Best Museums in NYC: Exploring History, Culture, and More
New York City is a mecca for museum enthusiasts. From art to history to transportation, New York City museums will keep you busy for days. In this list of the best museums in NYC, we detail 20 must-see museums that we believe are going to allow you to learn and have a lot of fun while you do!
So, next time you are in NYC, lace up your walking shoes and hit as many museums as you can! If you need help planning a trip to NYC make sure that you head over to our list of the best travel sites.
From the popular dinosaur exhibit to the 429 seat planetarium, the American Museum of Natural History showcases an impressive array of exhibits. The sheer quantity of exhibits on display is what highlights this museum. You will be able to spend as long as you want exploring new and interesting pieces in the museum.
Housed in a five-story walkup from the 1860s, the Tenement Museum highlights the stories of the 7000 immigrants who once called the walkup home. Inside the expertly restored rooms, costumed interpreters act as residents, lending an authentic touch. Walking tours around the area also allow visitors to see the influence of immigrants on the Lower East Side.
The legacy of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the Whitney Museum of American Art opened in 1931 with more than 600 works of American artists from Gertrude’s personal collection. Today, the museum houses over 20,000 works from the 20th and 21st centuries by more than 3,000 artists from across the United States. If American art is what you are after, the Whitney is the place to be.
Originally started as a private library that was finished in 1906 by Pierpont Morgan as a way to enjoy his love for books and manuscripts, the Morgan Library became publicly owned in 1924 when his son donated it. Over the years through purchases and generous gifts, the library has increased in size and has included many new books, manuscripts, pieces of Americana, and materials from the twentieth century. Included in the current library is a restaurant, shop, and plenty of space for reading.
A day in American history that will forever live in infamy, the 9/11 memorial was built to remember the men and women who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. It also pays tribute to the brave travelers who went down in the plane in Shanksville, PA as well. Featuring two acre-sized pools of water and the largest man-made waterfalls in North America, this place of remembrance is a big part of American history, and a must see when visiting New York City.
“Featuring the ideas, culture, and art of Himalayan Asia,” the Rubin Museum of Art is designed to help immerse you in the experience of the museum. With thought-provoking exhibitions, films, concerts, and more, you will be able to get an excellent feel for this region of the world and the art and culture that comes from it. The Rubin Museum places visitors first and wants to provide an engaging experience for its visitors. So if you are looking for a hands-on experience, checkout the Rubin Museum of Art.
The Museum of Arts and Design, or MAD, exists to “collect, display, and interpret objects that document contemporary and historic innovation in craft, art, and design.” If you enjoy art and also the process that different artists use to create their work, the Museum of Arts and Design is for you. You will be able to see modern practices as well as historical, artistic practices from the past. With three open studios, lectures, films, performances, and more, you will be able to find plenty of things to learn about at MAD.
Featuring the “legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets, and a guided missile submarine,” you are pretty much sure to be standing in awe as you view these impressive pieces of machinery up close. With plenty of different “authentically restored” air crafts as well to witness and learn about, you will be able to spend all day learning about some of the coolest sea, air, and space crafts ever to be built.
A living memorial to the tragedies of the Holocaust, the Museum of Jewish Heritage is a reminder to the world that we can never forget what happened in the Holocaust. Among other things, you will be able to hear recorded testimonies of Holocaust survivors and learn about Jewish heritage. A museum focused on making sure that tragedies of the past are not repeated, the Museum of Jewish Heritage is also a reminder of the resilience of people.
If you are fascinated by firefighters and the way that they put out fires, you are going to love the history of the New York City Fire Museum. The museum will take you through a journey that started with simple bucket brigades to the modern day techniques that are used today to put out fires in New York City. Also housing a special memorial to the 343 members of the FDNY that gave their lives to help others on 9/11, you will be able to remember what real service and the ultimate sacrifice looks like. For all things New York Fire Department related, you need to checkout the New York City Fire Museum.
Taking you back to the time of the Prohibition when organized crime was rampant all over the country, but especially in New York City. The Museum of the American Gangster is going to allow you to get a peek behind the curtain of organized crime. You will be able to see some of the evilest men in the history of the United States up close and personal and learn about their time as gangsters. The museum is located in a former speakeasy which is going to add to the history and allow you to get a glimpse into the past.
With a permanent collection of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art spanning more than 800 years, El Barrio celebrates and promotes Latino culture. Traditional arts, 20th-century drawings, paintings, sculptures, photography, and films are just some of El Barrio’s offerings, making it the place to be for all things Latino-related.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous Guggenheim Museum showcases art from the 20th century and beyond. In addition to exhibits, the museum also offers artist lectures, performances and film screenings, classes, and daily educational tours.
Featuring all things modern, the MoMA holds an impressive collection of paintings (think Warhol, Picasso, and Matisse), sculptures, and films. The Museum of Modern Art also boasts a Michelin starred restaurant and regularly scheduled events and activities for the whole family, making MoMA an excellent choice for families.
Housed in the former mansion of Carnegie partner Henry Clay Frick, the Frick Collection displays a sophisticated collection of mostly European art, including works from Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Goya. Adding to the sophistication, the exhibits are tastefully displayed throughout the mansion’s rooms and halls.
Featuring over 750,000 artifacts from New York’s storied past, the Museum of the City of New York connects the past, present, and future of New York. Artifacts include original Broadway theater scripts and art by artists like Marcel Duchamp.
The second largest museum in NYC, the Brooklyn Museum showcases everything from ancient Egyptian pieces to modern art. The museum is also known for its high-quality temporary exhibits, including exhibits from Jean Paul Gaultier and Keith Haring.
Focusing exclusively on urban public transportation history, the New York Transit Museum is housed in a 1936 subway station in downtown Brooklyn. Exhibits include antique subway cars and control rooms, as well as child-sized taxi cars, trolley cars, and buses.
With approximately 12 million steerage and immigrant steamship passengers passing through Ellis Island during the late 19th and early 20th century, Ellis Island is steeped in history. Today, Ellis Island has been transformed into a museum that educates visitors about the immigrant experience. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum also houses the American Family Immigration History Center which contains a database of manifests for Ellis Island and the Port of New York, allowing visitors to research their past.
No visit to NYC is complete without visiting the Met. With over 2 million pieces of art from around the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is truly impressive. With new exhibits regularly coming to the museum you are going to most likely want to visit the Met on more than one occasion.
Best Museums in NYC Conclusion
Planning a trip to NYC and not taking in at least one or two of the world-class museums located in the city almost seems criminal. The greatest city in the world also has some of the greatest museums in the world.
With this list, we wanted to include the best museums in NYC, but we also wanted to include some good diversity for you to choose from as well. Not every museum is going to peek your interest, but we are sure that at least a couple of these will grab your attention.
Let us know how your museum visits went. We would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.