It's not as if Manhattan needs a marketing maven to designate it the cultural capital of the world. But in 1978 some clever curators came up with the moniker Museum Mile for the stretch of Fifth Avenue from 105th Street to 82nd Street that houses no fewer than nine world-class museums, most with shops and cafés.
Begin at the (1) Conservatory Garden, which has an entrance between 104th and 105th Streets. Flowers come and go here, but the Untermyer Fountain is forever ringed by three life-size dancing maidens. Across from the gardens at 105th Street is (2) El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Ave.), founded in 1969 by a group of parents, educators, and artists to celebrate Hispanic culture.
One block south is the (3) Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave.), home to more than a million objects, from the quirky to the iconic, including rooms from John D. Rockefeller's 19th-century town house. The costume collection underscores wardrobe evolution in ever-fashionable NYC, and the garden is a throwback to another, more gentle, era.
The Warburg Mansion houses the (4) Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Ave.), which, since 1947, has told the 4,000-year-old story of Judaism through art and artifact. (5) Ciao Bella Gelato (27 E. 92nd St.) refreshes with homemade Italian delights. A decadently memorable ice cream combo: blood orange and dark chocolate.
The (6) Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 E. 91st St.) is a place of transformation. Who knew forks and cups could be such provocative works of art? The elegant café features tiny opera cakes and salads. Take them to the garden and recline in a giant baseball glove chair. The (7) National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts (1083 Fifth Ave.)—the city's oldest art school (founded in 1825) now houses a collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art.
Nearly everyone recognizes the rounded (8) Guggenheim (1071 Fifth Ave.), which promises a whirl of modern and contemporary art within. Frank Lloyd Wright's museum, controversial when built in the 1950s, still prompts purists and modernists to debate the direction of renovations and additions. A more benign argument: whether to begin at the bottom and wend up or take the elevator to the summit and spiral down. (Wright wanted visitors to start at the top—but, in fact, most exhibits start at the bottom.)
Give in to temptation at Viennese eateries Café Fledermaus and Café Sabarsky at the Klimt-filled (9) Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art (1048 Fifth Ave.). The (10) Goethe-Institut and German Cultural Center (1014 Fifth Ave.) offers exhibitions, films, and music.
And now for some extreme museum overload. The (11) Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave.) is the mega on the mile, with thousands of years of art, etc. Select an exhibition or two and save the rest for return visits. Choose from mummies, armor, Monet, musical instruments, and more.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.