17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The 'Mazin' Met

I love NY even in the brutal July heat: everything green and sunny, occasional rain for a drop in temperatures, people outside on their stoops in the evening trying to catch some cooler air, ice cream on practically every corner, etc. But my tribute to NYC focuses on one specific place that stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s one of my favorite places on the whole earth: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a world-class art museum that you can’t find anywhere else in the US, or the world for that matter (okay, the Louvre is very close), and it’s right here in our backyard.

Here are my top 10 reasons The Met is soooooo amazing (in order):

1) Pay what you wish. What a delight for those of us on a budget! It makes things so democratic, unlike other area museums, because everyone can afford to get in. Not that I suggest skimping on the cost—it takes a lot of money to provide the exhibits—it gives you wiggle room. JD and I bought a year pass for $55, very economical if you go as often as we do.

2) Collections. There’re an astounding variety of things to see. You can find tapestries of Buddahs and unicorns, armor from England and Japan, mummies from Egypt and Central America, furniture once used by anyone from an American president to a French Duke, Perseus killing Medea in statue and painting, and any other medium you can think of; in short: if it’s art, it’s there.

3) Cafeteria. This I found only in the past year, and it has made my museum visit complete. Adding food to anything is ALWAYS a good idea, and adding it to great art makes the whole experience better. I can especially recommend the panini sandwiches, antipasta (always an interesting variety), and the rocky road cupcakes. The prices aren’t cheap, but neither are they unreasonable for the area, plus there’s free water and (usually) plenty of room. This is a lovely place to take a break, especially with a baby (see below).

4) Guided Tours. Available everyday, several times a day, in multiple languages on the weekend, these “museum highlight” tours given by the docents are excellent every time. It gives you a chance to see things you might’ve walked by a dozen times before. The guides know their stuff and the information helps you appreciate all you see. I’ve never been on a tour where they showed you the same thing twice. There are also art programs for children, which we haven’t taken advantage of yet, but are looking forward to.
Here, I will also mention that the security guards, while sometimes less friendly than one would want, are always very helpful with directions to ANYthing. Which is a necessity in a vast, overwhelming building.

5) Stroller entrance. Off to the left side of the main entrance, this isn’t so spectacular, but it’s super convenient. And (dare I say) never crowded. The coat-check line has never had more than 4 people in it. That is the entrance where they have loads of school children congregate, but I’ve never found them out of control or otherwise invasive. Also, The Met is pretty stroller friendly. Occasionally, with temporary exhibits, they don’t allow strollers in. But they provide free backpack child carriers at the coat check for just such an event.

6) More is More. It’s not just that there are so many kinds of things to see, it’s that there’s so much of it! Not just one grandfather clock from early America, not just one Egyptian papyrus, not just one Monet watercolor, not just one Nambian fertility god, but dozens and dozens! Go to the Guggenheim if you want to see just one painting at a time. The Met will completely overload with more of everything! You cannot possibly see it all in one day—even if you spent the whole day there. Which leads me to . . .

7) Henry R. Luce Collection. A brilliant idea: put on display, in warehouse form, all the stuff you don’t have room for in regular display. Luce made this possible in many museums I’ve seen in NYC. In The Met it’s in the basement of the American Wing: a fascinating view. It lessens the chance that some great discovery get buried away to never be seen.

8) Location. My other favorite place in NYC is Central Park, so how perfect is it that The Met is in Central Park. So, not only is it in our backyard, it’s in such a beautiful location that it makes it easy to take a little nature stroll before or after your visit.

9) Late-night weekends. The Met is open every day except Monday with regular 9:30-5:30 hours. But on Friday and Saturday night, they stay open till 9pm! It’s a dream because very few people have figured this out, so you get to enjoy everything I’ve mentioned above with fewer people. In NYC, that’s always a rare treat.

10) Floor Arrangement—Flow. Things fit together nicely here. The rooms are usually painted in a way that complements the art. And there are nice “transition” rooms to help you connect early American art to both ancient Armor and ancient Egypt.

The one problem I find with The Met is that IT’S OVERWHELMING, as I’ve mentioned a few times above. While I love many things that lead to this overall impression, I’ve had to make adjustments so that it doesn’t, well, overwhelm. Here are some suggestions:

• Don’t try to see The Met in one day. You can’t, and you’ll just end up hating it and yourself if you try. If you only have one day, just do a quick walk through, getting an overall sense of it, stopping only when you must, and promising yourself you’ll come back.

• Don’t spend more than 2 hours looking around, and usually 1-1/2 hours is plenty of time. Not only will you get tired physically, but your mind cannot handle all that art in one place. It will all blur together and become meaningless, if you’re not careful.

• Do take a break ½ way through your trip in the cafeteria or out in Central Park or something.

• Do try to see parts of it at a time—the modern art section one day, the Far Eastern Art the next, etc.

• Do go on a highlights tour when you can. They only last an hour, which is just the right amount of time.


  • Oh New York! I, too, love the MET. It's a great place to spend a few hours. Of course, I used to go pre-baby so maybe a few hours would be too much nowadays. I used to meet a girlfriend of mine there and we'd always have a great lunch and walk thru central park, too. I remember staring at a Monet picture once for a LONG time. I never really liked Monet (I guess he seemed so cliche) but once I saw one of his originals (can't remember the name --- the one with lilypads & a bridge I think?) I actually understood WHY he was so cliche. What a great place to rejuvenate and stretch your mind!

    I guess an LA equivalent I've found out here is the Getty. SO awesome and free ($7 parking). Gorgeous view of the city and coast. Thanks for the tribute.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 7/19/2006 03:58:00 PM  

  • This is the Monet that I was talking about. Really awesome in person. I love it.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 7/19/2006 04:55:00 PM  

  • My mother and I went on a trip to NY City when I was in high school. Naturally we went to the Met. Not so naturally we never got out of the gift shop! There was just so much darn neat stuff in there, like a heiroglyphic stamp set (perfect for making coded letters!) and pretty bookmarks. Maybe one day I'll be able to get back for the actual museum. :)
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 7/19/2006 06:21:00 PM  

  • I love museums. All museums, and the MET sounds divine. I have been to the Getty, and while it doesn't compare on size or scale or collection to the Met, it's pretty decent for So Cal... We don't have squat for museums in the Northwest.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 7/19/2006 08:58:00 PM  

  • I love the MET and adore the Prado in Madrid.

    We just went to the Getty Villa for the second time and had a great time (the first was a great date with dh). They have an audio tour for children and my ds really enjoyed the antiquities (we read a couple of books about ancient greek culture before going). They have a family forum room that is wonderful, a great art program on Saturdays, and a yummy cafe. I brought along a sketch pad for him to draw anything that he thought was interesting.
    posted by Blogger trimama at 7/19/2006 11:15:00 PM  

  • My mom and I were recently there (in NYC) and we didn't get a chance to go. we did the Natural History museum. TO be honest I knew she wouldn't want to spend as much time as I would so I am saving it for my next trip there which will hopefully be with my hubby... and then we can spend ALL DAY, or more. I Adore that stuff! 6 years ago (before we had babies) we tooka trip to paris and saw the fabulous Art there...SO astounding.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 7/20/2006 06:02:00 AM  

  • I love your list and agree with all of it. I also love the top floor of the Met with the great view of the city and Central Park.

    You are right to take it in a little at a time...I always walk away from the Met with a headache...too much visual stimulation, I guess.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 7/20/2006 08:08:00 AM  

  • Great post, newmom!

    I have to admit, I'm not really good in museums. I don't know what to do with the experience, because it's ALWAYS too overwhelming. And I always feel ignorant standing in front of a piece of art. I feel like I need to be educated about how to look at it, how to appreciate it, how to understand it. So I can't say that I love the Met.

    Although, I took a "Museum as Classroom" course when I was getting my education degree and ended up on three different seminars at the Met, one set up specifically by our professor with one of the docents. This woman had us sit in front of a tiny painting by Botticelli (I think, I don't remember too well) for over an hour just noticing things, just talking about what we saw. I couldn't believe the way she opened the painting up to us just by drawing out our observations. I thought, if I could experience art like this every time I came to a museum, I'd love it. But I've had a hard time recreating an experience like that.

    So, newmom, if you have any advice for us novice and less-converted museum goers, I'm all ears.

    My patriarchal blessing actually tells me to look at art and find the feeling and moods conveyed in the colors. I love that commandment and have always felt like I need to obey it better. =)
    posted by Blogger sunny at 7/20/2006 04:10:00 PM  

  • I am so glad you wrote this post. I agree with everything you said about the Met. While I was working for a large corporation during my time in NYC, I had a corporate pass to the Met. It was fantastic to be able to go for free whenever I wanted and not feel bad about only staying for an hour or two. I probably should have taken advantage of this opportunity more than I did.

    I love the rooftop terrace as well. The sculptures they have up there are always interesting and the view of the city is amazing.

    PDOE- I love the met gift shop as well. I could stay in there for hours. During each of the last few times I visited the Met, I purchased a children's book featuring a different artist. They are all part of the same series called "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists" . They are simple biographies with lots of pictures and funny cartoons. Princess really enjoys reading them and I have to say I have learned more about art from these books than my art history class in college! We like to read them before we go to an art museum so she can look out for the paintings she has seen in the book.

    Beth- we should meet at the Getty sometime. I love it there too!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 7/20/2006 04:47:00 PM  

  • Carrie - Let's plan on it. The link to the Getty Villa (that tri mama posted) looks awesome, too. Although it's further in Malibu. Definitely worth a trip. Thanks for the info tri mama.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 7/20/2006 05:19:00 PM  

  • My thanks to those of you who mention two of my other favorite things about The Met that didn't make my list: the gift shop (we do a stop in every visit but limit ourselves to the "sale" items:) and the roof garden (lovely views, but usually v. crowded, and often closed! that's why it didn't make the top 10:).

    And Sunny, I have no advice for appreciating art, since I have no training beyond my own innate draw to it. This may account for why I'm less drawn to the modern art galleries (AF & JD LOVE modern art, of course) because I can't always immediately access the beauty. I love your story about just spending time with the art. A friend from Boston who always stops by The Met when she visits us told me that museum goers spend an average of 2 min. per work of art--and most of that is in reading the information on it! My favorite thing to do there is go into a gallery and chose my favorite piece and then explain (to myself--my husband's gotten a little tired of me:) WHY I like it better. Trying to articulate even internally is a good beginning to explication (as YOU well know). If I go with someone, I always try to ask them about their favorite piece that time around and then have a discussion about it. That helps a lot. It helps even more if you have that discussion IN the cafeteria eating the recommended rocky road cupcake. Hope that helps.
    posted by Blogger newmom at 7/21/2006 02:50:00 PM  

  • Thanks for this post. When I was in the YW presidency in Manhattan we had a few activities at the Met where one girl would take us through her favorite section of the museum. Everytime we went I thought how lucky I was to live so close to such a place that we could go for YW activities.
    I love going to the north end, through Egyptian to where the entire North wall is glass. You feel like you are floating above the city. There is water pools in there as well, and at night, it is so peaceful and usually, you are the only ones in there.
    Thanks for the post! Any fun museums in SLC???
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 7/23/2006 09:16:00 AM  

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