5 Offbeat Museums in NYC You Should Visit

You could visit the MoMA and take in the museum’s world-class modern art; or you could enjoy the medieval armor and Egyptian artifacts of The Met.

But, how about skipping those rudimentary Lonely Planet recommendations altogether and really jumping off the beaten path?

If you’re looking for a more unconventional approach to museum-hopping - or are simply fed up with long lines and $25-plus admission fees - Diane Pham, from @6sqft, has rounded up five unexpected experiences that only New York City insiders are keen to.

Harry Houdini Museum

This tiny treasure hidden on the third floor of a Midtown building celebrates the world’s most important and influential magician, Harry Houdini.

In addition to housing a collection of several hundred of Houdini’s most important implements, including his straightjacket, a collection of handcuffs, and his escape coffin, the museum also hosts magic lectures and shows for the public.

When visiting, don’t be surprised if you run into your favorite magician or celeb, according to the museum’s site, “famous magicians hang out here every day.”

Admission: Free

Hours:

  • Monday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm
  • Sunday: 10am - 5pm 

Location: 421 7th Ave, 3rd floor, Midtown

www.houdinimuseumny.com/visit  

New York Transit Museum

Most don’t think of the NYC subway as much more that a means to get from point A to point B, but the city’s mass transit history is both rich and fascinating.

Housed in an authentic 1936 subway station beneath Downtown Brooklyn, this underground treasure covers every bit of NYC transit history - from the men who dug the subway tunnels more than 100 years ago to the technology that keeps trains running today.

Here, you can also jump behind the wheel of a city bus, sit in a vintage subway car, or take in the turnstiles of yore. 

Admission:

  • Adults - $10
  • Children (2-17) - $5
  • Seniors 62+ - $5, Seniors are free on Wednesdays (excludes senior group visits)
  • Museum Members free

Hours:

  • Tuesday - Friday: 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday & Sunday: 11am - 5pm
  • Closed Mondays and major holidays

Location: Boerum Place & Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn

www.nytransitmuseum.org

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Mmuseumm

Located in a freight elevator just a few blocks south of Canal Street is a museum specializing in the "overlooked, dismissed, or ignored."

Open every Saturday and Sunday, Mmuseumm introduces curious onlookers to everyday, unexpected, and unusual objects from around the world; recent exhibitions have included “ISIS Currency,” “Embalming Accessories,” and “The Fake U.S Fast Food Franchises of Iran.”

Permanent pieces meanwhile include a shoe thrown at George W. Bush at the Minister’s Palace in Baghdad.

Just note: only three can squeeze into the museum at once.

Admission:

Pay as you wish with a $5 suggested donation for regular admission.

Hours:

  • Saturdays & Sundays: 12pm - 6pm
  • Mmuseumm is visible 24/7 through the viewing windows and by calling into the audio guide 1(888) 763 8839 from your mobile phone.

Location: 4 Cortlandt Alley

www.mmuseumm.com

Museum of the American Gangster

This diminutive, two-room museum dedicated to the history of the American gangster is very appropriately situated upstairs from a former speakeasy found along the St. Mark’s Place, in the East Village.

Beyond “newspapers, photographs and other original documents from the Prohibition Era," the museum also keeps some incredible mob relics including John Dillinger's death masks and bullets from the Saint Valentine's Day massacre investigation. And still, one of the bullets that brought down bank robber Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd.

This museum is not for the faint of heart!

Admission:

  • *Includes guided tour.*
  • Adult - $20
  • Students & Seniors - $12
  • Groups of 10 and over should contact museum. 

Hours:

Monday – Sunday: 1pm - 6pm

Location:

www.museumoftheamericangangster.org

Explorer’s Club

In theme with this list, we’d be remiss not to mention the Explorer’s Club Headquarters of New York.

Founded in 1904, the Explorers Club was created as a gathering place and a means to promote the work of those involved in the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space. The club is today housed in an 1910 Jacobean revival mansion on the Upper East Side.

It features a spectacular collection of 13,000 books, 1,000 museum objects, 5,000 maps, and 500 films. You’ll also find a trove of taxidermied animals on the top floor of the storied structure, most of which date back to the early days of the Club when taxidermy was used to preserve animals for study and education.

Back then, travelling anywhere required incredible effort, and the use of photography had not yet spread.

Admission: Free

Hours:

  • September through June: The Club is open to members and their guests from 9am-9pm Monday - Friday. Certain designated rooms of the Club are open to the general public from 9am-6pm.
  • Summer Hours (July and August): Monday – Friday: 9am - 6pm
  • The Club is closed on Saturdays & Sundays.

Location: 46 E. 70th Street

https://explorers.org

 

 

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Museums and Black Paw Photo