Inside the pitch-black Touch Tunnel, you're completely blind. On your hands and knees, you crawl forward, relying solely on your other senses to lead you through the darkness. The tunnel is only 80 feet long, but the exit might as well be miles away. After finally emerging safe (and sighted) from the most popular exhibit at Liberty Science Center, a family could still spend four more hours at the many hands-on attractions and experiences designed to enlighten visitors about the power and fun of science.
All told, Liberty Science Center houses a dozen galleries for interactive exploration. Visitors can perform surgery on a 3D robotic simulator; tip-toe across a steel girder hovering 18 feet in the air; or even connect with more than 90 different animals, including giant fish and a family of tamarin monkeys. At I Explore, young scientists ages 2–5 learn about the world around them while launching colorful balls into the air or using a xylophone made of stone slabs. When it's time to relax, the whole family can visit the largest IMAX dome theater in the U.S., which transports onlookers from outer space to the deepest depths of the oceans and just about everywhere in between.
The Hoboken Historical Museum celebrates the history, culture, architecture, and overall coolness of the Hoboken area, with 2,000 square feet of photos and artifacts located within the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard. Currently, the main gallery exhibit Surveying the World: Keuffel & Esser + Hoboken, 1870–1968, running until December 23, serves up 500 engineering instruments manufactured by the firm Keuffel & Esser from 1870 to 1968. Visitors to the exhibit can interact with a slide rule or telepathically take apart a transit instrument to discover the goblins turning the gears within. The museum also has an upper gallery, which is a venue for local artists to exhibit work about Hoboken and its environs. Previous artists include popular cityscape artist Frank Hanavan, photographer Virginia Parrott, and the fifth-grade class at Wallace Elementary School. Support the Hoboken Historical Museum with a one-year individual or family membership—both membership packages include benefits such as free admission to the museum, discounts on select museum gift-shop items, a subscription to the museum's quarterly newsletter, and free copies of the museum's Oral History Project chapbooks.
Located on the second floor of the American Bible Society’s Upper West Side office, the Museum of Biblical Art programs exhibitions that allow visitors to rethink the Bible’s role in contemporary society and history. Recent exhibits include a survey of 19th-century Biblical art from the Dahesh Museum collection, a video and audio installation examining early 20th-century rural baptism, a look at bookmaking in the Gutenberg era and the religious-themed work of muralist Hildreth Meière. The museum puts on three shows a year, but only keeps hours when said sessions are going on – so plan accordingly if looking to take a peek inside. Visitors to the museum can enjoy interactive displays pertaining to the Bible in the building’s public lobby, while a small café and free WiFi are also available to those looking to linger.
The Jazz Museum in Harlem was founded in 1997 to celebrate and preserve Harlem’s unique role in the history of live jazz. The fourth floor space opened to its current location on 126th Street in 2002, but will be relocating to a roomier 16,000 square foot building on 125th Street in 2015. Not exactly a traditional museum – you won’t find a self-guided tour or rooms full of wall displays – the Jazz Museum chooses to focus instead on events. Talks explaining jazz structures, history and music-making often turn into impromptu jam sessions or intimate concerts, with the musicians themselves explaining their process as they play. The museum’s collection does include a Duke Ellington archive, a Ralph Ellison archive and the Savory collection – original recordings of some of jazz’s landmark figures.
Harlem’s Studio Museum has been presenting the work of artists of African descent since 1968, though their emphasis has always been on contemporary work. The collection contains approximately 2,000 works on paper, in mixed media and presented as installations. Recent exhibitions include a survey of Black performance art, a Carrie Mae Weems photography series, an exploration of the aesthetics of Afro-futurism and a site-specific piece by Medi + Keith Obadike. The Studio Museum’s ongoing Harlem Postcards are particularly wonderful; the series asks artists to reflect on Harlem as a site of cultural exchange and production. Public events held inside the popular, sleek modernist space include art-making classes, lectures and tours, though the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
New York City's oldest house still stands, offering visitors a glimpse into the Big Apple's humble past. The modest home was originally built in 1652 by an immigrant from the Netherlands. Together with his wife Grietje, Pieter Claesen built a one-room farmhouse with a packed earth floor, unglazed windows, and a large open hearth. Over the centuries, the house has been expanded and modernized a bit, but it remains largely unaltered by time. It's now the center of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, and guests can explore its six rooms and three fireplaces in search of old-fashioned architecture or evidence that America was first colonized by aliens.