New York City is world-renowned for its museums. From famous art institutions to interactive history exhibits to decommissioned military vessels, New York’s museum scene has a little bit of something for everybody. With so many museums well worth your time and attention, it can be a relief for many visitors to learn that several of these establishments are located relatively close to one another in Manhattan. It’s easier for visitors to see more of NYC’s great museums without worrying about navigating too much traffic.
Those visitors with children won’t want to miss the American Museum of Natural History. The setting of the popular kids’ movie Night at the Museum, the American Museum of Natural History is more than just a pop culture phenomenon—it’s home to a fascinating collection of educational artifacts, rare specimens, and interactive exhibits. Some 30 blocks to the south, families will find the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum a fabulous place to learn more about the history of the United States military. There almost three-dozen planes, ships, and even a space shuttle are arranged for your viewing pleasure.
No trip to New York City is complete with exploring one (or all!) of its world-class art museums. The crown jewel of these institutions would probably have to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lovingly known simply as The Met, it’s diverse, eclectic collection numbers over 2 million items and covers roughly 5,000 years of human history. A five-minute walk north on 5th Avenue takes you to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Its unmistakable Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building is a midcentury modernist architectural masterpiece—and the art contained within it is well worth your time, too. Just a few blocks south of Central Park, the Museum of Modern Art (or MoMA) is a can’t-miss destination, too. Its collection of modern art can stand up to any in the world, and counts among its ranks work by such luminaries as van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, O’Keefe, and Monet.
Finally, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum pays moving tribute to all those individuals whose lives were lost and/or forever altered by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Its 8-acre Memorial Plaza is a place of quiet contemplation and reflection, while the accompanying Museum holds artifacts, exhibits, and video testimonies dedicated to the memory of 9/11’s victims, first responders, and survivors.
New York’s most popular museums
- 9/11 Tribute Museum - The 9/11 Tribute Museum uses what it calls “person-to-person history” to tell the story of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Individuals with deep and direct personal connections to the events of 9/11 lead guided tours that share rich insights with those who want to learn more.
- American Museum of Natural History - The largest natural history museum in the world, the American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and is home today to over 35 million unique artifacts. Particular favorite features here include an elaborate dinosaur hall and lifelike Alaskan brown bear exhibit.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to a stunning permanent collection comprised of everything from musical instruments to jewelry to priceless works of art. Highlights include its 26,000-item Ancient Egyptian collection and paintings by artists like Caravaggio, Goya, Rembrandt, and so many more icons.
- Guggenheim Museum - Designed by the great Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Museum is not only a stellar museum but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It houses masterpieces by influential modern artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, and Paul Cézanne—to name but a few.
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum - The former site of the World Trade Center is now home to a memorial and museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the victims, honoring the efforts of rescue workers, and aiding the healing process for all those individuals whose lives were forever altered by the events of 9/11.
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - Located at Pier 86 along the Hudson River, this museum of American military and maritime history is home to a remarkable selection of planes, ships, and NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise. Highlights include the Intrepid aircraft carrier, British Airways Concorde, and the cruise missile submarine USS Growler.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) - Located just a couple blocks from Central Park and the Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art houses some of modern art’s most significant treasures. You’ll find on its walls such masterpieces as van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory.