New York City is home to some of the most recognized cultural institutions in the world—offering museumgoers a glimpse at everything from contemporary paintings, fossils and everything in between.
New York City’s Top Museums
Here are some of the must-visit museums in NYC.
Museum of Modern Art
In Midtown West, the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA as it’s more commonly known, boasts an extensive collection of Modern and Contemporary works in the realms of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, books, film and digital. Top picks from the permanent collection include several colorful works by Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau and Vincent van Gogh. After perusing the museum’s many galleries, have a bite to eat at MoMA’s restaurant, The Modern.
The Morgan Library & Museum
The Morgan Library & Museum is world-renowned for its collection of as many as 12,000 old master drawings, works on paper by such as Dürer, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Gainsborough, Ingres and Matisse. What began as a Pierpont Morgan’s personal library collection has grown into a culture hub sought after by visitors from around the world. The architecture of the space alone is a sight to behold.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commonly known as The Met, is home to almost every art discipline imaginable. The museum contains art from all four corners of the world and includes pieces from various eras like Gothic Revival and Prairie-style home furnishings in addition to Realist works by artists of the Ashcan School. The American Wing alone has 73 galleries, and you’ll also find an expansive collection of Ancient Near Eastern Art; medieval armor; arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas; the Costume Institute’s collection of 35,000-plus costumes; and more.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Hop aboard the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, which served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War before becoming the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Its open-air flight deck, where Japanese kamikaze planes once struck, now shows off an unrivaled aircraft collection representing all five U.S. armed forces and international units. Highlights include a Grumman Tracer ready for battle with the blue sky above. Don’t miss the Space Shuttle Pavilion, featuring the Enterprise and submarine Growler.
American Museum of Natural History & Rose Center for Earth and Space
Kids love the American Museum of Natural History. T.rex, dioramas, fossils, rocks, and more appeal to all ages, and changing special exhibits warrant a return visit. Visitors can find fascinating educational exhibits in various studies like the Hall of North American Forests, the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of African Mammals. Next door, the Rose Center for Earth and Space is a fantastic, crowd-pleasing indoor escape to the skies with sections like the Scales of the Earth and the Hayden Big Bang Theater. All admission this year is by timed entry and must be reserved online.
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum features a permanent collection of Judaica along with exhibits of contemporary relevance. Considered the leading Jewish museum in the country (in addition to being one of the first of its kind in the world), the museum opened in 1947 in the former Felix M. Warburg House and currently holds some 26,000 objects and artifacts relating to Jewish culture. Here, visitors will find various items of great religious and cultural value from history along with an extensive educational program.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Famous the world over for its cylindrical building—designed by celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright—the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum includes a comprehensive collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and Contemporary art. Inside, a ramp gallery along the perimeter of the building extends up from ground level in a continuous spiral and ends just under the ceiling skylight. For a less strenuous workout on the ramp, start the tour by taking the elevator to the top of the building and leisurely walking back down to the ground floor.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Devoted to influential, as well as lesser-known, American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Whitney Museum of American Art houses an extensive collection of about 2,000 Edward Hopper paintings, drawings and prints. Given to the museum by Hopper’s widow, the collection is the largest gift the institution has ever received. Works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg, Georgia O’Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol are also among the museum’s impressive list of holdings.
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Cascading waterfalls and stark black parapets inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, are now found where the Twin Towers once stood. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a humbling sight. Visitors pay tribute with roses and make rubbings of the names, arranged not alphabetically but meaningfully, with the names of family, friends and coworkers together. The museum provides a detailed context for the horrific events that transpired over 20 years ago.
The Frick Collection
Housed on the first floor of an early 20th-century mansion designed by Thomas Hastings, of Carre and Hastings fame, The Frick Collection is an assortment of works that span a number of art movements, years and disciplines. Walking the many galleries, art-lovers are treated to up-close glances at some of the most celebrated masterpieces in art history—from Impressionist watercolors in substantial ornate frames (works of art in themselves), like Claude Monet’s V theuil in Winter and Edgar Degas’ The Rehearsal to stately portraits, including Northern Renaissance painter Hans Holbein The Younger’s famed depiction of Thomas Cromwell.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
Few places match New York City’s diverse, multi-cultural population. Since its inception, the city has been the gateway for immigrants worldwide, yearning for a better life in the United States. Many of these weary travelers reached the city via the New York Harbor and saw a welcoming glimpse of the epitome of freedom: the Statue of Liberty. Located on Liberty Island—a 12-acre island a mile south of lower Manhattan—visitors to the more than 300-foot landmark can go inside the pedestal or crown. There’s also a museum inside the base of the Statue of Liberty. The same travelers who saw glimpses of the famed statue also traveled to Ellis Island before beginning new lives. This former federal immigration processing station processed more than 12 million third-class and steerage immigrants between 1892 and 1954. Today, visitors can explore historic areas at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, including the Baggage Room, Registry Room/Great Hall, as well as the Balcony and Dormitory Room, view thought-provoking exhibits and, possibly, learn more about their own ancestors.
The Museum of Ice Cream
It’s never too cold for ice cream! Make the season even sweeter with a visit to the Museum of Ice Cream. The museum has 13 different exhibition spaces that present multi-sensory and immersive experiences, all centered around frozen, creamy confections. The exhibitions change seasonally, but fan favorites include the “Oh Yeah Room,” where a dessert feast is suspended overhead by balloons and the “Rainbow Tunnel,” a tribute to NYC’s gay pride history. Don’t miss the sprinkle pool!