5 Lesser-Known Museums To Check Out This Season

by  Alex Schechter | Nov 5, 2013
Perez Art Museum, Miami
Perez Art Museum, Miami / pabradyphoto/iStock

Winter travel tends to involve more indoor activities (unless you're heading to a white sandy beach, in which case, we're jealous!), and that can often mean visiting more museums. But what if you've been to all the big ones already? MoMA... Asian Art Museum... Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Snooze. This season, a new batch of museums is offering visitors across the country a chance to see something a little out of the ordinary. But the thing is, you probably haven't heard of them. Places like Toledo's new Maritime Museum, or Cancun's Maya Museum, offer world-class exhibits, but haven't yet made it onto tourists' radars quite yet. This all works in your favor, since lesser-known museums are generally queue-free, and cheap (or free) to enter. Take our advice and make a point of visiting one – or all! – of these places on your next trip to...

Queens, NY
Located at the second-to-last stop on the 7 train from Times Square, the expansive Queens Museum is a radically updated version of the former Queens Museum of Art, which opened 74 years ago to host the 1939 World's Fair. Officially opening on November 9, the building will be fresh from a $65 million renovation, complete with a 48-foot tall atrium, giant curved wall (featuring a mural painting), and a wraparound glass walkway. Current exhibits include "The Panorama of the City of New York," "Peter Schumann: The Shatterer," and the forthcoming Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass. Admission: $8 (suggested).

Toledo, OH
Big fan of the Great Lakes? Well, then, you better get yourself to the Toledo Maritime Center, will transform this spring into the National Museum of the Great Lakes [[http://www.inlandseas.org/museum/]]. Paying homage to the largest group of fresh-water lakes on the planet, the site will feature a 3.5-acre waterfront park, the museum itself (housed in a former ferry terminal), and a restored 1911 vintage freighter known as the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker, which visitors will be able to tour once the museum officially opens in April. Admission: $10.

San Luis Obispo, CA
More into old trains than old ships? Then skip Ohio and head to the new San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, which is dedicated to the historic Pacific Coast Railway, which historically bridged Los Angeles and San Francisco as an important commercial hub in the late 19th century. The original 1894 freight house has been fully restored to accommodate the museum's exhibits, which will include old train whistles, headlights, model railroads, and will offer visitors the chance to ride in a motorcar on the old rails. Open now; admission: free.

Cancun, Mexico
Margaritas, whale sharks, and beach-bumming are probably the first things that come to mind when planning a trip to Mexico's party-centric eastern tip. But last November, a three-exhibit hall known as the Museo Maya de Cancun opened on Kukuklan Boulevard, containing over 350 artifacts from the ancient Mayan civilization. Who knew? In between snorkeling sessions, visitors can browse ancient stone tools, engraved bricks, architectural fragments, and even an exhibit of 14,000-year-old skeletal remains. Admission: $5.

Miami, FL
Spawned out of a "need for collection galleries and communal spaces," according to the NY Times, the new Pérez Art Museum will assume control of the 1,300 works amassed at the former Miami Art Museum. The brand new $220 million building ($40 million of which was contributed by a single board member, Mr. Jorge M. Pérez) will officially open on December 4, featuring multiple exhibits, Babylon-inspired dangling gardens, and site-specific works by international artists-in-residence Hew Locke (Scotland), Monika Sosnowska (Poland), Yael Bartana (Israel), and Bouchra Khalili (Morocco). Admission: $12

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