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Ellis Island Immigration Museum (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

12 NYC Museums That Go Beyond Art

You might be surprised by just how many New York museums have nothing to do with traditional art; these 12 unique collections run the gamut from jazz to space shuttles and will leave you with an even greater appreciation of this city

New York’s art museums make the city a worldwide destination for culturephiles, but there’s so much more to discover than the standard shortlist of art-focused institutions like MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For a museum experience outside the frame, the five boroughs offer a deep roster of curatorial delights that don’t involve paint and canvas, whether you’re looking for historic immigration stories, farms or even vintage Chanel.


12 NYC Museums That Go Beyond Art

The Museum of New York (Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York)

The Museum of the City of New York
The Museum of the City of New York hosts a wealth of city treasures, such as theater memorabilia and scarce books, plus an impressive toy archive. Dating from the colonial era to present day, the collection includes everything from tattered teddy bears to extravagant doll houses. Exhibitions dive deep into the city’s history, from past eras like New York’s opulent Gilded Age to more recent events like the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, told through photographs and audio files. 1220 Fifth Ave., 212-534-1672,


12 NYC Museums That Go Beyond Art

Queens County Farm Museum (Photo: Mary Louise Price Foss)

Queens County Farm Museum
Once a working farm, the Queens County Farm Museum now houses New York City’s largest remaining tract of farmland. Visitors can feed livestock, meander through historic farm buildings like the greenhouse and breathe fresh air in the orchard, vineyard and fields. In addition, the museum offers many school programs such as Colonial Cooking, which allows students to experience the hard work and planning necessary during colonial life by cooking soup and cornbread over an open hearth fire.  The annual fall programs, which include a corn maze, are not to be missed. 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens, 718-347-3276,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

The Museum at FIT (Photo: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)

The Museum at FIT
With more than 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, including designs by fashion icons like Chanel and Dior, the Museum at FIT has a lot of inventory to work with. Which means the museum’s three galleries completely change every six months – just like fashion trends. Previous exhibits have included everything from Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution to Boots: The Height of Fashion showing footwear from 1900 up to modern designers like Christian Louboutin. There is also an annual exhibit of the works of graduating seniors every spring, so you can see creations from the next Calvin Klein, Nanette Lepore and Reem Acra (all FIT alums). Seventh Ave. at 27th St., 212-217-4558,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

Ellis Island (Photo: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images)

Ellis Island Immigration Museum
A 45-minute audio tour allows visitors to listen to the immigrant experience at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum as if they were one of the 12 million people who first arrived here to enter the United States. There is also a children’s version of the tour narrated by Marty the Muskrat and (available in five different languages). If you had family that immigrated through the island, the American Family Immigration History Center allows visitors to access passenger records of ships and search for their ancestors’ beginnings in the new world.  Ferries leave from Battery Park, 212-561-4588,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum (Photo: Courtesy of Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum)

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
At the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum, visitors can get up close to almost two dozen aircraft, feel the power of G-Forces through a flight simulator or take a ride in the thrilling 4D-theater. Other highpoints include a restored fleet of jets, a helicopter flown in World War II, and the space shuttle Enterprise. The museum is particularly captivating for kids, and the museum hosts an event-packed Kids Week every year, plus overnight sleepovers on board. Pier 86, W 46th St. and 12th Ave., 212-245-0072, get tickets


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

American Museum of Natural History (Photo: Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)

American Museum of Natural History
Located right across from Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s largest museums, with a collection of more than 32 million specimens housed in 25 interconnected buildings and exhibition halls. There are the famed Dinosaur exhibits with towering fossils, as well as the dioramas of mammals from all over the world. The Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium will let you explore otherworldly history as well. 200 Central Park West, 212-769-5100, get tickets


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

Children’s Museum of Manhattan (Photo: Sarah Ackerman)

Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Located on the Upper West Side, this museum encourages touch, play and interaction for kids of all ages. The PlayWorks exhibit for infants to age 4 combines a free play with mirrors and balls for the smallest children as well as interactive play with objects like firefighter costumes (and a fire pole) for older toddlers. There are also activities like puzzles and a grocery store for fostering math and science skills. This is Manhattan, so you can also expect a celebrity connection. The Bjork’s Biophilia exhibit (created in partnership with the Icelandic singer and the New York Public Library) involves educators using iPads to escort kids through a suite of her nine musical compositions, accompanied by games, images and videos. The Tisch Building, 212 W. 83rd St., 212-721-1234,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

Mets Hall of Fame & Museum (Photo: Richiek/Wikipedia)

Mets Hall of Fame & Museum
Baseball fans will want to head to the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum to pay homage to the team’s top players — and Mr. Met himself. The museum showcases plaques, artifacts, documents and video clips from the team’s 50 year history, including the 1969 and 1986 World Series trophies, Gil Hodges’ player contract from 1963 and the glove that Jesse Orosco threw skyward after winning the 1986 World Series. Access to the museum is free during all home games for ticket holders, and is also a stop on the Citi Field Tour.  Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Queens, 718-507-8499, adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

National Jazz Museum in Harlem (Photo: Courtesy of National Jazz Museum in Harlem)

National Jazz Museum in Harlem
Harlem is the epicenter of jazz, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is dedicated to preserving and celebrating that history. The visitor center hosts weekly lectures by jazz experts, and visitors are invited to watch documentaries, listen to recordings, and look at photographs of contemporary jazz musicians taken by Richard Conde. The museum also offers The Savory Concerts, which features contemporary artists performing and re-imagining the treasures of The Savory Collection. The collection was acquired by the museum in 2010 and includes more than 1,000 recordings from 1935 to 1940 by some of the greatest jazz musicians of the era. The performances intertwine the actual live music and original recordings of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and many others. 104 E. 126th St., 212-348-8300,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

Lower East Side Tenement Museum (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum showcases the American immigrant experience in the mid-1800s to the early 1930s through tours of a preserved five-story brick tenement building. Guests can view restored apartments and learn how past residents lived and survived at the turn of the century in America. Besides the apartments, the museum’s Shop Life exhibit features an interactive “sales counter,” where visitors may select media clips to explore the stories of immigrant workers.  The exhibit also re-creates immigrant businesses, including a 1870s German beer saloon that was once located at this address. 97 Orchard St., 212-982-8420,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

National Museum of the American Indian (Photo: Dmadeo/ Wikipedia)

National Museum of the American Indian – New York
Located in the stunning Beaux Arts Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, The National Museum of the American Indian is devoted to the original inhabitants of the New York region. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum includes 700 works bringing Native American history to life. The museum’s galleries, arranged in a semicircle surrounding its 140-ton dome skylight, display beading, music, textile and artwork. There are also frequent discussions with cultural interpreters. Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green, 212-514-3700,


12 Museums That Go Beyond Art

New York Transit Museum (Photo: Courtesy of New York Transit Museum)

New York Transit Museum
Located in a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum is a mecca of information for all things bus, rail, bridge and tunnel in New York. Visitors can also look at preserved subway cars and buses, vintage signs and advertising and historic examples of railway equipment. The museum also includes exhibits for visitors of all abilities. The exhibit Transit On The Spectrum: The Art of Pure Vision (through September 1, 2014), offers a space for artists with autism and other neurodevelopmental challenges to express themselves through the arts. 130 Livingston St., Brooklyn, 718-694-1600,


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