Best Outer Borough Museums


November 28, 2016

November in New York City can bring a grab-bag of climatic outcomes. One minute you’ll be sweating it out during a 12-hour mini-heatwave, then the next, a Nor'easter comes rolling in and shuts the city down. During the former, it’s best to lean in, leave the coat at home, and explore the cityscape on foot. But during the latter, residents and tourists alike are wisely inclined to take in New York’s indoor splendors.

There’s no shortage of sheltered diversions in the city, so you could ride out the cold in a café or movie theater or restaurant, but you’re in New York City! Why not take advantage of one of some of the finest museums in the world? Manhattan boasts a plethora of great ones, but they can get a bit more crowded when the mercury plummets. To beat the rush, zip out to Brooklyn or Queens, where there are no shortage of top-notch cultural institutions, without the crowds.

As its name implies, the Brooklyn Museum is located in, well… Brooklyn. The BK Museum’s permanent collection is one of the most expansive in the world, and features works and artifacts whose origins span the globe, and which date back from ancient world to now. But it’s the rotating selection of exhibitions from contemporary and local artists (recent exhibits have included works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tom Sachs) that really make this museum worth the schlep out.


Housed in an old public school building in Long Island City, Queens, MoMA PS1 is a branch of Manhattan’s famed Museum of Modern Art, but focused on the work of contemporary and experimental artists. Expect melted styrofoam sculptures and roofless, bench-lined rooms, as you discover rising stars of the art world, and take in more-immersive works than you would at most museums in the city. Plus, without a set collection, the exhibits are constantly changing, meaning this is a museum you’ll want to come back to.


Also in Queens, and also all-too-accurately named, the Queens Museum is situated within the borough’s best-known green space, Flushing-Meadows Corona Park. Its environs alone are worth the visit, and the museum boasts an impressive collection of works, but a project called “The Panorama” solidifies this as a must-see. It’s a building-for-building replica of the entire city, built to a scale of 1:1,200. For those harboring miniscule mogul-esque ambitions, for an investment of $50 (which goes toward maintaining the piece), you can walk away with the deed to the “building” of your choice.


Downtown Brooklyn’s NY Transit Museum, housed in a decommissioned subway station, is a must-see for enthusiasts of public transportation, but really, if you’re just looking to warm up in a cozy, below-ground setting, it’ll do too. Though out of service, the tracks within the museum still function and allow exhibit trains to switch in and out of display. Learn about the history of the nation’s largest city’s mass transit program, as well as the art that adorns its various structures. (This museum also boasts a smaller branch in Grand Central Terminal, but it pales in comparison to this one.)


Astoria, Queens’ Museum of the Moving Image pays homage to the arts of film, television, and digital media. The museum is housed in the same building as Kaufman Astoria Studios, which has served as home base for everything from Sesame Street to Law & Order: SVU. In addition to a constantly growing and evolving collection of objects chronicling the history of media, the Museum of the Moving Image hosts regular screenings of cinema classics and indie films alike, which periodically draw in big names from the industry.


Interested in a private tour of the MoMA PS1? Click here for more info.