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20 Popular Museums In NYC (+ How To Visit For Free)

20 Popular Museums In NYC (+ How To Visit For Free)

New York City is home to some of the world’s most famous museums. You can see thousands of artifacts from around the globe, admire art spanning hundreds of centuries, learn about the city’s history or visit unique museums featuring the famous New York metro, immigration or firefighting just to name a few.

In this guide, we’re going to show you the 20 most popular NYC museums including tips you should know when visiting and how to save money in the process.

Our NYC Experience

Man and woman sitting with the Queen at Madame Tussauds in New York
Mark and Kristen having afternoon tea with the Queen at Madame Tussauds

Kristen is a New York state native and we lived in NYC for a few months in 2021. We chose to move to the city so we could create the best content possible because you can’t just visit New York City for a weekend and claim to be an expert.

When we lived in the city, we personally visited many of the museums on this list and our goal is to help you figure out which of these museums are worth your time. It can very expensive if you plan to visit multiple museums so we’ll also give you our best money saving tips. Read more about us.

How To Use This Guide

There are over 100 museums in New York so you have a lot to choose from and it can extremely overwhelming. Because there is so much choice, everyones recommendations will be different.

However, after living in the city ourselves, we think there are some museums that first timers to the city should not miss. This guide includes 20 popular museums in New York City listed in no particular order including highlights from each one.

All museums charge a general admission price, but many will offer free admission on certain days or for special groups including children. So we’ll also show you how to visit each museum for free when applicable, just look for our travel tips in each section. With a little bit of planning, you could easily save some serious cash when visiting New York’s best museums and we’ll help you do just that.

If you’re in a hurry, you can skip down to our conclusion, but we highly recommend you read this entire guide because we might discuss a New York museum you’ve never heard of before.

Now, let’s explore the best NYC museums:

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Visitors in front of the Temple of Dendur at the Met in New York City
Visitors walking around the Temple of Dendur at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, is the largest art museum in the western hemisphere. With 1.5 million works of art spanning 5,000 years dating from prehistory to the present, this museum features 16 individual departments each with specialized staff.

  • Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: metmuseum.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 3-6 hours
  • Admission price: $30 adults + children under 12 are free
  • Hours of operation: Fri and Sat (10:00am-9:00pm), Sunday to Tuesday + Thursday (10:00am- 5:00pm), closed Wednesdays

The Met includes extensive works of African, American, Asian, Byzantine, Islamic and Oceanian art. But it’s also home to an encyclopedic collection of armor, antique weapons, costumes, musical instruments as well as paintings and sculptures from nearly all the famous European masters.

The Met Cloisters is a smaller branch of the Met in upper Manhattan with a focus on Romanesque and Gothic periods. It’s the only museum in America dedicated exclusively to art and architecture of the Middle Ages. Your ticket to the Met will include same day admission to the Met Cloisters.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Here are a few highlights to add to your Met bucket list:

  • Washington Crossing The Delaware (1851, Emanuel Leutze)
  • Bridge Over a Pond of Water (1899, Claude Monet)
  • Autumn Rhythm: Number 30 (1950, Jackson Pollock)
  • Self-Portrait With a Straw Hat (1887, Vincent van Gogh)
  • Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue (1931, Georgia O’Keeffe)
  • Temple of Dendur (completed by 10 B.C.)
  • The Sphinx of Hatshepsut (1479-1458 B.C.)
  • The Astor Chinese Garden Court

If you’ve never been to the Met Museum, we recommend planning to spend at least half a day here. There are a few cafes and restaurants on site, but always check the opening times prior to visiting. You can see the menus here.

Or if you want a more personalized experience, you can book a highly rated guided tour with Get You Guide or popular private option with Viator.

Travel Tip: NY, NJ and CT residents can choose the amount they pay for admission with a valid ID or billing address.

2. 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Water pouring down into the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan
Water flowing into the 9/11 memorial

September, 11th 2001 is a harrowing date in New York City history. On this day, there were multiple coordinated suicide terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda against the United States. You can probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

The 9/11 Museum includes a permanent collection of material evidence, personal stories and historical records about the events at the World Trade Center site, crash at Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Pentagon as well as the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993.

  • Address: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: 911memorial.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2 hours
  • Admission price: $33 adults + $21-27 for children
  • Hours of operation: Open 9:00am-7:00pm daily (closed Tuesdays)

The 9/11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance commemorating everyone who lost their lives on both the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks. You can visit the memorial before or after your visit to the museum and it’s open from 8:00am to 8:00pm daily. If you see a white rose on a name at the memorial, it signifies the victims birthday.

Travel Tip: Active or retired US Military can visit for free with a valid ID. Anyone will also receive free admission on Mondays from 5:30pm to 7:00pm with limited quantities available.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Our favorite part of the 9/11 Museum is a very detailed timeline which takes almost every minute into account. This is found in the historical exhibition which provides factual context before the attack, the day as it unfolded and consequences from the aftermath. Even though this was a terrible memory we both remember very vividly, we learned so much about September 11th and how the events transpired.

Guided Ground Zero tours are run by Get Your Guide and Viator if you want to learn more about the World Trade Center buildings from a local.

Travel Tip: This is one of the best museums we’ve ever visited. If you’ve never been and only have a few days in the city, we recommend you add it to your NYC itinerary.

 

3. The Modern Museum Of Art (MoMA)

Woman pointing to Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night at the MoMA
Kristen pointing out Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the largest and most influential museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. This was the city’s first museum focused exclusively on modern art showcasing architecture, paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books, electronic media and film.

  • Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: moma.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 3-5 hours
  • Admission price: $28 adults + children under 16 are free
  • Hours of operation: 10:30 am-5:30pm daily + until 7:00pm Saturdays

If you enjoyed this museum, you can also visit MoMA PS1 (Public School 1). The MoMA PS1 is the largest art institution in the US dedicated solely to contemporary art located in the borough of Queens. Tickets are free for NYC residents and $10 for adults.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Here are a few of our favorite highlights at the MoMA:

  • The Starry Night (1889, Vincent van Gogh)
  • The Persistence of Memory (1931, Salvador Dalí)
  • Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962, Andy Warhol)
  • One, Number 31 (1950, Jackson Pollock)
  • Water Lilies (1914, Claude Monet)
  • Christina’s World (1948, Andrew Wyeth)
  • Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, Pablo Picasso)
  • Free admission for NYC residents on first Friday of every month from 4:00-8:00pm

Travel Tip: NYC residents will receive free admission to the MoMA on the first Friday of every month from 4:00pm – 8:00pm.

4. National Immigration Museum

Great Hall at the National Immigration Museum on Ellis Island
The Great Hall on Ellis Island

The National Immigration Museum is located on Ellis Island inside the restored main complex of the former immigration site. From 1892 to 1954, nearly 12 million immigrants were processed here through the busiest immigration station in US history.

  • Address: 1 Ellis Island, Jersey City, NJ 07305
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: statueofliberty.org
  • Reservations required: No but ferry required
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $24.50 for basic ferry ride
  • Hours of operation: 9:00am-5:00pm (but you’ll have to consider the ferry ride back after visiting)

During your visit, you’ll see a collection of photographs, searchable historic records and personal heirlooms. You’ll also walk through the Great Hall, baggage room and dormorteries. There are many displays discussing the complicated immigration process which we can relate to as Mark only just immigrated to the US in 2019.

You don’t need to purchase tickets to visit the National Immigration Museum, but you’ll need to purchase ferry tickets through Statue Cruises. Plan your visit and see the ferry schedule here. Statue Cruises is the only merchant that sells ferry tickets so don’t purchase from any other vendor.

You can also book a guided tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with Get Your Guide or Viator.

Further Reading: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Ferry Tips

5. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Aerial view of the Intrepid in a New York harbor
The Intrepid museum from a NYC helicopter

The Intrepid is popular American military and maritime history museum in New York City. Commissioned in 1943, the Intrepid aircraft carrier played a large part in WWII surviving five kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike. It also served in the Cold War, Vietnam War and eventually become a NASA recovery vessel.

  • Address: Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: intrepidmuseum.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $36 adults + $26 child (5-12)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm daily + open until 6:00pm Saturdays and Sundays April 1st to September 30th

We like this museum because it features interesting exhibits about aircrafts, guided missile submarines, the world’s fastest jets and the space shuttle Enterprise. You can explore the flight deck, gallery deck, hangar deck and third deck during your visit.

General admission includes access to the Intrepid, submarine USS Growler, Space Shuttle Pavilion and all temporary exhibitions. You’ll see an immersive multimedia experience about kamikazes, a large display about the Vietnam War and history about America’s first nuclear missile submarine.

Travel Tip: Active and retired military will receive complementary admission to the Intrepid with valid ID.

6. New York Transit Museum

Old subway car at the New York Transit Museum
Photo courtesy of the New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum is one of the most unique museums in New York City because it showcases historical artifacts about the subway, bus and commuter rail systems. Founded in 1976, this museum explores the development of the greater NYC metropolitan area by preserving stories about the history of mass transportation.

  • Address: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: nytransitmuseum.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 1 hour
  • Admission price: $10 adults + $5 children (2-17)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-4:00pm Tuesday to Thursday

The NYC Transit Museum is the largest exhibition in the US devoted to history of urban public transportation. It’s located in an authentic 1936 subway station with a working platform spanning an entire city block. We like this museum because you can board vintage subway cars, walk through old turnstiles and pretend to sit at the wheel of a bus. But due to it’s location and opening hours, it can be difficult to fit into a New York itinerary.

Travel Tip: Tickets are not available on site and must be purchased online prior to visiting. MTA employees can visit for free. Use code goingyourway during check out.

Need help organizing your visit to NYC?

Our popular 50+ page New York City Guidebook can help you with planning every aspect of your trip.

7. American Museum Of Natural History

Exterior view of the American Museum of Natural History in New York
Exterior view of the popular NY history museum

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It consists of 26 interconnected buildings with 45 permanent exhibition halls, a planetarium, a library and the biggest collection of fossils on the planet.

  • Address: 200 Central Park W, New York, NY 10024
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: amnh.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $28 adults + $16 child (3-12)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00-5:30pm daily

Some of the permanent exhibition halls include Biodiversity, the New York State Environment, North American Forests, Ocean Life, Birds of the World, Reptiles and Amphibians, Gems and Minerals, Primitive Mammals, African People, Eastern Peoples, Pacific Peoples and so much more. The collection is so large, only a small amount can be displayed at one time.

If you’ve ever seen the move Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller, this museum was the inspiration so it’s really fun to visit. However, we do think this museum is becoming a bit dated but it’s still worth visiting unless you’ve been to the Natural History Museum in London, England.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Here are a few things you should find at the history museum when visiting:

  • 94ft Blue whale model suspended from the ceiling
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Rapa Nui Moai Cast from Easter Island
  • Alaska brown bear exhibit
  • Mammuthus (mammoth skeleton)
  • Giant Sequoia Tree
  • Lucy (one of the most complete skeletons from the early hominids)

All permanent exhibits are included in the general admission ticket but special exhibits require an extra fee unless you have a New York CityPASS) and you’ll have to make separate timed reservations.

Travel Tip: NY, NJ and CT residents can choose the amount they pay for admission, but you’ll have to pay extra for ticketed exhibitions.

8. Whitney Museum Of American Art

Multi-story building showcasing the Whitney Museum of Art
Exterior view of the Whitney Art Museum

The Whitney Museum of American Art is dedicated to exhibiting works from living artists presenting a full range of twentieth-century and contemporary art. It’s located inside an impressive building designed by architect Renzo Piano sandwiched between the High Line and the Hudson River.

  • Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: whitney.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2 hours
  • Admission price: $30 adults + children under 18 are free
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-6:00pm Monday, Wednesday Thursday, Saturday and Sunday + 10:00am-10:00pm Friday + closed Tuesdays

We like the Whitney because it’s located in Manhattan’s vibrant meatpacking district and admission for Floor 1 is always free. With an impressive 50,000 sq ft of indoor galleries and 13,000 sq ft of outdoor exhibit space, you have multiple floors to experience. Don’t miss the beautiful views on the 8th floor terrace featuring the city skyline and Hudson River.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Here are a few works to keep an eye out for at the Whitney:

  • Music, Pink and Blue No. 2 (1918, Georgia O’Keeffe)
  • The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme (1939, Joesph Stella)
  • Calder’s Circus (Alexander Calder)
  • V-yramid (1932, Nam June Paik)
  • Monochromatic Chairs (2015, Mary Heilmann)
  • Three Flags (1958, Jasper Johns)

Travel Tip: Admission to the Whitney is free from 5:00pm-10:00pm every Friday and the second Sunday of every month.

9. Museum Of The City Of New York

Main building for the Museum of the City of NY
Photo Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York was founded in 1923 and it celebrates the city spanning over four centuries through images, videos, photography, objects and interactive digital experiences. This is an award winning museum and a great way to learn about NYC.

  • Address: 1220 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: mcny.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $20 adults + Children under 20 are free
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-6:00pm Saturday and Sunday + 10:00am-5:00pm Monday, Thursday and Friday

We haven’t visited this popular museum yet, but we always hear good things about it. Permanent exhibitions include New York at it’s core, Activist New York, Raise your voice and Timescapes which is a 28-minute film featuring people of the city. There are numerous special exhibits and various events offered throughout the year.

Travel Tip: Admission includes access to all exhibitions. Visitors who live in zip codes 10029, 10035 or 10037 can visit for free if you show a valid ID or a piece of mail.

10. Tenement Museum

Bookstore at the New York Tenement Museum
Exterior view of the Tenement Museum

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers visitors insight into what it was like to become an American immigrant in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, this museum is only accessible by guided apartment tours or neighborhood walking tours.

  • Address: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: tenement.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 1 hour
  • Admission price: $30 adults
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm Monday to Thursday + 10:00am-6:00pm Friday to Sunday

This museums offers numerous many different tours and it might be difficult picking just one. It’s located in the same building that over 15,000 immigrants from more than 20 nations called home. After your tour, you can enjoy 7 interactive exhibits, the visitor center and the shop.

Travel Tip: NY teachers will receive free admission on Sundays using code TEACHNY with a valid school ID or email. Discounts are also available for teachers, active military, 10002 zip code residents, visitors with disabilities and members of AAM, MANY or National Trust.

11. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Unique structure of the Guggenheim designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Street view of the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum in NYC was designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The stunning building is now also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to permanent exhibits of Impressionist, Post Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art as well as rotating temporary exhibits.

  • Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: guggenheim.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 1 -2 hours
  • Admission price: $30 adult + Children under 12 are free
  • Hours of operation: 11:00am-6:00pm Sunday to Friday + 11:00am-8:00pm Saturday

We like the Guggenheim because it showcases many films which is a different take on art you don’t find in most museums. When we visited, there was a large screen playing a movie on repeat in the large atrium. Admission tickets include access to all galleries and special exhibits.

Travel Tip: A $3 discount is available to AAA members. Every Saturday from 5:00-8:00pm, you can pay what you wish for admission with a minimum of $1.00. Discounted admission is also available to active duty and veteran US Military with valid ID.

Further Reading: Famous New York City quotes

12. The New York Public Library

A large stone hallway inside the New York Public Library
A large hall inside the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is one of the largest public libraries in the world. It was founded in 1895 featuring 92 locations throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. While this technically isn’t a museum, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (pictured above) is a leading research center.

  • Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: nypl.org
  • Reservations required: No
  • Average time needed: Varies
  • Admission price: Free
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-8:00pm Tuesday and Wednesday + 10:00am-6:00pm Wednesday to Saturday

This library serves more than 16 million people per year and showcases more than 56 million items. It’s free to enter, but you’ll need a library card if you want to check something out. You can also take free one hour guided tours of various sections of the library. Tours are offered Mondays to Saturdays at various times and you can book one here.

13. Brooklyn Museum

Exterior view of the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Museum in New York City during spring

The Brooklyn Museum is the third largest NYC museum featuring over 500,000 works of art. Founded in 1895, this museum is well known for its collections of ancient Egyptian artifacts as well as 17th to 20th century paintings and sculptures.

  • Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: brooklynmuseum.org
  • Reservations required: No, but recommended
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $20 adults + children under 20 are free
  • Hours of operation: 11:00am-6:00pm Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday)

Located in the borough of Brooklyn, this is a great choice if you’ve already been to the Met or the MoMA. Permanent collections include Art of the Islamic World, Arts of Asia, The Brooklyn Della Robbia, Ancient Egyptian Art, Design 1880 to Now, Assyrian Art, Period Rooms and American Art. General admission tickets don’t include access to special exhibitions and will require an extra free.

What You Shouldn’t Miss

Here are a few items to look for at the Brooklyn Museum:

  • Cartonnage of Nespanetjerenpere (945-718 BC)
  • George Washington (1796, Gilbert Stuart)
  • The Doge’s Palace (1908, Claude Monet)
  • The Peaceable Kingdom (1833-1834, Edward Hicks)
  • The Dinner Party (1974-1979, Judy Chicago)

Travel Tip: Admission is free the first Saturday of every month from February to August and October between 5:00pm and11:00pm.

14. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Kids playing inside the Brooklyn Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Founded in 1899, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the first kids museum in the world. It was originally part of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and today it contains more than 30,000 artifacts.

  • Address:  145 Brooklyn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: brooklynkids.org
  • Reservations required: No, but recommended
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $15 adults + $15 children (1-12)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday)

This museum offers sensory play and exploration opportunities to encourage a child’s social, emotional and physical development. Permanent exhibits include Nature’s Engineers, AirMaze, Totally Tots, The NEST, Neighborhood Nature and World Brooklyn. General admission tickets include access to all exhibits as well as special performances or festivals.

Travel Tip: Admission is free every Thursday from 2:00pm-5:00pm in collaboration with Amazon and tickets can be reserved online.

15. SPYSCAPE

Green lasers in the Spyscape exhibit
Lasers in SPYSCAPE

SPYSCAPE is a new contemporary experiential museum in New York City. It features seven main galleries showcasing the history of espionage and it’s extremely interesting. If you’re looking for a unique museum to visit in the city, we highly recommend it.

  • Address: 928 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: spyscape.com
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 1-2 hours
  • Admission price: $44 adults + $37 child (6-12)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-10:00pm Monday to Saturday + 10:00am-8:00pm Sunday

We loved visiting this museum because you can pretend to be a spy. Depending on the package you choose, you’ll be profiled and given the chance to take on missions using high tech gadgets. The laser room (pictured above) was one of our favorite experiences.

16. The Morgan Library & Museum

Large book cases at the Morgan Library and Museum in NYC
Photo courtesy of the Morgan Library

Another popular library on this list of NYC’s best museums, the Morgan Library is located in the heart of the city. It began as the personal library of Pierpont Morgan, but has gone through multiple renovations and now holds a collection of historical manuscripts, early printed books and old master drawings.

  • Address: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: themorgan.org
  • Reservations required: No, but recommended
  • Average time needed: 1-2 hours
  • Admission price: $22 adults + Children under 13 are free
  • Hours of operation: 10:30am-5:00pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday + 10:30am-7:00pm Friday (closed Mondays)

It’s a smaller museum, but the beautiful library is worth seeing for yourself. If you’re a returning visitor to New York, this would be a great option because it’s a hidden gem most people don’t include on a first time itinerary.

Travel Tip: Admission to the historic rooms of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library is free Tuesday and Sunday 3:00pm to 5:00pm.

17. New York City Fire Museum

Exterior view of the NYC Fire Museum with red flag
New York City Fire Museum

If you love firefighting or a fireman, you need to visit the New York City Fire Museum. This is the official museum of the Fire Department of New York dating back to the 1870’s. The mission of this museum is to preserve the history of the NY fire service and provide fire prevention safety to visitors.

  • Address: 278 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: nycfiremuseum.org
  • Reservations required: No
  • Average time needed: 1-2 hours
  • Admission price: $15 adults + $6 children (3-17)
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm Wednesday to Sunday

This is a small 2 floor museum, but it’s packed full of history. During your visit, you can walk through the permanent exhibits including Firefighting in Parade, Tools and Uniforms, the 9/11 Memorial, Fire Apparatus and the Romand of Firefighting. Special exhibits and events are also available.

Travel Tip: Active FDNY, NYPD, PAPD and active US military can visit for free with a valid ID.

18. National Museum Of The American Indian

Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian includes one of the world’s most expansive collections of native artifacts including archives, photos, objects and media from the Arctic Circle all the way to Tierra del Fuego.

  • Address: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: americanindian.si.edu
  • Reservations required: No
  • Average time needed: 1-2 hours
  • Admission price: Free
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm daily

We like this museum because it’s free to visit. The south gallery showcases an exhibit about the Infinity of Nations with 700 works from Indigenous cultures. While the east and west galleries celebrate history about Native New York. Kids also love the imagiNATIONS Activity Center which highlights food cultivated by native cultures that we eat today.

Travel Tip: You can also visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

19. Neue Galerie New York

Entrance to the Neue Galerie in New York
Photo courtesy of the Neue Gallery

The Neue Galerie is popular NY art museum focused on early twentieth-century German and Austrian art. It features work from Vienna circa 1900 and German art from the early 20th century on the two main exhibition floors. Temporary exhibits also rotate on the third floor galleries.

  • Address: 1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: neuegalerie.org
  • Reservations required: No, but recommended
  • Average time needed: 1-2 hours
  • Admission price: $28 adults (children under 12 are not admitted during regular hours)
  • Hours of operation: 11:00am-6 pm Thursday to Money (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)

A digital audio tour is available for free on the Bloomberg Connects App or you can book a private guided tour which should be arranged at least 3 weeks in advance. Visitors also love Café Sabarsky because it draws draws its inspiration Viennese cafés.

Travel Tip: The museum is open late on the first Friday of every month and offers free admission from 5:00pm-8:00pm.

20. Museum Of Jewish Heritage

Exterior view of the Museum of the Jewish Heritage in NY
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Jewish Heritage

Another NY museum still on our bucket list is the Museum of Jewish Heritage. It’s a very popular museum that focuses on Jewish history in the 20th century and now. However, it’s also a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

  • Address: 36 Battery Pl, New York, NY 10280
  • LocationGoogle Maps
  • Official website: mjhnyc.org
  • Reservations required: Yes
  • Average time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Admission price: $18 adults, children under 13 are free
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:00pm Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00am-8:00pm Thursday, 10:00am-3:00pm Friday (closed Monday, Tuesday, Saturday)

Tickets to the museum include access to both the permanent and special exhibits. Many visitors often say they could have spent more time inside so if you’re planning to visit, make sure you give yourself enough time.

Travel Tip: Admission to this museum is free on Thursdays between 4:00pm–8pm. 

Honorable Mentions

Five paintings inside Fotografiska
Works of art inside the Fotografiska museum in New York

We love New York City because there is always so much to experience. Even after living in the city, we still have so many museums to visit. So if you’ve already seen most of the popular NY museums we’ve already listed, here are a few honorable mentions with a quick synapsis:

  • Frick Collection – Masterpieces from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century.
  • Queens Museum – Located in Flushing Meadows, it’s best known for the Panorama of the City of New York.
  • New Museum – A popular contemporary art museum in Manhattan.
  • New-York Historical Society – This was New York’s first official museum and it showcases 400 years of history.
  • Jewish Museum – A museum highlighting the vibrant Jewish culture and art.
  • Museum of Chinese in America – Detailed exhibitions of Chinese American history.
  • Fotografiska NY – A branch of a Swedish contemporary art museum.
  • Museum of Sex – An intimate museum featuring the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality.

Many of these New York museums offer free admission on certain days so click the orange links to learn more if you’re interested in visiting.

Fun Museums In NYC

Long line of people waiting outside the Ice Cream Museum one of the best museums in NY
Museum of Ice Cream in New York City

If you’re looking for a museum where you can get unique content for social media, here are a few options popular with influencers:

  • Museum of Ice Cream – A museum about the history of ice cream with 10 multi-sensory installations.
  • Museum of Illusions – Test your eyes with kaleidoscopes, holograms, optical illusions, puzzles and reverse rooms.
  • Madame Tussauds – A unique attraction featuring wax statues of celebrities and famous people in Times Square.
  • Sloomoo Institute – The ultimate playground for a slimy experience, great for both kids and adults.
  • Color Factory – An interactive museum with immersive colorful art experiences.

Of if you’re visiting with kids, here are a few more museums they will love:

How To Save Money

If you’re planning to visit several of the most popular museums in New York, we recommend purchasing a NY Sightseeing Pass. This is an attraction pass that contains over 100+ activities in the city including most of the popular museums.

The NY Sightseeing Pass is our favorite attraction pass in the city and you should read our detailed review here to make sure the museums you want to visit are included. We also have a 5-10% discount exclusively for our readers.

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Use the button to receive our 5-10% discount off any NY Sightseeing Pass.

In Conclusion

Museums in New York City are not a one size fits all kind of thing. Depending on your travel style and who you’re traveling with, the museums you’ll visit in the city may drastically differ to others. Here is a conclusion of the best New York museums by category based on reviews from TripAdvisor and our experiences:

If we had to choose the best museum in NYC, it would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met is currently the largest and most visited museum in New York City. We think the Met is better than the MoMA because it offers numerous works and artifacts throughout the centuries from various cultures. But if you like modern art, you should visit the MoMA over the Met.

However, you can’t really go wrong with any of the museums in New York and here are the museums we always recommend to our friends and family:

  • The Met
  • 9/11 Museum
  • New York Transit Museum
  • Intrepid
  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum
  • MoMA
  • American History Museum

If you’re interested in learning specifically about New York, you should head to the Museum of the City of New York, the New York City Fire Museum or the Tenement Museum.

More New York Guides

Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.


We hope this guide featuring the most popular museums in New York City helps with planning your visit!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the NYC museums listed or your visit to New York in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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