New York City - jam packed with incredible restaurants, people watching, and shopping, also boasts some of the greatest museums in the world. While considered touristy, visiting them is still one of the greatest past times to a New Yorker. I've been to the MET three times and I still have yet to make it through the whole thing. However, the MET and the MOMA are only a tiny portion of the incredible cultural and artistic museums situated in the city.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
The MET, whose steps are recognizable from basically every Romantic Comedy to exist, is located on the west side of Central Park. I love visiting in the Fall when the leaves are just changing and I can walk around the park. The steps are a great photo op, and the art in the Museum is incredible. My favorite section is American 18th Century Portraits, if you're someone who actually enjoys reading the plaques (like me), many of the portraits have an fascinating underlying story that you can usually figure out by reading them. When entering the museum, there is a giant sign that says "$25 Admission." This is often a mistake tourists make if they haven't looked into the tickets. If you look closer just underneath that in tiny print it says "suggested donation," you may pay what you want to enter. I usually give $5 or $10. College budget, sorry NYC.
I've struggled with finding places I like to eat around the area. I recommend Joe's Shanghai just below Central Park for Dim Dum, or Bluestone Lane about 8 blocks North of the MET for an incredible avocado smash (called "smash" because the restaurant is Australian.) The patio there is beautiful, but try to eat inside if it's warm out or you'll get harassed by the bees that come over from the park.
I only visited the MOMA once last fall. For students admission is only $14 with an ID (not suggested.) I went because they had a temporary Picasso exhibit which had more of his art that is not normally featured there. Having a Picasso tattoo, I felt obligated to go. It's truly a wonderful museum for Modern Art but is often packed with tourists so try to visit at an off time.
Museum of Natural History
Okay, the dinosaur exhibit at this place is probably the coolest thing ever. The first time my friend and I visited we sprinted to the top of the fourth floor to see the t-rex from Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum. This museum is also suggested donation although they recommend $17 for students. If you can't pay that much, the ticket sales won't question it at all so no worries! This museum is on the West Side of Central Park, near one of my favorite restaurants called Sugar and Plumm. I recommend their salmon eggs Benedict and red velvet cupcakes. The whole restaurant is pink and has a very Alice in Wonderland feel.
Although a bit of a hike from Manhattan, if interested in art this is a must. It's $16 or $10 with an I.D. and features the only feminist art exhibit in the nation. "Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago in the museum is one of the most incredible pieces of artwork I have ever seen. There is tons of amazing food choices around the area, including Korean taco joints which I highly recommend. Tip: The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday's.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Near Little Italy, this tiny museum is a building that has been completely preserved from the late 1800's and was home to hundreds of immigrant workers. It's a social history museum which recreates and teaches about life for the immigrants. Given a tour guide, you're able to relive what life was like in the 19th and 20th century there. Price depends on which tour chosen, but ranges around $20.
Museum of Chinese in America
This museum is dedicated to the past and current life of Chinese people in the US, teaching about 160 years of history. I recommend this because of the diversity of exhibits-- art, along with interactive exhibits such as one where you enter a room and are taunted and questioned as if you are a Chinese immigrant who just entered America. $10 admission, $5 with student I.D.