With its rich cultural history and an abundance of art and history, the city is home to some of the most renowned institutions in the world, including some of the best museums!

I know, because I’m lucky enough to have been to most of them over my 13 years living in NYC.

In fact, my very first introduction to the New York art world was about three months after I moved to New York when I got invited to a private party at the Met.

After years of watching Gossip Girl, I was so excited to get glammed up to go to my very first party on the Upper East Side.

While walking around The Met in stilettos isn’t something I’d recommend, everything else was dreamy!

Right down to the hundreds of candles lining the steps inside and outside the museum, and the ability to linger without crowds in front of some of their most iconic pieces.

New York City is a hub for culture, history, and style, and its museums are a testament to that.

Whether you’re interested in art, history, fashion, or science, I can guarantee there’s a museum in the city that will pique your interest.

So sit back, and get ready to take notes, these are the best museums in NYC that you can’t miss!

Iconic New York Museums 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

MET

The Met is one of the largest art museums in the world, and also my favorite museum in NYC.

It’s got over 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of history. So basically, I can guarantee in your party will find something interesting here.

Some of the most famous pieces include the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, works by Van Gogh, and the Gutenberg Bible.

Plus, they have my favorite, the Anna Wintour Wing, that always has an exhibit on an aspect of fashion running.

You can check out my last visit to the Met to see the Karl Lagerfeld exhibit below!

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Golden Gate Bridge Vintage Postcard2

MoMA is one of the world’s leading museums of modern art, with a collection of over 200,000 works of art.

Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, films, and photographs by some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

So, if you’re a fan of iconic artists like Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Wassily Kandinsky, this is the spot for you!

The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

I still tell everyone who will listen about how wonderful the Tim Burton exhibit was a few years ago!

Whitney Museum of American Art

Ally at The Whitney Museum in NYC Andy Warhol Exhibit

The Whitney Museum is a great way to spend the afternoon.

The museum showcases American art from the 20th and 21st centuries, including iconic works by American artists like Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Besides their permanent collection, they also do some amazing temporary ones.

The last one I went to was a gorgeous exhibit of Andy Warhol’s works.

Local’s Tip: The Whitney is along the High Line, so plan on walking that down to Chelsea Market for lunch.

American Museum of Natural History

Natural history museum

If you’re into fossils, dinosaurs, and the natural world, The American Museum of Natural History is the one for you.

It’s one of the largest museums in the world, with a collection of over 34 million specimens and artifacts.

This Upper West Side museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Local’s Tip: Don’t miss the 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling in The Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum - UES, NYC - June 2023

The Guggenheim Museum is famous for its unique spiral design and its collection of modern art.

If you’re anything like me, the second you step inside, you’ll be in awe of the design.

Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, and installations by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Kandinsky, and Jackson Pollock.

Keep an eye out for special exhibits, I just saw an amazing on on Young Picasso. Checkout the video below to see highlights!

Fun Fact: Iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim.

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.

Yet so many tourists and even locals miss out on exploring it’s many exhibits.

Plan on spending at least a few hours exploring this massive museum. It’s got 5 floors of amazing work!

The museum has tons of ancient Egyptian artifacts, contemporary art, and decorative arts from around the world.

Fun Fact: The Brooklyn Museum has a collection of over 1.5 million works of art.

The Frick Collection

Gilded Age NYC

The Frick Collection is a museum and research center dedicated to the study of Western art.

Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the late 19th century.

Some of the most famous pieces include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Gainsborough.

Oh and obviously, the museum itself is a work of art, as it’s set in a Gilded Age mansion.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters NYC Museum

The Cloisters is a museum dedicated to medieval art and architecture.

Fair warning, it’s in Fort Tryon Park, which is at the top of Manhattan, so it’s a bit of hike, but worth checking out.

Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, and textiles from the Romanesque and Gothic periods.

Local’s Tip: Buying a ticket to The Met Tickets also includes same-day admission to The Cloisters museum and gardens!

The Museum of the City of New York

The museum of the city of New York

The Museum of the City of New York aims to illustrate the distinctive nature of urban life in New York City.

It engages visitors through various exhibits that tell the story of the city’s rise from a small Dutch village to becoming one of the most influential cities in the world.

I still can’t believe it took me over a decade to check this place out. It’s one of my favorite less popular New York museums to recommend to friends and family.

Some of its permanent exhibits include those on immigration, architecture, neighborhoods and more.

Fun Fact: The exterior of the museum was used in the the classic NYC TV show Gossip Girl, as Constance Billard School for girls.

Unique NYC Museums

New York Transit Museum

nyc transit

The New York Transit Museum is dedicated to the history of public transportation in New York City.

The museum showcases the city’s buses, subways, and trains, and is inside and old subway station!

You can see vintage subway cars, learn about the construction of the city’s transportation system, and even take a guided tour of the nearby subway tunnels.

The Museum of Broadway

The Museum of Broadway in NYC The Phantom of the Opera Costumes June 2023

If you’re a fan of musical theater, you won’t want to miss the Museum of Broadway.

I’m not gonna lie, as a total theater fanatic, I absolutely was in heaven getting to check this place out recently.

The best part is it’s in the Times Square, making it an easy museum to check out before catching a Broadway show!

You can see original costumes and props from famous shows, learn about the evolution of musical theater, and see what a Broadway theater looks like behind the scenes.

Plus, the museum has tons of cute IG friendly set-ups, so you’re guaranteed to get some cute shots.

If you want a preview of the museum, check out my video below!

Tenement Museum

Tenement Museum NYC

The Tenement Museum tells the stories of immigrants who lived in the area in the 19th and 20th centuries.

One of the coolest parts is that it’s in a restored tenement building, and it features exhibits on the lives of the people who lived there.

Noguchi Museum

Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum in Queens honors the work of Isamu Noguchi.

If you’re like me and had no idea who he is, basically, he’s a Japanese-American artist and landscape architect.

You can easily spend an hour or two checking out the collection of his sculptures, furniture, and other works of art.

And even explore the artist’s studio and learn about his life and career.

Museum of the Moving Image

Museum of the Moving Image

Head to Astoria to spend the afternoon exploring the Museum of the Moving Image.

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s dedicated to the art, history, and technology of film, television, and digital media.

You’ll get to check out interactive exhibits, screenings of classic and contemporary films, and special events throughout the year.

FAQs

Which museum in New York City is considered the most prestigious?

The Met Museum UES NYC

The Met is one of the largest museums in the world, with a collection spanning over 5,000 years of art from around the globe.

Both New Yorkers and tourists agree, this is one of the top museums in the city.

It’s basically a crime to visit NYC and miss this local gem!

What are some of the best small art museums to visit in NYC?

Ally in NYC at the Met Museum Upper East Side June 2023

If you’re looking for a more intimate museum experience, the Frick Collection on the Upper East Side is fabulous.

It’s in a mansion, and has got lots of Old Master paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.

Or, for a chill afternoon, head to the Neue Galerie. It specializes in German and Austrian art from the early 20th century.

Don’t forget to sit down in their lovely cafe for some delicious strudel and hot chocolate before or after your visit!

Can you visit any New York City museums for free?

The Met Museum ticket in NYC

The answer to this questions depends on if you’re a local or tourist.

Basically, locals keep reading for free museums to check out, and tourists, unfortunately the quick answer is you’re out of luck!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History both have suggested admission fees, meaning you can pay what you wish as a local.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) also offers free admission on the first Friday evening of the month for NYC residents. But, free tickets must be reserved in advance!

What are the unique interactive museum experiences available in NYC?

The Museum of Color in NYC

My favorite more interactive museum is the Museum of Broadway.

Besides having a ton of historical props and costumes, there are multiple points in the museum where you can snap cool photos, learn choreography, and even experience what it’s like behind the curtain of a Broadway show!

The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side offers a unique interactive experience that takes visitors back in time to the lives of immigrants who lived in the tenement building in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens offers a hands-on experience that explores the history of film and television. You’ll get to learn about the history of cinema, explore the art of special effects, and even try your hand at making your own movie.

And of course, there’s always classics like The Color Factory (pictured above) and Museum of Ice Cream that are fun for the whole family!

How does the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art differ from that of the Museum of Modern Art?

MET-NYC-best museums in nyc

The Met’s collection spans 5,000 years of history and includes everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary art,

While MoMA’s collection focuses on contemporary art, showcasing works by famous modern artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Andy Warhol.

What are the must-see museums located in Manhattan?

The Guggenheim Museum NYC

My favorite museum, that I tell everyone to visit, is the MET. I love all the variety, because there’s truly an exhibit for everyone here.

The Guggenheim, MoMA, American Museum of Natural History, and The Whitney, are also all fabulous and popular museums.

Final Thoughts

Ally at the Warhol exhibit at The Whitney Museum in NYC

Let me know in the comments below which museum you’re most looking forward to checking out!

I’m already excited to get back to NYC soon, especially after the new fashion exhibit at the Met opens in May!

The theme is “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” so there should be some amazing archival pieces on display!

 

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