It’s springtime in New York City… Or so I’m told…
There’s been a disappointing shortage of sunshine and blue skies around the five boroughs as of late.
And with tourism season about to begin in earnest a number of visitors to the Big Apple may find their plans for a leisurely stroll through Central Park or a trip across the East River to Smorgasbord stymied by foul weather.
Of course, it’s always sunny inside a museum.
But what if it’s your second (or third!) time in New York and you’ve already visited the heavy hitters like MoMa and The Museum of Natural History? Or what if you made the mistake of spending a perfectly lovely afternoon wandering around The Met only to discover that the next day a torrential downpour is in the forecast?
You’re going to need a back-up plan, stat.
You could always while away the hours in one of the city’s superb cocktail lounges or catch a matinee.
But if you’re like me and can never quite get enough of museums big and small (and quirky, and thought provoking, and bizarre) then this post is for you! New York has a plethora of under the radar gems to choose from, and we’ve picked a few of our favorites to highlight for you today.
Here is Follow Me New York City Adventures list of Museums You May Have Missed!
1220 5th Avenue at 103rd Street
Open daily, 10a-6p
If you’re curious to learn more about New York’s history (and who isn’t?!) this is one you won’t want to miss. Perhaps it’s location (at the North end of Museum Mile) is to blame for the fact that most people I mention this incredible institution to have never been there. But for adventurous travelers who are not deterred by the long subway ride, a great and lovely reward awaits.
Current Exhibits include “Beyond Suffrage- A Century of New York Women in Politics”, “King in New York” which traces the civil rights leader’s time in the city, and “New York at Its Core”, a in depth exploration of the evolution of the city from a small Dutch trading post to a keystone of world culture.
Pro Tip: Tours of the Museum are offered Weekdays at 2p, Saturdays at 1p & 3p, and Sundays at 2p. Tours are free with the price of admission
Check website for updated hours
El Museo del Barrio (The Museum of the Neighborhood) is the leading Latino cultural institution of New York City and is dedicated to celebrating Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures in all their fullness, complexity, and vibrancy. Situated almost next door to the MCNY in Spanish Harlem, the Museo del Barrio frequently offers film and performing art series that complement their exhibits. And while sections of the museum will be closed for renovation for much of the season the café and museum shop remain open and are a worthwhile stop if you’re in the neighborhood and sentirse aventurero.
Pro Tip: The museo is located across the street from Central Park’s Conservatory Gardens. Be sure to head over and have a stroll through these quiet, formal gardens after you leave the museo- weather permitting.
3.) The Cloisters
99 Margaret Corbin Drive
Washington Heights- Fort Tryon Park
Open daily, 10a-5:15p
Located on four pristine acres in Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters are the norther branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s extensive permanent collection is dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Even the museum itself is a relic of that period, the bulk of the collection being housed in four reconstructed medieval buildings. The adjacent gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., the son of one of the designers of Central Park.
It’s a remarkable place to wander through, possessing the mystical, reverential atmosphere of a Gothic Cathedral. Of special note is its famous “Unicorn in Captivity” tapestry. Part of a series of seven tapestries known collectively as “The Unicorn Tapestries”, it originated in the Netherlands circa 1500.
Pro Tip: Located a short walk from The Cloisters, New Leaf Restaurant is the ideal spot to cap off a romantic afternoon.
103 Orchard Street off Delancey Street
The Lower East Side
Check website for full schedule
Once the home of newly arrived immigrants, this unassuming structure on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is today equal parts living time capsule and mirror, showing us who we are by showing us where we began.
If you’re interested in the history of American Immigration, or if you’ve visited Ellis Island and would like to continue the narrative of the immigrant experience in New York City, The Tenement Museum is a must see.
While it can only be visited by guided tour (check the website for full schedule and details), each program the museum offers gives guests the opportunity to come face to face with the people who lived in this humble place but, nevertheless, did great things.
Pro Tip: Some of the best, most old-school restaurants in the city are located on the Lower East Side. We suggest stopping by Katz’s Delicatessen for the Matza Ball Soup and a Pastrami on Rye.
215 Centre Street between Howard Street and Grand Street
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11a-6p
Founded in 1980, The Museum of Chinese in America (or MOCA) is “dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.”
In addition to a beautiful and often deeply moving permanent collection, MOCA also offers a full calendar of events designed to give guests the opportunity to experience Chinese culture in interactive and immersive ways. They also sponsor walking tours of the neighborhood, cross cultural events, and Family Festivals geared toward the littlest visitors.
Pro Tip: After your visit to the museum, head over to the Mahayana Buddhist Temple and see the largest Buddha in the city. Or check out the China Town Ice Cream Factory for a unique, sweet treat.
290 Broadway, between Duane and Reade Streets
Tuesday thru Saturday 10a-4p
Did you know that New York City is home to the oldest and largest excavated burial ground for persons of color, both free and enslaved, in North America?
Many people think of slavery as a primarily Southern Institution and while it is true that slavery was abolished in the North, and in New York in particular, early in American history, the city still played a role in the subjection and enslavement of African and Afro-Caribbean people. Evidence of this role is perhaps nowhere more apparent than at the African Burial Ground and Museum.
Approximately 20 thousand people are buried in this small patch of land. And the memorial to their lives and legacies, as well as the adjacent museum that tells their story in greater detail, is a must see for anyone who wants to truly understand the depths of America’s “Original Sin”.
The poignant assemblage of artifacts housed in the museum’s permanent collection paint a clear and unblinking picture of the conditions endured by free and enslaved persons of color in New York first under the Dutch, then the English, and, finally, the Americans.
Guests wishing to enter the museum should be advised that they will have to pass through a metal detector as the museum is housed in a Federal Building.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be exploring the Financial District on a Wednesday, you can also take in a tour of City Hall! Sign up for a free tour at the information booth on the West side of City Hall Park opposite the Woolworth Building.
54 Pearl Street at Broad Street
Saturday and Sunday 11a-5p
Few places in the nation are better suited to house a collection dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of American revolutionary history than Fraunces tavern.
Constructed circa 1720, the landmarked building has a past steeped in Revolutionary folklore. After Samuel Fraunces purchased the property in 1762 it quickly became a sight of clandestine meetings of The Sons of Liberty. Men such as Alexander Hamilton, Hercules Mulligan, Benjamin Tallmadge, and Aaron Burr were frequent visitors. Following the departure of the final British troops from New York, a victorious George Washington gave a farewell dinner for his officers in the tavern’s second floor long room.
Today, the museum is operated by the The Sons of the Revolution and contains a vast collection of Revolutionary weaponry, attire, and artifacts. A number of items related to Washington, his wartime service and Presidency, are of special interest. And, of course, the room where the future first President dined one final time with his officers is as it was on that historic night in 1783. Additionally, the museum is home to Book Club Meetings, lectures, and special events- all with a decidedly Revolutionary theme.
Pro Tip: The bar and restaurant downstairs is fantastic. Happy Hour is 4p-7p Monday through Friday. Grab a bar stool and get some oysters (Pearl Street’s namesake) then wash them down with the house stout.
99 Schermerhorn Street at Boerum Place
Tuesday- Friday 10a-4p
Saturday and Sunday 11a-5p
The subway is a marvel of engineering. Sure, the MTA is often the bane of New Yorkers’ existences driving us to almost daily bouts of existential dread and ennui. But the subway itself- the mechanics of it and the history behind it- is fascinating.
Enter the New York Transit Museum.
Housed in an authentic subway station in Brooklyn that dates back to the 1930s, this charming museum is home to an impressive assortment of vintage subway cars, turnstiles, ticket booths, and even an antique city bus. It’s a particularly popular stop with tiny travelers, who are free to explore, touch, and investigate all manner of classic subway cars and elevated cars dating as far back at 1907.
Pro Tip: There is a small branch of this museum located in Grand Central Terminal. If you decide to go, be sure to tour the Terminal itself while you’re there. (Incidentally, we do private Grand Central Adventures that are available by appointment. Just food for thought…)
36-01 35th Avenue between 36th Street and 37th Street
Wednesday and Thursday 10:30a-5p
Saturday And Sunday 10:30-6p
Movie buffs will be thrilled to discover the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens!
Hosting some 400 film screenings annually, regular public discussions with filmmakers, and home to an impressive permanent collection of movie making equipment, memorabilia, and artifacts related to the history and evolution of film, The Museum of the Moving Image is a highlight of any trip to Astoria.
Visitors will also find current exhibits such as “The Jim Henson Exhibition”, where they can get up close and personal with the Muppets, “IndieCade Presents: A Decade of Game Design” highlighting the work of influential video game developers, and “The GIF Elevator” which features the work six animators and illustrators who will have their GIFs displayed on the walls and ceiling on the museum’s elevator on a rotating basis.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be in Astoria on a weekend, it’s worth noting that this neighborhood has some serious brunch cred. Personal favorites include, William Hallet or Queens Comfort on 30th Avenue, or Il Bambino on 31st Avenue.
39 Battery Place off 1st Place
Battery Park City
Wednesday- Sunday 12p-6p
Exploring the history of the skyscraper, how they came to be and how they have evolved aesthetically and in terms of physical materials, displays at The Skyscraper Museum include “The History of Height- from the Pyramids to the Present” and a special section dedicated to the World Trade Center, its creation, destruction, and renewal.
Pro Tip: Be sure to visit a few skyscrapers while you’re in town! If the weather doesn’t permit stopping at an observatory, why not tour the stunning lobby of the Woolworth Building? Tickets are available on their website.