Best New York City Museums to Cry at

Not much is free in this life, but no one can ever charge you for crying in public.

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There are so many reasons to cry. Crying is, in some ways, a medium. Generally we associate crying with sadness, but there are so many different reasons or prompts for why one would get a good weep in, it’s frankly shortsighted to try to cover them all here. I’ve cried laughing at a seltzer bottle exploding at me, thinking about how my cat used to be small, looking at one of my best friends at her bachelorette party, because I was tired, because I was relieved, because I felt overwhelmed by kindness, I was stressed out, or because I watched You’ve Got Mail again.

In this bawling, sobbing and weeping guide for classic NYC museums, I’m not expecting you to cry for the reasons I suggest. I’m not expecting you to cry at all! However, if you wanted to find a museum to hit the vibe of your cry, I’m here to help. Leave the crying up to your interpretation, just like all art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • The Multifaceted Cry

Given the Met is so expansive, there are so many different options for crying- the Temple of Dendur can provide you a semi private area. Find where the repatriated Benin bronzes used to be and cry that they finally got to return home. The Medieval wing will get you reflecting on the beauty of faith. But for my money, the best place to cry in the Met is the American Wing. The sculptures on tasteful display, the light shining through the windows? Fantastic. As a bonus, the Wentworth House has so many different rooms you can get close to running to your bed and flopping onto it (do not actually do this, they are roped off for a reason).

Alternate: Arms and Armor. Stare into the face of what war used to look like and think about how we’ve never gotten this right. 

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on August 27, 2020. Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

American Museum of Natural History

  • The Existential Cry

While works of manmade art are usually cited for things that get a good weep going, the beauty of nature can outpace that quickly. Gazing upon the natural splendor that may no longer exist in this world can help one self reflect on what they should do with their short time on earth and how they can protect others. The hall of North American Forests can help you process your climate anxieties, while the dinosaurs can help you miss something you never met.

Best spot? It’s famous for a reason, but under the giant blue whale. Feel small while looking at something so vast that appears truly serene. If you want to make a pun out of it, say you’re blubbering. Get it? 

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NEW YORK - JANUARY 21: Traffic moves past the front entrance of the American Museum of Natural History January 21, 2004 in New York City. Architects Calvert Vaux and J. Wrey Mould began construction of the museum in 1874 and it was completed in 1877. However, the main entrance shown was completed in the 19th century. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

The Museum of Modern Art

  • The Tasteful Cry

I’m going to head this off at the pass. If you cry in front of Starry Night, you’re being a little basic. It’s stirring to see great work in person, but you’re limiting yourself if you do it all there. Do you cry at the poster store at the mall? If you do, cool, but take your tissues and your visit to the MOMA and expand your horizons. Hit Monet's Water Lilies on the way to the Rothkos, which are wonderful to cry near. They’re so open to interpretation you can keep your reasoning mysterious to those around you, and you can put your own spin on the art if the tears blur your eyes. 

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The Museum of Modern Art on March 13, 2020 in New York City. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

The Musem of Sex

  • Ruining the Vibe Cry

Alright, so I know no one in New York City generally cares what you’re doing. That’s one of the greatest assets of the city- your business is your business. Unless you’re loud, dangerous to yourself or others, or truly interrupting someone’s commute, you can do whatever you want, dress like a little freak, and present whatever your mood is to the world. HOWEVER, sometimes you want to exact power with your tears. There is nothing more powerful than ruining a vibe, and you can do that pretty quickly by crying at the Museum of Sex. No selected work here, just sob through the whole thing. The only ask is that if someone asks you to respect a boundary, you respect it.

Sob here

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 25: People wearing protective face masks walk past the Museum of Sex during Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on July 25, 2020 in New York, New York. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans, and media production. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

The Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Keeping it Fresh Cry

One of the Whitney’s strongest assets as a museum is that the selections rotate so frequently, so take advantage of pay what you wish Fridays and stay up to date on what’s new there. Crying is so fluid, not just in liquid, that you’ll be able to find something new every time to feel moved by, and maybe it’ll be to tears. Out of the permanent collection, I suggest Edward Hopper’s A Woman In the Sun. When you picture yourself sad, you picture yourself with the grace of the model in the photo, with the hints of her story, and you’ll understand her a little, and maybe yourself. Sorry, I have something in my eye. 

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The Whitney Museum on August 21, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images

Brooklyn Museum & Botanical Garden

  • The Hungover Cry

The Brooklyn Museum, to me, has a great Sunday late morning feel to it. Even if you’re sober, a lot of people get the Sunday Scaries, or are wiped from the weekend. The walk up to the museum on Eastern Parkway is almost always lovely (even in the winter!) and the building itself is stunning. Before you even pay your admission, Kehinde Wiley’s ​​Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps really stares into your soul, and if you had one too many drinks last night? Let it out, baby. Once you get inside, there’s plenty to sob at, and the low lighting will be kind to your hypothetical headache (please, if you’re drinking, drink a glass of water every few drinks. It truly helps). Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party takes you through a speedrun of feminist history up to 1970, with corners you can lurk in to let a couple tears roll down your face. Move onto Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park No. 27 and let your hangxiety process the abstract expressionist work while considering redecorating with some of those colors.

If you still have energy afterward (there are a bunch of coffee places nearby), continue to soldier through your Sunday hangover/regular blues by heading to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden out back. Take a Naruto run through the flowers and cry over how lucky you are to be alive, in a botanical garden, looking at turtles in the Japanese Gardens. If you need an excuse for really sobbing, cite allergies and let them flow.


Exterior of the Brooklyn Museum, 2018. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum. Photo by Jonathan Dorado

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