5 Museums You've Never Heard Of

The Museum of Natural History is great, but there's only so many rainy days you can stand staring at those damn dinosaurs. The Met and MoMA feel virtuous, but, depending on the kid, not necessarily reliable alternatives.

Wouldn't it be great if there were other museums - museums that offered a wide range of experiences, had free family programs and weren't as crowded as a Japanese subway car? If only NY had museums like this, families would never even think of moving to the suburbs.

Well, Mommy Poppins, ever eager to keep the price of family-sized apartments astronomical, has sleuthed out 5 museums, all within walking distance of each other, that offer a day of educational and creative fun.

You might not actually get through them all in one day, so we've included food and park-stops at different points so you can pick any part of the day.

  1. The Skyscraper Museum is an architectural wonder itself. Reflective floors and walls give the space a fun house feel. Exhibits include incredible photos from the construction of New York's most iconic buildings. Interesting and unique family programs many Saturdays include anything from storytelling or building the Empire State Building out of blocks for younger kids to serious building projects taught by an architect for older ones.
  2. If the weather is nice stop by Wagner Park at the south end of Battery Park City. They also have family events and programs throughout the year. Gigino in Wagner Park serves pizzas and pasta. (outdoor seating in season.) Stroll through Battery Park. Here you can take in the view of the harbor and contemplate Fritz Koenig's damaged "The Sphere" sculpture - which once stood in front of the World Trade center and now memorializes it's victims with an eternal flame.
  3. The National Museum of the American Indian has a nice, if small, collection of Indian art and artifacts old and modern, but the building it is housed in is just as interesting. Once the U. S. Custom House when NY was a great shipping port, check out the maritime murals on the ceiling of the rotunda. Kids will enjoy figuring out which of the sculptures in front of the museum represent each of the 4 continents (America, Asia, Europe and Africa). There are frequent events, like folklore films, storytelling, dance performances and craft workshops.
  4. Walk across quaint Stone Street, which is lined with equally quaint restaurants and the bakery, Financier.
  5. Due to extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy, this museum is currently closed. The NYC Police Museum has something for everyone. See the vehicles, badges, weapons, criminals and even women in the force through the history of policing in NYC. They do not have regular family events, but do have them occasionally and you can have a birthday party there!
  6. Sit where George Washington sat at Fraunces Tavern. This building is fully restored with furnishing and artifacts from Revolutionary days. If you don't mind paying decidedly 21st century prices you can even have lunch or a beer in the Tavern Washington said farewell to his officers. Family Saturdays are the first Sat of the month and give kids a chance to experience a little bit of what it was like to be a child then, with hands on projects of 18th century life like candle-making.
  7. Unfortunately, the South Street Seaport Museum has closed. We'll update this post if and when it reopens. South Street Seaport Museum is really like several museums and could be a destination unto itself. From the historic ships to the historic streets walk past the tourists on their way to The Sharper Image and you'll have the Museums almost to yourselves. There are tons of events including family programs every Saturday, which cover a broad range of hands-on maritime or old New York-themed activities, like making chewing gum or sailor Valentines.
  8. If you want to escape the tourist traps for lunch stroll over to Front Street, another charming, cobblestone street lined with restaurants and a new children's boutique. Peck Slip also has good and healthy choices for a meal, Quartino has focaccias and Cafe Dodo is a cute little spot for homemade whole wheat mac and cheese and sandwiches. They have a shelf of games and books to peruse while you wait for your food.
  9. After all of that culture and education, if you need to just act like a monkey a little bit, head to the playground on the corner of Fulton and Pearl.
  1. This is just a sampling of the obscure museums of Lower Manhattan to see more visit the Museums of Lower Manhattan site.

Find more great activities like this in our Indoor Activities Guide.  


National Museum of the American Indian
One Bowling Green
10004 New York , NY 40° 42' 16.6356" N, 74° 0' 50.9868" W
New York
The Skyscraper Museum
39 Battery Place
10280 New York , NY 40° 42' 21.3048" N, 74° 1' 4.7964" W
New York
Wagner Park
South End of Battery Park City
10280 New York , NY 40° 42' 36.27" N, 74° 0' 59.0076" W
New York
The New York City Police Museum
100 Old Slip
10005 New York , NY 40° 42' 11.9952" N, 74° 0' 30.078" W
New York
South Street Seaport Museum
12 Fulton St.
10038 New York , NY 40° 42' 24.8724" N, 74° 0' 13.3344" W
New York
Fraunces Tavern Museum
54 Pearl St.
10004 New York , NY 40° 42' 12.672" N, 74° 0' 41.5692" W
New York
New York , NY
New York
New York , NY
New York
New York , NY
New York