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
- Museum of the City of New York - Located just across Fifth Avenue from Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, the Museum of the City of New York is home to 750,000 artifacts that tell the story of this amazing city through objects as diverse as manuscripts, costumes, photographs, paintings, and more.
- Museum of Sex - Attractions in New York City don’t come any more pulse-racing than the electrifying Museum of Sex. Located on iconic 5th Avenue, the Museum of Sex features numerous exhibits and installations that explore the ins and outs of human sexuality.
- New Museum - One of New York City’s premier destinations for lovers of contemporary art, the New Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been showcasing the very best of emerging artists for nearly 50 years now.
- Fotografiska Museum - The New York branch of the popular Swedish contemporary photography museum chain organizes temporary exhibitions showcasing the very best the art form has to offer. Work by celebrity photographers is frequently on display here, and exhibit topics are timely and thought-provoking.
- Museum of Arts and Design NYC - Located in a prime location at Columbus Circle, the Museum of Arts and Design is dedicated to presenting innovative design objects that reflect the finest in contemporary artistic trends. It specializes in well-curated temporary installations and special exhibits.
- Whitney Museum of American Art - Housed since 2015 in a Renzo Piano-designed building near the southern edge of the High Line, the Whitney Museum of American Art is famous for its 25,000-work permanent collection and Biennial survey show, which has run in one form or another for nearly a century.
- The Paley Center For Media - Prominently located between Rockefeller Center and the Museum of Modern Art, the Paley Center for Media is a museum devoted to preserving television and radio history. Here you can peruse a massive collection of broadcast programming dating back some 100 years.
- Museum of Chinese in America - The Museum of Chinese in America is an intimate institution that packs a major punch. Here you’ll learn about 160 years of Chinese American history while moving through galleries that pay tribute to the culture and heritage of Chinese Americans.
- International Center of Photography NY - The International Center of Photography is a museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side devoted to championing the power of photography and visual culture. It specializes in putting on diverse exhibitions across a wide variety of subjects.
- Museum at Eldridge Street - The Museum at Eldridge Street is located inside the Eldridge Street Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues found anywhere in the United States. The Museum at Eldridge Street offers guided tours and hosts special exhibitions that tell the history of American Jewish life.
- Fraunces Tavern Museum - One of the oldest surviving buildings in New York City, Fraunces Tavern has a long, rich history that includes hosting George Washington. Today the restored site consists of a museum, restaurant, and bar.
- Skyscraper Museum - Located in Battery Park City at the very southern tip of Manhattan, the Skyscraper Museum is dedicated to the history and architecture of the world’s tallest buildings. Exhibits here tell the stories of the New York City skyline, the planet’s most famous buildings, and more.
- Museum of Jewish Heritage - Located in The Battery, at the very southern tip of Manhattan, the Museum of Jewish Heritage is a living memorial to the Holocaust. Visitors here can learn about the past two centuries of Jewish life across a host of educational exhibits.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.