Organizers of the festival hours claim that more than a million people have taken advantage of the event since its inception in 1978 to visit the Metropolitan Museum, Jewish Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Goethe Institute, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, National Design Museum, National Academy Museum, and Neue Galerie of German and Austrian Art.
Fifth Avenue is closed to traffic during the 6 p.m to 9 p.m. EDT event. Live music is provided by jazz groups and classical string quartets outside each museum and a variety of street entertainers perform on the avenue. Several of the museums offer outdoor art activities for children.
Opening ceremonies were scheduled at the Jewish Museum which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and presenting a major Amedeo Modigliani exhibition.