Best New York City Museums

Best Museums in New York City

Must-See NYC Museums

Here are the five museums in New York City that everyone, especially tourists, should see when visiting the Big Apple.

There are hundreds of great museums in New York City but these are the five best museums in the Big Apple that people like tourists who may have a limited amount of time in the city should make sure to see. These are the best museums in New York City.

American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is located on Central Park West at 79th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. This museum is one of the most famous scientific, educational, and cultural institutions in the world. Contained in the Museum of Natural History are over 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts from all over the planet including a freestanding dinosaur that greets visitors at the entrance and a life-size replica of a Blue Whale hanging from the ceiling in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life.

Connected to the American Museum of Natural History is the Rose Center for Earth and Space which explores Earth’s and humankind’s cosmic origins and includes the Hayden Planetarium and the largest meteorite ever found in the United States and the 6th largest meteorite in the world the Willamette Meteorite. Any tourist visiting New York will not have a complete experience without visiting the Museum of Natural History.

If you want your children to experience the culture, history, and the natural world, you may want to take them to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They have it all.

Visitors first meet a fifty-foot tall Barasaurus in the entry rotunda of the huge dinosaur collection at the American Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur collection of 30 million fossils and artifacts housed on the fourth floor attracts many visitors, but there’s much more to see in the museum.

Popular attractions for children include the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians, the Hall of Oceans, and the many habitat dioramas throughout the hall. Additionally, the Discovery Room has many hands-on exhibits. According to their website, children can hunt for animals in a replica of an African baobab tree; create their own collection of minerals, skulls, or arthropods from a cabinet full of specimens; gather around an authentic Kwakiutl totem pole carved at the Museum in 1992; assemble a life-sized cast skeleton of Prestosuchus, a 14-foot long reptile from the Late Triassic Period, handle real fossils, and unearth an Oviraptor nest; track real-time earthquakes anywhere in the world on a three-drum seismograph.

Children (7-13) can sleepover at the museum in their Night at the Museum event. A lucky few are picked to sleepover in the Hall of Oceans under a 94-foot blue whale. Guests receive a night tour of the museum, an evening snack, and sleep on cots after the tour. Check out their website for more information.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Met as it is affectionately called by many is located at 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd Street on the eastern edge of Central Park in Manhattan. The Met is one of the most famous museums and art museums in the world and artwork from virtually every corner of the world is contained and displayed here. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections date back as far as 5,000 years and run the gamut from early man to modern art. Another must-see museum for any visitor or tourist to New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, houses one of the greatest collections of art in the Western Hemisphere. At 1.6 million square feet, it is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. The Met displays almost all the world’s cultures from Egyptian artifacts to ancient Greek items to notable Renaissance paintings to Native American masks to modern art.

Children may not understand art, but they will enjoy the Arms and Armor displays of firearms, swords, knives, and medieval and Japanese armor. Younger visitors will also enjoy the Egyptian Temple of Dendur and the collection of artifacts, including mummies.

A great idea for children at the Met is to make up a scavenger hunt. Visit the Met before your children and, as you travel through the exhibits, pick out an item that interests your children. For example, tell them to look for a painting in the Renaissance area of a dog peeing on a church column. That’s a work in the Met by 17th-century Dutch painter Emanuel de Witte. Maybe tell them to find a certain jewel-encrusted knife in the Arms and Armor display.

Here’s an interesting tip. For both museums, the price for entry is suggested. That means you can pay whatever you want to enter. That way you won’t get too upset if your children want to leave early. Take your children to the Met and Museum of Natural History over and over. Maybe take them for shorter periods of time early on, but extend it as they grow older. They will gain an appreciation for art, culture. history, and the natural world.

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Ave right near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. With over 1 million objects the Brooklyn Museum is the 2nd largest art museum in New York City and contains artwork from Egypt, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the ancient Middle East as well as American paintings and an outdoor sculpture garden.

Of particular interest at the Brooklyn Museum are the Egyptian galleries that display mummies, statues, pottery, and other artworks spanning many Egyptian dynasties. If you love Ancient Egypt and are visiting New York City you will not want to miss the Brooklyn Museum.

The Met Cloisters

The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that stands by itself in Upper Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park which can be reached off the Henry Hudson Parkway just north of the George Washington Bridge. The Cloisters contains a huge collection of art, armor, weapons, and architecture from the European Middle Ages.

Included on the grounds are five French cloisters, medieval gardens, tapestries that date to the 15th century, stained glass windows, manuscripts, and illuminated books, medieval sculptures, and paintings along with period armor and weapons used by medieval knights and their horses. If you love and are fascinated by medieval history The Cloisters is a must-visit.

Museum of Modern Art or MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art or MoMA as it is often called by those who love it is located at 11 W. 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. This very popular New York City museum is dedicated to modern art and contains more than 100,000 pieces of modern art and over 300,000 total pieces of work including books, periodicals, paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architecture and designs, film and electronic media. At the Museum of Modern Art, one can get a tremendously thorough overview of modern and contemporary art. This museum is a must for anyone who loves art and is visiting New York City.

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum, on 89th street and fifth avenue, not only contains a large collection of surrealistic and abstract paintings but also houses Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, German, Expressionist, Minimalist, and other contemporary works of art. In addition, the private works of Peggy Guggenheim are housed in this museum. The building itself is worth a visit just by itself. The building, shaped as a spiral. It’s wider at the top than the bottom. Taking an elevator to the top and walking down is the best way to see the exhibits.

Other Museums on Museum Mile

Museum Mile is a section of Fifth Avenue known for its high concentration of museums. The mile stretches from 82nd Street to 105th Street along the east side of Central Park.

As the home to nine outstanding New York City Museums, including some of the best museums in the world, these 22 blocks are rich with culture and fine art.

This pleasant part of Fifth Avenue has a delightful atmosphere, making it a lovely place to take a walk. This road bordering Central Park and is lined with tall trees that provide a nice covering of shade over a wide sidewalk and benches. The buildings of the Upper East Side tower high above.

Some other interesting museums located here include the:

  • Museum of the City of New York, which contains a massive collection of prints, photographs, paintings, and memorabilia that involve the history of New York City. It also houses a very good collection covering the New York Theater from the late 18th century to the present.
  • The Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design is the only museum in the United States devoted totally to historic and contemporary design.
  • The Jewish Museum houses drawings, photos, and artifacts that depict over 4000 years of Jewish culture.
  • El Museum del Barrio, a museum that exhibits Latino history and culture
  • the National Academy Museum containing 19th and 20th-century art
  • the Goethe House German Cultural Center, which contains many paintings from German artists
  • the Neue Galerie New York which houses early 20th century Austrian and German art and design.

The Whitney Museum and Frick Collection

Not located on museum mile, the Whitney Museum of Art and Frick Collection are worth a visit. The Whitney Museum houses many works of art from neglected American artists, including works by Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe. The Frick Collection houses many European masters in an intimate atmosphere. Works by Rembrandt, Holbein, El Greco, and Goya are highlights.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, known as the “the Whitney”, is an art museum with a focus on 20th and 21st-century American art. Whitney’s avant-garde permanent collection contains more than 18,000 works in a wide variety of media. The Whitney has always placed a particular emphasis on exhibiting the work of living artists for its collection as well as maintaining an extensive permanent collection containing many important pieces from the first half of the century. The museum’s Annual and Biennial exhibitions have long been a showcase for younger and less well-known artists.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum’s namesake, and founder, was a well-regarded sculptor as well as a serious art collector. As a patron of the arts, she had already achieved some success as the creator of the “Whitney Studio Club,” a New York-based exhibition space she created in 1918 to promote the works of avant-garde and unrecognized American artists. With her assistant, Juliana Force, Whitney collected nearly 700 works of American art when she offered to donate it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929 the Met declined. With the Met not interested and the apparent favoritism for European modernism at the Museum of Modern Art. Whitney opened her own museum, exclusively for American Art, in 1931.

The Whitney is housed Marcel Breuer’s unique structure on Madison Avenue and is considered probably the greatest collection of 20th Century American Art. The Museum hosts renowned works of Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe as well as works of Alexander Calder and George Seagal.

Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021 phone (212) 570-3600

Choosing a Museum

Some things to consider when choosing a New York City museum:

  • Art or History? Museums generally focus either more on art or more on history. Either is great, but keep in mind what interests you more when deciding on a museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an outstanding and world-renowned museum that incorporates both art and history well, making it a good crowd pleaser.
  • Size: Museums vary in size. Some, like the Museum of the City of New York or the Whitney Museum, are small-ish and doable in 1 to 2 hours. Others, like the Met or the Museum of Natural History are much more extensive and you will only be able to see a small part in 2 hours. But of course, there is nothing wrong with seeing only part of a museum!
  • Location: Location may affect which museum you choose to visit. You can see where museums are located by viewing the New York City Museums Map. The Museum Mile has nine great museums in one small area.

Final Word

New York City houses many museums. The Museum Mile is a concentrated example of this. The mile contains many unique museums that cater to all interests. Visiting any one of these fine institutions will enhance any person’s visit to New York City. The museum mile represents 5280 feet of culture, history, and art.

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