Hands Down: These Are the Best Museums in NYC

Updated 03/13/18

There's an overwhelming amount of activities and experiences competing for your attention in New York City. A morning at Central Park, an afternoon spent taking in the sights from the Empire State Building, a night at a Broadway show—the options are endless. When planning an inexpensive day spent in the city, consider a visit to a museum in NYC (many of which operate on a donation-based entry fee).

There's something to be said for spending the day at a museum. Whether you consider yourself a budding art critic or are simply looking for a cultural experience, walking the quiet—almost sacred—halls of a space dedicated to art, design, or innovation is time well spent. Explore an unrivaled permanent collection of modern art at the Museum of Modern Art, learn about the past at the American Museum of Natural History, or experience art from all corners of the earth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Keep reading to see the best museums in NYC and all of the exciting exhibitions on view.

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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Permanent Collection: The MoMA houses a truly unparalleled collection of modern art comprising almost 200,000 works—from photography and painting to performance and design. You'll recognize iconic works from the likes of Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Ruscha, and Andy Warhol. The artists whose work is displayed here deliberately rejected the expectations of traditional art and emphasized innovation and experimentation.

Must-See: "Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Visit: 11 West 53 St. New York, NY, 10019

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American Museum of Natural History

Permanent Collection: The American Museum of Natural History is home to incredible exhibitions on everything from dinosaurs to oceanic creatures. Spend the day in awe of the halls of the ornithischian dinosaurs, North American mammals, vertebrate origins, and ocean life. Incredibly educational, this museum will take you back to the days of school field trips and make you remember how vast the world really is.

Must-See: The Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs

Visit: Central Park West & 79th St. New York, NY, 10024

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The Guggenheim

Permanent Collection: The Guggenheim's permanent collection houses over 7000 artworks spanning from the late 19th century to today. Beginning with the private collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim, this was created from the idea that pure abstraction could be a spiritual experience. Expect to see abstraction, surrealism, impressionism, post-impressionism, and conceptual art.

Currently on View: Dan Vo: Take My Breath Away

Must-See: "Several Circles" by Vasily Kandinsky, (1926)

Visit: 1071 Fifth Ave. New York, NY, 10128

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Permanent Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art allows you to experience art of all cultures and time periods thanks to a highly diverse permanent collection. You'll be treated to ancient artifacts from across the globe, fashion designs throughout the ages, painting, photographs, and sculptures.

Currently on View: Leon Golub: Raw Nerve

Must-See: "The Dance Class" by Edgar Degas (1874)

Visit: 1000 Fifth Ave. New York, NY, 10028

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The Frick Collection

Permanent Collection: Located inside a New York City mansion built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, this museum holds 16 permanent galleries filled with Western paintings, sculptures, and decorative art. Admire 18th-century French furniture, masterpieces by Titian and Giovanni Bellini as well as portraits by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Anthony van Dyck, and Johannes Vermeer.

Must-See: "Self-Portrait" by Rembrandt (1658)

Visit: 1 East 70th St. New York, NY, 10021

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Whitney Museum of American Art

Permanent Collection: The Whitney's permanent collection comprises over 23,000 works of art created during the 20th and 21st centuries. These modern and contemporary pieces include works by Josef Albers, Carl Andre, and Robert Rauschenberg. The museum is also famous for holding the Whitney Biennial, an international art show that showcases the work of emerging American artists.

Must-See: "A Woman in the Sun" by Edward Hopper (1961)

Visit: 99 Gansevoort St. New York, NY, 10014

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The Morgan

Permanent Collection: The Morgan Library and Museum not only houses paintings and art objects but also medieval and renaissance manuscripts, printed music, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets. The museum's most popular holdings include drawings by Peter Paul Rubens, sheet music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a handwritten manuscript by Henry David Thoreau. It's a haven for art lovers, music appreciators, and literary fiends alike.

Must-See: "Seated Male Youth" by Peter Paul Rubens (1600-1640)

Visit: 225 Madison Avenue New York, NY, 10016

Spend a day wandering through the halls of one of these breathtaking museums. Each collection and exhibition offers a unique perspective of the past present and future.

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