If it’s your first time visiting New York, you’ll find a wealth of things to do, from landmarks to Broadway and a great meal. Before you start planning, make sure you carve out some time to check out the city’s museums. Whatever your interest, New York has a museum near your hotel, and the city is home to some of the largest, most impressive collections in the world. Here are a few that should be at the top of your list.
1. American Museum Of Natural History
This is without a doubt my favorite museum in the city. The giant dinosaur skeleton in the front entryway will take your breath away, whether you’re 5 or 55. The museum has a number of permanent exhibitions that explore both early human civilization and different wildlife environments. The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life (home to the massive Giant Blue Whale Model) is a particular highlight. The museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year, from the Butterfly Conservatory to Amazon Adventure.
2. The Frick Collection
The Frick, a small art museum located on the Upper East Side, is as traditional and “Old World” as museums come. A former mansion, the Frick houses a breathtaking collection of old master paintings and antique furniture from the 17th century to the present. While you’ll probably walk through the museum faster than others in New York, it’s absolutely worth the visit. Aside from the permanent collection, the Frick often hosts incredible temporary exhibits, such as Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The nearby Frick Art Reference Library offers a large Western art collection and is also worth seeing.
The Museum of Modern Art (or MOMA, if you’re particularly hip) is located in midtown and pushes the boundaries for what can be considered art. While MOMA does have some classic modern art from the likes of Picasso and Monet, more recent modern art typically takes the form of installations. Those installations range from Kingelez’s funky urban models to psychedelic art prints and vintage Americana. Even for arts buffs, it’s often helpful to listen to the audio guide or read the exhibit brochure to better understand the different installations.
4. The Whitney
Located far from Museum Mile and the other clusters of New York museums, the Whitney specializes in 19th and 20th century American art. The museum recently moved to a new location in the Meatpacking District and hosts a collection of paintings, sculptures and installations by over 400 artists. The museum also periodically offers more modern art installations, such as a 1976 exhibit of live body builders that included Arnold Schwarzenegger. Once you’ve had your fill of art, check out the four observation decks with sweeping views of lower Manhattan.
5. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met, is one of the New York museums you absolutely cannot miss. Located on the eastern edge of Central Park, the Met is the largest art museum in the U.S. and is home to exhibits spanning 5,000 years of human history. Collections are organized by region, and highlights include Ancient Egyptian artifacts, Islamic art, and the Department of Arms and Armor. Also check out the Cloisters, another location in Upper Manhattan specializing in Medieval European architecture.
These museums are all world-class and worth visiting if you have the time. Failing that, try and pick at least one for your visit to NYC. You can usually breeze through the exhibits in a few hours if you’re in a rush before you move on to the next New York tourist attraction. A little bit of culture can be a welcome respite from the honking, fast-paced city outside.