Museums in New York come in a colourful variety and there are even some under the radar that only locals know. Nearly every visitor to New York checks out world-renowned museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and American Museum of National History. They’re certainly worth your time, but they often become bombarded with enormous crowds.

    If you’re looking for an engaging museum where you won’t bump shoulders with others, we’ve got the perfect lineup of cultural institutions for you to check out instead. From interpretive artwork and interactive sciences to the wonderful world of film, New York has lots of hidden gems for you to tour. Check out where to go in New York to enjoy art, history and culture without the common large tour groups, below.

    1

    New York Hall of Science

    Experience the wonders of science at fun-filled exhibits

    The New York Hall of Science is fun for all ages with its interactive exhibits into numerous fields of science. With 450 entertaining exhibits, there’s room to stretch anyone’s imagination. This world of wonders lets you search for life beyond Earth, experiment with circuits, and learn about animal cognition. Don’t forget to explore the 60,000 square feet of outdoor space to watch rockets or play 9-hole miniature golf.

    For parents with small children, the New York Hall of Science is among the best museums in New York to entertain the youngsters. Preschool Place contains multi-sensory activities in a protected area and the Science Playground will keep them active. If you need to sit down for a while, watch science come to life at the 3D Theatre.

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    Location: 47-01 111th St, Queens, NY 11368, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 718-699-0005

    Map

    photo by ajay_suresh (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Museum of the City of New York

    Browse through artefacts that unlock the history of New York

    The Museum of the City of New York was founded in 1923 and highlights the history of America’s largest metropolis. Through a collection of around 750,000 objects, the museum tells the story of its diverse citizens. Its special exhibitions feature items that include paintings, sculptures, photographs, costumes, furniture, decorative arts, and more. The permanent collection stretches back to the colonial era and contains the works of New York’s most prominent artists.

    The facility also offers educational programs and interactive exhibits that focus on social issues in today’s world. There are resources available for adults and children to make a positive difference while learning interesting facts about New York. From environmental protection to activism, the museum provides valuable classes, workshops, and events for the public.

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    Location: 1220 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029, USA

    Phone: +1 212-534-1672

    Map
    3

    New York Transit Museum

    Witness the evolution of New York’s mass transit

    At the New York Transit Museum, you can ride the subway to Brooklyn then learn the history of New York transportation. Once you reach downtown Brooklyn, go back underground to an authentic 1936 New York subway station. The museum’s operational platform lets you board the antique subway and train cars from the past century. With the museum’s rotating selection of vehicles, you’ll witness the transformation of New York’s public transportation.

    Its vintage fleet includes open-platform elevated cars, the city’s 1st subway car with air conditioning, and the 40-ft transit “Jackie Gleason buses.” Other exhibits showcased at this alternative museum in New York include the famous “Redbird” subway cars, fare collection machines, and subway etiquette signs. You’ll also find historical artefacts and photographs that reveal the labour required to build NYC’s massive transit system.

    Location: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 718-694-1600

    Map

    photo by King of Hearts (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    4

    National Museum of the American Indian

    Learn about the intriguing cultures of America’s Native Peoples

    The National Museum of the American Indian’s Manhattan branch has a wide range of exhibitions featuring Native Americans. Located inside the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the institute offers programs that delve into music, dance, and film of Native American culture. George Gustav Heye collected Native American artefacts throughout the early 20th century and opened the museum in 1922.

    Named the “Infinity of Nations,” the permanent collection contains hundreds of objects and artwork from groups across the Americas. Visitors can listen to recordings from renowned historians and watch rousing performances of various cultures. The new imagiNATIONS Activity Center caters to younger visitors with an interactive space that highlights the contributions of Native groups to the modern world.

    Location: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am (closing time varies between 5 pm and 8 pm)

    Phone: +1 212-514-3700

    Map
    5

    Museum of the Moving Image

    Watch the transformation of the film and television industry

    Head to Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image to dive into the world of motion pictures. Located in the historic Astoria Studios, the museum is among the best museums in New York and America’s 1st institute dedicated to the history of film, television, and radio. From classic film buffs to devoted gamers, the museum has exhibits geared towards all interests. Hundreds of film screenings conducted each year highlight the progress from silent films to Hollywood blockbusters.

    The Pinewood Dialogues bring some of the biggest names in film, like Martin Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis, to the museum for interesting chats about the industry. But the star attraction is the Behind the Screen exhibit that contains around 1,400 artefacts that show the evolution of digital media.

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    Location: 36-01 35th Ave, Queens, NY 11106, USA

    Phone: +1 718-777-6800

    Map

    photo by NickCPrior (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    6

    Lower East Side Tenement Museum

    Once home to immigrants from all over the world

    The Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a living museum that tells the story of New York City immigrants. Millions of people have moved to the United States in search of the American Dream, and these restored tenement buildings show glimpses of their living conditions. In total, around 15,000 people from countries across the globe resided here to find a new life.

    Public tours offer an immersive experience, guiding you through typical immigrant neighbourhoods. You’ll meet costumed characters that portray these brave travellers and you can even taste foods from various cultures. The archives describe the impact of immigrants in America, and the “Under One Roof” exhibit puts the spotlight on Puerto Rican migrants, Chinese immigrants, and Holocaust survivors. At times, the museum is open for guided tours only. It's best to call before you visit.

    Location: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, USA

    Open: Saturday–Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm (closed Monday–Friday)

    Phone: +1 877-975-3786

    Map

    photo by Jay manday (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    Federal Hall

    Discover one of the birthplaces of American Independence

    Find the Greek Revival-style Federal Hall as you wander through New York's Financial District. Although the current structure isn’t the original building, the site’s history dates to the early 18th century. It functioned as New York City’s 1st city hall and witnessed historic events that shaped American history. Not only did the colonists make their famous “taxation without representation” stance at Federal Hall, but George Washington also took the oath as America’s 1st president here.

    Today, the Federal Hall National Memorial educates visitors on Federal Hall’s role in the forming of American Government. When you step foot onto this historic site, you’ll stand at the nation’s first capital and where the Bill of Rights was first drafted.

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    Location: 26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005, USA

    Phone: +1 212-825-6990

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    8

    The Bronx Museum of the Arts

    Visit one of the premier art spaces in the Bronx

    The Bronx Museum of the Arts strives to bring contemporary artwork to the Bronx community. First opened in 1971, the museum makes art accessible to aspiring artists, families, and local schools. Through public programs and thought-provoking exhibits, visitors have the opportunity to learn about different cultures. The museum has a diverse collection of about 800 objects that feature artists from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    Members of the Education Department strive to help artists connect their personal experiences to new ideas. The staff promotes open dialogue and friendly conversations to help the communities experience art together. One of its newest ventures is the outdoor #SeeMeBronx exhibit that focuses on social justice by asking difficult questions.

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    Location: 1040 Grand Concourse, The Bronx, NY 10456, USA

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 1 pm to 6 pm (closed Monday–Tuesday)

    Phone: +1 718-681-6000

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    9

    The Museum at FIT

    Compare your fashion style to the world’s iconic clothing trends

    The Museum at FIT is part of the most fashionable institution in New York.  The city is indeed regarded as one of the world’s fashion capitals, and this museum strives to entertain and educate visitors on the history and latest innovations in fashion. Its permanent collection features around 50,000 garments and accessories that span the last 250 years.

    With a focus on contemporary avant-garde fashion, the museum presents clothing, textiles, and visual materials that transformed the fashion industry. Fashionistas will recognise industry immortals like Adrian, Chanel, and Dior within the collection. The museum isn’t afraid to push the boundaries with exhibits like The Corset: Fashioning the Body and Gothic: Dark Glamour

    Location: 227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from noon to 8 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Sunday–Monday )

    Phone: +1 212-217-4558

    Map

    photo by ajay_suresh (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    American Folk Art Museum

    View creative pieces of artwork from unknown artists

    The American Folk Art Museum on the Upper West Side in New York showcases the talents of self-taught artists. With over 8,000 pieces of artwork from across the globe, it recognises the creativity of artists who never received formal training. The featured pieces at this alternative museum in New York are prime examples of creative souls who draw inspiration from personal experiences and unusual circumstances.

    You likely won’t know any of the names responsible for the pieces here, but they’ve been instrumental to American visual culture. The museum’s permanent collection contains a wide range of paintings, textiles, photographs, books, and handmade crafts. There are also workshops, live musical performances, lectures, and educational programs for the self-taught art community.

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    Location: 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023, USA

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 11.30 am to 6 pm (closed Monday–Tuesday)

    Phone: +1 212-595-9533

    Map

    photo by ajay_suresh (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Daniel Grenier | Contributing Writer

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