New York City is known as the city that never sleeps because of its perpetually bright lights, all-night clubs and transit system, and countless 24-hour eateries and stores. But the big apple is also a cultural Mecca for those who want to include art and music alongside their ball games and hot dog cart visits.
There is so much to choose from when it comes to New York City cultural attractions that it can feel overwhelming to decide where to go first. So take a deep breath and read on for our personal top ten places to check out on your visit to cultural NYC.
The Met is not just one of the most iconic New York City cultural attractions; it's also one of the largest and most visited museums in the world. It was founded in 1870 and opened its famous location — thirteen acres of the east side of Central Park — in 1880. It currently houses over 5,000 years' worth of artwork from all around the world.
To really get the full experience, be sure to head uptown to Washington Heights and check out the Met Cloisters. This location houses the museum's collections of medieval art and architecture.
Just a few blocks north of the Met along Central Park's East Side in the Guggenheim Museum. The Guggenheim specializes in modern and contemporary art with a focus on dynamic and interactive special exhibitions. If you've been before, you're sure to see something totally different this time! The building itself is considered an architectural icon, featuring a striking spiral “inverted ziggurat” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
You can't have New York without theater, and you can't have theater without Broadway! There are technically only four theaters located ON Broadway, but 41 New York theaters can claim the “Broadway” title. The majority of these theaters are located around Times Square, between 6th and 8th Avenue and 41st and 54th Street. Broadway theaters typically boast 500+ seat capacity and some of the best commercial theater productions in the world. With up to 41 shows offering eight performances a week at any given time, you're sure to find a play or musical that fits your fancy.
MoMA's main location is based in the heart of midtown Manhattan and, you guessed, specializes in modern and contemporary art. If you have time for a trip to Queens, you should also check out MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, where you can see some of the world's most experimental contemporary art.
This massive Upper West Side complex is home to several cultural NYC venues:
These are just a few of its “resident organizations,” so you could truly spend all day taking in the culture here. Pick whichever venue fits your fancy and take in the top-notch NYC performers!
This one might not be the first stop on your cultural NYC bucket list, but this historic bridge, originally completed in 1883, is best experienced by walking across it. While you're up above the East River, you'll get to enjoy breathtaking views of downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn — just watch out for commuters in the bike lane!
You can enjoy a restful picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Parkafter you've finished your trek and truly take in the architectural masterpiece you've just crossed.
The Whitney is located in the downtown “Meatpacking District.” First opened in 1931, it is home to over 20,000 pieces of art by about 3,000 Americans and focuses exclusively on 20th and 21st-century art. Aside from the impressive collection of artwork, the Whitney's top floors boast beautiful views of the Hudson River and the downtown city skyline.
The American Museum of Natural History is located on the west side of Central Park. It features exhibits and scientific collections on human culture, the natural world, and the universe at large. But it's probably most famous as the place to see the dinosaurs! The history museum is one of the more kid-friendly museums in New York, so be prepared for lots of strollers if you go on a Saturday!
The Brooklyn Academy of Music, aka BAM, is a “multi-arts” center in Brooklyn's Fort Green neighborhood. It is considered the oldest performing arts center in the United States and was originally founded in 1861. On any given night, you can enjoy its varied programming of theater, dance, music, opera, or film from all over the world.
If you want the full NYC cultural experience, make time to visit the New York Botanical Gardenin the Bronx. Founded in 1891, this 250-acre garden is the largest in any US city and a National Historic Landmark. It features 50 specialty gardens, a conservatory, greenhouses, and 50 acres of forest that once covered the whole city. Experience a natural oasis right in the middle of the city!
No trip to the big apple is complete without visiting at least one of these iconic cultural NYC destinations. Whether you're into music, history, theatre, or art, these ten New York City cultural attractions will not disappoint.
Just remember to book your reservations in advance, as spots for most of these popular attractions fill up quickly.