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New York City Museums

Jul 23, 2008
The City That Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. Gotham. New York City has many names and many faces. With 8.2 million people in 322 square miles, the metropolis is dense and frenetic.

Manhattan, the New York City borough of primary importance, can overwhelm and intimidate. Skyscrapers stab the clouds like giant steel stalagmites. Yellow cabs dart in and out of traffic like honeybees. People swarm sidewalks and march in unison like ants. Poor visitors get lost in the Manhattan street grid.

New York is larger than life. Of this there is no quarrel. As a result, you should start small and parcel the city. Narrow your focus and slice and dice The Big Apple into segments. Think neighborhoods. Think monuments. Think museums.

On that note, Manhattan has some of the best on the planet. A world capital of culture, no New York experience would be complete without a visit to one or several monumental museums. So without further ado, here are New York City's Must-See Museums.

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at West 79th Street

With one of the most impressive and familiar architectural fašades in New York City, the American Museum of Natural History is a major draw with locals and tourists alike. The museum houses over 32 million specimens, a colossal collection of which only a fraction is available to the public. With 46 permanent exhibition halls, the museum is a prodigious site to navigate. Popular features include the Fossil Halls, home to two dinosaur exhibits and the world's foremost collection of vertebrate fossils, and Bird and Mammal Halls. The 11,000 square foot Hall of Biodiversity epitomizes the museum's mission to spread environmental awareness and appreciation of our Earth's natural treasures. The most recent structural masterpiece on the Manhattan map is the inspirational Rose Center for Earth and Space. The massive 333,500 square foot planetarium complex is a center for research and education that redefines the museum experience altogether. All in all, reason alone to include the American Museum of Natural History on your New York City itinerary.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue

The Guggenheim is a vintage piece of architecture on the Manhattan skyline. The Frank Lloyd Wright design, with iconic spiral staircase, stirs instant visual recognition. To not enter the Guggenheim however, would be a shame. Rather than point and check it off your list of New York City landmarks, give the museum a few hours of your time. The structure represents one of the most pleasurable in which to view and appreciate art. The Guggenheim collection is remarkable. Every modern and contemporary master with household name recognition is here, aside from scores of others. Exhibits in the beautiful main gallery change and rotate throughout the year, with sculpture, film and canvas on display.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue

In terms of sheer size and scope, few rivals can compete with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over 5 million people visit The Met every year, which makes it one of the most popular attractions in New York City. The collection is enormous and could easily spawn and furnish many museums at once. Whatever your interest in art, The Met has an exhibit for you. From Ancient Egypt to musical instruments, the Roman Empire to modern art, costumes to Islamic Art, there are scant periods, movements and aspects of art that the museum does not cover. Short on time? Take a Highlights Tour, which breaks exhibits down into digestible portions and provides a superb overview of The Met.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street

The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMa for short, is a requisite stop for lovers of modern art and visual expression. Exhibits include works of photography, film, sculpture, architecture, design and traditional art. A veritable pioneer, the MoMa was the first museum to devote space to modern art and is the world epicenter for creative works that reshape our notions of what constitutes art to begin with. In typical New York City fashion, the actual MoMa edifice is itself a work of art. The interior design of the museum is a fantastic sight to behold and blends light and space into one unique structure in which to appreciate art.

The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street

The Frick is perhaps the most exceptional small art museum in the world. The museum was once the home - a mansion that inhabits a city block - of steel baron Henry Clay Frick. The magnate's appetite for art by the old European Masters was insatiable. His subsequent estate had little choice really, but to transform his gargantuan home into a museum. The Frick provides visitors with a sense of intimacy and tactility that none of the institutional museums of Manhattan can match. The collection features some of the most recognizable works by major European painters, in addition to sculpture, furniture and tapestry. While the large art museums of the city carry long lines and wait times for certain exhibits, The Frick still bears the charm and authenticity of a private collection in a private residence. Most of the works are on display in strict accordance with Frick's original designs.
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