Yet another reason to adore New York is for its bounty of museums. It’s one of the things that makes the city so special—some of the world’s leading institutions and most niche galleries sit side by side. If you have a love for learning, an interest in bizarre collections, or a penchant for exploring, you should make it your mission to visit all 100+ museums that lie within the city’s limits. But if you’re a little more pressed for time, these nine museums are a great place to start.
1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
The stretch of 5th Avenue between 82nd and 105th Streets is commonly referred to as “Museum Mile,” and perhaps the most well-known museum of Museum Mile is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The largest art museum in the United States, the Met holds everything from thousand-year-old ancient Egyptian mummies to classic works from masters like Van Gogh and Picasso. Keep an eye out for their rotating exhibits as well. You could easily while away a whole day at the Met, wondering at some of the world’s most classic works.
1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10128
At the northern end of Museum Mile stands the Guggenheim. One of the first abstract art museums in the country, the iconic space now houses a huge collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, modern, and contemporary art. Take a walk along the one-of-a-kind circular ramp, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, while viewing paintings by greats like Cezanne, Georges Braque, and Manet.
Central Park West & 79th Street, New York, NY 10024
Majestically sitting just across the park from Museum Mile is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The American Museum of Natural History contains dinosaur skeletons, a whale suspended from the ceiling, and taxidermied animals of almost every imaginable variety. With 33 million specimens in its permanent collection, the museum’s exhibits are almost constantly rotating. This is the ideal New York City destination for those who love variety and science.
99 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Located in a decommissioned subway station in downtown Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum is a museum of iconic New York City. Dedicated to the history of public transit in and around NYC, it displays artifacts of the subway, bus, and train systems. Visitors can walk through old busses and subway cars, pass through turnstiles of the past, and even peruse a subway signal tower.
11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019
A few blocks south of Museum Mile on the Upper East Side is another heavy hitter: The Museum of Modern Art. The MoMA is unique in that it’s a museum that’s still very much shaping the art world today. While museums like the Met and the Guggenheim primarily display works from art ages of the past (i.e. romanticism, impressionism, and post-impressionism), the MoMA exclusively displays and promotes modern art. Since its opening in the 1930s, the museum has helped to develop modern art, and those who drop by can see works from the likes of Henri Matisse and Salvador Dali along with modern-day artists like A.A. Bronson and Wyatt Kahn.
11 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
The only museum in the country dedicated to math, the National Museum of Mathematics is a newer addition to the NYC museum scene, officially opening in 2012. With 30 interactive exhibits (including a square-wheeled tricycle), the museum’s objective is to make math learning fun and to demonstrate the variety of real-world applications of the subject. For those who just can’t get enough math, the museum hosts a monthly speaker series in its visitor’s center.
103 Orchard Street, New York, New York 10002
Housed in two historic tenement buildings which were home to an estimated 15,000 people from over 20 nations between 1863 and 2011, the Tenement Museum provides a look at the history of immigration and the tenement experience in NYC. Visiting the museum consists of a tour which takes visitors through several example tenement apartments as well as a collection of artifacts and family objects. One of the most unique museum experiences in NYC, this is a definite go-to for every NYC museum hopper.
99 Gansevoort, New York, NY 10014
With more than 23,000 items in its collection, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest collections of 20th- and 21st-century American art. Its permanent collection includes works from the likes of Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Thomas Hart Benton. The Whitney places an emphasis on the work of living artists, making this a must-visit for those who have their finger on the pulse of today’s art world.
170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
New York City’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804. Exploring the city’s rich and intricate history, this museum has a huge collection of artifacts, from the Hudson River School paintings to George Washington’s camp bed to Tiffany glass work. It’s also home to a research library with more than 300 million volumes. New York natives, transplants, and tourists interested in New York history should make an effort to visit this museum at some point while they’re calling the city home.