Museums and More: NYC

“He thought of light in art as essential – like pigment in paint, or tone in music.”

~ Ellen Edelman, on the artist Moholo-Nagy (Exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum until October)  

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Top view of the Guggenheim Museum

Of all the places that I visited in NYC, the art museums were by far my favourite. At the top of the list was the Guggenheim Museum, The Cloisters, and The Rooftop of the Met. I’ve also included a few other of my top sights to see on this list.

1. Guggenheim Museum

Perks: Pay-what-you-wish on Saturdays from 5:45-7:45pm; arrive early!

Otherwise: Tickets are $18

Don’t Make My Mistake:

On pay-what-you-wish days, get there very early. The line can get insane. I arrived blissfully, with what I thought was “plenty of time to still get in” (around 6pm) from my favourite walk across Central Park only to be greeted by the actual longest line I have ever seen in my life. The lines at Disneyland had nothing on this line. The lines to get tickets to be in the studio audience for the Jimmy Fallon show had nothing on this line. It wrapped clear around all four blocks of the large square that the museum resides on, ending where the line started at the entrance of the museum. Needless to say, I didn’t make it in time.

Do This Instead:

If aiming for a pay-what-you-wish Saturday, I’d get there at around 5pm. Or you can splurge a bit and buy a ticket, which is what I would actually suggest.  It’s calmer and quieter, and there are free tours on varying subjects offered every day at 2pm. I loved our tour guide – she was so stylish and fierce and knowledgeable about the NYC art scene. I wanted to be her. And to own her awesome shoes, which were heels that looked like they were made of marble. The Moholo-Nagy exhibit was one of my all-time favourites, and if you’re in the city anytime before October, I cannot recommend it enough.

Tip:  Take the elevator to the top and then work your way down the spiral, peeking into the other side galleries as you go along.

Find it:

1071 5th Ave., between 88th and 89th sts., New York, New York

Open: Sun-Wed. and Fri. from 10-5:45pm

Sat. from 10-7:45.

Tours are led everyday at 2pm

 2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A. The Museum Itself

Perks: If you buy tickets at a museum ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you.

Tip: The ticket comes in the form of a sticker, which you can either just show the security guards as you go in or wear on your clothes for the duration of the visit. I kept my sticker from The Cloisters on me always, attached to the stamp sheet in my notebook that I’d take out to show the guards at the entrance of the museum. It was so handy to have this sticker because I could skip the lines to buy tickets and go in whenever I was in the area, for an hour or even 15 minutes. It was especially handy to have when I just wanted to go to the rooftop to meet a friend for a drink.

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B. The Met Rooftop

Don’t Make My Mistake:

I had told a friend to meet me at “The Met Rooftop” for drinks, but I’d neglected to tell him that I meant the Metropolitan Art Museum, not the Metropolitan Opera House, which is clear on the other side of Central Park. So when 7 o’clock rolled around, and he called me to say that he’d arrived, and I said, “Oh, I’m just in the museum wandering around,” and he said, “I see…” – you can avoid having crossed signals, and instead enjoy a lovely time on top of the Art Museum’s rooftop. Side-note: I ended up going back to Columbus Circle to meet him, and we sought out this super cozy and cute outdoor wine bar belonging to a hotel down in Hell’s Kitchen. It was the perfect little spot. So not all was lost.

Do This Instead:

The bar can get a little crowded the later that you go, especially on a Friday or Saturday night (and the bar/rooftop closes at 8:15pm), so I would go around 6-7pm, get a drink, and stake out a good spot to watch the sunset over Central Park and the skyline. Also, the museum doesn’t close until 9pm on Friday and Saturday, so after watching the sunset, you can go back into the museum and wander around until close. The museum is wonderfully peaceful and quiet around then – it feels like you have the whole place to yourself which is very “Night At The Museum”-esque.

Tip: They make it impossible to find the elevator that takes you to the rooftop, so just ask one of the guards to point you in the right direction. From my recollection, it’s the set of elevators next to the Modern and Contemporary art wing. They also make it impossible for you to exit the museum, but keep your eyes up and follow the red exit signs out. Do not ask the security guards about how to find the exit because they will be less than enthusiastic about pointing the big exit signs out to you. I should know.

Find it: 945 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10021

Open Tues-Thurs: 10am-5:30pm

Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm

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C. The Cloisters

Don’t Make My Mistake:

The walk there is not all that bad until you hit the mountain that The Cloisters sits on top off. I had neglected to realize that it’s quite the trek to get there, and it’s all uphill. And it was hot. This had better be worth it was all that I could think whilst trudging up the mountainside, but *spoiler alert*, it’s definitely worth it.

Do This Instead:

Don’t wear a dress. Prep yourself to climb lots of stairs and/or walk up many switchbacks. Or take a bus! Which is what I should’ve done. Oh well, good exercise I guess. Everyone who took the bus arrived all pristine and air-conditioned-out in front of the entrance to The Cloisters, and I basically lay down on the steps up to the ticket office while chugging the entire contents of my water bottle.

Tip: Bring a snack! When you reach the gorgeous little café in the middle of a garden, you’ll want to sit, eat, and enjoy the view for awhile. But then you’ll see that a sandwich costs $200 (a slight exaggeration), and your stomach will be sad as you wander around the gothic chapel and think about what they used to eat in the Middle Ages.

Find it:

99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040

Open Tues-Thurs: 10am-5:15pm

Open Fridays until 7:30 pm

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3. The Frick Collection 

Perks: On Sundays, pay what you wish from 11am-1pm

I would definitely go on a Sunday, during the pay-what-you-wish window. The house and art collection are amazing to see, but I mainly loved learning about the history of the house. On the Sunday that we went, it wasn’t crowded at all, in comparison to the Guggenheim pay-what-you-wish window on Saturdays which had a line wrapping around the entire square that the museum sat on.

Find it: 1 East 70th Street

New York, NY 10021

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4. MOMA

Perks: Admission is free for all visitors, every Friday evening from 5-8pm. If you have reserved tickets, you can skip the line and enter the main lobby of the museum directly.

Don’t Make My Mistake:

UNIQLO Free Fridays: Don’t wait in any sort of line for any of this. The free Fridays at MOMA are absolute chaos; especially if people don’t know what’s happening, realize what’s happening, and make a big to-do about getting in line and getting in free, etc. etc. etc. Even if you reserve tickets online, it can be confusing when you enter because there are lines everywhere and naturally, you think that there’s a line to get in for people with reserved tickets. This is not true.

Do This Instead:

Be sure and reserve tickets online ahead of time. You’ll receive a link by text the day before, so that on Friday, when you get to MOMA, you can just have the link pulled up on your phone, show the security guard the online reservation, and get in really fast without waiting in line for anything. Also head straight up to the highest floor, and work your way down. You’ll hopefully be able to avoid the highest amount of traffic that way.

Find it: 11 W 53rd Street

New York, NY 10019

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5. American Museum of Natural History 

Perks: The museum and the planetarium are both pay-what-you-wish. Central Park is also right across the street, and the Theodore Roosevelt Garden is next to the Planetarium. Both provide the perfect spot for a quiet lunch in between exploring the museum. Shake Shack is also located on a corner nearby the museum.

Tip: Sidle up to a tour group and listen in for some fun facts! I especially enjoyed all of the school groups that were there, because I could listen in to what the tour guides were saying and gain some background info on the exhibits (and sometimes because I honestly needed the simplest explanation possible about a lot of the diagrams).

Don’t Make My Mistake:

I got there a little late, which was unfortunate because the line to get in was just the longest I have ever seen other than the Guggenheim’s pay-what-you-wish line. I also got confused about the Planetarium, i.e. where it was located, how you get in, etc. etc. (typical me), so I would either try to see that first thing in the morning or right after lunch.

Do This Instead:

Get to the museum very early and work your way down from the top floor (which is the Dinosaurs Among Us exhibit, and also basically my entire Biology degree summed up in one exhibit. My favourite quote from the whole day at the museum: “Many Questions, Few Answers.” #Biology101). Take your time exploring some of the dioramas afterwards, and then grab burgers from Shake Shack down the street and wander into Central Park for lunch. Walk around the park for awhile and then head back into the museum to catch a Planetarium Space show, and explore the Hall of Life and the Oceans exhibit. The museum closes fairly early at 5:45pm, with very strict and stressed out guards ushering you out of the building (and they will chase you if they catch you lingering) so getting there early is a plus.

Find it: Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024

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6. High Line Park & Chelsea Art Galleries

Perks: On Thursday nights, many of the art galleries in the Chelsea Art District have opening launch parties offering free wine. Throw on a fancy dress and red lipstick, grab your best girlfriend (or boyfriend), and make a night of it!

Tip: The website ARTCAT lists when each exhibit will have its opening party.

Don’t Make My Mistake:

I tried to go on my own at around 7pm. I wasn’t super set on trying to find any gallery opening parties, but I figured if I happened on one, I wouldn’t say no. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought to just “stumble” on these art galleries/gallery openings. So after wandering around the Chelsea Art  District for awhile, I abandoned Plan A and walked the entire length of the High Line Park at sunset instead, which was absolutely wonderful anyway.

Do This Instead:

Join a meet-up group online to do an Art Gallery crawl. And plan on meeting at around 6pm. Most opening parties are from 6-8pm, and most galleries are open until 7:30-8pm. I think that going with a group might be much more fun/successful; someone in the group is bound to know which galleries are having openings, and you never know who you might meet at one of these! Or make it a date-night or girls-night-out, and hit the Biergarten afterwards for some great pours, game tables,  and the biggest pretzels I have ever seen in my life.

Find it: Most galleries are between 22nd and 27th Streets, west of 10th avenue

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7. Times Square

Oddly enough, I really liked Times Square. I know, I know – it’s crazy crowded, so many tourists, the advertising, the lights flashing at you at every angle. But somehow, standing there in the midst of a huge, mostly confused and overwhelming crowd, I felt like I was truly in NYC. That I had made it somehow, there, finally.

Perk: Go to the lobby of the Marriot Hotel around the corner of Times Square, take the elevator to the top floor, and then ride the glass elevator down, watching all the floors fly by you as you get closer to the lobby.

Tip: While there is a TKTS booth at Times Square (Located “under the red steps” at Broadway and 47th St) where you can  get same-day tickets at a discount, there is another TKTS booth in Lincoln Center that is brand-new and so far, fairly undiscovered. It’s much quieter, no line, and air-conditioned (yay).

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8. 9/11 Memorial: Ground Zero

This beautiful and touching memorial brought me to tears. It was incredibly moving and so thoughtfully designed. I was struck by the fact that the names were not listed alphabetically, but rather were placed side-by-side according to floor or location, so that when families and friends came together to pay tribute, they would know who their loved one was beside at the time. The grove of trees surrounding the Memorial is also special in that the architects designed a plaza with a suspended paving system to help support the swamp white oak trees growing on the plaza. The white oak trees were planted at the site where the planes crashed, and on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the trees were brought back to NYC and planted at the site of the Memorial.

Find it: 180 Greenwich St., New York, New York, 10006

Open: 7:30am-9pm

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9. The New York Public Library

Perks: Walk up 41st street where famous literary quotes are cast in bronze on the sidewalk. Oh, and keep an eye out for free yoga classes offered on Bryant Park lawn.

The main branch of the NY public library is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. Even though the famous Rose Reading Room was under construction when I went, I was still in awe of every space I wandered into. The paintings on the ceiling, the murals, and the marble staircases – I almost forgot that it was housing some of the most rare and beautiful books in the world.

Find it: 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, NY.

Near Bryant Park lawn

10. St. John the Divine

Perks: Tours are offered on Tues.-Sat. 11am & 1pm

A gorgeous church with one of my favourite spots in the city: The Poet’s Corner on the left side of the church, near the entrance. On the ground are plaques with the words of authors, writers, and poets inscribed into them. Some quotes that stayed with me:

“Take up the song; forget the epitaph.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” ~ W. H. Auden

“I learn by going where I have to go.” ~ Roethke

Find it:

1047 Amsterdam Ave., at 112th St., New York, New York, 10025, USA

Open Daily: 7:30 am – 6 pm

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Also check out: Falling in Love With(in) the City, In the Mood to Explore, and A Food Tour of Brooklyn!

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