There are so many incredible things to see in and around New York City: stunning skyline views, beautiful beaches, hidden hiking destinations, quite a few nudes, and restaurant and bar menus as carefully curated as some of this city’s finest museum exhibitions. If you want to look at stuff, this is the town to beat.
But sometimes, looking at stuff isn’t enough. Sometimes you need other people to look at you looking at stuff. You need people to look at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat to see you looking at stuff. And the stuff you’re looking at better be good if you’re gonna rack up the likes and shares you crave. As da Vinci would have said (and you know, out of all the masters, da Vinci would have been the first to say it), pics or it didn’t happen. Each of these exhibits fall into one of three categories: garish gimmick, actually cool, and high art. A few even overlap. Share them on your social and let your followers sort out which is which.
Open through May 25, 2020 at the American Museum of Natural History Upper West Side The butterflies are back at the AMNH! Walk among hundreds from all over the world, and wonder why these beautiful, winged creatures inspire feelings of whimsy, while their close cousin, the creepy moth, just freaks everybody out. Have your flower crown filter at the ready to complete the social media look. Cost: $28 includes general admission and exhibit access
On view through January 26, 2020 at the New York Hall of Science Corona See more than 100 of Nathan Sawaya’s incredible LEGO creations, including his interpretation of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David, and this fearsome though fragile 20’ T-rex made of 60,000 LEGOs. It’s almost as scary as stepping on an errant brick. Cost: $20 includes general admission and exhibit access
On view through November 8 at 1 York Street Tribeca Make like a Super Mario Brother and amble through Pixinity’s 10 pixelated rooms. Tableaus evoke light, bright, video game vibes, and, in true dad joke form, this installation makes you a sandwich. Cost: General Admission is $38
On view through January at 718 Broadway Noho Arcadia Earth’s 15 rooms spanning 15,000 square feet explore the looming ecological issues threatening to make our planet uninhabitable. The frightening subject matter -- climate change, deforestation, pollution -- gives each post-apocalyptic room an eerie cast. The spaces are as pretty as they are chilling, and the mirrored Gyre Room’s cerulean hues evoke a kind of calm before the storm. Who knows, maybe yours will be the last selfie taken on planet Earth. Cost: General Admission is $33
Permanent installation at the Empire State Building Galleries Midtown Eighty-six years after his film debut captured the world’s hearts and minds, the most famous movie monster of all time is back in Manhattan. Decades older and wiser, King Kong’s present visit to the Empire State Building is a little more down to earth than his last trip: you can catch a glimpse of the majestic creature and even curl into his grasp in the ESB’s second-floor galleries. Cost: Standard passes are $38 and include access to the 86th floor main deck
Permanent installation at Poster House Chelsea The United States’ only museum dedicated to the humble poster, Poster House has graphics dating back to the advent of the medium in the 1880s through today. And among the works from all over the world, you can greenscreen your way into iconic posters and see yourself as “Rosie the Riveter,” the 50-Foot Woman, or the human half of J. Stahl’s Champagne grapes. Cost: $12; postcard-sized prints are $5
On view through November 4 at Wonder World Williamsburg Wonder World’s 13 rooms are Alice in Wonderland adjacent, but you needn’t be familiar with the classic or the many works it inspired to nab selfies and keep your head. Like its Instagrammable kin, Wonder World fulfills the legal pop-up requirement to have ball pit suitably sized to accommodate one or more humans, plus a you-sized crescent moon fit for lounging like you’re in the maw of the Cheshire Cat, about to be swallowed alive. Cost: General admission is $30
Open through November 3 at the Rosé Mansion Midtown West Look every bit the mad scientist intent on drowning the earth in sweet, chemical rosé you always wanted to be in the Rosé Mansion’s capital-P Pink, beaker filled “fermentation room,” where you’ll at least appear to know something about summer’s favorite wine. Cost: General Admission is $45
Permanent exhibit at the New York Aquarium Coney Island You may never achieve your dream of starting a new life under the sea, but you can catch a brief respite from life on land at the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit. Stroll through the crystal clear Coral Reef Tunnel and see how many varieties of the aquarium’s 12 shark species you can spy. Cost: General admission is $30
On view through October 23 at 60 Grand Street Soho It must be summertime, because here’s another one that’ll transport you to international waters. Ocean Cube has its own shimmering take on a coral tunnel, but Jellyfish Station is the room to beat at this deep sea inspired pop-up. Now’s your chance to cuddle up to the fluorescent fauna without risking a sting. Cost: General Admission is $24
On view from May 16 at the Statue of Liberty Museum Liberty Island Lady Liberty’s original torch went through its fair share of modifications over the course of a hundred years before it was finally removed on July 4th, 1984. Standing 16’ tall, reaching 12’ wide, and weighing 3,600 lbs, the torch’s new home in the Statue of Liberty Museum’s Inspiration Gallery is a relatively intimate venue for an iconic piece of Americana. Cost: Ferry tickets to the island are $18.50; the museum is free to enter
On view through 2022 at the Brooklyn Historical Society at Empire Stores Dumbo Waterfront at BHS’ Empire Stores location wades through the history of the Brooklyn coastline via oral histories, photographs, sculpture, video, and multimedia installations. The "History in Motion" exhibit transports visitors to the center of historic works to rub elbows with subjects and make a minute-long video to document the virtual trip. Cost: Suggested donation is $10
On view through fall 2019 at Spyscape Hell’s Kitchen Mononymous icons have their signature accessories. Bono has his shades. Miley has her weed. And Bond had his martini, but pivoted to Heineken, so let’s just go with the car for now. The kicky little silver Aston Martin DB5 from 1995’s GoldenEye anchors the “Q Workshop,” at Driven: 007 X Spyscape, where you’ll also see gadgets inspired by the Quartermaster himself. Cost: Tickets are $23
Open through November 3 at 218 West 57th Street Midtown West Trolls the Experience is solidly intended for children, but maybe you can borrow one and see the hair-raising technicolor pop-up for yourself. It’s got glitter, it’s got confetti, it’s got kooky wigs for your Instagram, it’s got sweet treats, and it’s got Poppy, that cuddly character straight out of the toy-inspired movie that exists for some reason. Give a hoot; hug a Troll. Cost: Tickets start at $24; expect add-ons
Open from February 8 at the Museum of the Dog Midtown Odds are you’ve already uploaded selfies all over town, so why not add your visage to this visual exhibit that scans your face to find your doggy doppelgänger? Do your luxurious locks make you look like a lovely Afghan Hound? Does your sleek crop give you the air of an elegant Doberman Pinscher? Or do you have the floppy ears of a Basset Hound, the high maintenance exterior of a Bichon Frise, or the inimitable style of a Bergamasco? Find out at the Museum of the Dog’s interactive display. Cost: Tickets are $15
Indefinite installation at the KGB Spy Museum Chelsea This exhibit’s raison d’être is social media, so you’re free to take your time finding the perfect angle to capture your turn as a fearsome, meddling KGB boss. The Chief’s desk setup is appropriately drab, expectedly austere, and will surely accrue more than a few political jokes on the picture platform of your choice. Cost: Admission is $25
Open Tuesday-Sunday at 250 Lafayette Street Soho Rally Rd. is a luxy/collector/classic car investment app that allows users to invest relatively small amounts of money in super-spendy vehicles with the obvious end goal/pipe dream of seeing a financial return. In a transparent PR stunt/attention-grab, it also has a downtown space where you can pose with a 1980 Lamborghini Countach Turbo that maybe somebody will think could possibly be yours -- I don’t know your followers. Cost: Free to enter
Indefinite installation at the Museum of Illusions Chelsea The photo-up you’re most drawn to at the Museum of Illusions is a reflection of your id. Are you driven to see yourself infinitely multiplied, serve your head on a plate, loom large over a companion, straddle a bottomless pit, or find out who really wins when you’re playing a high-stakes game of poker against... yourself? Each trick of the eye appeals to a distinct base desire -- but that’s between you and your shrink. For our money, the Rotated Room, where you’ll appear to scale the walls, provides the most social media buck bang. Cost: Tickets are $19
Permanent installation at the Museum of the Moving Image Astoria See Big Bird, Elmo, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, and 43 of their puppet pals at this sweet celebration of the creator who gave us The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Labyrinth. You can even try your hand at puppeteering on screen and snap a pic the Twitter bots will love. Cost: General admission is $15
Indefinite installation at Color Factory SoHo New to New York by way of San Francisco, Color Factory knows its audience -- cameras are scattered throughout the space in an effort to minimize wait times in the monochrome ball room, at the colorful macaroon conveyor belt, and on the illuminated Twister-esque dance floor. You’ll still have to be patient to capture the perfect Boomerang, but at least they tried. Cost: Tickets are $38
Permanent installation at the Brooklyn Museum Prospect Heights Each of these 23 rooms pulls back the curtain on lifestyle and design from the 17th to the 20th century. Travel back in time and indulge in a little old-fashioned cosplay on the periphery of a New England Sea Captain’s whimsical 1725 parlor, a lavish 1860s Rockefeller smoking room, and a sexy Art Deco study. On the internet, nobody knows it’s not your apartment. Cost: General admission is $16
Indefinite installation at the Museum of Sex Flatiron Colloquially known as the “boobie bounce house,” Jump for Joy is a holdover from the Museum of Sex’s 2014 exhibit, Funland: Pleasures & Peril of the Erotic Fairground. And it’s exactly what it sounds like: a surprisingly realistic inflatable adult attraction fashioned after breasts, rather than the primary-color plastic castles of your youth. Cost: General admission is $20.50 during peak hours, Jump for Joy is $3 extra
Indefinite installation at the New York Hall of Science Corona Hundreds of ribbons of 52-foot-long fluorescent flagging tape cascade from the massive circular skylight in NYCSCI’s lobby, creating different light and color patterns depending on the time of day, where you’re standing, and even weather conditions. Visit often for changing views and repeated views. Cost: Lobby access is free, general admission is $16
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Amber Sutherland-Namako is Thrillist’s New York editor. Follow her on Twitter.