Under-the-Radar Museums in New York: Discover Your Favorite

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The Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum, and American Museum of Natural History are each iconic institutions, drawing millions annually, with good reason. But there are also dozens of lesser-known centers of art, culture, history, and quirk worth exploring throughout the city. So, next time you’re looking for something off the beaten path, try one of these comparatively under-the-radar museums in New York.

The Frick Collection

As the parquet floors creak beneath your feet at the Frick Collection, imagine you’re a magnate enjoying the good life in early 1900s Manhattan. Make your way through the expansive Fifth Avenue former home of industrialist Henry Clay Frick and be transported to the Gilded Age. The decorative arts, sculpture, and paintings on display—including pieces by Rembrandt, Degas, and Titian—reflect Frick’s personal tastes and deep pockets.

Museum of the Moving Image

Of all the museums in New York, the Museum of the Moving Image is among the most dramatic, with a futuristic white interior that beckons you in. Try your hand at stop-motion animation, channel your favorite character in the ADR studio, and gawk at effects that have been used to transform actors on the big screen: all part of the behind-the-scenes look at the history and production of moving images. Cinephiles will want to check the calendar for screenings and other events. And in nice weather, don’t miss the outdoor courtyard.

New York Transit Museum

Descending the stairs to the New York Transit Museum from its street-level subway entrance, you realize this is unlike other museums in New York. It is, in fact, housed in a former underground train station. On the upper level, delve into the intricacies of the city’s mass transit system, tracing its evolution from the horse-drawn omnibuses of the late 1820s. On the lower level, time-travel on more than a dozen subway cars dating back to the early 1900s, complete with ads of the era—no MetroCard required.

Museum of Sex

Leave your inhibitions—and friends and family under 18—at the door of the Museum of Sex (like the Frick Collection, MoSex has an age restriction for entry). After browsing the store’s adult toys, books, and knickknacks, head upstairs to exhibitions exploring historical, cultural, and biological aspects of sex—where you can find a dress made of condoms and gain insight on animal behavior. Before you go, get dizzy in the museum’s fun house-inspired bounce castle, then enjoy a tipple in the weekends-only downstairs lounge.

The Rubin Museum of Art

Immerse yourself in the art, culture, and traditions of the Himalayas and surrounding countries—Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, and China—at The Rubin Museum of Art, where the collection includes objects dating as far back as the 6th century. Pause a moment amid the flickering candlelight and fragrant incense in the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. If exploring the museum’s five floors has left you hungry for more, you can sample flavors of the region at Café Serai on the ground level.

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