When it comes to being a tourist in New York, the number of museums and galleries can seem quite overwhelming. From photo galleries to museum exhibits, natural history to modern contemporary, NY is filled with beautiful art. Not only does it have extensive galleries in the Upper East Side (including the fifth largest museum in the world) but also smaller galleries in Chelsea with artists and creatives that you might not be familiar with.
With an array of options, it’s always good to have an idea of what you want to do and see. Allow us to introduce The LA Girl’s Guide to New York Museums.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
We all know about this one. First up is the reputable and one of the best museums globally— The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opened in 1880 in Central Park, this museum contains an insane amount of art, from prehistoric to modern and contemporary art. The museum takes us to relive the past in a unique way where you can explore one of the period rooms, and it can still take you an hour to do so! We recommend spending a significant part of your day here to cover the entire museum. Fun fact: The Met Gala is hosted here every year!
Must see: The Temple of Dendur, Asian Art period room, Art of the Arab Lands, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibit
The Met Cloisters
One of the hidden gems of NYC, The Met Cloisters, is an extension of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s located outside of the city, over the Hudson River, and is dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Make a day out of it— take a leisure walk, sit at their on-site Trie cafe and walk through the Tryon Park. The building itself is so beautiful that even if you go there for the architecture and photo ops, it’ll still be well worth it.
Must see: The Unicorn Tapestries and the Fuentidueña Chapel
Museum of Ice Cream
Are you ready to bring out the kid in you? This museum is the perfect place to do so! Enjoy eating ice cream and learning about its history through the 13 installations of the Museum of Ice Cream. It has a three-story slide that lands in a pool filled with sprinkles (yes, sprinkles!). One of the installations showcases a hand coming out of nowhere and hands you more servings of delicious ice cream. This museum is located in Soho and reminded us of the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory! You won’t want to miss this.
Must see: Helium Balloon Room and the Chocolate Room
The Museum of Modern Art
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, The Museum of Modern Art has one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art. This museum displays and is the home to paintings like The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh works of Claude Monet, The Lovers by René Magritte, and so many more. The paintings are well-curated and are displayed for everyone to enjoy them. We recommend taking the elevator up to the top floor and working your way down to avoid the crowd and experience the museum better. MoMA also has a Michelin starred restaurant, The Modern, by Danny Meyer, so you can explore the museum and grab some fantastic food with a view!
Must see: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Campbell Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, and the works of Basquiat and Dali
Whitney Museum of American Art
Get ready to get all dolled up for this one. Featuring art by Basquiat, Vito Acconci, and so many more artists, the Whitney Museum of American Art, recently relocated to Greenwich Village, showcases a breathtaking view of the New York City skyline making it a great spot to click pictures. The inside of the museum is no less than the outdoor view. We know you’ll absolutely love this one!
Must see: works of Vito Acconci, works of Robert Adams
The Frick Collection
The Frick, located in Upper East Side, is a mansion-turned museum. It has a really impressive private collection of Renaissance arts by Rembrandt, Goya, Titian, etc. This is one of the most elegant and Instagrammable museums, and the LA in you is sure to come out here! As The Frick Collection is under renovation, The Frick Madison is open just a few blocks away in its substitute. It is filled with furniture with intricate details that you really have to examine and gives a different and a more intimate look at the artwork rather than where The Frick was previously presenting.
Must see: “Propagazioni: Giuseppe Penone at Sèvres” exhibit, works of Rembrandt
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
This modern landmark, located in the Upper East Side across from Central Park, is the go-to spot for all of our architecture lovers. You could say the spiral ramp is the main attraction, but there is so much more to the museum than just that. It creates a gallery in itself by using shapes and geometry! The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has permanent collections that you don’t want to miss out on, including works by Picasso, Manet, and Kandinsky. You will want to go up through the elevator and then work your way down as the museum unfolds itself to you. We recommend going on weekdays, it’s less crowded, and you have more time to see a specific art/installation.
Must see: “Jennie C. Jones: Dynamics” exhibition, “Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks” exhibition, works of Picasso
Rubin Museum of Art
If you want to know more about South Asian artwork, this is the museum you go to. Located in Chelsea, the Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to the art and artworks of the Himalayas and India. This museum dives into the sculptures, paintings, methods of paintings in the earlier times, and murals of the temples in the Himalayas. As you’re there, you can feel a sense of peace as you explore lots of Buddhist imagery, and this is definitely one of the underrated museums in NYC. Don’t forget to visit the museum’s shop and Cafe Serai—they have handcrafted items sourced straight from India and authentic Indian Biryani!
Must see: Gateway of Himalayan Art, Shrine Room, and the Mandala Lab