Get Drawn In by the Best Design Museums in New York City

Too many people rush around New York City with their heads down, missing the beauty all around them. The city brims with art and design on every block, from the architecture to the advertisements to the fashions worn by locals going about their daily business. If you love good design and want to explore it at your own pace, visit some of the best design museums in New York City.

The Center for Architecture

The Center for Architecture shares its space with the local chapter of AIA, the American Institute for Architects. This enables it to both increase public awareness of New York City’s architects and architecture and rely on practicing architects to suggest and inspire the center’s exhibits and outreach. Exhibits showcase architecture from around the world, using models, films, photos and interactive presentations. Admission is free, and the gallery is closed on Sundays. The Center for Architecture is in Greenwich Village, two blocks south of Washington Square Park.

Museum of Arts and Design

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is located in the thick of midtown, right off Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. The museum exhibits the work of contemporary artists, artisans and designers, and it celebrates not just the final design of a piece, but also the creative process behind it and the materials used in its making. There are both ongoing installations here, such as goblets, stained glass and jewelry, and temporary exhibitions. Save time to wander and shop at MAD’s amazing store, full of items with eye-catching and intricate designs for all parts of your life. Note that the museum is open daily except for Mondays, but the shop is open every day.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum sits along the stretch known as Museum Mile, in the historic 64-room Carnegie Mansion not far from the Guggenheim. Its collections house 3,000 years of design, from match holders and lithographs to sculptures, toys, tableware and technology. Walk through on your own, or join one of the free twice-daily tours (1 and 3 p.m. on weekends and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on weekdays). In nice weather, enjoy a snack or play Ping-Pong in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, which is free and open to the public.

Credit: Osugi / Shutterstock

The Storefront for Art and Architecture

Its name alone tells you that this is more than just a museum, and The Storefront for Art and Architecture bills itself as a “platform for emerging ideas that lie at the intersection of art and architecture.” Its exhibits, performances, presentations and publications explore the factors that influence design, especially social issues. Installations typically showcase the work of one artist, and exhibits change frequently. While the site is tiny, it packs a rather large, thought-provoking punch. The Storefront, located in SoHo, is free, and it’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bard Graduate Center

Many of the universities and institutes in New York City host galleries to exhibit the work of their students and faculty, including Bard Graduate Center, an arm of Bard College. Located at 18 West 86th Street, Bard Graduate Center’s Gallery focuses on decorative arts (both historical and contemporary) and their role and use in the world around them. The Gallery is closed on Mondays; admission is free on Wednesdays all day and Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. It’s located five blocks north of the Museum of Natural History.

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