We’ve all heard of the world-famous museums that NYC is home to, but we’ve listed below some of the more unique museums that we’ve loved.
There are also a slew of fantastic art museums around the city, but it can be difficult to know which one to choose if you don’t have time to do them all. Use our descriptions below as a guide.
For a more comprehensive list of some of the iconic must-see museums and for some really valuable tips on how to navigate the museum circuit, read our Visiting New York – Museums page here.
Museum of American Finance
This Museum of American Finance is located in the heart of Wall Street and is dedicated to teaching about American finance and history. It’s a small museum, but pretty unique, interesting and well worth popping into if you’re already visiting the area. One of my favorite parts of the museum is the interactive video where you can watch successful businessmen and entrepreneurs talk about how they got their start and grew their business.
The museum also hosts some talks and lunchtime events in addition to walking tours around the financial district. Tickets cost $8, though they offer free days on some Saturdays so check in advance. Website
Museum of the City of New York
This is a great history and art museum dedicated to the past and present of NYC and its people. It’s located on 5th avenue far north between 103rd and 104th streets. It’s completely worth the visit, though, as they have all kinds of temporary and permanent exhibitions about aspects of NYC that no one else does – graffiti, immigration, central park, hip hop, the NYC marathon, etc. Not to mention one of the best parts of it is the captivating 20 minute introductory video providing a great overview of the history of New York City. The museum is open daily and tickets cost $14. Website
This is a fantastic, under-explored museum that is absolutely worth a visit. The Tenement Museum is experienced through a guided tour. Each tour pertains to the history of NYC’s immigration and relays the personal experiences of a group of immigrants during a certain historical period.
Each tour lasts between 1-2 hours and takes place in a tenement house to give you an immersive experience. Usually the guide will share the story of one or two of the families who lived in that specific tenement house, their circumstances, struggles, and experiences, and how they lived and survived. You will be taken from room to room, each recreated as accurately as possible. Tours cover topics such as the Irish immigrant experience, the lives of sweat shop workers, and surviving the great depression.
The museum also has a great shop with all kinds of cool books, games, trinkets relating to NYC and its history. Website
New York City Transit Museum
This museum in Brooklyn Heights is dedicated to the transit (subway and bus) system in NYC, focusing largely on its history and providing many artifacts from transits of yesteryear. You can spend more time in this museum than you might think, but we would recommend you take advantage of the tours they offer, which can provide an additional narrative to the experience. The highlight of this museum may be a series of old models of subway cars containing the original seats and old (and often odd) advertisements from that era – one could spend an hour just reading these ads throughout the cars. Website
This museum, located on 5th ave and 89th, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and houses a large collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art. The entire museum was designed to essentially be one long, continuous spiral ramp extending up from the ground level.
Throughout the year there are all kinds of tours, talks, family days, special exhibits, and events to check out. There is a restaurant and a cafe on site. The museum is open every day except for Thursday and tickets cost $25, though on Saturdays from 5:45 – 7:45 pm you can pay what you want. Expect the lines to be quite long and even rounding several blocks during at that time, so perhaps not the best idea in winter or if you’re in a hurry. Website
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is the largest art museum in the US and is home to an enormous breadth of work. Its permanent collection features art from nearly all historical periods and cultures including classical antiquity, ancient Egypt, African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, Islamic, European, American, and modern art. You could easily spend days exploring the museum and still have more to see. Check out special daily offerings, programs, and events before you go on the website as there are tons of happenings throughout the year.
Inside, there are several places to dine from inexpensive cafes to upscale restaurants. The museum is open seven days a week (until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays) and admission costs $25. Audio guides are available for $7 ($5 on Friday and Saturday evenings). Website
Museum of Modern Art
The MoMA is one of the world’s leading museums in modern and contemporary art and features an enormous body of work across multiple art forms, including architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, books, and electronic media. Located in Midtown Manhattan and home to works from the world’s most famous contemporary artists, it is a must see for anyone interest in modern art.
The space itself is light and pleasant to walk through. Halls and galleries are spacious and clean. There is an audio guide available to enhance the experience and the museum also hosts film screenings, performances, talks, lectures, and events daily. The museum is open daily and tickets cost $25. As a bonus, the MoMA store is one of the coolest and most fun museum stores around, so I’d recommend saving a bit of time to browse. Website
The Frick Collection
The Frick collection is the private collection of Henry Clay Frick and is housed in his grand former residence on 5th and 70th. It features the paintings of Old Masters such as Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and Whistler as well as European sculpture and decorative arts. Next to the museum there is also an art reference library. Throughout the year, the Frick hosts lectures, educational programs and concerts. The collection is open every day except Monday and tickets cost $20. Website
Located in Long Island City (Queens), this is one of the largest art institutions in the US dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. MoMA PS1 is an exhibition space and not a collecting institution, so it devotes its resources to displaying the most experimental and innovate art of the time. The exhibits held here include artists’ retrospectives, installation art, historical surveys, and art from across the US. There are also musical and performance programs held throughout the year. If you want a more progressive art experience that you can’t get in many places, we’d recommend visiting. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays and cost $10. Website
The Whitney Museum is an art museum dedicated to American Art and features the full range of 20th century contemporary American art with a special focus on works by living artists. Represented artists include Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol.