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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phil Roeder

Four tours that let you beat the crowds at New York’s best museums

Annalise Mantz

Strolling the corridors of the Met, the MoMA or really any NYC museum on a Saturday is an exercise in frustration. First, the person in front of you moves way too slowly—then, someone rounds a corner unexpectedly and cuts you off, nearly causing you to trip and fall into a priceless sculpture.

Fighting through the crowds does not make for an enjoyable experience. To really soak up the splendor of the city’s best museums, try booking one of these four priority access tours. The opportunity to ponder works by Francisco Goya, Paul Gauguin, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo and other artists without any disruptions is so worth the price of a ticket.

EmptyMet Tour

It's tough to appreciate the sheer magnitude of Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” when you can only catch a glimpse of the painting over someone’s left shoulder. No matter when you visit, the Metropolitan Museum of Art almost always seems crowded; in fact, the museum drew a record-setting 6.7 million visitors in 2016. The only way to find some serenity in the crowded galleries is to book a private, guided tour of the museum before it opens for the day. You’ll see that there’s nothing quite like standing in front of the Temple of Dendur in utter silence.

Mornings at MoMA

With prominent works like Salvador Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory” and Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” in its collection, it’s no wonder that the Museum of Modern Art draws in the crowds. Like the Met, MoMA also offers a guided tour of the galleries before opening the doors to the public. Spend an hour exploring the collection, then head outdoors to the always peaceful Sculpture Garden for one last moment of quiet.

Renegade Tour of the American Museum of Natural History

The dinosaur skeletons, life-size dioramas of grizzly bears and, of course, that giant blue whale must send out some irresistible siren song to every small child in the tri-state area. Just try walking through the museum on any given Saturday, and you’ll see what we mean. Instead, book this subversive, adults-only tour of the exhibits. You’ll bypass some of the waits and get the same educational experience as the kiddos, plus plenty of grown-up humor.

Skip-the-Line Access at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Though it’s certainly spectacular, Frank Lloyd Wright’s inverted ziggurat design almost forces a line to form. As visitors walk through the main spiral gallery, it’s only natural to walk behind one another, pausing here and there to examine a particular work. Still, you can at least avoid the queue at the admissions counter by buying your tickets online in advance.

It’s worth mentioning that most museums also allow you to schedule private viewings of their collections: The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Neue Galerie and the Frick Collection all allow groups to reserve guided tours ahead of time. Still, this kind of priority access usually costs several hundred dollars or more—so stick to the tours above, unless you’re ready to drop some serious cash on the full VIP experience.


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