6 Great New York Museums Off The Beaten Path

While New York is known for such major institutions as the Museum of Modern Art and the National Women's Hall of Fame, it is also home to numerous smaller cultural organizations equally worth checking out. From groups that preserve and highlight Jewish customs to those dedicated to the exploration of science, here, in no particular order, are some of the Empire State's notable lesser-known museums.

Entering the list at #1 is the Wyckoff House Museum in Brooklyn. Its primary mission is to preserve, interpret, and operate New York's oldest building and the surrounding one-and-a-half acres of park. It also runs programs such as Down on the Farm, where students participate in a garden scavenger hunt, and Colonial Kids, which explores life from 400 years ago through tours of the historic farmhouse and activities such as hearth cooking.

The House was purchased in 1937 by Pieter Claesen Wyckoff's descendants, who eventually donated it to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. It later became the first structure in the city to be designated a historic landmark. The Museum's shop features such items as patchwork-style wooden clogs, books, tote bags, and farmhouse herbs.

Coming in at #2 is the Katonah Museum of Art, located in Katonah, part of Westchester County. Its annual exhibitions cover a broad range of topics across various cultures and time periods. Children of all ages are encouraged to visit the Museum's Learning Center, an exhibition and activity space that teaches about art through games, puzzles, and activities.

The KMA hosts an Educators' Open House, which allows teachers to preview exhibitions and receive educational materials and catalogs. In addition, professional development workshops explore strategies and activities that support learning standards in art, social studies, and balanced-literacy classrooms. Among the organization's sponsors are the National Endowment for the Humanities and ArtsWestchester.

Landing at #3 is the Buffalo Museum of Science. Based in the eponymous city, it features interactive and immersive exhibit spaces and accompanying workshops. A signature permanent exhibition is Explorations, an early childhood gallery that focuses on a variety of science-based concepts, including energy, space, weather, and the environment.

The BMS operates the Tifft Nature Preserve, which is dedicated to conservation and environmental education. It features hiking trails, a freshwater cattail marsh, and man-made lakes that attract wildlife throughout the year. Groups can also take private tours with such themes as Birding to Relax, which provides binoculars and invites budding and experienced birders to explore the trails in search of seasonal fowl.

At #4 is the Museum at Eldridge Street in Manhattan. Housed in the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, it is considered a destination for those interested in New York City history, Jewish culture, and architecture. Its collection includes artifacts such as Yiddish signs and the congregation's early constitution, as well as materials that explore the story of immigrants who went from Ellis Island to the Lower East Side.

Among its ongoing educational programs are Cinema Chats, which discusses historic movies and their place in modern-day culture, and the Introduction to Jewish Mysticism class, an examination of excerpts from a variety of diverse texts such as the Bible. In addition to celebrating Jewish holidays like Chanukah and Passover, the Museum's synagogue also honors events like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with music, performances, and art projects.

In the #5 spot is the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, located in Goshen. It is dedicated to the support and promotion of the Standardbred industry through documentation and preservation of the history and traditions of this American-born sport. The group's Living Horse Hall of Fame includes pictures, biographies, records, and induction years.

The Story Of Harness Racing by Currier & Ives is the Museum's popular traveling exhibit of original lithographs, text panels, brochures, and educational programming. It has made appearances at places including the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library, the Russell Rotunda in Washington, DC, and the Solvalla Racetrack in Sweden. The Museum is also a popular venue for weddings, conferences, and other special events.

Finishing up the list at #6 is the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden in New York City. Constructed in 1799 as a carriage house for a large estate, the building was later converted into a hotel. The structure sits on land originally owned by Colonel William Stephens Smith and his wife Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of John Adams.

Its private tours include Behind the Ropes, which allows guests to examine specific pieces from the Museum's collection, and Literary Popularity: Creating an American National Identity, a literary-themed tour that highlights what Americans of the early 19th century read for pleasure. The organization's multidisciplinary programs align with New York State Learning Standards in social studies and English Language Arts.