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New York City

What are the best & most interesting museums in NYC & surrounding areas?

I'm heading to NYC for work with the objective to view 4-5 museums. I am gathering information & inspiration from these visits, so I want to check out museums that are unique and successful in the way they display objects.

I've been to many of the larger museums such as:

The Guggenheim

The Met

The Tenement Museum


Museum of Natural History

Museum of Art & Design

I will be with a small group of people (about 5 of us in total) and we will only be in NYC for a couple of days. Our background is history, but for this trip we are more interested in the museum design than the context of the museum.

We will be going in mid-late January.

14 Answers

top answer by
Julia from Brooklyn

Great suggestions from Courtney! The Frick is unbelievable. The Tenement Museum is interesting for several reasons, not least of which is the building itself. I would also suggest the rather tiny Nicholas Roerich Museum, inside a beautiful townhouse on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens is also fascinating, inside Armstrong's former residence. The Brooklyn Museum often has interesting exhibits, and the architecture is beautiful (the gift shop's good, too!).   I know I sent you on a wild goose chase all over the city, but they're worth it!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tenement Museum (attraction)
  2. Nicholas Roerich Museum (attraction)
  3. Louis Armstrong House Museum (attraction)
  4. Brooklyn Museum (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Brenda from Staten Island

MOMA is your best bet.  Afterwards grab a cocktail at the The Modern, their restaurant next door.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. MOMA (attraction)
  2. The Modern (restaurant)
4 thanks

answered by
Regan from Brooklyn

Brooklyn Museum is incredible and they always have great rotating exhibits such as the one on high heels right now in addition to world class art and cultural exhibits.  If you've never been to EEllis Island it might be a good time to go as they've temporarily opened the abandoned South Hospital, which is in ruins, to hard hat tours to view the French artist Jr's exhibit of blown up vintage photos of Ellis Island immigrants pasted to the crumbling walls and windows.  Looks amazing. Must buy tix in advance--  And some smaller, very respectable fine art ones are the Neue, the Whitney and the Frick.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ellis Island (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by

If you  have the time to make an trek to Queens, I highly recommend the Queens Museum to view the panorama of NYC.  It's amazing to see!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Queens Museum (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Adam from New Jersey

As noted in other places, the The Frick Collection is super wonderful.  The great thing about the Frick is that it is a "Collection" rather than a museum in the traditional sense.  Works are hung so that they speak to one another - there is a painting of gentleman who lost his head across a mantelpiece from the gentleman who ordered his head removed - both painted by the same Master. 

If you are interested in museum design, you might want to check and see what the Christie's Inc and Sotheby's auction houses are showing when you are in town.  This will give you an opportunity to see works for sale and to speak with experts about how the works fit into the current market or a person's collection.  It is a treat that many other city's don't offer.

Another option would be the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum which was recently re-opened.  I haven't been there since before its reopening, but the review in the NYT was very positive. 

Lastly, as noted below, the Brooklyn Museum - if it weren't for the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this would be the greatest museum in the City.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Frick Collection (attraction)
  2. Christie's Inc (attraction)
  3. Sotheby's (attraction)
  4. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (attraction)
  5. Brooklyn Museum (attraction)
  6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Courtney from Los Angeles

Hmm, interesting question. 

For me, the museum that has the most interesting exhibits in terms of the way they present their collections is the The Museum at FIT. They actually teach museum curation there so they are VERY careful about the way they exhibit things. I would also say to check out the The Frick Collection. It's a bit of an underdog as far as museums in NYC go, but it's well worth seeing. It used to be a private house and there's even an indoor wintergarden inside. One of my all-time favorites. 

The The Morgan Library & Museum is also wonderful--two totally different styles but you should see both the museum and the library. They also have a great cafe. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Museum at FIT (neighborhood)
  2. The Frick Collection (attraction)
  3. The Morgan Library & Museum (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by

If you like history... Museum of American Finance and Museum of the City of New York are different and interesting!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museum of American Finance (attraction)
  2. Museum of the City of New York (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
peter from Downtown Ithaca

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial Museum, and the The Morgan Library & Museum, are my suggestions they are all unique. The CH has been recently been completely renovated and has some mesmerizing interactI've displays. It,s the Smithsonian design museuM. The 9/11 is brand new and seeing the memorial water features outside is an extra very moving experience. The museum itself has well conceived displays that inform and convey the tragic events with very sophisticated, well designed displays. The Morgan was totally renvovated several years ago. The completly transparent elevator is a treat. They all have decent cafes. I recommend one or all for an off the beaten track but first class museum experience. Check them out online for prices, locations, and times. And remember everything in NYC is just a cab ride away. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (attraction)
  2. Ground Zero (attraction)
  3. The Morgan Library & Museum (attraction)

answered by
Ulrike from Leipzig, Germany

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. New Museum (attraction)

answered by
Fritzi from San Francisco

The The Morgan Library & Museum is one of my favorite smaller museums.  It is in a beautiful building with an unbelievable library of illuminated manuscripts. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, while not strictly a museum, has a free tour where you see our gold reserve. You must book on-line in advance.  You could also consider whole neighborhoods; a walking tour of the upper east side or the East or West village.  Finally the Fashion Institute Of Technology has interesting rotating exhibits.  Have a great trip.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Morgan Library & Museum (attraction)
  2. Federal Reserve Bank of New York (attraction)
  3. Fashion Institute Of Technology (attraction)

answered by
tuan from Raleigh

If you're interested in museum design, you might  like The Frick Collection or The Cloisters Museum and Gardens Cafeteria

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Frick Collection (attraction)
  2. The Cloisters Museum and Gardens Cafeteria (restaurant)

answered by
Bonnie from United States

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Neue Galerie New York (attraction)
  2. Museum of Jewish Heritage (attraction)
  3. New-York Historical Society (attraction)
  4. Jewish Museum (attraction)
  5. Museum Of Chinese In America (attraction)
  6. USS Intrepid (neighborhood)

answered by
Perla from Alexandria (Virginia)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)

answered by

National Academy Museum Upper East Side, Brooklyn Museum Crown Heights , Morgan Library Murray Hill and Frick Upper East Side. Oh and if you feel adventorous- the wonderful Newark Museum Newark (New Jersey)- accessible by public transportation.(It's easy and not scary- and plenty of place to eat in Newarks' Ironbound section.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Upper East Side (attraction)
  2. Crown Heights (neighborhood)
  3. Murray Hill (neighborhood)
  4. Newark (New Jersey) (city)

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