American Museum of Natural History
Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History documents human cultures, the natural world and the cosmos. Its Hall of Biodiversity features an evolutionary timeline tracing 1,500 specimens over 3.5 billion years, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space houses a 429-seat planetarium. The dioramas lining the museum’s hall offer visitors a look at human environments and biological ecosystems through time. The lifelike three-dimensional figures inside, set against a painted backdrop, are the collaborative work of historians and taxidermists. But the museum’s most popular attraction is the museum’s fourth-floor dinosaur exhibit, with fossil skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and some lesser-known duck-billed dinosaurs. The Glen Rose Trackway, a 107-million-year-old set of dinosaur prints excavated from a Texas riverbed in 1938, is also on display. Admission is $25 for adults, $19 for students and seniors and $14.50 for children.
The Tenement Museum is a five-story brick walkup built in 1863 with many stories to tell—specifically, those of the 7,000 immigrants who once lived there. Visitors can tour the building, located at 97 Orchard Street, and peek into restored apartments and businesses from the mid-19th century. The building’s first tenants relied on coal-burning stoves and fireplaces for heat. Indoor toilets were installed in 1901, and electricity arrived in 1924. Inside the museum, costumed interpreters serve as the residents. Walking tours around the area highlight the influence immigrants had on the Lower East Side’s culture. Tour times vary. Check this calendar for availability. Admission is $22 for adults and $17 for students and seniors.
Museum of Modern Art
Founded in 1929, the Museum of Modern Art is home to more than 150,000 pieces of Modern and contemporary art, from paintings and photographs to sculptures and films. It houses some of Modern art’s most recognizable works: van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. MoMa’s gift shop has become well known for serving as an exhibit itself: the store offers functional and decorative items selected for their innovative or creative designs. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for students and free for children 16 and under.
The Museum of Mathematics
One of New York City’s newest museums debuted in late 2012 and is the only museum dedicated to math in North America. Forty exhibits present mathematical theories, formulas and principles in hands-on ways for young visitors. Kids can use video cameras to produce infinitely repeating patterns and ride a square-wheeled trike to learn about catenary curves. Admission is $15 for adults and $9 for children, students and senior citizens.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 2 million square feet, is the largest art museum in the world existing under one roof. The museum draws about six million visitors each year to its collections, which cover a wide swath, from paintings, sculptures and decorative arts of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians to musical instruments, costumes, textiles and armor. The Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian worship place from 15 B.C.; a bronze cast of Auguste Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais and Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) are perennial favorites. Less than 10 miles north of the museum sits the Met’s Cloisters museum and gardens, an area devoted to the history and art of medieval Europe. Donations for entry to the museum are recommended.