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Photograph: Courtesy MICRO

NYC's best underrated museums for families

These NYC museums are some of the city's best-kept secrets—and they're totally worth a visit with the family

By Allie Early

Sure, you've probably frequented the American Museum of Natural History, Children's Museum of Manhattan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art by now, at least we'd hope, but have you explored these fascinating underrated museums too? While you're on the hunt for the best indoor activities for kids and you're cruising our guide to the best museums for kids, don't forget about these educational under-the-radar NYC museums. Want more? Explore our guide to the best underrated kids' attractions.

Best under-the-radar museums for kids

1. The Tenement Museum

4 out of 5 stars
Museums History Lower East Side

This fascinating museum—actually a series of restored tenement apartments at 97 Orchard St—is accessible only by guided tour. Tickets are sold at the visitors’ center at 108 Orchard St; tours often sell out, so it’s wise to book ahead. Costumed "residents" give glimpses into the daily lives of immigrant clans that called the building home over the decades. “Getting By” visits the Sicilian Baldizzi family residence in apartment No. 5 in the 1930s, while “Piecing It Together” pays a call on the Russian Rogarshevsky family, mourning the loss of patriarch Abraham, a garment worker who died of tuberculosis in 1918. “The Moores: An Irish Family in America,” revisits a Dublin family who lived in the building in 1869.

Skyscraper Museum
Photograph: Wendy Connett

2. The Skyscraper Museum

Museums Art and design Battery Park City

The only institution of its kind in the world, this modest space explores high-rise buildings as objects of design, products of technology, real-estate investments and places of work and residence. Permanent exhibits include handcarved wooden models of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, as well as maps and photographs, a model of the world's tallest building and information about the twin towers and rebuilding of Ground Zero.


3. El Museo del Barrio

Museums Special interest East Harlem

Located in Spanish Harlem (a.k.a. El Barrio), El Museo del Barrio is dedicated to Latino, Caribbean and Latin American art and cultural history. The museum's 6,500-object collection includes 400 pre-Columbian objects as well as folk art objects and modern, contemporary, abstract and mixed-media artworks.

4. Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum

Museums History Brooklyn

Surrounded by verdant rows of Swiss chard, eggplant, garlic, beets, amaranth and mesclun, the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum seems worlds away from its urban perch on Utica Avenue in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The farm’s 1.5 acres, wedged between two busy roads, are the stuff that the dreams of idealistic urban planners are made of—a lush, green space readily accessible to an inner-city community. But Wyckoff is no idle fantasy. Its farmhouse, which dates to 1652, may be a monument to a bygone way of life, but the organic produce harvested on its grounds has been a vital resource for the neighborhood since 2003, when the farmers’ market was established. Family-friendly events occur throughout the year, and usually focus on seasonal happenings, like an Apple Festival in September.


5. Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

Museums Special interest Inwood

This Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse-turned-museum was built in 1784 and became a museum in 1916. It is known as the last farmhouse in Manhattan and serves as a window into early Manhattan and Inwood. Families generally spend around 30 or 40 minutes exploring the house and grounds, which is perfect when there are young kids in tow, and since admission is donation-based, this adventure won't break the bank.

Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

6. Historic Richmond Town

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Staten Island

This authentic town and farm with buildings from the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries has been preserved and transformed into a living history museum. There are daily tours with a variety of themes (think food, business and communications), but you are also welcome to explore the grounds without a guide.


7. MICRO Museum

Museums Special interest Boerum Hill

Comprised of several six-foot-tall museums (the museum's goal is to eventually have six six-foot tall museums), MICRO Museum condenses some of the world's most interesting topics into vending machine-sized experiences. Check out the Smallest Mollusk Museum and Perpetual Motion Museum (and confirm the location of each before leaving the house, because they do travel!)

8. Merchant's House Museum

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Downtown

New York City’s only preserved 19th century family home is an elegant, late Federal-Greek Revival house stocked with the same furnishings and decorations that filled its rooms when it was inhabited by hardware tycoon Seabury Treadwell and his descendants from 1835 to 1933.

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