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There are a lot of things that come to mind when you think of New York. Maybe it’s the neon lights of Times Square and Broadway. Or perhaps its the honking of yellow taxis or a home run at Yankee Stadium. But did you know that New York also has some of the largest and most visited museums in the world?
Although there is a seemingly endless of activities to do in the Empire State, visiting one of the many museums should be high up on your bucket list. And compared to other cities around the world, New York has a plethora of museums for every type of traveler. Also, if you are staying in New York, you should check out our post about where to stay in New York.
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If you’re an art lover, then you will have unavoidably heard of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s considered one of the largest, one of the most inclusive, and one of the most influential contemporary art museums in the world.
There are over an astounding 150,000 pieces in the museums, including works from Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte, Claude Monet, and Palo Picasso – just to name a few. The museum is home to famous works like van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Matisse’s The Dance I, and Malevich’s White on White.
Don’t spend another second waiting in line for MOMA. Get your skip the line tickets here!
Located across from Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is an iconic landmark in NYC. The sprawling museum has 45 permanent exhibits that showcase over 33 million specimens and objects. You’ll find every type of artifact at the American Museum of Natural History.
While there are far too many categories to list, you can at least expect artifacts ranging from plants and animals to minerals and meteorites, and even excavated human remains. The American Museum of Natural History is truly something you need to see to believe.
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The Museum of the American Gangster is small compared to the other larger-than-life museums in the city, and for a good reason! It’s located in a former speakeasy! Carrying on the prohibition and organized crime era, The Museum of the American Gangster includes a variety of objects from New York’s dirty and gritty side. The museum even takes place in the former home of Walter Scheib, an up-and-coming gangster himself.
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The Museum of the City of New York is just as diverse, complex and eclectic as the city itself. The museum contains over 1.5 million items covering everything about the Big Apple’s history.
You’ll find paintings, architecture blueprints, Broadway costume, and some of the first photographs of New York. Although the objects cover the entire history of the city in depth, the museum focuses on the booming growth of the 19th and 20th-centuries.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but New York City is home to a museum completely dedicated to mathematics! Don’t be fooled, the National Museum of Mathematics actually makes learning about math fun with over 30 different interactive exhibits.
The museum is filled with puzzles, brain teasers, and even robots! But the main attraction is the tricycle with square wheels, which surprisingly rides smoothy on top of a bumpy, catenary surface.
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It’s probably no surprise that New York City is home to the largest museum in the entire country! At the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), you’ll be able to see over 2 million works of art. The MET doesn’t discriminate – it contains classical Renaissance, contemporary American, and even Asian and Islamic art.
Besides paintings, there are also exhibits for musical instruments, weapons, and costumes and accessories. Once you spend a few hours inside, you’ll realize why the MET is considered one of New York’s most famous landmarks!
Spend a day with a guided tour exploring the MET and the Museum of Natural History, two of New York’s most iconic museums!
Although New York is home to some of the largest museums in the world, it’s also appropriate that it’s home to one of the smallest! And one of the smallest is Mmuseumm.
This 60-square foot “museum” is actually located inside a defunct elevator shaft, and showcases a rotating collection of different exhibits. And these aren’t your average items. Past selections have been about napkins used by world leaders, anti-snoring devices, food made from insects.
Located in Hell’s Kitchen, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum takes you inside the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier. It was built in the early 1940s and use predominately in WWII before retiring off the coast of Pier 86.
It’s seen a fair share of battles on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans but has survived them all. But the museum has more than just one ship. It’s also home to military vessels, submarines, airplanes, and even a spacecraft!
Skip the line to the USS Intrepid with priority access tickets!
The Guggenheim Museum might be located in one of the most iconic buildings to ever be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright! The easily recognizable white, cylindrical building sits right in the middle of NYC’s Fifth Avenue. Besides hosting a variety of rotating exhibitions, the Guggenheim is known for its collection of abstract, impressionist and early modern art.
Why spend time queuing outside when you can get priority access to the Guggenheim with skip the line tickets?
Slip on your lab coat and channel your inner scientist at the interactive New York Hall of Science! Although the 400 hands-on exhibits are targeted for kids and young adults, anyone interested in the world of science and technology will still have a blast learning something new.
Explore the solar system for other lifeforms, host your own amateur radio show, and even dive into the tiny world of microbes! NYSCI is guaranteed to keep the entire family entertained (and educated!)
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Dating back to 1804, the New York Historical Society is considered the city’s oldest museum, predating the Metropolitan Museum of Art by almost 70 years. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time!
You’ll find thousands of historical artifacts, American paintings, and exhibitions that cover the history of New York and the United States as a whole. Don’t miss a visit to the Tiffany lamp collection and the American board game exhibit! You can also see George Washington’s actual bed too!
Movie buffs and film enthusiasts absolutely need to check out the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. The museum is more than just a collection of movie memorabilia, it’s an homage to the production and technology of all types of media, including TV shows and radio.
It also has one of the largest exhibits dedicated to video games! After your tour, sit down in the museums on-site luxury movie theater for documentary films on the process of movie making!
Let your mouth water and your stomach growl as you walk through the Museum of Food and Drink Lab! The museum aims to educate the public about the production and history of everything edible.
They also have rotating exhibits that examine a specific type of food or cuisine. But the best part about the Museum of Food and Drink Lab are the workshops and programs. They offer cooking classes, food tasting, and even seminars!
The United States is an eclectic melting pot of cultures, languages, and people. And at El Museo del Barrio, you can dive deeper into two of the cultures that have made a prominent impact on the country – Latin America and the Caribbean!
There are almost 7,000 artifacts, objects, and pieces of art that examine the cultures of our neighbors to the South. However, the museum focuses on the Puerto Rican and Taíno communities.
Don’t let a visit to the Houdini Museum of New York slip away and disappear right before your eyes! Here, you’ll learn about the history and life of world renown escape artist, Harry Houdini.
Some of his biggest and most iconic props can be found here, as his escape coffin and metamorphosis trunk. However, there are also 1,500 additional pieces of memorabilia including his elaborate stage costumes.
With over 100,000 individual photographs, the International Center of Photography Museum is a New York City staple. It originally opened in 1974 and has since gained recognition from artists and photographers from around the world.
Many of the photographs are from prominent points of time in American history, like World War I and World War II. However, there is also a large collection on magazine and newspaper covers from around the world.
Located in the middle of Soho, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art showcases art related to the LGBTQ topic or contributed by LGBTQ artists. Its mission is the educate, embrace, and preserve the creative LGBTQ community.
The permanent art collection contains almost 2,000 art pieces done by some of the most famous gay and lesbian artists from around the world. But besides art, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art also hosts fascinating lectures and workshops for anyone who wishes to learn more about art.
The Morgan Library & Museum is the personal book collection of J.P. Morgan and is housed in a stunning Classical Revival. The building is so beautiful, that it’s been declared a New York City Landmark as well as a National Historic Landmark!
The library contains thousands of manuscripts, early edition pieces of literature, and even prints from the world’s top artists. And not just any artists! We’re talking Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and da Vinci!
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The Noguchi Museum is solely dedicated to the life and art of none other than Isamu Noguchi himself. A tour through the museum shows you how sophisticated his designs actually work, creating organic forms from slate, marble, and stone.
Besides his sculptures, you can also find his designs, drawings, and architectural models that he completed over the span of his life. Don’t miss the adjacent outdoor garden, where many of Noguchi’s sculptures and figures stand.
If you prefer to spend the day outdoors in the sun, then visit Wave Hill in the Bronx! This serene and tranquil garden has more than just a panoramic view of the Hudson River.
It’s actually a sprawling 28-acre estate with several botanical gardens, flower beds, and even an apiary! Whether you’re soaking up the sun or just wanting to connect with nature, then you can’t miss a stroll through Wave Hill.
Just like the name suggests, the Museum of Sex is an educational and intriguing insight into the world of relationships and erotica! You’ll find everything here, from tame lingerie and photographs to outrageous toys and devices.
There’s even a theater that shows over 200 different pornographic film clips – something we bet you haven’t seen in any other museum in the world! You’ll come away learning a little bit more about human sexuality, we guarantee it.
One of the best free museums to visit in New York is the American Folk Art Museum on the Upper West Side. It contains 8,000 art pieces from artists from around the country, many of whom are self-taught.
Most notably, the majority of the pieces have actually been donated or gifted for to the museum. There really is every type of medium on display, from paintings and photographs to ceramics and needlework.
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Located on Staten Island, the Alice Austen House is a historic monument dedicated to the life of American photographer Alice Austen. Inside the museum, you’ll find thousands of Austen’s original photographs and documentary prints.
Considering the museum was actually the home of Austen herself, you’ll also learn a little bit more about her upbringing and life in New York. But only visit if you dare – the house is rumored to be haunted!
The Studio Museum in Harlem has gained recognition not only for its impressive collection of media but also for promoting the work of up and coming artists of African descent.
The museum’s residence program nurtures the growth of local artists by offering lectures, classes, and panels to its students. It’s also the first African fine-arts museum in the entire country, opening its doors to the public in 1984.
Nestled in the middle of New York City’s Chinatown is the Museum of Chinese in America or MOCA for short. This non-profit museum focuses on the history and heritage of Chinese Americans and Chinese citizens who immigrated over to the US since the 17th century.
There are over 65,000 items on display, including art, documentaries, and audio recordings. The museum itself is also built to loosely represent the inside of a traditional Chinese home!
When visiting New York, you will inevitably end up taking the iconic underground subway. But at the New York Transit Museum, you can actually learn more about how this railway system plays an essential role in most people’s daily life.
You’ll find vintage trains, control rooms, and even historic posters from the subways glory days. And yes, the museum is actually located inside a defunct underground subway station!
Commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a somber yet life-changing experience everyone should visit at least once in their lives.
The museum contains thousands of artifacts and images and serves as a place where visitors can pay their respects and learn more about the tragic incident. Although it might be a harrowing experience to see, it’s considered one of the most important museums in the country.
Learn more about the museum and visit the new One World Trade Center with a local guided tour.
Enjoy the warm sunshine with a lovely visit to the Cloisters! Set in a complex of monasteries and abbeys, the Cloisters is home to a vast collection of art from the Byzantine and Renaissance eras.
You’ll find manuscripts, textiles, and paintings dating back to the 12th century! But don’t be fooled by the medieval looking buildings, the buildings were actually built 100 years ago using the rubbled materials from five different French cloisters.
Fee-fi-fo-fum! At Gulliver’s Gate, you can live like a giant in this fascinating world of miniatures! Over 25 cities from each continent are scaled down to a tiny size and brought to life by interactive movement.
There are functioning navel locks, moving cars, and even a working airport. And if you don’t have time to see all of New York during your visit, you can still visit the mini Grand Central Station, Brooklyn Bridge, and Times Square.
Visit Gulliver’s Gate (with some extra complimentary goodies) when you purchase your tickets beforehand.
Explore the world’s most curious oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Times Square. Although you might have visited other Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in other cities, none of them are quite like the one in the Big Apple.
Cover 20 galleries, the Times Square branch has over 500 bizarre and unique artifacts that will blow your mind! Besides gawking at shrunken heads and strange animals, you can also interact with a moving black hole and puzzle room!
Combine a visit to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! with another iconic New York monument – Grand Central Station!
How many museums are in New York?
There are quite literally dozens of museums in New York City alone. But that’s to be expected from one of the most visited cities in the world! You can find a type of museums for every type of traveler and taste.
How many free museums are in New York?
While most museums charge an entrance fee, you can still find a few museums in New York that are free. Some museums offer one free entrance day a month, usually on a Saturday or Sunday. Other museums set a suggested ticket about but still let you pay what you wish.
What are the hours of the museums in New York?
Most museums in New York open around 9 am or 10 am. Although you’re in the city that never sleeps, it’s common for them to close around 5 pm or 6 pm. Some also offer “late hours” on Friday or Saturday nights.
What can I bring into New York museums?
Some museums allow you to bring in a camera to take photos, but some museums also prohibit the use of photography. Of course, this completely depends on the museum. Bottled water and snacks are usually acceptable as well. Don’t forget that it’s not uncommon for museums to have extra security checks or metal detectors before entering.
New York is just one of those city’s that makes your jaw drop from the second you get off the plane. It’s a cultural melting pot that somehow manages to entertain even the most skeptical of travelers. And besides, there’s really nothing like it anywhere else in the world!
From art galleries and history museums to quirky hole-in-the-walls and underground exhibitions, New York surely has something that sparks your interest. Although you may not get to check every museum off your list, we know you’ll be coming back to visit in the near future. Trust us, you can really never stay away from New York for too long!
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.