Unique Museums of the Northeast

unique museums

The Northeast is home to some of the finest, most well-regarded museums in the country. Places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History and Museum of Fine Arts immediately come to mind. But these cultural monuments are by no means the only Northeast locales where history, art and other interesting collections are on full display.

The region is, in fact, blanketed with a countless number of smaller, often more unique museums. They’re found both in big cities and tucked-away towns, on the coast and off the beaten path. Each one is dedicated to something you won’t likely see at any another museum. Here are just a few unique museums in the Northeast.

International Cryptozoology Museum

Portland, Maine

We know you probably already know this, but for the uninformed, cryptozoology is the study of animals whose very existence is unsubstantiated (think the Loch Ness Monster). If this subject sounds intriguing, you’ll want to head to Portland, Maine, home of the International Cryptozoology Museum. Here, you’ll find countless artifacts of undiscovered creatures, including what the museum claims are actual hair samples of Abominable Snowmen and Bigfoot. Other exhibits focus on local folklore beasts such as the Jersey Devil and Montauk Monster.

American Classic Arcade Museum

Weirs Beach, N.H. 

If you’ve got an itch for a bit of childhood nostalgia, a trip to the American Classic Arcade Museum should soothe your symptoms. Occupying the entire second floor of the Funspot arcade, the museum is the largest shrine dedicated to arcade games in the world. In total, it houses roughly 200 pinball and arcade games, most originating from the 1970s and ’80s. In fact, you won’t find any made after 1987. What you will find are all the classics, including Tetris, Space Invaders and, of course, Pac-Man.

unique museums

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Amherst, Mass. 

Dr. Seuss (who himself has a fascinating Massachusetts museum to his name) is not the Northeast’s only famed children’s book author and illustrator. Eric Carle, of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” fame as well as some 70 other books, was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, before settling in western Massachusetts as an adult. It’s the latter region, specifically Amherst, where he and his wife established the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in 2002. The museum, which is the only one in America dedicated exclusively to book picture art, includes rotating galleries of work by famed illustrators such as Maurice Sendak and the aforementioned Theodor Seuss Geisel.

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Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Nantucket, Mass. 

You can’t talk about New England’s past without delving into the region’s storied maritime history. While there are a plethora of well-known museums dedicated to the topic, one off-the-beaten-path-site is sure to peak any visitor’s interest. The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum features more than 5,000 artifacts related to the region’s famous shipwrecks and rescues dating back to the 19th century. As an added bonus, the museum’s location at the edge of Folger’s Marsh provides photo-worthy views of Nantucket island.

PEZ Visitor Center

Orange, Conn. 

Did you know the iconic PEZ candy’s U.S. base is right in our own backyard? In 1973, the Austria-based PEZ company built its American production facility in Orange, Connecticut, just outside of New Haven. The site remains fully operational to this day and, fortunately for us, has since added a visitor center.

The tourist attraction, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, contains the largest public collection of PEZ memorabilia in the world. You’ll also find viewing windows to get a firsthand look at how these sweet, collectible treats are made.

The Audrain Automobile Museum

Newport, R.I. 

In 2014, Newport’s century-old Audrain Building was renovated into an exhibition space to house the Audrain Automobile Museum, one of the most unique collections of cars on the East Coast. Within its walls, visitors will find more than 150 of the rarest automobiles and motorcycles in history, ranging from the early 1900s through present day. The museum puts on three to four new exhibits each year covering a wide array of themes, from the history of electric cars to modern day supercars. It also serves as host to a variety of events, including the Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week.

unique museums

The National Museum of Mathematics

New York, N.Y.

If you’re anything like us, you believe it’s mathematically impossible for math to be fun. Well, one trip to the National Museum of Mathematics will dispel that notion for good. The two-story site in the heart of Manhattan is part science fair and part playground. It’s all designed to illuminate the role mathematics plays in nearly every aspect of life, from sports and art to nature and architecture. And yes, every exhibit is interactive so be sure to bring your kids – or your inner child!

It’s a Wonderful Life Museum

Seneca Falls, N.Y.

Tucked away in picturesque Seneca Falls is a unique museum honoring one of the greatest films ever made. Opened in 2010, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum is filled with memorabilia from the 1946 classic. These include items from the personal collections of director Frank Capra as well as several of the film’s cast members.

You may be asking yourself what Seneca Falls has to do with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Although the movie was shot in California and takes place in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, New York, many believe the Finger Lakes city was the inspiration for the film’s setting. Capra notably visited the Seneca Falls while he was writing the screenplay.

The Paranormal Museum

Asbury, N.J.

Asbury Park may be best known for its famous boardwalk or as Bruce Springsteen’s stomping grounds. But the seaside town is also home to a place with a little less cheery disposition. The Paranormal Museum, a part of the Paranormal Books & Curiosities, is a space dedicated to, for lack of a better word, oddities. You’ll find relics, haunted objects, even a wall of Ouija boards. The museum also offers ghost tours through Asbury Park’s haunted grounds.

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What are your favorite museums in the Northeast? Tell us in the comments. 

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24 Thoughts on “Unique Museums of the Northeast

  1. The Fitchburg Art Museum – An absolute gem in the city of Fitchburg. Founded in 1925 by Eleanor Norcross, there is a gallery dedicated to her collections and artwork, an Egyptian gallery which the children love, on-going photographic exhibits, wonderful African gallery and many changing exhibits which are tied into the Learning Lounge where children have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities. There is also a special program called Hidden Treasures, a specialized art appreciation program for individuals with early to middle stage Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia and their caregivers.

  2. There are two amazing museums in Cape May Airport, NJ. One if the Aviation Museum which has wonderful planes that kids of all ages can climb into. they have air shows and more. Right across the road is the Forgotten Warrior Vietnam Museum, 529 Forrestal Road, Cape May Airport. (fwvietnammuseum@gmail.com.) Free, but donations welcome and usually one of more veterans are on hand. I could have spent the whole day reading the history, journals and so much more about this period of American history. The two museums are worth a visit and don’t forget to eat in the wonderful Flight Deck Diner, also at the airport.

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