There are many different ways to experience the culture of a city. A huge part of New York’s culture is out on the streets, amid the honking cabs and the thronging sidewalks, the pizza shops and the cafés, the restaurants and the dive bars.
But New York is a city that celebrates culture in all its forms, and if you want to get to grips with art and history from around the world, there are few better places you could possibly be than here. New York is home to some absolutely legendary museums, and along with these undoubted highlights, there is also an impressive selection of lesser-known and quirky cultural institutions that will give you a whole new view of this incredible city.
Drop off your bags at a New York luggage storage, and you’ll be free to explore some of the best museums New York has to offer. From high art to popular culture, you can expand your mind and have fun at the same time.
Dating back to 1880 and occupying pride of place in New York’s equally iconic Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as it’s officially known, is undoubtedly one of the grandest in the world.
Taking a stroll through this massive museum is like taking a tour through all of human civilization. Although it bills itself as an art museum, the Met also curates historical artifacts like the always-popular collection of historical arms and armor and clothing from the past in the Costume Institute. You’ll also find almost every famous name in art history represented here, including Rembrandt, Picasso, Caravaggio, Manet, Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, or both, the Met is an absolute must-visit on any trip to New York. You could easily spend hours wandering the halls here and appreciating some of the greatest artistic treasures humans have ever produced. For a true art lover, a single visit will never be enough.
The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA as it’s more often known, shares almost equal billing with the Met when it comes to the grandest museums in New York. Although the focus of this museum is narrower, focusing only on modern and contemporary art, that doesn’t mean it lacks famous names. This museum collects work from giants of 20th and 21st-century art, including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and others.
But with its mandate to celebrate more contemporary art, MoMA is a great place to come if you want to learn about what’s new and exciting in the world of modern art. Along with the permanent exhibits, MoMA hosts impressive temporary exhibits that bring some of the world’s top living artists to New York to celebrate their achievements. If you love modern art, you’ll love it here. And even if you don’t, you might find yourself a lot more interested in this field once you see everything it has to offer.
American Museum of Natural History
The scene of a million school trips, the American Museum of Natural History occupies a special place in the heart of most New Yorkers to this day. Unlike most museums, this venerable institution is an easy place for kids to fall in love with. Plus, even if you’ve never been to New York before and never seen the museum in person, you may be familiar with that it through the impact it has had on popular culture. One of the locations visited in JD Salinger’s seminal novel The Catcher in the Rye, it was more recently the setting for the popular movie Night at the Museum.
The museum continues to inspire children and adults alike. Don’t miss the Biodiversity Hall with its dioramas of animals from around the world, or the Ocean Life Hall with its incredible replica of a blue whale. Meanwhile, the hall of Human Origins will help you understand the place of our own species in a dynamic and ever-changing world. Plus, there is an incredible selection of rocks, minerals, and fossils, including meteorites. And don’t miss the fourth floor where the dinosaurs reign; the impressive skeletons are a reliable source of joy for just about everyone.
The Jewish Museum
Along with its world-leading general museums, New York is blessed with an almost endless array of museums devoted to more specialist interests. The Jewish Museum is definitely one of those, but the history of this fascinating and unique cultural group isn’t just for members of the faith.
New York’s Jewish population is one of the biggest in the world, and Jewish people have deep roots and connections here. New York’s unique culture wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of the Jewish community, and that, along with the troubled history of this often-vilified people, is what’s celebrated here. The museum collects artifacts from around the world to explain the history of the Jewish diaspora but also goes out of its way to display contemporary art by Jewish artists, merging the old and the new to show how vibrant and alive Jewish culture remains to this day.
Museum of the Moving Image
Head out to Queens to explore this museum of TV, movies, and digital media. Few inventions have shaped the world in a shorter time than mass media has, and at this museum, you’ll get a clearer picture of the evolution of moving images from the first experiments in the 18th century through to today’s virtual reality. If you’re a film nerd or a TV fan, you’ll be glad you made the trip to this unique museum.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
The USS Intrepid is a battleship that earned its stripes during the Second World War but now serves as a floating museum dedicated to more than just warfare. The flight deck of the ship contains fighter jets, but it also houses a Concorde and the space shuttle Enterprise. This quirky museum is the perfect place to learn more about how humans use technology to both harm and help one another, and it’s a great place to explore with kids.
There are so many museums in New York, both big and small, that you could spend a lifetime visiting them and still never run out of options. But hopefully, this list has shown you just some of the incredible diversity you’ll find in the city. Drop off your bags at a convenient luggage storage and visit these and more of New York’s best museums to get a deeper sense of the cultural life of the city.