The Met. MoMA. The American Museum of Natural History. NYC has some seriously renowned cultural institutions that draw people from all over the world. But as much as we love those icons, the city is full of less obvious gems—in all five boroughs—packed full of exciting exhibits that deserve your attention. (And bonus: They’re not totally overrun with tourists.)

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National Museum of Mathematics

If a museum dedicated to math seems as snooze-worthy as your high school calculus class (sorry, Mr. Fitzgerald), think again. Against all algebraic odds, the NoMad center manages to make the topic unexpectedly fun with interactive galleries and exhibits that engage minds young and old.

11 E. 26th St.;

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Museum of the Moving Image

New York City has played a starring role in countless movies and TV shows, and the magic of both the big and small screens steps into the limelight at this Astoria destination. From silver-screen artifacts to special viewings of old movies, the Museum of the Moving Image is a must for local cinephiles.

36-01 35th Ave., Queens;


Long before the Lower East Side became a hotbed of trendy restaurants and bars, it was home to working-class immigrants, some of whom opened businesses we still know and love (like Russ & Daughters and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery). Don’t miss the building tours, which take visitors inside old structures restored to resemble their original 19th- and 20th-century setups, including a garment factory and a German beer saloon.

103 Orchard St.;

Coney Island Museum

Located in the heart of Coney Island, this landmarked hall offers a peek into the seaside nabe’s storied amusement past. For the price of a boardwalk refreshment, pop in and check out old fun-house mirrors, rare 100-year-old postcards and other quirky relics. 

1208 Surf Ave., Brooklyn;

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Museum of Chinese in America

Past the bustling Canal Street area sits this gem of a spot dedicated to the contributions of Chinese Americans to U.S. history. Wander through the Maya Lin—designed space at your own pace and explore the journeys made by this vibrant immigrant group, or stop by for one of MOCA’s many talks and events. There are also workshops every first and third Saturday of the month filled with hands-on crafting opportunities for families.

215 Centre St.;

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Museum of Food and Drink

Forget about the kitschy themed food “museums” that have popped up across the country in recent months. This Williamsburg institution is the real deal, backed by experts like Marcus Samuelsson and Christina Tosi. Instead of Instagram bait, the studio dives deep into America’s diverse culinary traditions, kicking things off with a detailed look at the evolution of Chinese food in the United States. Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper food and drink museum without some edible samples—tastings related to the exhibit rotate monthly.

62 Bayard St., Brooklyn;

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City Island Nautical Museum

As a city surrounded by water, the Big Apple has a rich seafaring history, one that’s celebrated inside this schoolhouse-turned-museum. Open on weekends only, the museum houses vintage photographs, model ships and other maritime treasures. Come for some nautical education and stay to try one of the neighborhood’s top-notch seafood joints.

190 Fordham St., Bronx;

Historic Richmond Town

Step back into colonial times at this onetime settlement. Created to preserve a swath of historic structures—including the city’s oldest running farm—Richmond Town now serves as a place for New Yorkers to see what life was like for our founding ancestors. Tour the main village and step inside old courthouses and railroad stations, or come for seasonal activities like a summertime after-dark tour and annual county fair.

441 Clarke Ave., Staten Island;

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