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Museum of the City of New York Guide

Through this curious gallery, which brings together old toys, puppets, a documentary and photographs, you can travel through the past, present and future of the Big Apple. Are you ready?

Nuria Rozas

Nuria Rozas

10 min read

Museum of the City of New York Guide

Stairs at the entrance of the Museum of the City of New York | ©Ajay Suresh

If you want to feel like a real New Yorker and visit a totally different exhibition, I recommend that you make a stop at the Museum of the City of New York, which runs through different exhibitions the history of the great metropolis from its beginnings to the present.

Specifically, this cozy museum with colonial architecture distributes its exhibitions on four floors, which include photographs, a curious exhibition of puppets, videos and even a collection of dollhouses (yes, dollhouses too!), which tell the story of New York and its citizens.

This is undoubtedly one of the best museums in New York, a must-see if you are passionate about the city and art.

The best option
Museum of the City of New York General Admission Ticket

Avoid the lines and get your priority entrance to the Museum of the City of New York

Perfect if you want to visit this museum without wasting time at the box office and with the security of being able to cancel the plan if you change your mind.

From $ 21 at Hellotickets

Buying your tickets in advance for the Museum of the City of New York is a must when organizing your trip to the Big Apple. Mainly to avoid a terrible line at the box office once you arrive at the building. Remember that, after all, New York is one of the most visited cities in the world and, therefore, has quite a large audience in its museums. Be foresighted!

Advantage? You will visit the museum at your own pace and without haste, you will enjoy the preferential access that this option gives you and you will also have the right to free cancellation if you have any unforeseen event or change your mind.

The best part: you will be able to take advantage of the time you have saved in the queue to get to know the city. And in "New York, New York", as Frank Sinatra sang, there are plenty of plans to make because the city of skyscrapers is infinite, so it is best to squeeze every second to the maximum.

Recommended if... you want to avoid the crowds and lines that form on weekends at the Museum of the City of New York.

What is included in this ticket

  • Queue-free admission to the Museum of the City of New York.
  • Free right of cancellation in case of unforeseen circumstances
  • Viewing of the documentary 'Timescapes' (28 minutes)
  • Permanent exhibitions
  • All special exhibitions

How much do tickets to the Museum of the City of New York cost?

Facade of the Museum of the City of New York|©Filip Wolak
Facade of the Museum of the City of New York|©Filip Wolak

As I have explained, the most recommended is to buy the priority ticket which costs 18 €. In this way, your reservation will be confirmed immediately and will be sent to your email so you can access it wherever and whenever you want. At the click of a button and without leaving your home!

The price difference between buying it in advance and at the museum window is minimal, only 70 cents, and in case you have a setback, if you have bought it in advance you get a full refund. At the ticket office, for example, they will only reimburse 50% if you give at least seven days' notice.

How to get tickets to the Museum of the City of New York at the box office

Lights at the Starlight Museum Exhibit| ©Peter Burka
Lights at the Starlight Museum Exhibit| ©Peter Burka

If you are one of those who like to leave everything to the last minute, including travel planning (who hasn't done it once?) it is also a valid option to buy the ticket at the box office. The current price for the Museum of the City of New York is 17,30 €.

However, it does not seem to me the most advisable option according to my experience in this museum. I'll explain why: first of all, buying tickets for the Museum of the City of New York once you arrive at your destination means that you will have to adapt to the museum's schedule and its availability (tickets are subject to a time), move quite some time before and keep a long queue to buy them.

Secondly, keep in mind that the museum is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the busiest days for tourists. This means that you will lose a lot of time waiting in line, a time that, especially in winter, when it gets dark earlier, you will want to spend elsewhere.

Are tickets to the Museum of the City of New York included in any New York City sightseeing passes?

Virtual New York Pass| ©Hellotickets
Virtual New York Pass| ©Hellotickets

Yes, if you want to explore, in addition to the Museum of the City of New York, all the attractions of the metropolis without going broke trying, there are several tourist cards that are very interesting and will suit your tastes, believe me there is something for everyone, since you can customize them according to the length of your trip and the number of activities you want to do.

Tourist cards that include the Museum of the City of New York:

New York Pass- from 101 €
New York Explorer Pass - from 71 €
New York Sightseeing Pass- from 123 €

Book a New York City Sightseeing Pass

How to get to the Museum of the City of New York

New York Subway| ©Malvina Battiston
New York Subway| ©Malvina Battiston

The Museum of the City of New York is located in East Harlem at the top of Museum Mile at 1220 Fifth Avenue 103rd Street and is easily accessible by public transportation. For me, perhaps the most convenient way to get around the Big Apple is to use the subway, which costs around €2.60 for a single ticket.

However, the New York subway is literally a city under the city. So that you don't get scared, here are some basic tips on how to find your way around and use the New York subway.

Recommended methods of transportation

  • By bus: take lines M1, M2, M3, M4 and M106 to 104th Street.
  • By subway: you can take the red lines 2 and 3 or the green line no. 6.
  • By bicycle: most of the institutions on the Museum Mile are committed to environmentally friendly transport and have parking for these vehicles very close by. This is no exception. You have a Citi Bike -the public bicycle parking system- at 103rd St. Fifth Avenue.

Nuria's Traveller Tip

Note for the thrifty! If you plan to use public transport several times, the best option is to buy the MetroCard, valid for metro and buses.

Museum of the City of New York Opening Hours

In the halls of the Museum of the City of New York| ©Jorge Gobbi
In the halls of the Museum of the City of New York| ©Jorge Gobbi

Unlike most museums in the Big Apple, this little gem is only open from Friday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. I suggest that before you go, check the opening hours on the official website, as they tend to change depending on the time of year (in winter closes earlier). Note! It also closes its doors on Thanksgiving , Christmas and New Year's Day.

If I may make a suggestion, ideally you should visit the Museum of the City of New York on Friday mornings and avoid Saturdays and Sundays. It's a fairly small gallery and on weekends you may have capacity problems, so you'll be free to roam the exhibits!

Major Exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York

Rosario Candela Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York| ©John Hill
Rosario Candela Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York| ©John Hill

To get you started, every half hour (between 10:15am and 5:15pm) the museum screens the award-winning 28-minute documentary 'Timescapes', a quick history of New York that will serve as an introduction to the museum. I suggest you bring your own headphones for the interactive experiences in the galleries. In addition, you'll find an exhibit of antique toys and artifacts, the collection of The Stettheimer House of Museums and many other surprises in the temporary exhibits. A sneak peek:

Stories of New York

Specifically, you'll enjoy the exhibition **Collecting New York Stories," a collection of historic and contemporary photographs spanning from colonial times to the recent past and showcasing works by both well-known and emerging artists, including Janette Beckman, Bruce Davidson, Richard Sandler, Harvey Wang and many others.

Puppets of New York

Through April 3, 2022, you can also visit the Marionettes of New York exhibit that explores the amazing history of New York City's quirkiest residents: the puppets who traveled with immigrant communities to settle in the city. Also, if you are a music lover you will love the exhibition New York, New Music, a retrospective look at the musical revolution of the 80's in the great metropolis.

Activist New York

And my favorite and the highlight of the museum: Activist New York, which, through artifacts, photographs, audio and visual presentations, tells the story of the different movements that the city has had: the anti-slavery struggle, the struggle for free sexual orientation, the women's revolution and religious freedom, among others.

How much time do you need to visit the Museum of the City of New York?

Timescape at the Museum of the City of New York| ©Rob Pongsajapan
Timescape at the Museum of the City of New York| ©Rob Pongsajapan

That is a personal answer that will depend on the type of museum traveler you are, your interest in the exhibition and your time in the city. Personally, I consider that the exhibition can be visited in an hour and a half if you want to do a quick tour or in about two hours if you do a more detailed one.

Keep in mind that, as I mentioned, the documentary 'Timescapes', which quickly contextualizes the history of the big city, will take you 28 minutes. In my opinion, it's better to take your time and enjoy the surprises of the museum, such as the store, which will remind you of your adolescence. Don't just check your list!

Are there guided tours of the Museum of the City of New York?

Guided Tour of the Museum| ©Filip Wolak
Guided Tour of the Museum| ©Filip Wolak

Yes, there are private tours and guided group experiences. If you want to live a more personal and intimate experience, the museum offers you the possibility of hiring a one-hour tour with an expert guide or with the art curators in charge of the exhibitions, which can enhance your experience. This format is recommended for families, university groups, companies, team activities and organized groups. Here are the two options available:

What is included in the guided tour

  • 1-hour guided tour during public museum hours
  • Free admission to the galleries and special exhibitions
  • 15% discount in the museum store
  • From 303 € (please note that this is a group flat rate for up to 10 people)
  • Drink and an aperitif

What is included in the guided tour VIP

  • 1-hour tour led by museum curator during public museum hours
  • Free admission to the museum's galleries and special exhibitions
  • 15% discount in the museum store
  • From 692€ (flat rate for up to 10 people)
  • Drink and an aperitif

Is it worth paying for one of these tours?

It will depend mainly on your budget and the number of people on the trip. Personally, I think it is worth it if you are a large group. For example, if you go with your family (a group of 10 people) the option with guide will cost you 30 € per person.

If this is not your case (and you are only going with a friend or your partner) and you are on a tight budget, I recommend that you buy the preferential ticket and download the Urban Archive app on your cell phone for a free guided tour with your ticket so you don't miss any detail of the exhibition.

Museum of the City of New York Virtual Workshops for Kids

Kids Learning| ©Lucélia Ribeiro
Kids Learning| ©Lucélia Ribeiro

The museum has launched the Project Kid initiative, in which artist and program founder Amanda Kingloff conducts virtual sessions in which she teaches children to create crafts from home using everyday objects with a New York City theme. Remember the Art Attack program and 'The Handyman'? This is something similar.

This art project is aimed at families and those over 7 years old to stimulate their creativity. For example, among the proposals presented is to create a snow globe with New York City in the background or to build miniature dollhouses, an idea inspired by the museum's Stettheimer dollhouse collection.

If you liked this idea, check out this guide full of things to do in New York with kids. I'm sure it will make your family trip a success.

Nuria's Traveller Tip

When you finish visiting the exhibition, go to the museum store, it's ideal to buy an original gift! You will find curious objects and unique souvenirs, such as Lego pieces to build the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.

This is what the Museum of the City of New York's fun store looks like

Cookie Monster Puppet| ©Mark Fowler
Cookie Monster Puppet| ©Mark Fowler

If you want to take home a nice souvenir of New York (far from the classic postcard or magnet), I suggest that, at the end of your visit, you go to the museum's shop.
museum store. It's small, but it's a real killer - you'll love it!

There you will find Epi, Blas, Kermit the Frog and the Cookie Monster turned into puppets, which you can buy for 9.50€ each; or if you are one of those who like practical gifts, you can buy two pairs of socks with the protagonists of the iconic Sesame Street series for 12€. Acceptable prices for a museum.

There is also space on the premises for memory and activism with objects inspired by the exhibition 'Activist New York'. I was fascinated by the socks of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg which, by the way, are now sold out. If you want to know who is this superwoman who challenged Trump and fought for women's legal rights, I recommend you to watch the movie 'A Question of Gender'.

Other interesting museums in the city

View of the city from the Whitney Museum| ©AllainG
View of the city from the Whitney Museum| ©AllainG

And if after the museum visit you are left wanting more, and you don't want to go to the typical galleries, don't worry, New York has many hidden cultural treasures. My favorites are the Guggenheim Museum, which holds paintings by Picasso, Monet or van Gogh, and the spectacular views of the Whitney Museum, ideal for watching the sunset.

Here is the definitive guide to the 12 best museums in New York. And you, which one do you choose?

Book tickets to the best museums in New York