When you think of museums in New York City, the usual Manhattan-centric suspects immediately come to mind: MoMA, The Gug, and The Met. If you’re a hardcore museum hound, two of our other favorites, The Whitney or The Frick, might dance their way onto your list. Or perhaps you have children, in which case you’ll think of The American Museum of Natural History, because you’ve seen Night at the Museum no less than a hundred times. Now, what if we told you that two of the best museums in New York City aren’t even located in Manhattan?
That’s right, they aren’t. And they aren’t located in that other borough, Brooklyn, either. We’re referring to The Museum of the Moving Image and The Noguchi Museum, both of which are located in the charming Queens neighborhood of Astoria. We’ve written about the many virtues of visiting Astoria, from the expansive street art on view at Welling Court Mural Project to the delicious food at quirky neighborhood eatery, Queens Comfort. So here’s what we’d love your takeaway to be: Astoria is awesome, and these two museums are just as deserving of a place in your consciousness as those other beloved institutions.
Museum of the Moving Image
Fun fact: We’re both huge movie buffs, and it was one of the things we bonded over early in our relationship. We spent many a late night watching Young Frankenstein and The Princess Bride. We were regulars at the Cedar Lee, a tiny theater in Cleveland that screened John Waters films. Our Netflix subscription started back when you had to mail DVDs! (There’s nothing like referencing two obsolete concepts–DVDs and snail mail–to make you feel like a dinosaur.) Digital entertainment has not only changed how we consume entertainment, but also what we consume. And at The Museum of the Moving Image, they celebrate ALL of it.
Here’s what you need to know about The Museum of the Moving Image: It’s fun. A lot of fun. Adult and child alike will find something to love. You can participate in public discussions, take advantage of educational programs, or peruse their vast collection of film, television, and digital media-related artifacts. You immediately get the sense that the curators here could quote Fight Club, but they could also give you an oral history of viral YouTube videos. And all of this comes through in short-term installations like the quirky GIF Elevator or permanent exhibitions like the much celebrated Jim Henson retrospective.
Your admission fee to the museum also gives you access to a same-day movie screening as long as the cost of the ticket is equal to or less than the cost of admission (subject to availability). So be sure to check their calendar, you might get lucky and score a double-feature!
Pro Tip: If you have the time to spare, pop in to the surrounding shops, many of which are similarly movie-themed.
36-01 35th Ave
Wednesday–Thursday: 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Friday: 10:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m. (free admission: 4:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.)
Saturday and Sunday: 10:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Closed Monday (except for select holiday openings)
Closed Tuesday (except for group visits by appointment)
The Noguchi Museum
“When the time came for me to work with larger spaces, I conceived them as gardens, not as sites with objects but as relationships to a whole”
– Isamu Noguchi
Internationally-renowned American artist Isamu Noguchi may have died in 1988, but his eponymous museum, one of his greatest achievements, is alive and well. What’s unique about the Noguchi Museum is that even though it’s filled with stone sculptures, it manages not to feel like a cold, hard exhibition gallery. You can instantly tell there is a deeply personal attachment between the artist and the space. Noguchi was living across the street when he purchased the 1920s industrial building with the express purpose of displaying his life’s work. He had exceptional insight when he conceived it, incorporating cohesive elements of nature and design.
At the Noguchi Museum you’ll find the lower level dedicated to Noguchi’s many works, curated by the artist himself. The upper level, however, includes temporary displays that pay homage to the design ideas and aesthetics he advanced. On our recent visit we found a beautiful display of hanging paper lanterns, as well as an oversized Akari light sculpture formed by stacking 2-foot by 2-foot pyramids. The end result is an 8-foot temple, enshrining one of Noguchi’s very first Akari designs.
9-01 33rd Rd
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 10 am–5 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11 am–6 pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Long Island City is Astoria’s stellar next door neighbor(hood), and we recently tipped you off that it’s a mere 10-minute subway ride from Manhattan. Astoria is only slightly further north. But if you’re coming from Manhattan, consider taking the NYC Ferry. From Manhattan, the ferry stops in Long Island City before dropping you off in Astoria, where you’re just a short walk away from Socrates Sculpture Park and the Noguchi Museum. Weather permitting, head to the upper deck for amazing panoramic views of the city.
Pair it with:
Brunch at Ovelia
Astoria is ground zero for Greek food in New York City, so much so that it is deserving of its own post. Ovelia, however, is the perfect gateway restaurant to begin exploring Greek dining in the neighborhood. It offers hearty, eclectic fare, often with a Greek twist. The Fried Feta Cubes and Baklava Pancakes are wildly popular, but the egg dishes should not be overlooked. Portions are hefty, and brunch entrees are accompanied by complimentary cocktail, making for good value on top of the good food.
[Runner up: Sugar & Water NYC]
Sugar & Water NYC is a small, relatively new bakery where you’ll find tasty, eye-catching, cake-style donuts. But don’t miss the dossant (a donut-croissant hybrid), which is light and delicious.
Thank you to NYC Ferry and the Noguchi Museum for their hospitality.
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