National Museum of the American Indian, Lower Manhattan.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

National Museum of the American Indian

Financial District & Lower Manhattan

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, this elegant tribute to Native American culture occupies Cass Gilbert's spectacular 1907 Custom House, one of NYC's finest beaux-arts buildings. Beyond a vast elliptical rotunda capped by a 140-ton skylight, sleek galleries play host to changing exhibitions featuring Native American art, culture, life and beliefs. The museum's permanent collection includes stunning decorative arts, textiles and ceremonial objects that document the diverse native cultures across the Americas, while the imagiNATIONS Activity Center explores their technologies.

The four giant female sculptures outside the building are the work of Daniel Chester French, who would go on to sculpt the seated Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Representing (from left to right) Asia, North America, Europe and Africa, the figures offer a revealing look at America's worldview at the beginning of the 20th century.

The museum also hosts a range of cultural programs, including dance and music performances, readings for children, craft demonstrations, films and workshops. The museum shop is well stocked with Native American jewelry, books, CDs and crafts.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Financial District & Lower Manhattan attractions

1. Bowling Green

0.05 MILES

New York’s oldest public park is purportedly the spot where Dutch settler Peter Minuit paid Native Americans the equivalent of $24 to purchase Manhattan…

2. Fraunces Tavern Museum

0.14 MILES

Combining five early-18th-century structures, this unique museum/restaurant/bar pays homage to the nation-shaping events of 1783, the momentous year in…

3. Battery Park

0.15 MILES

Skirting the southern edge of Manhattan, this 12-acre oasis lures with public artworks, meandering walkways and perennial gardens. Its memorials include…

4. SeaGlass Carousel

0.17 MILES

Paying homage to the Battery as the site of New York's first aquarium, this luminous, nautilus-shaped carousel lets you glide along sitting inside one of…

5. Castle Clinton

0.18 MILES

Built as a fort to defend New York Harbor during the war of 1812, this national monument has played numerous roles, including opera house, entertainment…

6. Skyscraper Museum

0.22 MILES

Fans of phallic architecture will appreciate this compact, high-gloss gallery, examining skyscrapers as objects of design, engineering and urban renewal…

7. New York Stock Exchange

0.22 MILES

Home to the world’s best-known stock exchange (the NYSE), Wall Street is an iconic symbol of US capitalism. Behind the portentous neoclassical facade,…

8. Federal Hall

0.26 MILES

A Greek Revival masterpiece, Federal Hall houses a museum dedicated to postcolonial New York. Themes include George Washington’s inauguration, Alexander…