New York City museums are an incredible mix of art, science, history, technology and culture, which makes them perfect for a museum hopping tour. Unless you are a superhero, you probably won't be able to see all of them in a day. What you can do is visit one or two museums per day for two weeks and then you can say you have seen it all. Or maybe not?
Really, with so many museums in New York, one can never get bored. From the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and all over New York City you will be amazed by these museums. Whether you are looking for old master paintings, art galleries, American art from contemporary artists, or you want to learn a little about the history of the country, New York museums have all that and more!
Here is a list of the best museums in NYC you should visit, that are well worth your time and money. Because most museums prefer you do not bring large bags inside, store your belongings at one of our spots for luggage storage in NYC and view the museums hands-free!
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (AKA The Met) is America’s largest art museum and is in fact one of the largest in the world. There are two locations: the main museum is located on 5th Avenue on the East Side of Central Park in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It houses more than 2 million works of art in its permanent collection.
Going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an experience that you should not miss, with priceless paintings from the European Masters to the exciting Egyptian, Roman, and Greek exhibits. If you are not into art you can check out the medieval armor and weaponry, or the fashion section. Or maybe you want to hang out where Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan stood in “When Harry Met Sally”.
The museum has evolved with the times as well, you can now go online and check out everything they have to offer, including a really fun section for kids. And when you feel you have explored enough inside, step outside into Central Park for fresh air and more fun.
Open: Sunday–Tuesday and Thursday: 10 am–5 pm & Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm, Closed Wednesday
The Met Cloisters
This branch of the Metropolitan Museum is much smaller than its big brother but is still worth a visit. It is the only museum in America dedicated to the art and architecture of the European middle ages. Located in Fort Tyron Park in Upper Manhattan, it is a good museum to visit if you want to get away from the crowds.
Spend a few hours here and then browse through some of New York's vintage shops, malls, and boutiques. You may just find that vintage treasure or unique piece of art you've been looking for.
Open: Thursday - Tuesday 10 am - 5 pm, Closed Wednesday
When going to the Whitney Museum you are not going there just for the art but for the ambiance too. The museum is dedicated to American contemporary and modern artists and features works from Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and many more.
You can wander the galleries to enjoy the contemporary paintings or you can enjoy them while sitting on the terraces having lunch. With panoramic views of the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District and the downtown skyline, your daily visit to Whitney Museum is a great combination of art and nature.
Open: Monday, Wednesday Thursday 10:30 am - 6 pm, Friday 10:30 am - 10 pm, Saturday & Sunday 11 am - 6 pm, Closed Tuesday
American Museum of Modern Art
Always on the cutting edge of what is hip in the world of art, the American Museum of Modern Art has over 150,000 works of art on display. The MoMA is one of the most visited museums in New York and not just because of its convenient location in Midtown Manhattan. Inside you will find some truly priceless works of modern art such as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and many more!
The museum is not just about displaying modern art for you to enjoy, it also likes to push the boundaries of our minds, questioning what is art? It wants to teach us how to look at art and see it from a different perspective. This has become more prevalent with the new expansion, concentrating on its vast permanent collection.
Open: Sunday to Friday 10:30 am - 5:30 pm, Saturday 10:30 am to 7 pm
American Museum of Natural History
This is one of the most impressive museums not only in New York but in the world too. It is home to some of the most mind-blowing displays, interactive programs, and fascinating exhibits you will ever see. Located across from the west side of Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History covers four city blocks.
The Museum contains the greatest collection of fossils, cultural artifacts, and other items, in fact, they have over 35 million pieces. Too many to display all at once! Showcasing the 3.5 billion years of natural history is not easy but they manage it, and they make it so interesting.
The biggest highlight is always the dinosaur exhibit, followed closely by space. There is so much to do and see here that unless you have all day and move at a quick pace, you just can’t cover it all in one day. This is a great museum for the kids too.
Open: Wednesday to Sunday 10 am - 5:30 pm
Brooklyn Museum is the third largest museum in New York City and houses over 1.5 million works of art. Located on the north side of Prospect Park near the heart of Brooklyn, these rather large Beaux-Arts beautiful building is designed to usher you through the period rooms.
As you walk through the period rooms you will experience contemporary art, sculptures, paintings, African art, and one of the world’s greatest ancient Egyptian collections. Brooklyn Museum is just another great place in New York City, where you can easily spend a day wandering the galleries and marveling at the exhibits.
Open: Sunday, Wednesdays & Thursday 11 am - 6 pm, Friday & Saturday 11 am - 8 pm, First Saturday 2 pm - 6 pm
The Frick Collection is currently in its temporary home at Frick Madison, the old Breuer Building located on Madison Avenue and 70th Street. That being said, they have moved their entire extensive collection into the temporary gallery. The Frick collection is something to behold, with paintings by the masters such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Whistler.
Highlighted by decorative arts, sculptures, bronze work, and Asian porcelain pieces that give the museum a visual flow of traditions, Frick Madison is certainly one of the best museums to visit while New York. Although less in actual numbers, the Frick's holdings are of a quality that rivals the Metropolitan Museum.
Open: Thursday to Sunday 10 am - 6 pm, closed Monday to Wednesday
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Ever been to a museum that floats? Intrepid Sea, Air & Space is one of the coolest museums you can visit (if you are into this sort of thing) in the city. Why? The museum is an aircraft carrier!
Located not near, but on the Hudson River at Pier 86 in Hell's Kitchen, sits the aircraft carrier Intrepid. When you board the ship you will be able to visit the space shuttle Enterprise, the Concorde, and the former top-secret submarine "Growler". This guided missile sub is the only one open to the public.
You will also see a variety of planes, helicopters, and discover the history of sea, space, and air exploration. To have even more fun, hop in one of their simulators! This is one of the coolest museums to check out in the Big Apple.
Open: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
9/11 Memorial Museum
Of all the museums in New York, this one has got to be the most emotional. More than a museum it is a memorial, a tribute to all those that suffered loss, physical and spiritual. Just approaching the doors, you start to recall where you were on that tragic day in 2011.
While the museum itself is impressive with its size and technology, it feels personal and somber. The underground museum is located at the One World Trade Center, on the site of the former Twin Towers. Of all the museums in America, this is the one that everyone should visit to truly understand the impact of the terrorist attacks that happened in New York on that day.
Open: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
New York Transit Museum
Located in Downtown Brooklyn, at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in what was once a subway station, you will find the New York Transit Museum. This grand museum is the largest museum of its kind in the United States. Get ready to learn a little bit of engineering and history while browsing through a large collection of vintage train cars and subway signs.
With so many things to see and learn like the historical and transport-related exhibits, or the transit history lessons, it’s easy to spend two hours of your time in this museum. Learn how the subway cars have changed throughout the years, take a seat inside one, it is a fantastic photo op.
If you are into cars and engineering you will love this museum. Make sure to buy your tickets online in advance and don’t worry, they will cost you less than a cup of coffee.
Open: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11 am - 4 pm
Tenement Museum is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. If you want to see how the immigrants of New York lived in the late 1800s to early 1900s, this is the right place to be. What can you expect to see?
When booking your tour for the Tenement Museum you get to choose which specific theme you are interested in. Have in mind that the museum can only be visited by a guided tour. There are two historic tenement buildings from the 1800s and 1900s (which have been restored) or neighborhoods to choose from.
The 1.5-hour tour takes you around the historic New York City neighborhoods and inside the apartments where you can interact with the residents and learn through their personal stories how they (the newcomers), helped build this city and this country.
Open hours: Every day from 10 am - 6 pm
What are the best free museums in New York City?
While a number of the museums in New York have "free" days, there can be restrictions like free entry a few hours before closing time. However, if you live in the Tri-State area you can get into quite a few for "free". What it really means is that the museums ask you to "pay what you wish."
Have in mind that if there are any special exhibits that you would like to see, then you will have to buy a ticket for them. Here is a list of the best "always free" museums:
American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History offers "pay what you wish" admission for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents only.
Admission to Brooklyn Museum is free for members and children ages 19 and under. Also, there is free general admission for all health care workers and active-duty military personnel and their families. If you are in any of these groups, make sure to wear your I.D.
Other visitors can pay what they wish.
Museum of the City of New York
This museum also offers free general admission to members and visitors ages 19 and under and "pay what you wish admission" for the rest.
Museum of Modern Art
Some museums provide free entry on certain days of the week. You can get in MoMa for free every Friday night from 5.30 pm - 9 pm. Special exhibitions are included too.
Which are the best museums in Downtown New York City?
Downtown New York is the center of all happenings and of course home to some of the best museums for you to check out. Here are some of them:
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The Museum welcomes all visitors who want to learn about the history of the 9/11 attacks.
National Museum of the American Indian
Built in 1994, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian features a large collection of Native American artifacts.
Are there any cheap museums in New York City?
Museums in New York won't break the bank but there are some that are "always free," have a "pay what you wish for" entry, and others that cost as much as a cup of coffee.
Cheap museums are:
Brooklyn Historical Society
The museum is located in Brooklyn Heights and spans the 400-year history of Brooklyn. You can get in for up to 6 USD.
El Museo Del Barrio
If you want to learn about the Latino culture and Latin American landscapes you can find this museum in Spanish Harlem. Suggested donation is up to 9 USD.
As mentioned above, most museums in New York City are "pay what you wish" admission, which means you can pay as little as 1 USD to get in.
Temporary Exhibitions to Permanent Displays
With over 100 great museums in the city, you will never get bored. From subway cars and aircraft carriers to art history and Native American artifacts, you can deep dive into history every day of the week. If you are on a budget check what the free museum days are or pay what you wish admission.
Even if you have to pay, it's always a small fee, but you get to learn and have fun at some of the best museums in New York City and the world. Not ready to leave the excitement yet? Stick around the city and check out unmissable things to do at night in NYC!