If you’re a New Yorker, you go to The Met. It’s what you do.
I’ve been thinking about The Met and I’ve decided that The Met is like, Church for New Yorkers. If you live in New York, you should go to The Met if not every week, then at least twice a year (Hiya, Christmas-and-Easter-Catholics!) — once for the fashion exhibit DUH, and once because it’s here, it’s fabulous, YOU’RE fabulous, just GO TO THE MET.
The comparison holds up because let’s face it: The Met is kind of a holy place to New Yorkers. A holy place, filled with huffy tourists and their screaming children, but a holy place nonetheless. Everybody has a favorite place to visit in The Met, if not a favorite piece in the collection — and it’s a BIG collection. It’s a BIG collection! And it can be overwhelming to navigate for a first-time visitor or hey, even a repeat customer! Luckily for YOU, reader, *I* am an *expert,* and have made it easy for you. If you’re planning a visit to The Met, whether it’s your first or your five hundred and fifty first, you should definitely check out these 5 exhibits!
Pictured above, this is the easiest to find and most iconic place in The Met that I’m gonna take you to! (Yeah, buckle up, Buttercup, we’re going deep.) Take a right and go alllllll the way back and you’ll be At the Temple of Dendur! I love the way that it’s almost completely ringed in a water feature because, FUN FACT! All of those little holes and divots in the Temple were caused when it was submerged in water, by rocks and pebbles being carried by by the current of the water! Rumor has it that former First Lady Jacquline Kennedy was instrumental in bringing The Temple of Dendur to The Met. You absolutely MUST see The Temple of Dendur — even if you’re just running into The Met five minutes before it closes (nay, especially if you’re just running into The Met five minutes before it closes, as was the case when the picture above was taken!)
There are numerous “period rooms” throughout The Met and, as long as you’re in the Temple of Dendur, you can head straight to the back and easily get to the ones in the American Wing! (BONUS: The bathrooms near the Decorative Arts section is always spotless clean and empty, if ya gotta go…) The period rooms are fully furnished and decorated rooms you can walk through, like dioramas of what homes centuries ago would have looked like! Now, what they look like is only part of why I enjoy the period rooms, especially in the American Wing. It’s what they smell like that I really enjoy! There’s a musty, “old” smell to the antique furniture that makes me feel more connected to this exhibit than other, less-smelly pieces at The Met! Moreover, it’s not exactly something you’d expect to find in an ART museum, and for anyone who’s interested in history (🙋♀️ me! me!), this is a can’t-miss.
It’s a little tricker to find, but tucked away in the Impressionist section (which in itself is something to see!) are a series of rooms with low lighting and DEGAS! I can’t explain WHY Degas is my favorite — maybe it’s the aforementioned low lighting, or the fact that it feels like a “secret” area within the huge museum. No, it’s definitely the two nearly-identical paintings of a ballet rehearsal! I become a HUGE DORK in front of these paintings, dragging my museum companion over and demanding they spot and point out the few subtle difference between the two pieces! Here’s the kicker — there’s a third one! There’s actually a THIRD nearly identical piece to these two, in a different museum somewhere, low-key pretending to be a totally original piece! I L O V E A R T.
Not-so-tucked away in the Asian Arts Wing is this relatively new exhibit. I think? It’s either new, or new to me because I hadn’t been able to find it until fairly recently like, within the last couple of years. This was apparently *inspired by* authentic architecture and fun fact, was built without using a single nail! Now I don’t think it’s the most OG realistic exhibit in The Met, it’s a super gorgeous very chill space to walk through. With skylights and water features (HELLO KOI POND), it’s kind of like the more laid-back antidote to the hectic tourist trap that the Temple of Dendur can (sometimes) feel like.
Most people assume that MoMA is the only good place to see modern art in Manhattan, but that would be doing a huge disservice to The Met’s MASSIVE collection of modern and contemporary art, which spans Multiple Floors! of the museum and includes room after room of some of the classics like Chuck Close and Jackson Pollock. The fun thing about this collection is that it’s shoved all the way in the back, and though it’s not hard to find, it’s more often than not pretty deserted! I love the feeling of having this whole space “to myself” especially because it’s very open and breezy compared to some of the cramped, small gallery rooms upstairs.
BONUS: The Roof & The Fashion Exhibit
If you’re visiting in the spring/summer, you should definitely make a point to find these two seasonal exhibits! The roof is easy enough to find if you take the right elevator. There’s bars up there, a great view of the park and Manhattan surrounding, and the year’s new outdoor installation! This is a very “Manhattan” experience, whether you’re a local or a tourist (just don’t act like a tourist mmmkay). The yearly Fashion exhibit changes to the theme of The Met Ball, and sometimes changes location in the museum, so you gotta really look for it every time. Past years have included Punk: Chaos to Couture, Alexander McQueen, and designer Rei Kawakubo. Honestly, the Fashion exhibit is always crowded AF but it never disappoints!
Obviously, there’s more of The Met to see than anyone can realistically see in a day, so do your research! And don’t forget to go twice a year, just like the dentist! It’s good for your oral health and general spiritual well-being!