New York is home to more than 131 museums. This guide is designed to help get you started on your discovery of all the wonderful museum experiences in New York City.
During the summer months, travelers from all over partake in all the fun and free museums access at the Museum Mile Festival, which covers Fifth Avenue from 82nd street, starting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to 104th street, ending at El Museo del Barrio. But if you happen to be in the city any other time of year, there are still ways to enjoy the museums, even those off of the famous avenue.
Free and discounted admission
Some of the most popular museums, such as the MoMA and the aforementioned MET, and Museo del Barrio, have a suggested admission. But these are only available with in-person purchases. Online ticket purchases often require payment of the full fee. However, these same museums and many others have hours where admission is free. NY’s Department of Cultural Affairs has compiled a helpful list of these and other cultural venues across the city.
Viewfinder Tip: Free museum admission hours tend to be crowded and have long lines, which can ruin the museum experience for some.
Off the beaten path
Few visitors tend to travel outside the Manhattan borough missing out on the cultural gems found off the beaten path. Some museums worthy of exploration are the Queens Museum located in Flushing Meadows Park and best known for its extensive Tiffany collection and panorama of New York City. Another museum takes you back in time to the fun carnival days of Brooklyn’s Coney Island. The Coney Island Museum is best combined with a visit to the amusement park nearby and gives visitors an insight into the evolution of this historic destination.
Many museums celebrate not only the diversity in arts, but also the cultural diversity of the people who make up this wonderful city. The list is long, but some favorites are The Studio Museum in East Harlem, which celebrates black artists culture; the Japan Society which features works and showcases programs celebrating Japanese culture; National Museum of the American Indian serves to educate and celebrate the Native people of the US; and the Jewish Museum, which celebrates Jewish art and culture.
Best museum bars and restaurants
Cold and rainy NYC days are best spent in a museum, but nothing compliments that experience more than when there is also a wonderful bar or restaurant to enjoy without having to leave. Some of the best in the city are The Met’s Great Hall Balcony Bar for cocktails and the Petrie Court Café for full-service dining, with Central Park as a back drop. Reservations required.
The Modern at the MoMA for dinner, or the Bar Room for cocktails. A perfect option for a museum and dinner date. The gift shop at the MoMA is also a highlight.
The Cloisters, located in upper Manhattan, doesn’t have its own restaurant or bar, however the New Leaf Restaurant, by the fabulous Bette Midler is located not to far away within the compounds of Fort Tryon Park and makes for a lovely pre- or post- museum stop.
Last, but not least, the gorgeous Untitled on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art not only serves delicious food and fabulous cocktails, it has also been praised for beauty winning a 2015 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design.
Hotels for art lovers
After a day at the museum, there’s nothing better than continuing your cultural experience in an equally inspiring hotel. A few art lovers’ favorites are the New York Hilton Midtown, which has always celebrated the arts, incorporating original works by famous artists in guest rooms and throughout the public areas in its guest rooms. The Renwick is an art-inspired luxury hotel that once served as studio space for working artists. The Quin, a favorite of the legendary Georgia O’Keeffe, not only features great works of arts but also fosters it through its Quin Arts program.
No matter what the season, a day or early evening in a museum is one of the beloved pass time of many New Yorkers. Plan a date, take the family, or venture solo. However you choose to visit, it is truly one of the most New York things to do.
What are your must-see NYC museums?