As a city rich in art and culture, there are lots of wonderful museums in New York City, so I recommend visiting at least one of them during your trip. There are lots of great museums, galleries, and exhibits to choose from, so I think you’ll find plenty that you’d like to see!
Also, if you plan on visiting several museums, I suggest getting a New York attraction pass since it includes many of the best museums in NYC. I like the New York Pass, which includes the 9/11 Museum, the Met, MoMA, and the American Museum of Natural History, among others.
It’s also worth noting that some of the museums in this list have free days, and we have a guide to the best free museums in NYC that you can check out.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, science, or culture, you’ll find an NYC museum exhibit that appeals to you. Besides, having a museum day is one of the top things to do in New York City with friends, kids, or even by yourself. So, keep reading to see which galleries and exhibitions you must see.
1. American Museum of Natural History, the best history museum in New York
The American Museum of Natural History is an awesome place to visit and one of the best things to do in NYC with kids. It’s one of the top historical museums in New York City, teaching visitors about biology, ecology, geology, and more.
This huge institution has 45 exhibition halls, a library, and a planetarium. Among its permanent collection are 34 million artifacts and specimens ranging from plant and animal fossils to meteorites and gems. Some of the coolest exhibits are the mammoth skeleton, the Willamette meteorite, a nearly-complete T-rex skeleton, and a life-size model of a blue whale.
You can also see a space show at the planetarium, watch a documentary on the theater’s 40-foot-tall screen, and see which special exhibit is currently on view. Admission to the museum is included in the New York Pass, or you can get a ticket here.
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5:30 pm
- Admission price: $23 for adults, $13 for children
- Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the best art museums in NYC
Without a doubt, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the best art museums in NYC. Not only that, but it’s the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere, with a permanent collection of over two million works.
The museum has all kinds of modern art from around the world, and its Egyptian and Roman galleries are among the best. Other highlights include artifacts from ancient Greece and paintings from medieval Europe. If you’re a fan of Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and other modern masters, visiting The Met is one of the best things to do in Manhattan.
- Hours: Sunday – Tuesday, Thursday, 10 am – 5 pm; Friday – Saturday, 10 am – 9 pm
- Admission price: $25 for adults, free for kids under 12
- Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan
3. The Met Cloisters, an interesting art museum exhibit in NYC
Speaking of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it also has a secondary site in Washington Heights. The Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park are built around the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefont and Trie cloisters. Strolling through these covered outdoor walkways and courtyard gardens will make you feel like you’re in a French monastery.
In addition to the medieval gardens, the Met Cloisters contain over 5,000 paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. Some of the most popular works include the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries and stained glass windows from Normandy, France. Without a doubt, the Romanesque and Gothic architecture of this NYC museum will take your breath away, so be sure to check it out.
- Hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 10 am – 4:30 pm
- Admission price: $25 for adults, free for kids under 12
- Location: Washington Heights, Manhattan
4. MoMA, the best art museum in NYC for modern art
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is, hands-down, the best art museum in NYC. It has one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world, with works by masters like Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Matisse.
In addition to paintings, the museum displays drawings, sculptures, photos, films, and other design elements. For example, the Architecture and Design Department has 28,000 models, drawings, and photographs by designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Isamu Noguchi.
Moreover, MoMA also has a library with nearly 350,000 cataloged items, a Film Library with over 25,000 titles, and a small collection of video games like Pac-Man and Minecraft. In other words, you can find just about anything art-related here, as long as it’s from the last 150 years.
- Hours: Sunday – Friday, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm; Saturday, 10:30 am – 7 pm
- Admission price: $25 for adults, free for kids 16 and under
- Location: Midtown Manhattan
5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum, a poignant NYC museum to visit
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is one of the most important history museums in New York, and one that you should visit at least once. This moving museum commemorates the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people. The museum also honors the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The museum’s collection contains over 58,000 items, including photos, audio recordings, and videos. Inside, you can also find artifacts like the original steel from the Twin Towers and a surviving staircase from the World Trade Center.
Outside, the 9/11 Memorial is at the former site of the Twin Towers and features two reflecting pools surrounded by white oak trees. The pools feature man-made waterfalls, which not only add beauty to the site but also drown out the city noise.
As you walk through the emotional memorial, you’ll also find bronze plaques with the 1993 and 2001 victims’ names inscribed on them. Another area is home to The Survivor Tree, a pear tree found amidst the rubble of the 9/11 attack. The eight-foot tree suffered major burn damage but was nursed back to health and now features old and new growth, making it a poignant part of the memorial.
The 9/11 Museum is included in the New York Pass, or you can purchase a ticket here. It’s also worth visiting the One World Observatory, one of NYC’s best observation decks. You can get a combo ticket for the museum and observation deck here.
- Hours: Thursday – Monday, 10 am – 5 pm
- Admission price: $30 for adults, $24 for kids 13-17, $19 for kids 7-12, free for kids under 7
- Location: Manhattan’s Meatpacking District
6. Statue of Liberty Museum, another museum in NYC that you should see
Another historical museum in New York City that I recommend is the Statue of Liberty Museum. In addition to its interesting exhibits, the museum offers beautiful views, so be sure to bring your camera when visiting the Statue of Liberty!
The Statue of Liberty Museum is full of artifacts and exhibits about the history of this famous New York sculpture. During your visit, you’ll learn about the history of Lady Liberty and her importance as a cultural icon.
You can also see the original torch, several galleries dedicated to the statue’s creation, and historic photographs and early sketches by the designer, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. There is also a theater showing a simulated aerial view inside the sculpture, giving you a unique perspective of the statue.
The museum is on Liberty Island, so will need to take a Statue of Liberty tour to see Liberty Island, the famous statue, its museum, and Ellis Island.
- Hours: Daily, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm
- Admission price: $23.50 for adults, $12 for kids 4-12, free for kids under 4
- Location: Liberty Island
7. The Guggenheim, another museum with the best art galleries in NYC
If you have a passion for European avant-garde art, the Guggenheim is one of the best art museums in NYC. Located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, one of the best neighborhoods in NYC, the Guggenheim is easily recognizable thanks to its white, cylindrical building. In fact, is one of the most famous buildings in NYC. Designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum’s unique shape is referred to as the “temple of the spirit”.
Inside, a ramp runs continuously from the ground floor to the top of the building, where there is a huge skylight. As you make your way up the ramp, you can check out the various galleries displaying some of the most well-known pieces from the 20th century. The modern and contemporary works span several art movements, including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Abstract Expressionism.
Here, you can peruse Kandinsky’s colorful paintings, Chagall’s surreal work, and Braque’s Cubist pieces, as well as works by Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, and Paul Cézanne. Without a doubt, the Guggenheim has some of the best art galleries in NYC, and the building itself is like a work of art. You can get in with your New York Pass or purchase a skip-the-line ticket here.
- Hours: Thursday – Monday, 11 am – 6 pm
- Admission price: $25 for adults, free for kids
- Location: Upper East Side, Manhattan
8. Brooklyn Museum, another art museum in NYC with beautiful exhibits
The Brooklyn Museum is one of the most popular museums in Brooklyn and the third-largest museum in NYC, so it’s certainly worth visiting. This impressive Beaux-Arts building houses about 500,000 objects to help you explore various world cultures through the arts.
Among the collection are paintings, sculptures, and decorative art from Africa, Europe, Japan, North America, and Oceania. The collection of Egyptian artifacts is one of the most well-known; other highlights include the Islamic Art galleries and the shadow puppets from Indonesia and New Guinea. The Brooklyn Museum also has one of the largest collections of African art in any American art museum, and one of its more recent galleries is dedicated to feminist art.
Along with works by Rockwell, Rothko, and O’Keeffe, you can browse the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives or walk through the sculpture garden. This is undoubtedly one of the top museums in Brooklyn, NYC, and it’s included in the New York Pass.
- Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm; Friday & Saturday, 11 am – 8 pm
- Admission price: $16 for adults, free for kids
- Location: Brooklyn
9. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, one of the best museums in NYC for families
If you’re looking for one of the best NYC museums for families, check out the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. It’s housed in the famed USS Intrepid aircraft carrier, a National Historic Landmark berthed on the Hudson River.
The USS Intrepid was first launched in 1943 and survived numerous kamikaze attacks during World War II. Today, it contains one of the most interesting museums in NYC where you can learn about the science, technology, and engineering behind history’s most impressive aircraft.
Inside, you can find 28 restored aircraft including spy planes, Cold War submarines, and fighter jets. Some of the highlights include the USS Growler, a missile submarine, a Concorde SST, and a Lockheed A-12, the fastest military jet in the world. You’ll also see the legendary space shuttle Enterprise and the museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion, which is all about NASA’s space program.
After visiting the four decks of the USS Intrepid, check out the museum inside, which features all kinds of military memorabilia. If you want to go, admission is included in the New York Pass, or you can get a skip-the-line ticket here.
- Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm
- Admission price: $29.70 for adults, $21.60 for kids 5-12, free for kids under 5
- Location: Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
10. Museum of Ice Cream, a fun museum in NYC to visit with kids
If an ice cream museum in NYC sounds like a dream, then I’m happy to say that it’s your dream come true. The Museum of Ice Cream is in SoHo, one of the trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan. Here you will live a whimsical experience that immerses you in a colorful world.
The museum can be considered a “selfie museum” where you can capture Instagram-worthy photos. There are three floors of monochromatic galleries, imaginative displays, and all kinds of props you can interact with, like a giant inflatable pool of sprinkles.
As you’re engaging your senses with all the fun colors and patterns, you can taste delicious ice cream and sweet treats along the way. The experience is self-guided, and you can get in with this ticket or your New York Pass.
It’s one of the best museums in NYC for families, as long as you’re okay with the kids getting a sugar rush!
- Hours: Monday, Thursday, 11:30 am – 7 pm; Friday, 11:30 am – 8:30 pm; Saturday, 10 am – 8:30 pm; Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm
- Admission price: $49 for adults and kids over 3
- Location: SoHo, Manhattan
11. Frick Collection, a lovely fine art museum in New York City
Another art museum to visit in New York is the Frick Collection, which houses classic paintings and decorative arts. Here, you can look through the works of old masters like Goya, Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Vermeer, as well as 18th-century French furniture and an impressive clock collection.
Other highlights from the Frick include Indian and Persian rugs from the 17th and 18th centuries, and a collection of Asian porcelain works, including Chinese vases from the Qing Dynasty. Besides its permanent collection, the museum houses temporary exhibits and the Frick Art Reference Library, which serves as an art history research center.
Moreover, the Frick Collection is within a Gilded Age mansion, which was the former residence of its founder, Henry Clay Frick. So, if you’re interested in Renaissance and early 20th-century art, this is one NYC museum you can’t miss.
- Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm
- Admission price: $22 for adults, $12 for kids 10-17, free for kids under 10
- Location: Midtown Manhattan
12. Whitney Museum of American Art, another famous museum in NYC worth seeing
The Whitney Museum of American Art is another famous museum in New York that’ll interest you if you like 20th and 21st-century art. The works here span different periods of art, such as Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. Throughout the collection, you can find works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol, as well as lesser-known artists.
The Whitney has over 25,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, films, and videos, not to mention temporary exhibits and hosted performances. Moreover, a public art installation, Day’s End, is across the street from the museum, at Hudson River Park.
While you’re visiting, be sure to check out the Frances Mulhall Achilles Research Library and the outdoor terraces and balconies, which offer lovely views of Manhattan.
Every two years, the museum hosts an international art show called the Whitney Biennial, which showcases American art from newer, younger artists. So, if you want to admire the work of the old masters and maybe discover a new favorite, you can visit the Whitney with your New York Pass or this ticket.
- Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, 10:30 am – 6 pm; Friday, 10:30 am – 10 pm; Saturday, Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm
- Admission price: $25 for adults, free for kids under 18
- Location: Meatpacking District, Manhattan
13. Morgan Library & Museum, an unexpected museum in NYC you should visit
The Morgan Library & Museum is, without a doubt, the best NYC museum that combines art and history. It’s comprised of several buildings, including a 19th-century Italianate home, and contains around 350,000 items. These range from paintings by Renaissance masters to centuries-old manuscripts and decorative objects.
The façade of the main building is guarded by two marble lionesses, while the library’s main interior features an ornate rotunda with ceiling murals. This has led to the over 100-year-old museum being named a National Historic Landmark.
Among the collection are drawings by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, as well as works by Cézanne, van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Renoir. You can also find liturgical items from ancient Egypt and medieval Europe, like a 12th-century Eucharist vessel depicting scenes from the New and Old Testaments.
There is so much to see here that I’m sure you’ll find something that interests you, such as the musical manuscripts and scores from Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and Mozart. One of the most acclaimed parts of the collection is a small sampling of illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Kids get in for free, so consider adding this museum in Manhattan, NYC to your list.
- Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10:30 am – 5 pm; Friday, 10:30 am – 7 pm
- Admission price: $22 for adults, free for kids under 12
- Location: East Side, Manhattan
14. New York Transit Museum, a unique museum in NYC for families
One of the funniest things to do in Brooklyn with family is to visit the New York Transit Museum. Housed in a decommissioned subway station, this museum will teach you all about the history of the bus, subway, and rail systems in the New York metropolitan area.
There are thousands of artifacts at the Transit Museum, including preserved subway cars, bridge and tunnel memorabilia, and vintage road signs and vehicle advertisements. The lower levels of the museum contain an underground control room and a couple of fully functional subway tracks and old railcars that you can observe.
While it’s a smaller museum, the permanent and rotating exhibits do a wonderful job of showing visitors the technological improvements in modern transportation, as well as historical blasts from the past. Along with guided tours and films, you can see older subway and bus models, including the first bus with air conditioning in the U.S., which was released in 1956.
The Transit Museum is one of the top museums in Brooklyn, NYC, and there is a smaller satellite museum annex at Grand Central Station. Admission is included in the New York Pass, or you can reserve a ticket on the museum website.
- Hours: Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm
- Admission price: $10 for adults, $5 for kids 2-17, free for kids under 2
- Location: Brooklyn Heights
15. Tenement Museum, another eye-opening museum in NYC you can’t miss
The Tenement Museum is one of the more unique museums in NYC, as it portrays the experience of immigrants in New York in the 19th and 20th centuries. Without a doubt, it’s an essential museum, and walking through its exhibits is a great way to gain new insights into the country’s immigrant history.
Moreover, the museum is housed in two tenement buildings, which are similar to boarding houses. Today, the buildings are a National Historic Site, and they housed around 15,000 people from over 20 countries between 1863 and 2011.
The tenement buildings originally consisted of about two dozen apartments and a ground-level saloon. These days, you can take a guided tour through restored period rooms, which give you an idea of what life looked like between 1869 and 1935. Costumed guides help with depicting the immigrant experience from different perspectives, like women, Chinese Americans, Black residents, and Eastern European Jews.
Besides visiting the Orchard Street tenement buildings, you can take a neighborhood walking tour and explore some of the spaces in the Lower East Side that played a part in NYC’s immigrant history. This is definitely one of the coolest museums in New York to gain a new perspective and learn more about immigration while putting a face and a name to some of the people who came here to start a new life.
The museum is open daily, and tickets are available on the museum website.
- Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 5 pm; Friday – Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm
- Admission price: $27 for adults, $22 for kids 6-17, free for kids under 6
- Location: Lower East Side, Manhattan
16. National Museum of the American Indian, an important NYC museum to visit
The National Museum of the American Indian is a fascinating institute and one of NYC’s free museums, so I highly recommend it. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution, and the main branch is in Washington, D.C. That said, the New York City branch is well worth visiting and has been named a National Historic Landmark.
In the museum’s beautiful Beaux-Arts-style building, you can browse dozens of exhibits and galleries centered on Native American history and culture. Its permanent collection includes art and artifacts dedicated to Native American cultures across North, Central, and South America, while the rotunda displays various murals and hosts presentations and performances throughout the year.
In addition to the rotunda, the museum has a reference library, a photography hall, a theater, and a special exhibit gallery. What’s great about this place is that you can get a balance of historical displays and contemporary exhibitions. So, during your visit, you can see everything from ceremonial headdresses and instruments to present-day art installations.
- Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm
- Admission price: Free
- Location: Financial District, Manhattan
17. Brooklyn Children’s Museum, one of the best museums in Brooklyn, NYC
If you’re visiting the city with kids, you’ll want to check out the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Not only was it the first children’s museum in the country, but it was also the first green museum in NYC. Its engaging and creative environment teaches kids about history, culture, technology, science, and more, so it’s one of the best museums in NYC for families.
In addition to its programming, the museum has several interactive exhibits like a giant maze, a toddler area, and an outdoor playground. The ArtRink is a unique rooftop skating rink and art gallery that helps kids burn up some energy while also engaging in enriching activities.
There are also various festivals throughout the year celebrating things like Juneteenth, Holi, and Earth Day. The museum even has a community garden and greenhouse, so it’s a fun place for kids to get educated. General admission is quite affordable, but you can also visit on Thursdays from 2 pm – 5 pm for “Amazon Free Hours.”
- Hours: Thursday – Friday, 2 pm – 5 pm; Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 1 pm & 2 pm – 5 pm
- Admission price: $13
- Location: Crown Heights, Brooklyn
18. Museum of Chinese in America, another great museum in downtown NYC
As if you needed another reason to visit Manhattan’s Chinatown, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is one of the most interesting museums in NYC. This cultural institution is dedicated to educating the public on the history and heritage of Chinese Americans throughout generations.
MOCA has over 85,000 items chronicling over 160 years of Chinese American history. While the museum suffered a fire in early 2020, it has since recovered most of its objects and has reopened to the public. Among the artifacts are photographs, books, audio recordings, textiles, garments, and artworks. There is also a research center with more archived documents and artifacts.
MOCA was founded out of a need to preserve the memories and experiences of the aging Chinese American population in the city, and most people would agree that the museum’s exhibits and programs do these generations justice. Moreover, admission is included in your New York Pass, so I recommend checking MOCA out! If you don’t have the pass, you can get a ticket on the museum’s website.
- Hours: Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm; Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm
- Admission price: $12 for adults, $8 for kids, free for kids under 2
- Location: Chinatown, Manhattan
19. Museo del Barrio, an underrated museum in NYC you can’t miss
Located in El Barrio (East Harlem), the Museo del Barrio is one of the most significant Latino cultural institutions in New York. It has more than 6,500 items that cover over 800 years of Puerto Rican, Latin American, and Caribbean history, so it’s one of the best museums in NYC that you should visit.
The exhibitions here focus on art across Latin America and the Caribbean and include modern pieces, archaeological objects, and traditional artifacts. For example, you can see everything from paintings and drawings by contemporary artists, to folkloric masks and artifacts from pre-Columbian cultures, like the indigenous Taíno people of the Caribbean.
In addition, there are lots of photographs, films, art installations, and temporary exhibits. The Museo del Barrio also emphasizes Puerto Rican art and culture, and hosts events throughout the year. It’s well worth adding it to your list of museums in NYC, and general admission is included in the New York Pass. If you don’t have the pass, tickets are very affordable and available on the museum’s website.
- Hours: Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm
- Admission price: $9 for adults, $5 for kids, free for kids under 12
- Location: Uptown, Manhattan
20. American Museum of the Moving Image, a fascinating museum in New York
Finally, the American Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), is one of the best museums in Queens. You’ll love this interactive museum if you’re a movie buff. Housed in the former Astoria Studios building, MoMI has about 130,000 items, which makes it the largest collection dedicated to the moving image.
Here, you can explore galleries and multimedia exhibits focused on digital media and cinema. Among the museum’s permanent collection is an exhibition on Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, as well as a video game gallery. MoMI also has two theaters that allow the museum to host regular film screenings and lectures.
If you find film and cinema to be fascinating, then you’ll love learning about the history, technology, and techniques behind this art form. In addition to live-action movies, the museum also focuses on animation, script writing, and movie posters, so there is a ton to see in this cool place in Astoria, Queens. The museum is only open on the weekends, so be sure to get your ticket in advance.
- Hours: Friday, 2 pm – 8 pm; Saturday – Sunday, 12 pm – 6 pm
- Admission price: $15 for adults, $9 for kids 3-17, free for kids under 3
- Location: Astoria, Queens
That’s it for the best museums in NYC! It’s clear that there is a museum in NYC for just about anyone, so download this tourist map of NYC and keep it handy during your trip.
If you have any questions about these museums or you’d like to share your experience or recommendation, leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you. Have a safe trip!