17 Top-Rated Museums in New York City
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()
New York City is home to some of the finest museums in the world. From the art collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim to the historical displays of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Museum of Natural History, a vast array of options exists.
As tempting as it may be to try to see everything, if you have limited time, it's best to focus on a couple of museums, or even one, rather than trying to see it all. Some museums are closed on Mondays, and hours may vary throughout the week.
Remember to bring your earphones for your phone. Many museums have audio guides that you can download.
To get you started, here is a list of the best museums in New York City.
1. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known more commonly as The Met, is a world-class museum and one of the top tourist attractions in New York. It carries a diverse range of collections, with over two million works of art. In operation for over 150 years, this is one of America's most famous museums and among the finest in the country.
What to see among its collection of two million works of art will probably be your toughest decision of the day. The Met actually has two locations, but the most popular by far is The Met Fifth Avenue, where you'll find the majority of the collection.
The items on display span 5,000 years of history and range from Egyptian artifacts through to musical instruments, and of course, priceless paintings.
Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.metmuseum.org/
2. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
The Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA as it's usually called, contains one of the world's largest and best collections of modern art. The museum features architecture, drawings, paintings, photography, and prints. Notable works by Picasso, Dali, Magritte, Wyeth, Warhol, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Monet are on display.
The MOMA is now better than ever. In October 2019, the museum reopened after a $450-million renovation and expansion. The museum is well laid out, and for those who want to only see the most famous pieces of art, download the museum map first, you'll be able to bag the best by Warhol, Pollock, and Dali in record time!
At the time of writing, the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing is currently closed for renovations resulting in the closure of the African Art, Ancient American art, and Oceanic art galleries until at least 2024.
Address: 11 West 53 Street, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.moma.org/
3. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Spread out over 110,000 square feet, this expansive museum explains the events and history of September 11th, 2001 through two main exhibitions: The Historical Exhibition and the Memorial Exhibition. In addition, the museum has a collection of over 70,000 artifacts, one of the most striking of which is the FDNY Ladder 3 firetruck.
This is one of New York's most popular museums, so be sure to secure your tickets well in advance via the online booking system.
If you plan on visiting this museum and others, consider picking up a New York CityPASS. This will give you discounts and skip-the-line access to places like the Met, the American Museum of Natural History, as well as the Empire State Building, and ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Address: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, New York
Official site: https://www.911memorial.org/visit/museum
4. American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The museum's permanent collection contains millions of pieces related to human evolution, ocean life, fossils, and space.
The museum is undertaking a massive 230,000-square-foot expansion called the Gilder Center, which started in late 2019. Construction has been delayed, but the museum is hoping to have the new areas open in the next year or two. If the artist's renditions come to fruition, it will be spectacular and the home of several new galleries, including an insectarium.
The Hayden Planetarium adjoins the museum. The museum has regularly changing exhibits and also offers many programs.
Combine a visit to the museum with a walk through Central Park. Not far from the museum is Belvedere Castle and other attractions in the park.
Address: Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.amnh.org/
5. Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum is as famous for the building as it is for the collection. The unique structure was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1943 and features a huge spiral ramp that joins, what he called, one continuous floor.
The museum displays an extraordinary collection of modern art, with pieces by all the great masters, from Picasso and Chagall to Leger and Manet. A visit here can easily be combined with a stroll through Central Park which is located right across the street.
Address: 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.guggenheim.org/
6. Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art is one of the premier showcases for American art. It was founded in 1930 by sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney after the Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her collection of works by living artists.
The permanent collection includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and prints. Artists on display feature such names as Andy Warhol, Georgia O'Keefe, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper John and many others. Watch for changing exhibits.
The Whitney is housed in an architecturally stunning new building. Combine a visit here with a stroll along the High Line. The museum is located near the southernmost access point.
Address: 99 Gansevoort Street, New York
Official site: http://whitney.org/
7. Frick Collection
The Frick Collection is currently closed for renovations to its skylights and other infrastructure projects. However, highlights of the collection can be seen at the Frick Madison, a temporary location at 945 Madison Avenue. The closure will be in effect until at least 2023.
The Frick Collection was the art collection of Henry Clay Frick. He bequeathed his collection and his mansion to the city of New York, upon his death in 1919. The mansion, which serves as the gallery, was built in 1913-14 and cost an estimated $5 million to construct.
Frick laid out the structure with the intention of leaving the house as a public gallery. The collection, while relatively small includes many fine pieces. On display are old master paintings, French furniture, Limoges enamels and Oriental rugs. Turner, Constable, More, and Vermeer are some of the notable artists whose works are on display.
Address: 1 East 70th Street, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.frick.org/
8. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
One of New York's most unique museums, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is located aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Ideal for families and kids, the museum has all kinds of interactive exhibits and displays.
Highlights of a visit here are the Space Shuttle Enterprise exhibit, the chance to step inside a British Airways Concorde, and a tour through the submarine Growler. The museum has recently added a brand new vintage fighter jet to its collection, a rare fully restored Douglas F4D Skyray.
Address: Pier 86, W 46th Street, New York, New York
Official site: https://www.intrepidmuseum.org/
9. National Museum of the American Indian
The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is home to over a million works and documents concerning Native American peoples and their customs. Much of the collection, most of which is in storage at any given time, was acquired by George Gustav Heye. The museum is housed in the neoclassical Alexander Hamilton Customs House. Exhibits change frequently.
The museum also hosts numerous public programs including music and dance performances, films, and symposia. It works closely with Native Peoples to preserve and protect their cultures traditions and expressions.
If the weather is suitable, be sure to take a walk through the pleasant gardens to the National Native American Veterans Memorial. This unique and fascinating stainless steel ring is balanced on a carved stone drum.
Address: One Bowling Green, New York, New York
Official site: https://americanindian.si.edu/
10. Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Ellis Island served as America's immigration depot from 1892 to 1954. Nearly 17 million people passed through its gates. After $156 million of restoration, it is now a national museum.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers exhibits and programs about the history of Ellis Island and the immigration process. Immigrants were processed in the "Main Building" at Ellis Island. Today, the Main Building is a three-floor museum, containing a variety of self-guided permanent exhibits. Many of the exhibits are interactive and fun, making them suitable and engaging for visitors of all ages.
11. Brooklyn Children's Museum
If your touring crew involves a younger set that may not appreciate the artwork of Jackson Pollock, the Brooklyn Children's Museum will be your go-to museum destination. The museum claims to be the world's first children's museum having been founded in 1899.
Children can enjoy exhibits related to culture, music, and natural sciences. Some of the permanent exhibits include the Science Inquiry Center, Sensory Room, World Brooklyn, and Neighborhood Nature.
A majority of the exhibits are interactive, ensuring that children of all ages will have no trouble getting involved and engaged.
Address: 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Official site: https://www.brooklynkids.org/
12. MOMA PS1
MOMA PS1, operated by the Museum of Modern Art, is a space entirely focused on presenting contemporary art. The museum was founded in 1971, and it is here that you'll find artwork unlike anything else in New York. Exhibits change on a regular basis, and the creative exhibit space is worth checking out.
You never quite know what to expect when you walk through the doors of MOMA PS1. Be sure to go in with an open mind to make the most of your visit.
If the exhibits don't work for you, the on-site restaurant featuring the Mediterranean recipes of Mina Stone most likely will.
Admission to MOMA PS1 is free.
Address: 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, New York
Official site https://www.moma.org/ps1
13. New Museum
The ironic fact about the New Museum is that it isn't new at all – it's been around for over 40 years. Evolving over the years from a small warehouse space to its iconic location today, this lesser visited museum is well worth checking out.
Finding the New Museum is easy, just look for the unusually stacked seven-story-high, gray box-like structure. Inside, you'll find some of New York's most fascinating contemporary art. The New Museum has over 1,000 pieces of art in its collection and is focused on bringing new and unknown artists to mainstream audiences.
Address: 235 Bowery, New York, New York
Official site: https://www.newmuseum.org/
14. Brooklyn Museum
Housed in an impressive building dating from 1897, this is New York's 3rd largest museum. The Brooklyn Museum has a wide and diverse collection of more than 1.5 million works of art. Two of the notable collections are the Egyptian Antiquities and American Art, focused primarily around the colonial period. Artists from that period include Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keefe, and Norman Rockwell.
In addition to visiting the priceless works of art inside, be sure to tour the Brooklyn Botanical Garden right next door. This lush area of wonderfully curated natural specimens is beautiful and a welcome respite from the concrete jungle of the city. Combination museum and garden admission tickets can be purchased online.
Address: 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York
Official site: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/
15. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Although it is not a museum, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts lies at the heart of cultural life in New York. It is an arts complex that comprises numerous organizations, some of which include the Metropolitan Opera, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center Theater, the New York Philharmonic, and the New York City Ballet, among others. It spans more than 16 acres and features a fountain by Philip Johnson and a sculpture by Henry Moore.
Address: 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York
Official site: http://www.lincolncenter.org/
16. The Jewish Museum
Open to those of all faiths, the Jewish Museum offers a fascinating glimpse of Judaica. Inside are over 28,000 items relating to the faith, art, and history of the Jewish people displayed in both interactive and static exhibits.
The museum is housed in a wonderful old building, the Warburg Mansion, dating from 1908 that is worth a visit unto itself. In addition to the permanent collection, The Jewish Museum hosts a regular rotation of traveling artists. Be sure to check the website for the current and upcoming events.
Address: 1109 5th Ave &, E 92nd Street, New York
Official site: https://thejewishmuseum.org/
17. The Queen's Museum
The Queen's Museum offers some unexpected and interesting displays. Especially of note for those from in and around New York, the museum has exhibits showcasing the city. The most impressive is the 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs entitled The Panorama of New York City.
Another fascinating display is the 540-square-foot relief map of the watershed surrounding New York city, responsible for its drinking water.
It's not all about models at the museum, though. The Queen's Museum also has an impressive collection of Tiffany Glass showcased in the Neustadt Collection.
Address: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Building, Queens, New York
Official site: https://queensmuseum.org/