THE 18 BEST Museums in NYC According to a Local [2022 Guide]

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After over a decade of living in NYC, I’ve been fortunate enough to check out most of the museums the city offers. So, I have compiled my local list of the best museum in NYC for your visit.

How many museums to visit?

For tourists, the number of museums in the city can be overwhelming, and I can guarantee you won’t make it to all of them during your visit. I like to tell people to plan to see one or two large museums, and at least one of the city’s smaller ones.

Book tickets early

This list of the best museums in NYC will tell you everything you need to know about the best museums in NYC. Just book those tickets early, especially for special exhibits, because things sell out fast in New York.

18 Best Museums to visit

1. The Met

Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

My all-time favorite museum is a bit cliche, but The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply The Met, is one of those places that you can visit ten times, and still discover something new each time. Trust me, I know — I used to live a few blocks away and would visit a couple times a year.

Why should you visit the Met?

Did you know it boasts a collection of over 2 million items, and is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere? I think that fact alone is reason enough to visit this New York institution, but if you’re not convinced, here are a few things you will enjoy in the museum.

During the summer, the museum opens a rooftop exhibit that is always cool, and comes with a guaranteed stellar view of Central Park. Plus, they have a coffee, cocktail, and snack stand for you to enjoy.

Extra tip for fashion lovers

They have the Anna Wintour Wing, which is a must-see for fashion lovers, as it offers a look at the history of fashion. You’ll also see tons of artifacts and art from Egypt, tons of European masterpieces, a weapons and armor gallery, and a large gallery featuring Asian art.

How long can you spend at the Met?

You’ll want to plan the entire day wandering around this magnificent museum. Just buy those tickets early, because there is often a long line at the door.

How much is entry to the Met?

The ticket entry varies from 12$ to 30$. The ticket is also valid for the Met Cloisters. You can check the price here

2. The Met Cloisters

The Met Cloisters, New York City
The Met Cloisters, New York City

The Met Cloisters are a must-visit location during the warmer months, and the best part is that if you’ve got a ticket from The Met, you can use it to also visit The Cloisters. 

Why should you visit the Met Cloisters?

It almost feels like you’ve been transported to Europe when you visit this under-the-radar museum. You’ll enjoy beautiful gardens, stunning views, and tons of medieval and gothic artwork and artifacts.

Is the Met Cloisters worth it?

The museum is in Washington Heights, so it’s a bit of a trek, but totally worth it. It is a hidden gem to Europe.

What is the difference between the Met and the Met Cloisters?

The Met has a collection of over 2 million items and covers a large variety of art pieces. While the Met Cloisters focuses specifically on the architecture and art of the Middle Ages.

How much does the Met Clositers cost?

The admission ticket is between 12$ and 30$. The same ticket you buy for the Met can be used here. You can see the prices here 

3. The Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum - ceiling view, NYC
The Guggenheim Museum - ceiling view, NYC

Why should you visit the Guggenheim?

The Guggenheim is easily one of the funkiest buildings in NYC. It was designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is the Guggenheim famous for?

It is an architectural masterpiece featuring one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art. You’ll want to take tons of photos of the building as you’re exploring all the modern and slightly older contemporary art on show here. 

Top tip: Make sure to check out the view from their cafe, which overlooks Central Park.

How much does the Guggenheim museum cost?

Prices for tickets normally start at 18$. Lines normally snake around the block to get in, so book tickets early.

4. The Whitney Museum of American Art

Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC

This is a brilliant spot to spend a few hours exploring before checking out The High Line, which starts just beside the museum.

What is the Whitney Museum known for?

The Whitney features tons of American art, including works by Edward Hopper, and some really cool pieces by Mark Rothko. They also put on interesting special exhibits, like one on Andy Warhol that everyone in the city went crazy over trying to see.

How long do I need at the Whitney?

I’d plan on spending at least three hours here, and definitely book tickets early, especially if you want to see their special exhibits.

How much does it cost to visit the Whitney Museum?

Adult tickets normally start at 25$ while student tickets normally start at 18$

5. MoMA

Visual art at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Visual art at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC

What is MoMA famous for?

MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, is one of my favorite midtown museums to wander around. You’ll see tons of Pop Art, Surrealism, Post Impressionism, and Cubism, including some iconic masterpieces like Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”. 

They also do really fantastic special exhibits. I’m still in awe of the Tim Burton one I saw there a few years ago.

Do you need a reservation for MoMA?

The museum is really popular with locals and tourists alike, so book your tickets early. If you’re in the mood for a pleasant lunch or dinner after the museum, head to The Modern next door.

How long does it take to walk through MoMA?

Depending on what you want to see I would recommend at least 2 hours for this museum.

How much does MoMA cost?

Adult submission tickets are typically 25$ per person.

6. MoMA PS1

Outdoor installation at MoMA PS1, NYC
Outdoor installation at MoMA PS1, NYC

Why visit MoMA PS1?

MoMA PS1 focuses on contemporary art and even throws concerts during the summer. The entire space is warm and welcoming, despite being housed in an old school building. 

Top tip: While you’re there, check out special exhibitions, and enjoy their book store and delicious little cafe.

Fair warning, they’re really strict about their no backpack policy. And you’ll want to book your timed entry early, as slots can fill up fast.

7. American Museum of Natural History

Entrance view at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC
Entrance view at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC

This iconic museum is a must visit while in NYC.

What is special about the American Museum of Natural History?

Here you’ll see tons of fossils, including a really cool dinosaur exhibit, gemstones, and an amazing planetarium. They also do really cool special exhibits that often sell out, so booking ahead is wise. 

How long does it take to go through the American Museum of Natural History?

You’ll easily spend an entire day wandering around this massive museum. I especially love taking family here, since there’s something interesting for every age group.

How much does it cost?

Tickets prices start at 23$ per adult.

8. National Museum of the American Indian

Mural art at the National Museum of the American Indian
Mural art at the National Museum of the American Indian

Is it worth it to visit the National Museum of the American Indian?

Housed in a former customs house, the National Museum of the American Indian gives a unique look at the country’s Native American history. The Smithsonian runs the museum, so you know it’s going to be an interesting visit. 

Why visit the National Museum of the American Indian?

Here you’ll view Native American artifacts and art, some of which date back over 12,000 years. You’ll also see all their contributions in modern society, plus an explanation of tribes and origins, perfect for anyone who didn’t learn about the Native Americans in school.

How much does it cost to visit the National Museum of the American Indian?

It’s one of the few free entry museums in the city.

9. Jewish Museum

A woman exploring Jewish Museum

Why should you visit Jewish Museum?

If you’re interested in learning more about Jewish history in New York and beyond, the Jewish Museum is a must. It attracts a less touristy crowd too. 

I really love how the museum’s layout. You can check out photography on the first floor, the second floor hosts exhibitions, and the third floor is dedicated to Jewish heritage. 

How long does it take to walk through Jewish Museum?

I’d suggest planning to spend at least a couple hours wandering around this museum. The staff are all really welcoming, and happy to answer questions. And, if your visit falls on a Saturday or major Jewish holiday, entry is free.

10. Morgan Library and Museum

Interior view at the Morgan Library, NYC
Interior view at the Morgan Library, NYC

Chances are, if you’re on Instagram, you’ve seen the Morgan Library featured in at least one photo. 

Why should you visit the Morgan Library?

It’s basically the real-life equivalent of the Beauty and the Beast library, and a must see for anyone obsessed with books. You’ll be able to view tons of ridiculously old books and artifacts, plus get to enjoy the stunning architecture of the museum. 

So, can you read in the Morgan Library? Yes, there is a specific room that is open for reading. Can you take pictures in the Morgan Library? Yes, as well!

How long does it take to tour the Morgan Library?

I’d plan at least two hours here if you really want to take in everything the space offers.

How much are tickets to the Morgan Library?

Tickets start at 22$ per adult. You can see the tickets here

11. The Brooklyn Museum

Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC
Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC

Did you know The Brooklyn Museum is NYC’s third largest museum?

I could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring here. My favorite thing about this space is that they almost always have an outstanding special exhibition. The last one I saw gave a complete history of Dior that was absolutely stunning. They also have a mixture of art, historical artifacts, and photography. 

Where to go next to the Brooklyn Museum?

Since it’s right next to Prospect Park, I always grab a coffee before or after my visit and spend some time strolling around the park. I highly suggest you do the same if the weather is nice. 

How much does it cost to visit the Brooklyn Museum?

Generally, prices start at 14$/adult. Book your entry early for the best availability.

12. Tenement Museum

Exterior view of the Tenement Museum, NYC
Exterior view of the Tenement Museum, NYC

Why would you visit the Tenement Museum?

If you want a guided tour experience, the Tenement Museum is a cool spot to visit. 

You’ll want to schedule early, since tour sizes are quite small. The tour will take you back in time to New York in the late 1800s, as you explore what a home was like back then. All the guides are wonderful storytellers as they guide you through family life, and thoughtfully answer questions you have as you move through the space.

Why book a guided tour at the Tenement Museum?

This is a really cool way, especially for people who aren’t into traditional museums, to learn some of the history of the city.

13. Queens Museum

A woman exploring Queens Museum

Is Queens Museum worth a visit?

The Queens Museum is one of the most underrated museums in the city. 

Even though not at the top of most tourists’ to-do lists, their panorama alone is worth the trip. It will show you how the cityscape has changed over the years, plus there’s lots of information about when the World’s Fair was hosted in New York. 

Additional exhibits

They also offer a bunch of cool and diverse rotating exhibits throughout the year.

It’s a timed entry system, so plan your visit in advance.

14. The Noguchi Museum

Mother and daughter visiting the Noguchi Museum, NYC
Mother and daughter visiting the Noguchi Museum, NYC

Why would you visit the Noguchi Museum?

This hidden gem is a magnificent spot to visit while exploring Long Island City.

You can visit the stunning garden for free, and check out the interior which was designed and built by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi to showcase his work. The Noguchi Museum also offers a rotating exhibit space on the second floor, plus a cafe and gift shop.

How long do people spend at Noguchi Museum?

I really love wandering around the museum when the city is busy, since it’s very under the radar and never overly crowded. Plan at least an hour to explore the space.

How much does it cost to visit Noguchi Museum?

Adult prices start at 12$/person. Check tickets here

15. Cooper Hewitt

Woman in Cooper Hewitt

Why would you visit the Cooper Hewitt?

If you’re into architecture, the Cooper Hewitt is a must visit and since it’s part of Museum Mile, it’s an easy stop after checking out The Guggenheim and The Met.

This turn of the century home turned museum focuses on modern design, with a wonderful rotation of special exhibits.

What is the best part of the Cooper Hewitt?

My favorite part of the museum is its beautiful garden. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy something from their cafe after a long day of sightseeing. 

How much does it cost to visit the Cooper Hewitt?

Adult prices start at 18$/month. Check tickets here. Timed-entry tickets can be booked in advance.

16. Museum of the City of New York

Why visit the Museum of the City of New York?

It may not be the most well-known museum for tourists, but a visit to the Museum of the City of New York will make your trip an even richer experience.

This little museum has a mixture of art and historic memorabilia that will give you a well-rounded history of the city. The exhibits are all informative, and engaging, plus they always have interesting special exhibits. The fantastic gift shop that’s perfect for souvenir shopping too!

How long do people spend at the Museum of the City of New York?

I’d plan at least two hours for your visit, but it can be done in an hour if you’re one of those people who doesn’t read all the information in front of each item.

17. El Museo del Barrio

Exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York
Exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York

Just down the street from the Museum of the City of New York, you’ll find El Museo del Barrio, filled with Puerto Rican and Latin art, special exhibits, and photography. 

Plan to visit both museums on the same day, since you can use your ticket to gain entry in both locations. El Museo del Barrio is fairly small, so you’ll only need about 45 minutes to check it out.

18. The 9/11 Museum

The 9/11 Memorial, New York City
The 9/11 Memorial, New York City

This museum is easily the most moving of them all, especially for those that remember the events of September 11, 2001.

Is the 9/11 museum worth it?

While it can be emotionally taxing, it is also a rewardingly educational and comforting experience for many. Here you’ll see and hear the stories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks’ survivors, witnesses, and victims.

There’s even a section dedicated to the dogs that helped find people in the aftermath, as well as artifacts and personal items from the buildings and victims.

How much time to plan for the 9/11 Museum?

Plan to spend at least three or four hours here, and don’t forget to walk around the poignant memorial outside, where reflecting pools and waterfalls in the footprints of the Twin Towers pay spectacular tribute.

How much does it cost to visit the 9/11 Museum?

Tickets start at 17$/adult. Tickets for the museum can be booked in advance for your chosen time slot, while the memorial grounds are free to visit between 10 AM and 5 PM each day.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found the perfect combo of the best museums in NYC to check out during your visit to NYC.

Just remember, don’t rush to see everything, choose the ones that speak to your interests and take the time to really experience all they offer.

Ally is on the adventure of a lifetime. She started it during one of the biggest epidemics of our time and she hopes to inspire others to travel. She shares valuable tips, explore other cultures, and push her boundaries in far-off places while living out of two suitcases!

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