The Best Museums You’ve Never Heard Of

What do a one-man band, a former shoe factory, and a rocket-like 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit have in common? They’re all draws at these seven lesser-known, yet seriously brake-worthy, museums across the country. They all have a little something for everyone (young, old, and everyone in between).

Vintage vehicle lovers admire the changing styles on display in the ADM.

On Sundays, visitors score rides in three of ADM’s 130-some vintage, antique, and muscle cars — everything from a 1982 DeLorean to a 1959 VW Beetle. Among the museum’s cool events: The Volkswagen and Vintage Scooter Treffen, held every other year in September, which shows off 100-plus VWs.


Wear pants and closed-toed shoes to fully experience this all-ages playground/scrapyard/architectural marvel with caves, tunnels, a ten-story slide, salvaged bridges, and abandoned planes all crammed in a 600,000-square-foot former shoe warehouse. Two more facts that illuminate the experience and exploratory attitude: 1. The gift shop sells knee pads. 2.There is no map.

Every surface in the City Museum is explorable by kids (and adults). The former shoe factory includes a rooftop space with a fountain and an old school bus, tilted improbably over the building’s edge.


Visit the 3.2 million-year-old human ancestor Lucy — arguably the most famous fossil in the world — in her home as the centerpiece of the Human Origins Gallery at this nearly century-old institution, known for its insect research. When admiring the hundreds of thousands of entomology specimens, see if you can spot the wee, well-camouflaged VW Beetle, pinned right alongside the delicate wheel-free legions.

Bugs (and beetles, of the vehicle kind) join skeletons and other ephemera from our globe’s natural history in Cleveland.

There’s much more to NYC’s rich museum scene than the Met, MoMA, and other heavy-hitters. Case in point: The Tenement Museum, where life for some of the 7,000 working class immigrants who lived in this Lower East Side building in the late 1800s and early 1900s comes alive on guided tours.

Tours in the Tenement Museum include frozen-in-time dwellings from the building’s original use as housing for immigrants from a range of countries.

In the early 1900s, the Andersons welcomed the public into their estate’s elegant stone carriage house on Sundays to admire their ever-growing car collection. Today, that carriage house is a museum that continues the Sunday tradition with themed lawn events. Catch Volkswagen Day Transporterfest on October 8, 2017.

Auto lovers delight in this collection in Massachusetts, as well as special events that showcase beloved VW models.


The vision of an artist, tinkerer, and former carnival show painter, this rambling, imaginative, ever-evolving 22-room folly features stacked glass-bottle walls, intricate miniature carved-wood animations, a quarter-fed one-man band, and loads more folk art and Americana.

With its handmade, folk-inspired sculptures, paintings, and other assemblies, the Tinkertown Museum is sure to reveal something new on every visit.

Talk about a spot-on tagline. A 1981 VW Rabbit made to look like a rocket, an amphibious car from the 1960s, and the 53-inch-long Peel P50 — the world’s smallest street-legal production car — are some of the nearly 500 beauties in this fascinating collection, 150 of which are displayed at a time.

Events at the museum often group the collection by geography or vehicle type.