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Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to spend 24 hours visiting the Met Museum in New York City? Are you completely insane? You are? Excellent! Then come with me.

As I may have mentioned a flobbityjillion times on this blog, I am a Native New Yorker. Obviously there are an infinite number of fabulous attractions in New York to entertain tourist and native alike. Yet if you asked me to pick the best landmark in New York, the choice would be easy.

There is only one tourist attraction that is a) objectively the best and 2. the subject of a beloved Newberry Medal-winning children’s book. Naturally, I am speaking of the one and only Met Museum in New York. (Actually, metropolitan just means city, so maybe there are others? Surely there are lots of city museums in the world. But I digress.)

Since this is not my first time at the rodeo, and by the rodeo, I mean visiting the Met Museum, I wanted to do something special for my very first blog post about this museum. Then it struck me like a knife striking Van Gogh’s ear. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Met is open from 10 to 9. I should take the Met Challenge (not a real thing) and spend an entire day visiting the Met Museum! This is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are up to the challenge, it’s an unforgettable experience. Observe!

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

Where Do I Stay?

I always laugh hysterically when people ask me this question. I have lived in the same apartment in New York City my entire life. That means I have never stayed in a New York City hotel. However, if you really want to maximize this itinerary for visiting the Met Museum, try staying on the Upper East Side. After all, it’s the Met’s neighborhood. If I had unlimited funds, I’d stay at the Hotel Carlyle for the glamour and the bar with the Madeline drawings on them. 

But if you’re looking to explore great deals and check out over 1,000 NYC hotels, just click here. With so many options to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find something in your price range, whether you are as rich as an Astor or as poor as a child from Connecticut who has run away from home to live in a museum.

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

What to Pack?

visiting the met museum nyc

You’ll also need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do visiting the Met Museum. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes. And we need to be colorful to stand out against all those Monets and Manets and Pharoah corpses at the Met.

A Perfect 24 Hours Visiting the Met Museum 2

If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in NYC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.

A Perfect 24 Hours Visiting the Met Museum 3

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to check a bag at the Met if you don’t have to because the lines can be quite long. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

24 hour tip

To have the best time visiting the Met Museum you should get on line for your 24 hours in the Metropolitan Museum before 10 AM. That’s because the line will look like this:

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

But don’t be scared! The line moves pretty fast once the doors open. The scary parts are yet to come.

The Met has a very lovely pay what you wish policy for New Yorkers, but I think if you’re going to spend all day in a place, you should suck it up and give them your money. That means ponying up 25 smackeroos. Non-NYers have to pay full fare anyway. Do not complain! It is worth it.

met museum new york

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

Morning: See a Special Exhibition

This is because special in a museum is just another word for temporary and temporary means not permanent so you need to snap up those special exhibits while you can. Sometimes the Met lets you take pictures at the special exhibits and sometimes they don’t, so buyer beware.

You can see all manner of special exhibits at the Met, from an excellent show on representations of China in art to a stunner on Michaelangelo.

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

(This isn’t the actual Sistine Chapel ceiling. That’s in the Vatican.)

The most recent special exhibition I went to was called Public Parks, Private Gardens, about representations of parks and flowers in 19th-century French art. Some people are intimidated by museums, but analyzing art is easy! Just sweep your eyes across the painting and start babbling about whatever you notice. Let me show you how with…

Approximately top 5: “Public Parks private gardens”

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum
1) The garden of the tuileries on a spring morning by Camille Pissarro

One thing you can notice about a painting is the artist himself. First of all, Pissarro is a dude even though his name is Camille. He was actually born in St. Thomas, which I thought would make him American, but back then St. Thomas belonged to Denmark. Anyway, I’m pretty sure Pissarro thought of himself as French, so the point is moot.

You can also talk about the subject matter. The Tuileries had a special significance in Paris after the French Revolution because it used to be a private park for the king. After la revolution, The Tuileries became a charming place for Parisians to walk around and look cool, which is every Parisian’s favorite thing to do. If you get close enough to these paintings, you can almost imagine you are there with them. I feel bad for the king though. Losing your head and your fancy private park in one fell swoop of the guillotine must be hard to take.

visiting the met museum
2) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

With this painting, we’re going to talk about the unusual technique. I always want to call this painting “Sunday in the Park with George”, even though I know that’s wrong. This is just a study for the real painting, which is in The Art Institute of Chicago, along with Ferris Bueller. It’s still impressive to get to see Seurat’s pointillism up close and contrast it with some more “realistic” painters like Pissarro.

Also, I think someone should try to recreate the famous Kim Kardashian/champagne glass photo with the lady with the impressive bustle in this painting.

visiting the met museum
3) Irises by Claude Monet

You can also talk about the artist’s unique style. If you’re thinking about 19th-century French painters of flowers, you gots to be thinking about Monet. After all, who else actually turned their own garden into a popular tourist attraction/children’s book series?

This is probably the most impressive work in the exhibit because of its size. As with any Monet, it’s fun to walk around and try to find the exact best spot for viewing the painting because if you get too close the image is so blurry. Just be careful to not bump into your fellow museum-goers.

met museum new york
4) Lilacs by Henri Matisse

You can look at how the elements in a painting come together. If you looked at Monet’s Irises and thought, “NOT BLURRY ENOUGH!” have I got a painting for you! Matisse’s “Lilacs” have more than enough weirdness to appease anyone who thinks paintings of flowers are simply too twee for words. Look at that naked figure in the corner! Look at that pipe! See how Matisse didn’t even finish painting the flowers! It’s like the painting’s screaming, “Yes, I’m a painting of flowers! But I’m still a dude about it!”

met museum new york
5) The Streetwalker by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

You can also talk about the subject of a portrait. Leave it to Toulouse-Lautrec to have a painting of a lady of the evening mixed in with all these paintings of fancy Parisians and expensive flower arrangements. Apparently this woman went by the nickname of the Golden Helmet because of her wig. Gentleman readers of this blog, is that a sexy nickname? Does it make you think of football or something? I don’t really get dudes sometimes.

metropolitan museum cafeteria

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

Afternoon: Egypt

Now that we’ve finished the special exhibition, it’s time to take a break. You will need to take frequent breaks during our time visiting the Met Museum so you don’t get worn out, and shopping and eating are the two easiest ways to have a time out. I recommend going to the cafeteria and filling your plate with things from the salad bar. The food tastes fine and won’t be exorbitant and greasy.

When you’re done with a leisurely lunch, pick up a trusty audioguide and explore a particular area of the museum until your feet can’t take it any more. I recommend Egypt, especially if you would like pepper on your paprikash.

Approximately top 5: the egyptian wing

visiting the met museum
1) The temple of dendur

This is pretty much everyone’s favorite spot in the museum. It’s a real Egyptian temple that was moved to New York and given this special home in the Metropolitan Museum. Egypt donated it to the United States in thanks for their help in saving Egyptian monuments during the construction of the Aswan Dam. There was a big competition between cities to see who would get the Temple, but NYC beat out inferior cities like DC and Boston to take home the prize.

My favorite things about the Temple are the amazing views of the park and the fact that NYC doesn’t need to feel guilty about having it because it was a gift from Egypt and we didn’t steal it.

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum
2) Mummies

I don’t really recommend perusing the mummies after night falls. The only thing scarier than a mummy is this clown mummy I found. If he haunts your nightmares, do not sue me. I’m just a blogger and I have no money.

visiting the met museum
3)The Ankh Puzzle

Those Ancient Egyptians were pretty clever. At first glance, this dish looks like it’s shaped like an ankh, but…

met museum new york

If you look at it from the side view, you can see the shape of a hand. This is like the Egyptian version of those duck/rabbit pictures.

met museum new york
4) Boat models

So Egypt used to have a system called partage, which meant that if a foreign museum came to Egypt and led an excavation, the Egyptian government would let the foreign museum keep some of what they found. According to my Audio Guide, most of the most valuable things were left in Egypt. I hope that’s true! Partage is why the Met has some amazing Egyptian items, like this model of the Harvard crew team found buried in a pyramid.

visiting the met museum
5) William!!!!!!!

This is the Met’s mascot, the blue hippo William. He got his name in a 1931 magazine article in a British magazine called Punch. Hippopotamuses are very scary and dangerous in real life, and my Audio Guide instructed me not to find the Met’s resident blue hippo adorable because he is meant to represent warlike ferocity. Too late, Met! If you don’t want me to find him adorable, don’t name him William and make little plushy dolls out of him.

24 Hours: Visiting the Met Museum

Evening: Dinner and Drinks in the Great Balcony

The rooftop bar at the Met gets a lot of press because anything on a roof is automatically cooler, but I prefer the bar on the Great Balcony because it has soothing classical music, which your feet will need at this point in the day.

There is also the possibility of getting dinner. The Balcony Bar usually has a special menu with a connection to one of the exhibits. The last time I went, it was Japanese food in honor of the events celebrating the Centennial of the Met’s Asian galleries.

visiting the met museum

I think you should always get the Appetizer Sampler if it is available because it lets you try more things and variety is always better. This sampler came with Edamame, Yakitori, Salmon Roll, and Tuna Tartare. The best dish was the tuna tartare because of the yuzu gel that it came with. I really like to eat anything that makes me think, “Oh weird…yum!”

met museum new york

I also recommend the dessert sampler because if you get dessert, you’ll be able to sit for as long as possible. These were all fine. I liked the cheesecake on the left the best because it was a little tart.

After dinner, I suggest just wandering around and hanging out in the various Met stores. You’ll be too tired to do anything else. At 8:30ish they will make the closing announcement and then you can start to file out with everyone else. Just be sure to take a photo of the exterior at night for proof that you spent all day visiting the Met Museum, like so:

visiting the met museum

Further Reading: Visiting the Met Museum

Are you ready to start booking your hotel in New York now? Then let me give you some tips for more reading. Of course the first thing you have to do is read From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler so you can know exactly how to run away from your boring life in Connecticut and live at the Met. Pro tip: hide from the Met guards in the bathroom so you can spend the night in the museum without getting caught. Yes, that really happens in the book.

If you’d rather be a Serious Person who reads Serious Literature, then you can’t go wrong with New York Stories by Paul Auster. It’s the sort of classy book that will impress that sexy, silent stranger at the bar, but is actually a trashy murder mystery in disguise. I’ll never tell your secret!

And if you want to dip your toe in the water of art criticism, Ways of Seeing by John Berger is easy to read and so informative. It will make you sound like you know what you’re talking about when it comes to art, even if you totally don’t!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while this article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours visiting the Met Museum. And there’s a million other things to do in New York City. Want to spend 24 hours in Brooklyn? In New York City for Christmas? How about the Bronx? Or the best street food in Manhattan? I’ve got you covered here!

Stella Jane
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