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If there was ever a city that would have quirky and bizarre museums, it’s New York City. While there are many museums in the city that are household names, there are also a number of museums that are lesser known, but also worth a visit. From a museum dedicated to the gangsters of New York, to a museum based only on the subway system of New York, here is a list of the top 5 most unusual museums in NYC.
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The LES Tenement Museum starts off our list of top 5 most unusual museums in NYC. It was an active housing facility dating back to 1863, and remained in use until 2011. The museum consists of two buildings that pay homage to the immigrants who lived there throughout the years. It highlights the living conditions and standards that existed for immigrants, and tells the story of their lives in the US. Over time, the building housed over 15,000 immigrants stretching across 20 nationalities. Now, the museum has restored apartments from both the 19th and 20th centuries that visitors can view. You can also meet former “residents” (actors/actresses), sample the abundant international cuisine there, and experience first-hand how New York City became what it is today. Visitors much participate in one of the guided tours available, all of which dive into specific themes or areas of the buildings. You can go on a tenement apartment tour, neighbourhood walking tour (there’s one specifically for foods of the lower east side!), or a special “resident” meet and greet.
Tickets range from $27 to $45 for adults, depending on the tour type. There is also a $5 discount for students and seniors, so don’t forget to bring your ID!
Address: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Fr & Su 10-6:30
Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese American sculptor and landscape architect, opened the Noguchi Museum in 1985 – three years before his death. This is one of the most unusual museums in NYC because Noguchi was the first person to ever design and exclusively feature his own work in a museum while alive. The museum houses 12 galleries in total, all displaying different sculptures, achitectural work, drawings, and more from Noguchi. He designed the entire space, which stretches over 27,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor space. There is also a cafe and gift shop within the museum, with furniture designed by Noguchi. If you want to learn more about Noguchi’s work, there is an optional guided tour that takes you across the museum.
Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors. This museum is pretty hard to get to, but I guarantee the serenity of the place will make you forget all about your long trek! Take note that this museum is best visited during warmer months so that you can enjoy the outdoor area.
Address: 9-01 33rd Rd, Queens, NY 11106
Even if you’re not a firefighting enthusiast, the NYC Fire Museum is one of the most unusual museums in NYC and a sight to behold. The museum pays tribute to the New York Fire Department, which also happens to be the second largest fire department in the entire world. It houses over 10,000 fire-related artifacts, and is probably the most comprehensive collection of firefighting material you’ll ever come across. Among the artifacts are equipment used in the past, old firefighting uniforms, and even old firefighting carriages. One of the most interesting things about the museum is that you get to watch the evolution of firefighting equipment, especially after the tragedy of 9/11.
Tickets to the NYC Fire Museum cost $10 for adults, $8 for firefighters, students, seniors, and AAA members, and $5 for children. It’s located in the Hudson Square area of New York, and is easily accessible by train.
Address: 278 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
From the outside, the Museum of the American Gangster doesn’t look like somewhere you’d want to wander into. However, that somehow makes the entire experience feel more authentic. This museum might be one of the most unusual ones on this entire list. The museum consists of two rooms, and is located on the upper floor of a former theatre-turned-speakeasy. In fact, this used to be a secret club that could only be accessed through a tunnel in a butcher’s shop. Today, you can tour both the museum, as well as the theatre and its tunnels. You can find everything from a safe that once held a bomb, to weapons used by the gangsters, to photos of famous gangsters inside the museum. It’s definitely worth a visit for any modern-day crime enthusiast, and will (probably) have you walking with your head held a little higher.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, and $15 for students and seniors. The museum is located in the East Village neighbourhood, an area that some of the most notorious gangsters in New York often hung around in.
Address: 80 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003
Hours: M-Su 1-6
New York City transportation is one of the most iconic parts of the city. The NY Transit Museum was made in celebration of this, and was originally only supposed to open as a temporary exhibit in 1976. However, the museum was received so positively that it ended up staying open, and now displays all the different stages of the NYC transit system. The artifacts in the museum date all the way back to 1904, when the subway system first opened. Today, you can find everything from vintage subway cars, to the evolution of typography on the signs, to the construction equipment that was initially used to build the system in the museum.
Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for children (2-17) and seniors 62+. The entrance of the museum can be a little inconspicuous – it’s located in an old subway station, so it blends into the city very well. Specifically, the museum is located in the decommissioned Court Street station in Downtown Brooklyn.
Address: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
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