We have selected a number of cultural attractions in different areas of New York to help you decide what and where to visit.
American Museum of Natural History
Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is one of the largest and most respected museums in the world, with over 32 million objects. With collections spanning everything from plant and animal specimens, right through to human artefacts, fossils, minerals and more, the museum offers a virtual window on the world’s rich diversity. Whether you have a specialist interest and are eager to explore the research collections, or are simply looking for something fun and educational to do with the kids while you’re in New York, the Museum of Natural History is well worth exploring.
Set in a prime location on the Upper West Side, just across from Central Park, the museum boasts four floors of exhibition halls, as well as a planetarium, an Imax theatre and several lecture rooms. Highlights include massive dinosaur skeletons, a slice of a millennium-old giant sequoia trunk, and an immense life-size replica of an endangered blue whale. The museum also hosts a regularly changing series of special exhibits on a variety of topics designed to encourage an even broader interest in science and culture, as well as guided tours and even occasional sleepovers at the museum.
As part of a global network of illustrious art galleries owned by arts patron Larry Gagosian, theGagosian Gallery in New York is amongst the city’s best destinations for those interested in modern and contemporary art. With five locations throughout the city (including two on Madison Avenue and one at Park & 75th), these galleries regularly show an impressive array of works by some of the world’s most famous artists – including the likes of Picasso, Monet, Warhol and Pollock – as well as the most innovative and talented new artists working today. Each spectacularly designed Gagosian Gallery has its own personality and look, but all are appealing places to discover both new works and old favourites.
Located right at the heart of New York’s thriving Chelsea art district, the Agora Gallery has developed a reputation as a prime location for spotting up-and-coming talent in the field of contemporary art. Dedicated to providing the best promotional opportunities for its artists, the gallery showcases works in a variety of media and styles, making it an intriguing place to hunt out a new piece for your collection or simply keep abreast of the latest developments on the New York art scene. A bright and airy space with a welcoming feel, it’s certainly worth checking out for fans of contemporary fine art while visiting the city.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The Museum of Modern Art (better known as MoMA) is a must-see for art lovers visiting New York. Opened in 1929, this vast gallery space is home to one of the world’s foremost collections of modern and contemporary art, as well as an ever-changing selection of touring exhibitions that help expose audiences to the riches of the international modern art scene. MoMA features an impressive selection of everything from paintings and sculptures, to photographs, films, prints, drawings, illustrated books and more. What’s more, it regularly holds talks by curators, artists and other experts to help visitors learn more about the world of contemporary art, and also hosts interactive workshops, exploratory experiences and drop-in sessions to encourage the public to engage with art and its creation directly. There are also lots of fun, family-friendly activities that help foster creativity and an interest in art from an early age. If you’re particularly interested in cutting-edge, thought-provoking art, MoMA PS1 – the institute’s dedicated exhibition space – is well worth a visit to check out exciting works by emerging artists, often working in new or exploratory styles and media.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an absolute treasure trove of rare and exquisite objects from all around the world. Art, antiquities, furnishings, jewellery, clothing, books, arms and armour all form part of this dazzling collection. Established in 1866 as a means of educating the American public in the riches of world art and design, the institution quickly grew to become one of the globe’s foremost repositories of art. Known in particular for its massive collection of Egyptian antiquities (the largest outside Cairo) and medieval artefacts (housed in their own separate branch, The Cloisters), the museum also hosts an excellent programme of special events, talks, workshops, festivals and more, tailored to visitors of all ages.
The Metropolitan Opera
Founded in 1883, New York’s Metropolitan Operahas gained an international reputation for the high calibre of its artists and productions, attracting many of the finest singers, conductors, musicians, designers, dancer and directors from all over the world. The Met – as it more often known – stages a dynamic yearly programme of live opera attended by over 800,000 people over the course of the season, and is heard by countless millions more through its popular radio, television and digital broadcasts. Whether you’re an opera connoisseur or new to this thrilling form of art, catching a performance at the Met is sure to be a highlight of your visit to New York. Fancy learning more about the work that goes into an opera production? The Met also offers backstage tours that give you an insider’s view of the proceedings.
After helping launch the careers of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr and Stevie Wonder, it’s no wonder the Apollo Theatrehas achieved legendary status on the American arts scene. First built in 1913-14 and renamed the Apollo in the 1930s, the theatre came of age during the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-war years. For almost a century, it welcomed an extraordinary roster of world-class performers, with everyone from Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding to Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier and Tony Bennett gracing its stage over the years. It also hosted the long-running popular variety showShowtime at the Apollo, which exposed its performers to a much wider audience. The Apollo has long served as a vital champion of African American performers, and today is registered as a city landmark and site of national historic significance. The fully refurbished theatre is still dedicated to honouring the contribution and legacy of African American artists and stages a regular programme of music, theatre and other events, including a popular Amateur Night.
Manhattan’s famous theatre district is one of New York’s chief attractions, with millions of visitors a year attending at least one show during their stay. From lavish, big-name musicals such as The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia!, to edgy, thought-provoking plays, often featuring big-name actors in leading roles, there’s something for everyone in one of the world’s leading theatre destinations.
On any given day, there are normally more than 40 productions running on Broadway. To be classed as a Broadway show, the production must be located in a theatre with over 500 seats in the established geographical theatre district, running approximately from 41st Street to 54th Street, and from Sixth to Eighth Avenue. New York productions that fall outside this definition are classed as Off-Broadway, but many are still well worth checking out. Be sure to check out the latest reviews before your stay and decide if you want to see a well-known show or something a bit off the beaten track, then keep an eye out for ticket deals (the discount TKTS booths are often good sources for inexpensive seats).
BLDG 92: Brooklyn Navy Yard Center
For a unique insight into New York’s social and military history, spend some time exploring the fascinating exhibitions at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a former military shipyard set in a 300-acre site on the Brooklyn waterfront. Commissioned in 1801, the yard served as an important centre for shipbuilding and military operations right up until 1966, and today is home to a number of innovative businesses, many of which are engaged in green manufacturing. Drop by the visitor’s centre and museum in Building 92 – the former Marine Commandant’s residence – to learn about the important role played by the navy yard and the people stationed here in American history – through extensive displays of photographs, plans and other historical material – and view some of the registered historic buildings that make up the site. You can also take part in guided tours and other educational activities, which are great for introducing this intriguing bit of Brooklyn history to visitors of all ages.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
As the world’s first museum created expressly for children, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has been encouraging young visitors to engage with and explore the world around them for over a century. With a permanent collection of over 30,000 objects (from natural bird, plant and animal specimens, to manmade objects from around the world) and a host of interactive exhibits designed to awaken curiosity and present museum artefacts in a new light, there’s always something new to explore. Get involved in a workshop to learn how different artefacts were made; take part in role playing to find out what life was like at different times or in different countries; or get dirty digging in the garden – there are countless ways to have a great time while expanding your knowledge.
Set in a handsome Beaux-Arts building covering some 560,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Museum is New York’s second largest art gallery, boasting a collection of some 1.5 million paintings, drawings, sculptures and more. From ancient Egyptian artefacts to contemporary works, the permanent collection allows visitors to explore the length and breadth of world’s artistic heritage, while a regularly updated range of special exhibits make sure there’s always something new to discover. Be sure to take advantage of the daily guided tours and special talks, workshops and other events for all ages to further enrich your visit.
Coney Island Cyclone at Luna Park
Feeling brave? Take a spin on the legendary Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island, part of the Luna Park amusement complex. The Coney Island Cyclone is an historic wooden roller coaster that has been thrilling riders since 1927, and is now a registered city and national landmark. With 2,640 feet (800 metres) of track and twelve drops (the highest is 26 metres, or 85 feet), this is a classic ride that is viewed by many as the origin of America’s love affair with roller coasters. Enjoy the brilliant views of the city skyline as you slowly ascend to the top of the structure…then hold on tight as you rattle downward at 60mph!
For many, summer in New York is all about a trip to Coney Island. This breezy peninsula along the Brooklyn shoreline provides welcome respite from the heat and bustle of the big city, and many generations of holidaymakers have spent leisurely days exploring its numerous attractions. Whether you’re keen to relax on the beach and frolic in the surf, or want to check out the area’s famous amusement parks, there’s something to entertain visitors of all ages and interests. Ride a heart-stopping roller coaster, brave the haunted house rides, or watch a traditional sideshow full of unforgettable performers. Other attractions include the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the nearby New York Aquarium, and – if you’re visiting during the winter months – the Abe Stark ice skating rink.
Louis Armstrong House Museum
For lovers of jazz, the Louis Armstrong House Museum is an absolute must-see while visiting New York. This modest family home in Corona, Queens, is where the legendary jazz musician and his wife Lucille spent their entire life together, and is now a registered historic site. No one has lived here since the couple, so the home is virtually unchanged from their time here – you almost expect to see them walk through the door at any moment. Hear recordings of Armstrong playing and talking, and view exhibits of artefacts pertaining to his life and career before spending some time relaxing in the Japanese-inspired garden. There are also regular guided tours, as well as a lively programme of concerts, talks and other special events on Louis Armstrong and the history of jazz.
Museum of the Moving Image
Dedicated to celebrating moving pictures of all kind, from film and television to more modern digital media, the Museum of the Moving Imageoffers a behind-the-scenes look at this fascinating world. Not only does the museum hold an extensive collection of around 130,000 artefacts detailing all stages of moving picture production and promotion, but it also hosts special exhibitions and regular screenings of films ranging from rare, silent classics to ground-breaking new works from world cinema. Whether you’re a dedicated film buff or simply enjoy the odd television series, you’re sure to find something to capture your imagination amongst this innovative museum’s interactive displays, which cover the industry from its origins in the 19th century, right up to the high-tech advances of the present day.
The Queens Museum (formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art) is dedicated to reflecting the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of the borough’s residents through a dynamic programme of exhibitions, talks and other educational events, all delivered to a world-class standard. Set in a grand, classical-inspired building that was originally built as part of the New York World’s Fair in 1939-40, the Queens Museum has an extensive permanent collection which includes many artefacts related to the city’s two World Fairs and a large collection of Tiffany glass, as well as an outstanding selection of modern and contemporary art. It also houses a colourful scale model of the city – the famous Panorama of New York – that was commissioned for the 1964 World Fair and offers a fantastically detailed aerial view of the city in miniature – perfect for those short on time who wish to see more of the city.
The Bronx and Staten Island
You could easily spend more than a day visiting the 256 acres of wildlife exhibits in the Bronx Zoo – there’s a seemingly endless parade of fascinating animals to meet and habitats to explore! From mighty lions, bison and bears to colourful birds, interesting reptiles and a host of playful penguins, sea lions, monkeys and more, visitors of all ages will be intrigued and delighted by the zoo’s lively residents. In addition to discovering themed habitats such as “Himalayan Highlands” and “Madagascar!”, you can pet the animals in the Children’s Zoo, ride the Wild Asia Monorail or go for a camel ride – there’s also a 4-D Theatre, regular guided tours and special events to help give an extra dimension to your visit.
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
Fancy taking a peek into the world of one of America’s literary legends? The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx s the former home of the famous writer, author of such dark works as The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher. He moved here with his wife Virginia and her mother, Maria Clemm, in the spring of 1846, a year before Virginia’s death from tuberculosis. Poe himself died in 1849 while on a visit to Baltimore, so the cottage essentially formed his last home. It is currently administered as an historic site and museum by the Bronx Historical Society and has been restored to its original condition, with charming period furnishings that capture the atmosphere of Poe’s lifetime. A film introduction and audio tour help set the scene for visitors.
For many sports fans, a visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without catching the New York Yankees baseball team in action at the spectacular new Yankee Stadium. Opened in 2009 and located one block north of the original Yankee Stadium, the impressive new sports ground combines many of the best-loved design elements from the old stadium with cutting-edge technology and top-notch facilities for the ultimate sports viewing experience. However, the complex is more than just a sports stadium – it’s also a major cultural icon for the people of the New York, reflecting America’s longstanding love affair with baseball. Even if you don’t manage to get tickets for a game, you can go on a stadium tour and visit the New York Yankees Museum, home to artefacts such as Babe Ruth’s bat and Micky Mantle’s outfielder’s glove, as well as a selection of World Series rings and trophies.
New York Botanical Garden
Escape the bustle of the big city with a visit to theNew York Botanical Garden, a 250-acre green oasis that’s home to over one million fascinating plants. In addition to being a leading research and ducational institute in the fields of horticulture and environmental studies, these vast botanical gardens are also a spectacular place to enjoy the rich diversity of global plant life and spend some time relaxing in the great outdoors. Admire the dazzling collections of lilacs, azaleas, orchids, roses and more; explore the rock garden, arboretums and wetland trail; and let the little ones run free in the Children’s Adventure Garden. With special seasonal exhibitions, a café, restaurant and designated picnic area, there’s plenty here to ensure an enjoyable day out for all ages.
Storm King Art Centre
Located in the scenic Hudson Valley, just one hour’s drive north of New York City, the Storm King Art Centre is one of the largest and most impressive sculpture parks in the USA. Set in 500 acres of peaceful woodland and fields amongst gentle, rolling hills, the sculpture park is home to over 100 fascinating sculptures by some of the world’s leading artists. All of the sculptures have been carefully placed in the landscape in order to show them off to best advantage and maximise their impact – some of the works have even been specially commissioned for their site in the park. Many of the pieces are constructed of metal, although there are also pieces in stone, earth and occasionally other media, and the collection comprises a mix of gifts, acquisitions and loans. All in all, it’s an exceptional way to experience artwork while simultaneously enjoying a relaxing day out in the fresh air, and is the perfect day trip for those who want to temporarily escape the big city.
The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College has gained a world-class reputation for its exceptional arts productions, which include a rich blend of theatre, dance, opera and music that ranges from classical and chamber to contemporary and jazz. Set in the town of Annandale-on-Hudson on the beautiful east bank of the Hudson River, the Fisher Center building was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and comprises the 800-seat Sosnoff Theatre (ideal for opera and other large productions) and the 200-seat LUMA Theatre (suited to more intimate shows), Highlights of the annual programme include performances by the American Symphony Orchestra, the Annual Bard Music Festival, and the highly popular Bard Summerscape, which features an assortment of theatre, music, cabaret (in a glamorous Spiegeltent) and more for seven weeks each summer.