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Forget the Met: Check Out These 7 Lesser-Known NYC Museums

  • Pontaut Chapter House
  • Tenement Museum
  • Noguchi Museum
  • Cooper Hewitt
  • New Museum
  • The Anatomical Venus
  • Cloisters
Get cultured at NYC's lesser-known museums
From beautiful gardens to contemporary installations, here are seven must-see New York museums that are off the beaten path. 
Looking to take in NYC’s art scene, but don’t want to wait in line at the Met? Escape the crowds at these lesser-known (but totally fantastic) New York museums:

1. Morbid Anatomy Museum

The Anatomical Venus
(Image credit: Morbid Anatomy Museum/Facebook, via Joanna Ebenstein/The Anatomical Venus)
Located in Brooklyn, the Morbid Anatomy Museum dedicates itself to surveying the intervening spaces between art, medicine, death, and culture. A relatively new museum, Morbid Anatomy opened its doors in 2014. Its history and intrigue, however, date back much farther — the nonprofit grew out of the Morbid Anatomy Library, a private collection of more than 2,000 books on death rituals, human anatomy, and the history of modern medicine. Since most of the exhibits at the museum are temporary, even native New Yorkers will enjoy frequent visits to enjoy the intersection between the beautiful and the macabre.   



(Image credit: MOFAD/Facebook)

If you’re feeling peckish, consider heading over to the Museum of Food and Drink, NYC’s first museum featuring exhibits you can eat. Learn about how your food is made and where it comes from while you taste your way through the small museum’s engaging exhibitions. Do you love cereal? Then go see the ‘puffing gun,’ the machine responsible for puffing up cereals like Cheerios and Kix, in action. The museum can even be rented out for events — simply send an inquiry and enjoy the space that Architect’s Newspaper described as “Eames’ office meets Willy Wonka.” 

3. New Museum

New Museum
(Image credit: New Museum/Facebook)
Founded in 1977, the New Museum focuses on the future of art, featuring new art and new ideas. As if the avant-garde exhibits weren’t enough, the architecture of the museum itself is absolutely extraordinary. Designed by Tokyo-based Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the seven-story building towers over its neighbors, and its white exterior emits a warm glow that invites visitors inside. Once you’ve toured the art, consider heading up to the museum’s Sky Room for a breathtaking view of the city.

4. Cooper Hewitt

Cooper Hewitt

(Image credit: Cooper Hewitt/Facebook)

Cooper Hewitt, otherwise known as the Smithsonian Design Museum, is the nation’s only museum devoted exclusively to design, both historic and contemporary. Founded in 1897, the museum’s campus includes two historic townhouses alongside a stunning terrace and garden. Once you’ve enjoyed the museum’s incredible exhibits, check the event schedule for the day -- from design programs for children to cocktails and dancing in the garden, there’s always something exciting happening at Cooper Hewitt. 

5. Noguchi Museum

Noguchi Museum

(Image credit: Noguchi Museum/Facebook)

Opened in 1985, the Noguchi Museum was designed by artist Isamu Noguchi, and is most famous for its incredible sculpture garden, which the museum describes as an “intimate and reflective space.” The museum’s clean, contemplative galleries are a perfect escape for those feeling overwhelmed by the bustle of New York. When visiting this elegant showspace, be mindful of the weather -- since most of the gallery is open-air, it might be wise to bring a jacket. 

6. Tenement Museum

Tenement Museum

(Image credit: Tenement Museum/Facebook)

For history buffs, the Tenement Museum (located in the Lower East Side) is a must-see. Available for view by guided tour only, the museum consists of refurbished apartments that illustrate the lives of working class immigrants from the 19th and 20th centuries. Walk the neighborhood, tour the building, and meet the residents at 97 Orchard Street, who are played by costumed interpreters. With a wide variety of tours to choose from, you’re sure to get a taste of New York’s rich immigrant history. 

7. The Cloisters 

Pontaut Chapter House

(Image credit: Matti Vuorre/flickr)

The Met Cloisters are one of New York’s best kept secrets. Located in Upper Manhattan, the museum (which is a lesser-known extension of the Met) is dedicated to European medieval architecture, sculpture and decorative arts. If you’re interested in European history, or just want to take a walk through some beautiful medieval buildings and gardens, this sequestered gem is a must-visit. 
(image credit: Wikimedia)