New York is famous for its world-class institutions of art and culture – from The Met and MoMA to the American Museum of Natural History – but the Big Apple is also home to a wealth of small museums that are worth a visit. Whether you’re a geek for history, trains, or music, you’ll find something to see here.
The Tenement Museum
Manhattan’s Lower East Side is the neighborhood where the idea of the American melting pot became a reality. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrants from all over Europe who had arrived through Ellis Island flooded the area. Reserve a spot on one of the educational tours of this former tenement building, where guides lead groups through recreated apartments that show the conditions in which many of our ancestors lived.
103 Orchard St., New York; tenement.org
The New York Transit Museum
It’s often said that the New York subway is the veins of the city. This Downtown Brooklyn museum, housed in a disused subway station, displays the blood that flows through those veins – some 20 vintage train cars and buses, dating back to 1907. Kids will love this place.
99 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn; nytransitmuseum.org
The Museum of Street Art
One of the city’s most under-the-radar exhibits, the MoSA is located in the stairwell of the CitizenM New York Bowery hotel. Check in at the hotel front desk, take the elevator up to the rooftop bar, and then walk down 20 flights of stairs to see walls bursting with murals created by 20 artists from the famed 5 Pointz collective.
189 Bowery, New York; citizenm.com
El Museo del Barrio
Dedicated to New York City’s vibrant Latino culture, this Upper East Side museum has a collection featuring more than 400 pre-Columbian artifacts, as well as works from Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Central and South American contemporary artists. It also regularly hosts visiting exhibits.
1230 Fifth Ave., New York; elmuseo.org
The Skyscraper Museum
The highlights at this Battery Park City institution include a 36-foot mural that tracks the history of tall buildings, from the pyramids to the Burj Khalifa. It also includes a history of New York’s vertical expansion, and scale models of some of the world’s tallest buildings.
39 Battery Pl., New York; skyscraper.org
The Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives
Most music fans associate the great trumpet player and jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong with his hometown, New Orleans, but Satchmo made the diverse neighborhood of Corona, Queens, his home from 1943 until his death in 1971. Today, his house is a museum filled with artifacts – including several of his trumpets. The museum also hosts garden jazz concerts during the summer.
34–56 107th St., Corona; louisarmstronghouse.org
The New York City Fire Museum
The official museum of the New York City Fire Department is set in a 1904 firehouse in SoHo and covers the history of firefighting in the city. Among the items on display are a horse-drawn ladder wagon, a 1921 gasoline-powered pumper, and modern jaws of life.
278 Spring St., New York; nycfiremuseum.org