New York City is known for its variety of world-class museums: the Met, Guggenheim, MOMA, Museum of Natural History, just to name a few. But the city that never sleeps also has a myriad of bizarre museums, reflecting the unique culture and personality of the city. If you’re looking to go to a museum that’s off the beaten track, check out some of our top picks of the most unique NYC museums.
62 Bayard Street | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
While most museums request that visitors look but don’t touch, MoFAD in Williamsburg encourages visitor interaction with what’s on display. This NYC museum is dedicated to eating, cooking, and food culture, which means that at the exhibit, you’re encouraged to use all of your senses, including tasting and smelling to get a fuller understanding of the history and culture of food. After exploring the museum, check out some other interesting things in the neighborhood.
421 7th Avenue | Chelsea, Manhattan
If you’ve ever wondered how Harry Houdini managed to execute all of his tricks, head to the free Houdini Museum in Chelsea. The museums has a number of Houdini’s artifacts on display, as well as some rare footage of his tricks. The museum tracks Houdini’s life history, from the moment he became interested in magic to his secret tools that helped him escape from his awe-inspiring tricks. If you’re a magic fan, this museum is a must-see, especially because the museum has a select few original Houdini items for sale.
80 St Marks Place | East Village, Manhattan
It’s fitting that the Museum of the American Gangster would be located in a former speakeasy, in the neighborhood home to the ghosts of Capone, John Gotti, and Lucky Luciano. The museum seeks to dispel some of the common myths about gangsters, tracking their history all the way back to the American Revolution. The museum has on display some of the most famous relics of the gangster era, including, among others, the shell casings from the final shootout of Bonnie and Clyde, and bank robber John Dillinger’s death masks.
75 Varick Street | SoHo, Manhattan
The American Numismatic Society is an organization which dedicates itself to the study of coins and metals. At the museum at 75 Varick Street, see a variety of coins and metals on display. Although ANS loans out a number of its coins to a collection of other museums around the world, including the Met, you’ll get a more comprehensive looks and explanation of them at this NYC museum.
141 Wooster Street | SoHo, Manhattan
You might be surprised to hear that on the second floor of a SoHo building is a pile of dirt. Taking up 3,600 square feet of valuable real estate is an art installation by Walter De Maria, which has been in the space for over 30 years. Although De Maria has since passed, the dirt, which fills the space to a depth of 22 inches, has a caretaker who waters and rakes the soil. The soil is the same dirt that De Maria installed originally, and offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
4 Cortlandt Alley | Chinatown, Manhattan
It’s easy to overlook the tiny Mmuseumm, which is housed in a freight elevator in an alley on Cortland Street. It only holds three people at a time, but you’ll find yourself spending more time than you think. On display is a curious collection of items and oddities from various artists, that range from thought-provoking to head scratching.
7. THNK 1994
1436 Atlantic Avenue | Crown Heights, Brooklyn
What began as a kickstarter campaign for a couple’s idea for a museum in their apartment dedicated to Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan has expanded into a haven for 90s and 2000s pop culture. The permanent collection consists of artifacts dedicated Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and the 1994 Olympics and the temporary exhibits change seasonally. Recent temporary exhibits include Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi.
55 Walker Street | New York, New York
Founded in the early 1970’s, this non-profit art gallery provoked a discussion and experimentation within artistic differences, identity politics and the AIDS Crisis. Artists Space has allowed emerging young artist to showcase their talents. Artists Space has introduced the world to many famous artist such as Jack Smith, Annette Lemiuex and Jeff Koons. This SoHo Gallery with excite and amaze you with their ground breaking and thought provoking art.