New York is home to a wide variety of fantastic museums, a figure rising to nearly a hundred, with more opening every day. With a city of history and culture like ours, it’s no shock that we have some of the best museums that outline how we got to where we are today. If you’re a cultural junkie or just fascinated with the past, you’ve got to visit one of these awesome history museums in NYC!
1. 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Battery Park
Located in the heart of the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is the site where the foundations of the Twin Towers once stood. This museum encourages visitors to learn about the tragic 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It opened to the public in 2014 and it continues to be one of the most emotionally charged history museums in NYC.
The venue features reflective architecture, exhibitions of art, photography, first-person testimony, video and audio recordings, 60,000+ artifacts, and so much more. It’s a bone-chilling, yet powerful museum you should visit at least once.Purchase tickets to a unique 9/11 Museum Workshop Tour here!
Where: 180 Greenwich St
2. Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, Jersey City
Known as the gateway to the American Dream, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration will make you feel as if you were inside a movie. The island, which was turned into a federal immigration station in 1892, hosts a historic building where millions of people arrived in search of an opportunity for a better life.
This iconic place features a large reception with big American flags, a barrel vault and old cardboard suitcases, panels with firsthand narratives, and a beautiful garden with an American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Take a journey through NYC’s past to better understand our melting pot culture that’s continued into today!
Where: Ellis Island Bridge, Jersey City, NJ
3. American Museum of National History, UWS
Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History is considered one of the best history museums in NYC, and in the world for that matter. This science/history museum crossover showcases a walkthrough of our planet’s history, from minerals to meteorites to life-size dinosaur recreations. Our favorite part though? The wide variety of documentaries and movies on display that will teach you about thinks like early life forms or trips to space. This history museum is cool from a science perspective.
Where: 200 Central Park West
4. Tenement Museum, LES
Located in Lower Manhattan, the Tenement Museum exhibits the history of immigration and cultural melting pot of NYC. This museum shows the places where the people of the area lived between 1870 and 1940 in the Tenement building, one of the first constructions of its time. This area, where a vast majority of immigrants lived and worked, displays recreations of the actual homes, broken down by room. They also have guided tours too, in case you want to dive a little deeper into what you’re seeing!
Where: 103 Orchard St
5. Museum of the City of New York, UES
The Museum of the City of New York’s mission is to “celebrate, document, and interpret the city’s past, present, and future” through its artifacts and exhibitions. Here you can find anything from an exhibit on the history of NYC’s food scene to the importance of social activism in the city. Their photograph collection of various NYC-related topics is also one of the best in all of the city!
Buy tickets here!
Where: 1220 5th Ave at 103rd St
6. The Met Cloisters, Washington Heights
The Met Cloisters is the sister museum to the actual Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it focuses primarily on European medieval art and architecture. As opposed to other previously mentioned American and NYC-focused spaces, this museum (which even looks like a European castle), is all about the Roman and Gothic periods of the Middle Ages. Although it’s deep Uptown, it’s worth it, considering it feel likes you’re time-traveling overseas.
Where: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr
7. Merchant’s House Museum, NoHo
Similarly to the Tenement Museum, the Merchant’s House Museum takes a similar approach to recreating historical settings in an immersive way. This particular museum tells the stories of the domestic lives of a wealthy merchant family and their four Irish servants, dating back to 1835-1865. You’ll find over 3,000 items, ranging from furniture to clothing to photographs to personal items.
Where: 29 E 4th St
8. New-York Historical Society, UWS
The New York Historical Society is a living and breathing beast when it comes to a history museum. Not only does it have over 400 years of NYC artifacts wrapped up into it, but it also includes a Children’s History Museum as well as a Center For Women’s History! What you’ll find here ranges from rotating exhibitions to immersive films, but it’s all fascinating and based in culture. There’s truly so much to learn here, and is a great place to gain new perspectives on NYC’s history (and our country’s for that matter).
Where: 170 Central Park West
9. New York Transit Museum, Brooklyn
The subway system has connected NYC for as long as we can remember, and this deep rooted history is at the heart of the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Walk through the history of mass transit in our city and learn about the early days of travel and the ever-changing technology and design to our commuting system. You can board vintage subway cars, get behind the wheel of a city bus, and even walk through a time tunnel of turnstiles. This history museum is as immersive as it is educational!
Where: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn
10. The Whaling Museum, Long Island
Although it’s a bit outside of NYC, The Whaling Museum is a great history museum devoted exclusively to the impact of the whaling industry and Long Island’s maritime heritage. Its innovative educational programs are aimed at introducing the community to the importance of the whaling industry and preserving the history of the local region. You’ll find over 6,000 artifacts here outlining the maritime history of the area, so it’s pretty neat.
Where: 279 Main St, Cold Spring Harbor, NY