MoMA? Been there. The Guggenheim? Done that. While these museums are cultural institutions, you’re not limited to them. In fact, New Yorkers have access to some quirky museums that proudly preserve and display oddities not likely found at The Met. Here are our top recommendations for under-the-radar museums in the city that are totally worth checking out.
1. Houdini Museum of NY at Fantasma
The Houdini Museum of New York is located within the headquarters of Fantasma Magic and has hundreds of rarest pieces that was used and personally belonged to escape artist Harry Houdini.
The majority of Houdini’s artifacts come from the private collection of Fantasma Toys and Magic CEO Roger Dreyer. While the museum is small, the store’s staff provides plenty of entertainment and performs impressive magic tricks. Admission is FREE.
213 W 35th St., Suite 401
New York, NY 10001
2. The City Reliquary
Off the beaten path, The City Reliquary museum traces “the history of New York City's five boroughs with its exhibitions of cultural ephemera and relics.” The collection includes a shrine to Jackie Robinson, memorabilia from New York World's Fairs, neon signs discarded by restaurants and a stockpile of Statue of Liberty figures.
370 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
3. Louis Armstrong House Museum
Louis Armstrong—the world’s most famous jazz musician— settled in a modest house at 34–56 107th Street near 37th Avenue, in Corona, Queens, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
Today, the Louis Armstrong House Museum is open to the public. Visitors get to enjoy an exhibit on Louis’s life and legacy, and the Armstrongs’ beautiful Japanese-inspired garden.
34-56 107th St.
Corona, NY 11368
4. Morris-Jumel Mansion Museum
Built in 1765 as a summer house by Colonel Roger Morris and his wife, the Morris-Jumel Mansion is Manhattan’s oldest residence.
The museum presents American life from the colonial era and presents its rich history and evolution from a working farm to a headquarters for George Washington and his troops during the Revolutionary War. It was also the home of Eliza Bowen, who would go on to marry Aaron Burr.
In addition to self-guided tours, the museum offers paranormal investigations lead by resident paranormal investigator, Vincent Carbone.
65 Jumel Terrace
New York, NY 10032
5. Museum of Illusions
Get ready to trick your senses at the Museum of Illusions. The exhibit consists of optical illusions, holograms and a playroom with games and puzzles meant to teach visitors about vision, perception and the human brain.
Guests can also escape from reality in the Anti-Gravity Room, where you’ll question whether you are standing on a flat or slanted surface.
77 8th Ave.
New York, NY 10014