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Top 10 Museums In New York City -- Best New York City Museums

Updated on March 4, 2012

Best Museums In Manhattan

New York City is home to so many museums that I still haven't seen them all -- and I'm a native New Yorker! But probably the reason why I haven't yet seen all of Manhattan's museums is because I tend to return to the ones I love: The Met, MoMA, the Museum Of Natural History.

That said, when trying to put together a list of the best, it was difficult because I could name dozens of great museums in New York City, as well as Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and The Bronx. For brevity's sake, I kept my list of New York museums to ten (with two bonus museums added for good measure).

Many of the museums I chose not only have great exhibits, but are housed in interesting spaces. For instance, the Intrepid Museum is on a ship and the Guggenheim building is an architectural masterpiece.Some museums are also in great locations: the Met is right by Central Park; meanwhile, the Met, Frick and Guggenheim are all along a beautiful strip of Fifth Avenue -- right alongside Central Park -- which many New Yorkers call Museum Mile.

There are many things to do in New York City and plenty to explore, but it's worth checking out at least a few of the Big Apple's museums. If you're not sure where to begin with so many choices, the following list is a good start!


The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

The Guggenheim Museum

Museum Of Natural History

The Top Museums In NYC

In no particular order, here are my picks for the best museums in New York City:

1. The Metropolitan Museum Of Art (5thAvenue and 82nd Street): Climb up the iconic set of steps to this gigantic art museum and you'll find every kind of collection imaginable from ancient Chinese manuscripts to modern art. I've been coming to the Met practically all of my life and I STILL haven't seen everything in it! I'm a big fan of modern art, so I love the modern wing, which is positioned in an airy loft-like space. There, you can find paintings by Picasso and Dali, as well as some, shall we say, more unusual pieces that you're not quite sure are art or not. My favorite exhibit, however, is the Egyptian wing, especially the area where they have a rebuilt ancient temple. The large room overlooks Central Park and is gorgeous all around. I had the pleasure of seeing a flute concert there once. Being a flute player myself, it was a joy to experience this in one of my favorite places. Though the Met has many permanent exhibits, they always have special ones so be sure to check their Web site before visiting. Also worth checking out if you have time are The Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, New York, NY) where there are beautiful gardens amidst reassembled medieval buildings.

2. The Museum Of Modern Art (11 W 53rd Street, by 5th Ave): The MoMA houses some of the finest modern art collections in the world, including ones of paintings, sculptures, architecture and photography. I actually contributed my own "art" one time when a man bumped into me and my gum flew out of my mouth and landed on a sculpture of a fish! My "work" is no longer there, but they do have some odd -- and interesting! -- exhibits. I especially love spending time in the outdoor sculpture garden. It's a very peaceful place to be and you can forget that you're in the middle of Manhattan. I also recently went to the MoMA's sister museum, the P.S. One Division Of Institute For Art (2225 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY). This museum also had some interesting modern galleries, but what's really cool about it is that the building itself is a refurbished school (formerly Public School No. 1) from the turn of the century. So as you're admiring these very contemporary pieces, you're walking through these old brick hallways, complete with peeling paint and flickering lights. I love the disconnect between the two and feels like it adds to the entire experience.

3. The American Museum Of Natural History (79th Street and Central Park West): This wonderful museum is now a "movie star" since it's been featured in Night At The Museum, but it actually looks nothing like the place featured in the film. It's bigger and better (though sadly, the exhibits don't come to life, as far as I know). It has an awesome planetarium (the Rose Center for Earth and Space) and an impressive hall of dinosaurs (probably its most well-known exhibit). However, while I love learning all about primates and blue whales and dinosaurs, my favorite sections are the wings dealing with histories and cultures from around the world. They have artifacts from every culture imaginable, including Native American,African, Indonesian, Pacific Islanders, Asian. I enjoy looking at the dinosaurs, but I love taking the museum's "world tour" even more.

4. The Guggenheim (89th Street and 5th Ave): The Solomon R. Guggenheim museum also houses some great art collections, but its true draw is the architecture of the museum itself. The building kind of winds around so that it looks like a funnel, and the inside is interesting, as well. As you go from floor to floor, you ascend up an interior ramp that winds around and around and seems to have no end. I especially love looking at the view below when I reach the top floor. How many museusms are works of art in of themselves?!

5. The Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (Pier 86 at W 46th Street and 12th Avenue): This impressive museum is actually housed on a gigantic ship, the USS Intrepid. Visitors get to see all kinds of fighter planes and even space craft! As exciting as the museum is, though, it also has a great view as it's right on the water. If it's a nice day out, I highly recommend supplementing your visit with a Circle Line Cruise (W 42nd Street and 12th Avenue) since the boats are right there. They offer all sorts of cruises, including sunset tours, but my favorite is the three-hour tour around the Big Apple. It's the best way to see Manhattan!

6. The Tenement Museum (97 Orchard Street, New York, NY): This Lower East Side museum takes visitors into an actual tenement building from the 19th century. Attendees can get a taste of what the living conditions were like for the many immigrants who came to the United States during this time, and just how hard they had it back then.

7. Whitney Museum Of American Art (75th Street and Madison Avenue): The Whitney is yet another New York City museum that features contemporary art, but their collection is especially vast. They have many multimedia exhibits, films and performance art, which makes for some interesting discussions. The last time my husband and I visited, we saw a film of an edlerly man who just kept shouting out different verbs. The art is definitely unusual -- and makes you think.

8. The Frick Collection (70th Street and 5th Avenue): What makes this museum interesting is that the building was actually once the mansion of Henry Clay Frick. Though it's small compared to the Met or MoMA, it houses many paintings by European artists, such as Goya and Rembrandt. The grounds are also lovely -- as you enter, you walk past a small man-made pond with water lilies.

9. Ellis Island Immigration Musem (Need to take a boat from Battery Park, NY or Liberty State Park, NJ via ): For many visitors, a trip to the Ellis Island museum becomes personal. The museum tells the history of New York City's many immigrants through pictures and artifacts, but what really makes it special for many attendees is that you can look up your ancestors who passed through Ellis Island. By visiting this place, it's a way to connect with family and with the American experience. It's one thing to hear about your relatives or read about immigration in history books, but it's another to actually stand in the same spot where your great-great-great-great grandfather once stood.

10. The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY): The Brooklyn Museum is yet another New York space that houses a wonderful art collection. The exhibits are always changing, so make sure to check the Web site, Meanwhile, when you visit the musuem, you're right near Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the Prospect Park Zoo. So if you're going to travel out of Manhattan, this is a great spot to spend the entire day.


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    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Very informative hub. I love going to NYC and my husband and I try to visit there at least once per year. It was fun reading your take on the places we have been to, such as the MOMA, and the Museum of Natural History.I have always wanted to to go the Met and he has wanted to go to the Intrepid Museum, so I guess we need to make another trip down there soon. Thanks for the info.


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