New York Museum & Restaurant Recommendation

Large museums can be overwhelming.  I remember a while back, one of the writers at Maggie's Farm blog suggested that the best way to see large museums is to pick one limited section and plan to visit just that section.  I have tried that a couple of times and it is an enjoyable approach, though as a completionist I have trouble walking away when I have not conquered every room (I am that guy, for example, that has to reveal every single square inch of dark space on a Diablo III map).

However, another alternative is just to visit a smaller museum.  Sometimes smaller museums can be disappointing, because the average quality (or at least name-value) of what is being displayed may be lower than in the large museums.  Not so the Frick Museum in New York City.  This is probably my favorite small museum.  The building itself is marvelous, the Fifth Avenue mansion of Henry Frick, Andrew Carnegie's right hand man (among many other ventures).  I first went to the museum years ago because it houses one of my favorite paintings, the Comtesse d'Haussonville by Ingres.  In addition in just 7 or 8 rooms, it has a virtual who's who of western art history, including Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Gainsborough, Turner, Holbein, Goya, Gilbert Stuart, Whistler, and many others.   The ratio of big names to also-rans is just amazing.  Walking the halls is like watching the actor list in the opening credits of the movie "A Bridge to Far".  My only complaint on this visit is that the Comtesse has been moved to a poor spot for viewing.

Another nice small museum nearby we also went to this weekend was the Neue Gallery, which focuses on German and Austrian art.  My wife loves Klimt, which is the reason we went.  The museum has a very good collection of Klimt and Egon Schiele, neither of which are really my cup of tea but for those who enjoy these artists it is a nice destination.  The third small museum we saw as the Museum of Arts and Design, with a great location on Columbus Circle.  We saw an exhibition of American 60's and 70's age-of-Aquarius style clothing.  There are also a few craft studios where one can watch designers work.  It was fun but probably overpriced for what it was.  However, on the 9th floor we went to the restaurant Robert which was really good -- very good food and drop dead gorgeous views of Columbus Circle, the park, and the rest of Manhattan.  We had a window table and this was the view:

On the far left, 4 or 5 floors up, is Per Se, one of the top restaurants in Manhattan and perhaps the country.  Given how hard it is to get a reservation, this is probably as close as I will come to eating there.


  1. Ward Chartier:

    If readers haven't visited it and are interested in computers, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is fascinating.

  2. Seattle Steve:

    The Tenement Museum in New York is outstanding.

  3. james:

    If you're in London, try the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Small but well lit (by natural light when available) and with some outstanding works.

  4. A Nonnie Mouse:

    The London equivalent of the Frick is Hertford House: Highly recommended.

  5. GoneWithTheWind:

    I have discovered that the best way to see a museum is to make sure your wife has something interesting planned.

  6. aphofer:

    May I recommend the New-York Historical Society on 77th and CPW? Disclosure: My wife is the Head of the Museum there. Interesting exhibit on Tattooing (Tattoed New York) on the ground floor now, and a new Hudson River School Exhibit on the second floor. The restaurant, Storico, is pretty good too, and easier to get in than Per Se.

  7. Mckaskle:

    The Frick has the best ratio of superb paintings per square foot in the world. Just incredible! In Paris an overlooked museum is the Marmottan-Monet Museum, the largest collection of Monet's in the world (a gift of his son). It also has a large number of superb paintings and drawings by Berthe Morisot, a vastly under-rated painter as well as other impressionist paintings. It is located in the 16th arrondissement near the Bois de Boulogne, unfortunately not close to a metro stop. The no. 32 bus will get you there.

  8. Kevin Barker:

    Heading to New York in a couple of weeks and appreciate the recommendations. Been to most of the big museums in NYC and certainly knew of the Frick but have not visited it. Will do so now. FYI - it is really not that hard to get a reservation at Per Se. We will be eating there and simply made sure to book it at the two month opening window and no problems getting a table.

  9. Michael Loewinger:

    I disagree. New York has many fabulous art museums. However, so do most international cities. So wherever you live, you can can probably find a great art museum at your closest major city. Therefore I always recommend going to museums that have things that you cannot see elsewhere. For example, the dinosaur exhibit at the museum of national history. The temple of Dendur at the metropolitan museum of art. The transit museum in Brooklyn.

  10. JoseM:

    You don't need to go to a major city. It would seem to me that a lot of people just like to start up small museums, maybe taking over some small building, and putting some collection in it. There are little museums scattered around everywhere. And if you have a very open mind, you can appreciate what each of them was trying to do. Small museums are a great way to fill in time when you only have an hour or two free, or on rainy days in otherwise outdoors areas. You can learn to appreciate so many unique things.

  11. WarwickBoy:

    The Museum of the City of New York is also very good and gives a great insight into the history of the city if one is interested in that. The Cooper-Hewitt is another good museum for design exhibits.

  12. Sam P:

    My recollection was that the Cooper-Hewitt was a bit of a disappointment, it's small* and in the areas of interest to me, its collection was neither comprehensive nor well chosen. It is also the only Smithsonian museum that charges an admittance fee.

    * according to its website, it currently has a total of 515 objects on display

  13. Fred_Z:

    In 2009 my wife dragged me to the Prado in Madrid. I was not a museum kind of person and went under protest. Maybe because I was in my fifties or maybe because the Prado really is an extraordinary place, something clicked. I was entranced, addicted.

    Problem was, I could only take it in about 3 hour doses, then I needed to rest, eat, drink and process.

    Sunny cafe tables in Spain are very, very, good places to rest, eat, drink and process.

    The rest of week got us to skim through the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. In 3 hours a day, skimming was all I could do. The rest of the day I wasted drinking cafe con leche and vino tinto and eating tapas plus walking around looking at a fabulous city full of history, architecture and pretty girls.

    Since then I've been a traveling museum rat.