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NYC Museum Gold: Must-See Exhibits

A newly discovered dinosaur, an ancient Egyptian temple and a van Gogh masterwork: To be truly appreciated, these magnificent pieces need to be seen in person.

Visiting a museum for the first time can make your head spin. Where do you begin? One strategy is to aim for the stars—the superstar pieces that changed the course of art or simply make your heart beat a little faster. Only the Louvre has the "Mona Lisa," but every world-class museum has its own must-see masterpieces guaranteed to thrill and nourish newcomers and repeaters alike. We asked leading authorities from top museums to choose their must-see masterworks and tell us why they’re too good to miss. Here are three you need to make the time to see.

Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
Vincent van Gogh’s 'The Starry Night' at the Museum of Modern Art (Acquired through The Lillie P. Bliss Bequest)

“The Starry Night”

Meagan Johnson, Membership and Visitor Services director at the Museum of Modern Art, called Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” “a beautiful picture. The inspiration came from his observation of the world and his imagination.”

Wrote van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo: “I saw the countryside from my window … with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., New York, NY; 212.708.9400 

"Temple of Dendur"

One of the highlights that Thomas P. Campbell, Metropolitan Museum of Art director, handpicked for an audio tour was the 2,000-year-old "Temple of Dendur," a gift to America for helping save ancient Egyptian monuments from flooding. Campbell said the temple from the Nile offers visitors a chance “to experience a real Egyptian temple here in New York.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY; 212.535.7710


American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History’s 'Titanosaur' (AMNH/D. Finnin)

The 147-year-old American Museum of Natural History boasts the newest attraction—its "Titanosaur," a 122-foot-long cast of an herbivore, on view since last January.

“It’s so big the head of the dinosaur swoops out the doorway,” said Brad Harris, Visitor Services senior director.

Based on fossil bones excavated in Patagonia in 2014, the massive creature would have weighed as much as 10 elephants. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West, at W. 79th St., New York, NY; 212.769.5100