finally able to attach a soul to the thousands, upon thousands, of names that line the walls of the islands various memorials.When you arrive (via the ferry to the Statue of Liberty), stop in the museum lobby and pick up a free audio guide, which offers valuable insight into all the exhibitions. My favorite part of the museum was the second floor, where the ‘Through America’s Gate,’ exhibit details the rigorous, step-by-step process immigrants went through, before they could enter the country. Things like chalk-marking the ill, a wince-inducing eye examination, and a 29 question interrogation in the vaulted Registry Room, were all part of the extensive process. Also on this floor, is the, ‘Peak Immigration Years,’ which examines not only why many immigrants flocked to this country, but what their life was like once they got here, and the unique set of challenges they faced. I also recommend heading to the third floor, where you can see remnants from this buildings transition into disuse. The trashed desks, chairs and other abandoned possessions present in this section of the museum are strangely haunting and definitely worth checking out.Before you visit, make sure you order tickets online here. Otherwise you’ll never get a ticket, which are $18 each and include the ferry to the Statue of Liberty (To get to the ferry, take the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green, and then walk towards Battery Park). The museum is open between 8:30am and 5:30pm daily, but check the aforementioned website for any seasonal time changes.