Have We MET Before?: Guide to visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Have We MET Before?: Guide to visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art

On a day trip in NYC and really love art & history? Why not take some time to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art, more affectionately known as “The MET.”

At first glance the the Met can be a daunting place to visit for the under prepared. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to visiting the Met the MiM team has you covered. We’ve included all our tips and tricks and key info you’ll need for an awesome trip!

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Let’s Get Started!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ranked as the fourth largest museum in the world -- coming in at a whopping 633,100 square feet! (for you sports fans, that’s roughly 11 football fields!) It’s also the largest museum in the United States and home to some of the world's greatest exhibits. It’s halls are packed with millions of different pieces ranging from ancient Egypt, Greek, and Roman art to Medieval, American and Modern art. But have no fear today dear friends, our guide will help you get the most of a trip here.

Planning and Organization

Photo by:  Team MiM .

Photo by: Team MiM.

OK, so you’ve finally decided to get off the couch and go on a little adventure? Maybe you’re on a travel vacation and always wanted to check out a famous museum in New York?

Whatever the case may be, I’ll walk you through what it’s like to visit this beautiful place, and how to make it out alive from the seemingly endless labyrinth of curated history known as the Met.  

Grab a pen and paper, and let’s start a little list now as you read along, fill in any details you find particularly important, then organize it all at the end. Let’s get start you prepped for an awesome day!

Location, Location, Location

First things first, the MET is located at 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028. This stretch of Fifth Avenue in New York City is known as the “Museum Mile” as it host many other major museums.

(Hint: The MiM team has been all of these too! Check out our day trip guides to other fantastic museums.)

 

The MET is in a very accessible location, whether you’re travelling by subway, bus, taxi or ride-sharing, you’ll be able to get there without much fuss using the Google Maps app or your navigation service of choice.

Photo by:  Team MiM .. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by: Team MiM.. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

MiM tip: I DO NOT RECOMMEND DRIVING to this museum because free parking, or any sort of paid street parking for longer than 2 hour intervals can be extremely difficult to find. Most parking garages in NYC tend to have an expensive hourly rate, so if you can leave the family car at home, or parked elsewhere, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of stress.

As always, our recommendations are based on actual visits, so I set out on a little experiment to find free parking on an early Saturday morning about an hour and a half before museum opening.

Results: I was finally able to find a spot after almost 2 hours of seemingly endless circling around the area. Keep in mind, I work in Manhattan, I am accustomed to driving around the city, but my preference is always to take a train, bus or cab whenever possible. I definitely recommend taking advantage of NYC’s extensive public transportation system, taxi cabs or your favorite ride-sharing app.

Picking the Right Day and How Long Should I Stay?

For a general visit I recommend visiting on a weekday if you can, and starting your visit early around the 10 am opening time. This is a large and extremely popular museum (for good reason), and it can get a bit crowded at times.

Going on a weekday helps because most people are at work, school or other daily engagements, and the crowds tend to start pouring in after midday so you’ll have a nice head start on your trip. If you’re planning to visit for a specific guided tour or event (more on these later), then your day is already set.

The Museum is open seven days a week on the following schedule:

Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Note: There are even options to visit the museum during special times before it opens up to the general public. This tour does have a premium price tag but if you are interested you can skip ahead and check it out here.

Now that you’ve figured out which day you can go, you’re probably wondering how long should I plan to stay? Well the Met makes a great half day or full day trip. We’ve done many trips of varying lengths, and to be honest you could spend an entire day here and still not see everything! Even on my recent visit I stumbled across several little alcoves I didn’t notice before and really enjoyed them.


I recommend a half day if:

  • You live locally in NYC and revisits are always an option for you.

  • You don’t like walking around, standing, observing for long periods of time.

  • You are planning to visit a specific section or collection within the museum.

I recommend A Full day (with breaks) if:

  • You have already been to this museum.

  • You are from out of town on vacation and have the time in your itinerary.

  • You may not have the opportunity to revisit anytime soon.

  • You are simply a hardcore museum, art or history lover. Cheers!


Should I Buy an Online Ticket?

Yes and no, it depends on your situation...I’ll explain further. The MET has different options depending on whether or not you live in New York, if you are currently a student, and your age. It may seem a bit confusing at first but I’ll break it down step by step for you.

Here are the current general ticket prices online for reference:

  • Adults - $25

  • Seniors (65+) - $17

  • Students (with valid student ID from any American or international school, university, or college) - $12

  • Children (Age 12 & under) - $0

(Note: General admission tickets include exhibitions and are valid for three consecutive days at three separate locations: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.)

For NY State Residents: The suggested ticket price is $25, but this is only a recommendation. If you plan to pay the suggested price you can go ahead and buy your ticket online. However if you choose to wait on line & buy your ticket at the museum you can still utilize the museum’s “pay-what-you-can” policy--even $1, yes that’s right one dollar.

It’s a policy that’s been discontinued for out-of-state visitors but NY residents still qualify. I recommend buying a full price ticket whenever you can afford it to support this magnificent museum, but if you're operating on a tight budget and live in New York State, don’t let a ticket price hold you back from visiting!

For Students in NY, NJ, or CT: While all students qualify for the $12 ticket price with a valid school ID, those that live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut can also take advantage of the “pay-what-you-can” policy since many schools sent students here to complete assignments and coursework. Let’s face it, tight student budgets are a reality, and this policy ensures tri-state students have the ability to visit whether or not they can pay for a ticket.

As many members of the MiM team are current students on tight budgets, and sometimes have to make multiple trips to complete assignments we truly appreciate having this option. It’s also the same reason why many our former student team members that can now afford full price tickets chose to do so because this policy has allowed them to experience this museum in the past.

Other ticket options:  There are other special options for tickets and passes with more info on the museum's website. I’ll list some of them here for you.

  • Members: one of the perks to becoming a member of the museum is that you'll get free, express admission for you and your guests on every visit.

  • Guess passes: can be purchased online and given as a gift. ($20 - $25)

  • Groups: Advanced reservations are required for groups of 10 or more, but special accommodations can be made by contacting the museum. Don’t forget that admissions for your group also include free visits to the other MET locations as long as they are within 3 consecutive days.

  • Special Combination Passes: If you’re visiting NYC and already have one of these passes, they already include admission to the MET alongside many other NY attractions, tours and museums.

    • CityPASS:

    • The New York Pass:

    • New York Explorer Pass:

    • Sightseeing Pass:

Special Events

The MET constantly has a plethora of events, exhibitions and ongoing programs. If you’re having a tough time deciding when to visit, consider attending one of these special events to enhance your trip. Most are free with your museum admission but always double check the pricing, availability and registration requirements first via the museum website.


While at the Museum

Entrance

The Main entrance is located at the corner of 5th Avenue and E 82nd street. It’s relatively hard to miss the colossal entrance steps so you’ll know it when you see it.

The security procedure is fairly standard and straightforward. Outside food and drink are not allowed, but water in plastic bottles are allowed. Backpacks and other bags must be opened for a quick inspection, so from experience the less you bring with you, the faster you’ll get in. The most up to date visitor guidelines can be found here as these may be changed over time.

For courtesy to other visitors, setting your phone to vibrate is always recommended.  

Photo by  Isaiah Simon . The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by Isaiah Simon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Admissions

Museum map snippet. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum map snippet. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Immediately after the security area there are ticketing kiosks/lines located to the far left and far right of “The Great Hall”. Just pick whichever line is shorter if you are buying your ticket at the museum.

Your ticket actually has a little Met sticker that you peel off and stick onto your clothing. It’s just an easy way for everyone to identify those who have gained admission, and helpful if you plan to exit and re-enter the museum.

Before entering any further into the museum I HIGHLY recommend stopping by the Information Desks (the little “i” symbol under the word “Great in the map snippet)

It will only take a minute or two and has several important items to enhance your visit. I usually grab at least these:

  • A Met map: it’s available in several languages, and there’s even a downloadable kid friendly “family map”.

  • “Dining at The Met” guide

  • “What’s on Today” guide for events and  happening on the day of your visit

  • “What’s on This Season” guide to upcoming events.

Museum map snippet. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

MiM tip: At this point some may choose to highlight areas of most interest on the map. You can also pick a meetup spot & specific time if you’re in a group and want to split up. I’ll recommend a few that we typically use:

(refer to purple arrows in the nearby image)

  • At the bottom there’s the info desk that you’re currently standing at.

  • The large interior staircase just NORTH The Great Hall

  • The Spanish choir screen is beyond that (looks like a giant gate)

  • At the top is the diamond shaped pavilion that houses the Robert Lehman Collection

Remember it’s very easy to get lost or disoriented within such a large building, and many of the spaces have multiple openings and paths.

These meetup points make a central corridor through the museum with hard to miss features, so they should help you meet up with your group easily.

Having at least a map with you can help a museum employee quickly guide you to your next destination.


Guided Tours, Programs, and Classes

While day tours are not really my cup of tea, some members of the MiM team find them very rewarding. If you rather have a guided or narrated tour be sure to coordinate them either beforehand or during your visit using any of the resources mentioned earlier. Here’s a quick list of some of the usual type of tours, programs and classes.

  • Guided tours

  • Audio Guides: over 3,000 recordings available, including a special audio guide for kids and families.

  • EmptyMet tour: “Take an intimate tour of The Met Fifth Avenue before it opens to the public”. This tour costs does come at a premium though, running anywhere between $165-$195, for about an hour and a half tour.

  • Gallery talks & lectures

  • Art-making classes

  • Concerts

If you’re feeling adventurous you can even do an event search on the museum’s site by date(s), program type or even location. Check it out here, and be sure to read the details before planning the rest!

Watch Out for Museum Fatigue!

After a bit of research online, the typical description of “museum fatigue” is that a visitor’s interest decreases gradually as the visit progress. For example, some studies have shown that interest reaches a high plateau for the first 30 minutes of a visit, and steadily decreases thereafter.

Studies have also showed a pattern of decreased visitor interest after viewing a succession of displays, especially in smaller areas.

(If you’re feeling a bit curious and want a more in depth read on this topic, check out this scholarly paper authored by Dr. Gareth Davey, published in Visitor Studies Today.)

In general, museum fatigue may cause you to start glancing over entire areas just to “get it over with” or just to “see everything and go home”. This can take away from your overall experience, and I recommend taking a break when you start feeling the onset of museum fatigue. Also, choosing the right length of stay for your visit can help fend off museum fatigue.

Speaking of breaks, anyone feeling hungry yet? Perhaps it’s also time for some great selfies, check out some of our favorite spots to strike a pose at the Met.

Feeling Hungry Yet?

If you grabbed one of those “Dining at The Met” guides I mentioned earlier in the Admissions section you’ll have a head start on finding some grub in the museum, especially if you’re in for the full day. Each dining location is different, so choose the one that best fits your needs, budget & proximity (If you’re really running on fumes).

  • The Dining Room at the Met

  • The Great Hall Balcony Bar

  • The Great Hall Balcony Cafe

  • The Bookstore Cafe

  • Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar (seasonal)

  • The Balcony Lounge

  • The Petrie Court Cafe

  • The American Wing Cafe

  • The Cafeteria

The dining guide has a handy quick map in it showing you which floor each dining location is on. For more details on each one, have a look here.

Alternatively you can also exit the museum and find food nearby. There’s usually a row of street food vendors near the entrance steps. If you walk over one block to Madison Avenue there’s a generous amount of cafes along this avenue to get some food as well.

Photo Ops!

  • Outdoor fountains

  • Main Entrance Stairs

  • Great Balcony overlooking large interior stairs

  • Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar (seasonal)

  • Gallery 548 (European Sculpture, 1700–1900)

  • Gallery 136 (Special Exhibitions Gallery)

  • Gallery 209 (The Astor Forecourt)

These are just a handful of some of our favorite places to take photos during our visits to the Met. Please feel free to share some of yours in the comments below or share on our social media accounts!

Photo by Brett Beyer. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by Brett Beyer. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


After your visit

Gift Shop

Before you leave for the day, remember to check out the Met Store if you want to get a few souvenirs or gifts to take home. According to the museum website the gift shop features “Fine art gifts reproduced from the collections, books, videos, limited edition prints, and jewelry.” You are bound to find a nice memento to take home, especially if you won’t be visiting again for some time.

Discuss at Home

Who says day trips have to end the moment you return home? If you went with someone, why not sit down and talk about what you enjoy most. There are some parts of the Met that you may have enjoyed more than others.

Was there anything you just didn’t like at all? I feel its always a good idea to reflect on a trip when its still fresh in my mind. You can even jot down quick notes on how to improve your next trip or even a revisit...

Plan a Re-visit or Try Another Met Location

If you opted to buy the full price tickets, consider visiting the other Met locations. Remember that your admission also grants you access to these locations within 3 consecutive days of your Met visit -- for free! If you’re interested in The Met Breuer or The Met Cloisters, be sure to check out our guides on those!

For more information, visit metmuseum.org

Share Your Experience!

Take the opportunity to share your experience with others so they can learn more and plan trips to visit as well. Like, comment, post, share, and connect with the MiM team on any of our social media channels!

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— if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!


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Hello World,

I’ve always been a “jack of all trades” kind of person. I consider myself to be a true generalist and a bit of an autodidact with constant thirst for knowledge.

To learn more about me, or the rest of the MiM team, check out our “About Us” page! Feel free to reach out and connect anytime!