What if I told you there was untold treasure within reach? And all you had to do was travel a short distance to find it?
It’s true. Located less than a three-hour drive or train ride from Albany, New York an easy day trip gets you to New York City. There are many cultural gems in NYC, but one of our favorites is The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met.)
Widely recognized as one of the most significant and iconic cultural institutions in the world, the Met holds an alluring wealth of treasures spanning 5,000 years of global history. With such an extensive collection, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Fear not, intrepid explorer, here are the top things to do at the Met to make your visit unforgettable.
Table of Contents
Where Is The Met?
The Met has two iconic sites. The Met’s primary building, and by far the largest, sits on the eastern edge of Central Park, along what’s known as Museum Mile in Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 82nd Street. This site’s address is 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. The Met Cloisters, which specializes in European medieval architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts, is situated in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan.
Top Things To See At The Met
1. Marvel at the Temple of Dendur:
In the expansive Sackler Wing, you’ll find the magnificent Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian marvel dating back to 10 B.C. This grand temple, gifted to the United States by Egypt, is strikingly displayed in a glass-enclosed space with a reflective pool and a backdrop mimicking the Nile. It’s an awe-inspiring sight you shouldn’t miss!
2. Wander through the American Wing:
Home to one of the most comprehensive collections of American art, this wing offers a deep dive into the country’s history and culture. Don’t miss the grandeur of Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Leutze’s iconic depiction of a pivotal moment in the American Revolution.
3. Step Back in Time in the Arms and Armor Galleries:
One of the Met’s most loved collections, the Arms and Armor Galleries transport you back to the times of knights and samurais. You can marvel at the intricately crafted suits of armor, swords, and equestrian equipment from all over the world.
4. Visit the Roof Garden Commission:
From April through October, take the opportunity to explore the Met’s rooftop for breathtaking cityscape views and impressive art installations. The exhibits, known as the Roof Garden Commission, change annually and merge art with nature in an urban setting.
5. Unwind at the Great Hall Balcony Bar:
After a long day of exploration, relax with a soda (or cocktail) and a light bite at the Great Hall Balcony Bar. Overlooking the magnificent Great Hall, this is the perfect spot to unwind and digest the day’s artistic intake.
6. Participate in a Gallery Talk:
To delve deeper into the vast collections, consider joining one of the Met’s daily gallery talks. These free tours, led by museum educators, offer fascinating insights into the art, artists, and historical context.
7. Shop for Unique Souvenirs:
Finally, before leaving, make sure to visit the Met’s gift shop. With an array of unique art-inspired items, from books and prints to jewelry and homeware, you’re sure to find a memento of your inspiring visit.
Tips for a Family Visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Kids
- Plan ahead. Before the trip, explore the museum’s website to decide which exhibits and/or tours you would like to see. Schedule a guided tour at the Met custom-tailored to match age level and interests, or create your own self-guided tour with the museum’s Lesson Plans and Pre-visit Guides.
- Get Ready. Encourage your child to become an “art expert” on the museum’s Kid Zone where they can learn about the art collections from online games, virtual tours, and informative guides. Consider borrowing a book or video from your library; many art books include at least one item that can be found at the Met. (See below for great suggestions from Dawn at Moms Inspire Learning.)
- Read a storybook. A great way to build enthusiasm for the visit is to read a storybook set in the museum, and in this case, there are TWO all-time favorites: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and the first of The Lightening Thief series. The Met makes it easy to explore the book setting by providing a downloadable Family Guide to these, and other art works.
- Keep it simple. Don’t try to see the entire museum collection in a day. A good rule of thumb is that the younger the child, the less you should try to see. Young children may be easily overwhelmed by too much noise and commotion, so you might want to stick to the museum’s quiet zones such as those find in The Cloisters in the uptown branch or the serene gardens of the Asian Arts collection.
- Fun activities. Keep the visit entertaining by providing amusing activities. The Family Guides provide lots of great ideas, but here are a few more: let your “art expert” lead a tour; pack a drawing pad and colored pencils, and give your artist time to sketch favorite pieces; and/or purchase postcards from the gift shop, and go on a scavenger hunt.
- Sweet treats. Every great museum visit includes a snack or desert. There are many fine dining options in the museum, but my preference is to head outdoors for (hot dogs and the divine cupcakes at the Cake & Shake stand.)
Kid-Friendly Art Adventures at The Met
Here are a few of our adventures at The Met, with resources to plan your next visit.
- Tour The Lightning Thief Setting In New York City
- Read Across America Road Trip Begins in NYC – Stop at the Cloisters before heading to the Met to explore the setting of From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Books on Art for Kids
I asked Dawn, at Moms Inspire Learning, for advice and book suggestions to inspire young artists and readers. Here is her awesome list:
- Why Art and Music Matter
- Inspiring Creativity During the Early Years
- Top 10 Ways to Raise an Avid Reader, Part 3
- Connecting the Patterns of Math, Literacy, Science, and Art
- Celebrating Individuality, Part 2 – Ties in individuality and picture books.
- A World of Water, Part 4 – A picture book author/illustrator who uses his paintings in his picture books, and another by the same author about trees A Tree for All Seasons.
- Global Awareness, Part 1 – Part of a global awareness series (3 posts) about art-related geography and photographs (the third post has a book with global art projects.)
Family-friendly Museum Etiquette
My daughter’s school sent home this list in preparation for a class trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s great advice, so I’m including it in its entirety:
Museums are awesome, but only if everyone in them behaves politely and appropriately. Below are some basic rules for being a good museum guest. Some have to do with simply being polite, and some have to do with the more serious matter of the safety and preservation of the objects themselves. Many of these artworks are fragile, so please stick to the rules so we can help keep these fabulous works of art in good condition for future generations to enjoy!
- No pens. You should bring a notebook (preferably one with a hard cover for writing on) and should feel free to sketch any of the pieces and/or take notes on the exhibits. You must, however, do so IN PENCIL. Pens/ink can cause serious damage.
- No backpacks. You should check your bags and coats at the coat check in the lobby. Carry a notebook and pencil and MAYBE A SMALL BAG for your wallet and phone. You don’t want to be carrying lots of heavy stuff and you really don’t want to knock something over with the huge bag you are carrying. Seriously consider wearing something with pockets.
- No touching the art. Even the sculptures. Even if you see other people doing it. The oils/dirt on your hands builds up on the sculpture over time and can corrode the metal, discolor the stone, and generally cause serious damage.
- No running.
- No eating in the museum (unless you are in the museum café).
- No liquids (water bottles).
- No chewing gum.
- No yelling. Please keep your voices down. It is great to discuss what you see, but other people are there to enjoy the work, too.
- No talking on your cell phones or texting in the museum. Turns your phones off or put them on SILENT until we leave the museum.
- No shoving people out of the way to get right in front of a piece. Please be considerate of others.