15 Top-Rated Museums in New York City

Written by Lana Law
May 4, 2020

New York 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, there is a vast array of options.

As tempting as it may be to try to see everything, people with limited time are well advised 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. To get you started, here is a list of the best museums in New York City.

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art | amaianos / photo modified

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.

If you plan on visiting this museum and others, consider picking up a CityPASS. This will give you discounts and skip-the-line access to places like the Met, the American Museum of Natural History, the 911 Memorial and Museum, as well as the Empire State Building, and ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

Official site: http://www.metmuseum.org/

2. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Museum of Modern Art | Ray_from_LA / photo modified

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.

Address: 11 West 53 Street, New York, New York

Official site: http://www.moma.org/

3. 9/11 Memorial & Museum

911 Memorial

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.

Address: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, New York

Official site: https://www.911memorial.org/visit/museum

4. American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History | Daniel Bonatto / photo modified

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. This is expected to be completed in three years and will be 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

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.

Address: 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

Official site: http://www.guggenheim.org/

6. Frick Collection

Frick Collection | Rev Stan / photo modified

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/

7. Whitney Museum of American Art

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.

Combine a visit here with a stroll along the High Line. The museum is located near the southernmost access point.

Address: 945 Madison Avenue, New York, New York

Official site: http://whitney.org/

8. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

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.

Address: Pier 86, W 46th Street, New York, New York

Official Site: https://www.intrepidmuseum.org/

9. National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian | Ken Lund / photo modified

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.

Address: One Bowling Green, New York, New York

Official site: https://americanindian.si.edu/

10. Ellis Island Immigration Museum

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.

Official site: https://libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-museum

11. Brooklyn Children's Museum

The Brooklyn Children's Museum claims to be the world's first children's museum. Founded in 1899, this museum has evolved over the years to become one of New York's favorite family destinations.

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.

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. Admission to MOMA PS1 is free.

Address: 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, New York

Official site https://www.moma.org/ps1

13. New Museum

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

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.

Address: 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York

Official site: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

15. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

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/

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts - Layout map
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Map

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