When it comes to being a cultural hub, there are few places quite like Manhattan. Whether it’s museums of historic interest, educational illumination, and creative discovery for children or adults, we’ve definitely got it all.
Manhattan Museums are everywhere, and the specifics of interests are wide-reaching; from cultural exploration, fine and modern art exhibits, entertainment history, and more, museums in Manhattan have it all.
If you’re looking for museums in downtown Manhattan museums or museums in lower Manhattan, we’ve created a quick reference list — from the classic to the unusual — just to get you started.
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Also called the Met, the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts is the largest of its kind in America, with countless items on permanent display, as well as special exhibits that tour through the museum for a limited duration. The museum was founded in 1870, and the permanent items are divided into 17 unique museum categories.
Among the 17 divisions are collections from Africa, Egypt, Asia, and Europe. There is an American art division, the Nolan Library, which contains a children’s reading area, and a costume department with creative pieces of cultural and historic significance.
The Museum of Modern Art Division holds over 13,000 unique pieces on full public display.
Location: 1000 5th Avenue
2. The Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art — also known as “MoMA” — with over 600,000 sq feet of space, and approximately 200,000 pieces on exhibit, is considered to house the most modern art at one location than anywhere else in the world. MoMa displays paintings, architecture, photography, and even films inspired by modern artists. After the extensive costs of renovations, MoMa Admission rose to $20, however, admission is always free on Fridays after 4 PM
Location: 53rd Street, Midtown
3. Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Originally founded by Betty Korman in 1973 — and later developed by a group of artists and teachers in Harlem — in response to a city budget crisis that left school funding substantially lacking, the museum was created to inspire youth. In the 1980s, the facility moved to its present location on West 83rd.
The museum hosts over 300,000 visitors per year (including families and entire classrooms of young students) with popular exhibits like Winnie the Pooh. The museum includes a media center, an outdoor environmental area, and a tech space.
Location: 212 West 83rd
4. New York City Firefighters Museum
This museum is located in a 1902 renovated firehouse on Spring Street. With artifacts that show the history of firefighting — dating all the way back to the bucket brigades — an extensive photograph collection, and a memorial for the 343 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty on September 11th.
Museum-goers will likely encounter onsite firefighters who will educate the public on fire safety, as well as share personal, and heroic, stories with the audience.
Location: 278 Spring Street
5. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
This museum contains one of the largest displays for the performing arts on the planet. It was originally conceived in 1957, where fundraising quickly gathered support.
The museum contains an area to view films, a bookstore, and a storytelling area. Museum guests will see classic film posters, as well as original set and costume designs.
In 2001, a 38 million dollar museum renovation was completed.
Location: 40 Lincoln Center Plaza
6. The Museum of the American Gangster
If the Goodfellas is your favorite movie, you might want to check out this unusual museum. It’s located right upstairs from a long-ago speakeasy in a part of town where John Gotti and Al Capone were known to hang out and conduct “family” business.
Inside the museum, there are plenty of historic photographs from the prohibition era, John Dillinger’s death mask, and even a collection of bullets from the infamous Valentine’s Day massacre. If you’re interested in learning even more, you can also make arrangements to tour the speakeasy.
Location: 80 St Marks Place
7. Museum of the Society of Illustrators
The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art closed in 2012, due to the lack of fundraising abilities, but don’t fear because all their assets were safely transferred to the Museum of the Society of Illustrators.
This museum holds artistic work by the great Norman Rockwell. And, on their comic book side, it honors work from artists like Stan Lee. The museum displays iconic, vintage, comic book pieces from Archie, Wendy the Good Little Witch, and Richie Rich. And it highlights the long term fascination that comic books have always had with New York City.
Location: 128 East 63rd Street
8. Jackie Robinson Foundation Museum
Although this museum is still in the works, it’s expected to open as early as this spring. The Jackie Robinson Foundation Museum broke ground in 2017 with plans to create an 18,000 plus sq foot museum in lower Manhattan as a tribute to the legendary status of the baseball player, Jackie Robinson.
The museum will house his historic baseball memorabilia as well as provide a venue for concerts, and lectures regarding the importance of Civil rights. Jackie Robinson was more than a much-loved baseball legend, he was a civil rights leader who has held the hearts of Americans for decades. This is an up and coming museum definitely worth watching for the grand opening.
Location: 75 Varick Street
9. Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
In cooperation with the Statue of Liberty — Ellis Island Institute — and the National Park Service, a restoration project of 150 million dollars has funded a beautifully recreated museum. Although much of the Island’s buildings have not yet been restored, and still remain closed to the public, the actual museum tells the story of immigration to America both before and after the use of Ellis Island.
The museum’s library is named after Bob Hope — a famous American entertainer and immigrant — who was born in London and arrived at Ellis Island in 1908, at the age of four.
10. The Houdini Museum of New York
Unless you’re David Copperfield — who has the number one largest collection of the Great Houdini’s memorabilia in the world — this is the chance for all fans of the magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, to feast their eyes on this historic magical, genius personal costumes and tricks of the trade.
Included in the Museum is his famous “escape coffin,” as well as artifacts that showed how he often debunked the spiritualists of his time. With contents valued at millions of dollars, the museum’s rather tucked away location has often caused it to go unnoticed.
Location: 113 West 35th Street. Room 401.
For more information, check out www.houdinimuseum.com
After you’ve filled your mind and heart with cultural milestones at our phenomenal local museums, why not bring your friends for a cocktail at High Bar? You’ll find us conveniently located at the top of the Doubletree at 346 West 40th.
And our rooftop lounge will fill your senses with spectacular panoramic views of the entire New York City skyline — including the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty.
For reservations, give us a call at 646.362.7363, and we’ll have a table set up just for you.