Days 6, 7 and 8 – Museums

Written by  //  August 9, 2011  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  3 Comments

If you like museums, you will really enjoy NYC. This City houses some of the largest and most eccentric museums in the world. The really famous ones include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the American Museum of Natural History, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Guggenheim. Lesser known, yet equally nice, museums include the Transit Museum, the Intrepid (they have a very nice free film festival!), the Frick Collection, the Jewish Museum, and the American Museum of the Moving Image. There are some that I really want to visit, but can’t justify to myself. The Museum of Sex sounds interesting, but costs $ 17. It seems too much to pay for an illustrated history of the dildo. I’m also told that Ripley’s Believe It or Not counts as a museum. You can disagree if you follow the dictionary definition of a museum: “A building, place, or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical, or artistic value”. Several museums are located along one long road, affectionately called “Museum Mile”, in the upper-east side of Manhattan, so you can museum-hop with ease.

Unfortunately, visiting museums in NYC is not cheap. Most museums charge non-nominal admission fees. Paying to get into the MoMA, for example, can set you back $ 20 per ticket. A valid student ID usually gets you a considerable discount, and it’s worth carrying one around everywhere. Other museums have systems that are more annoying than the admission fee. The Met (which is really a nice museum) makes you pay, what it euphemistically calls, a “recommended donation”. It “recommends” that adults pay $ 25, students pay $ 12 and seniors pay $ 17. I must add here that the effectiveness of this “recommendation” is inversely proportional to the thickness of your skin. To enter the Met, you have to stand in a long line, at the end of which you give your money to a snooty-looking Met employee, who hands you a colored button that allows you to enter the museum. Believe me, it takes very thick skin and enormous self confidence (or extreme penury – this is my excuse) to stand in that line and tell the snooty person at the end of it that you want to disregard their “recommendation” and pay only 5 cents. In theory you can, but in practice most people end up paying at least $ 10.

I find that every time I go to the Met, I am inclined to pay them less. I started with $ 12, and am now down to $ 2.5. This is because the Met is an ostentatiously rich museum. It really doesn’t need your money. They are also very smart, these Met people. They change the color of the button everyday, so you can’t re-use it to re-enter the Met on another day. The buttons have become something of a tourist souvenir now, so keep yours! The button also allows you to visit the Cloisters, which is managed by the Met administration, but is located further away in Fort Tyron Park. The Cloisters are lovely and you should go if you can. If you’re at the Met, you should also see the view of NYC from its roof. It’s spectacular.

Museums are cheap if you plan your trips well. Almost all NYC museums have a few hours a week when they don’t charge an entrance fee. If you know that time for the museum of your choice, you can show up then. But lines are always longer, so come well in time. In summers, there is a Museum Mile festival, where participating museums offer free entry. Again, lines are long, but it’s worth it. If you subscribe to a service like groupon.com, you can often get a very good deal for museum tickets. Many museums are also covered by the NYC Pass, if you bought it. And finally, if you know I-Bankers, you should visit museums with them. They inevitably have free access to the best museums in the city by virtue of the large donations provided by their employers. It is ironic that NYC museums are only free to the one demographic that can actually afford $ 20 to stare at pretty pictures – investment bankers.    

In any event, it’s generally worth checking a museum out online before going, because buying tickets online is always faster and sometimes cheaper. Often, you can get really lucky and realize that a special exhibit is running. Recently, the Met was exhibiting a selection of Alexander McQueen’s designs. It was excellent, though the lines to get in were long. The museums also have really nice gift shops. I often spend as much time in the gift shop as I do in the museum. It’s full of stuff you will never use, but cannot resist: e.g. postcards featuring B-grade movie posters with titles like “Redneck Zombies”. I’m not sure what to do with them, but I bought a pack of 100.   

I’m going to quickly end by pointing out that true museum lovers should consider Washington D.C. The Smithsonian Museums are as good as, and sometimes better, than what NYC has to offer. It helps that they are free, and are surrounded by all of D.C.’s gorgeous memorials and monuments. D.C. is a 4.5 hour bus ride away from NYC. It’s worth taking a weekend trip there sometime.

3 Comments on "Days 6, 7 and 8 – Museums"

  1. Jackie August 10, 2011 at 12:19 am ·

    I just wanted to add to your blog with a helpful tool, City Maps. A friend introduced me right before I visited the city and it had a MAJOR impact on my trip. It is an extremely helpful map, I know it is pretty new and I am hoping it will spread quickly to my city!

  2. Lekha August 10, 2011 at 5:30 am ·

    What a great read!

    The trouble is, when you’re visiting any place as a tourist, you tend to get sucked into the vortex of expensive museums because of that all-encompassing excuse: “I’m only here for a week! I’ll never get to see such beautiful El Grecos again! I paid SO much for my flight tickets, what’s $20 here or $50 there?”

  3. Jayant Ambast August 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm ·

    Hi. I read it. It is well written.

Comments are now closed for this article.