We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see in your travels.
Albany: The USS Slater, the last World War II-era destroyer escort afloat in the United States, is moored on the Hudson River in Albany. The ship has been restored to her former glory and is open to the public from April through November, with hour-long guided tours.
Ballston Spa: The history of glassmaking in early America is told at the National Bottle Museum here.
Brooklyn: The Harbor Defense Museum preserves the history and evolution of New York City’s coastal defense systems. As the only Army museum in metropolitan New York City, the museum has a fine collection of military artifacts from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
Brooklyn Heights: The New York Transit Museum is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the history of urban public transportation, with exhibits of over 100 years of transit lore and memorabilia, all housed in an authentic 1930s subway station.
Buffalo: Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park displays several historic ships, including the guided missile cruiser USS Little Rock, the World War II vintage submarine USS Croaker, and the destroyer USS The Sullivans, named for the five Sullivan brothers, who perished together when their ship was sunk during World War II. Also on display is a one man X-Ron 1 Rotorcycle Helicopter, Korean and Vietnam war tanks, a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, and other military equipment.
Buffalo: The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum displays bicycles, carriages, motorcycles, automobiles, and other vehicles manufactured in western New York, along with transportation artwork and memorabilia.
Canastota: At the International Boxing Hall of Fame you can view exhibits on the sport of boxing and the greatest athletes to step into the ring.
Clayton: The Thousand Islands Museum houses exhibits of hunting decoys from the past and present, along with exhibits on the history of life along the St. Lawrence from the earliest days.
Clayton: The Antique Boat Museum here showcases more than 150 antique wooden watercraft from vintage canoes to sporty runabouts.
Cooperstown: If you find yourself humming Take Me Out To The Ballgame, maybe it’s because this is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Cooperstown: The Farmers Museum is a 19th century village with over two dozen historic buildings where blacksmiths, weavers, broom makers, and other artisans demonstrate old time rural skills.
Corning: A wonderful collection of American Western and Native American art is preserved and displayed at the Rockwell Museum.
Corning: The Corning Museum of Glass has the world’s best collection of art and historical glass; more than 45,000 objects. Visitors can take part in the museum’s glassmaking program to learn hot glass working, flame working, fusing, and sandblasting, all under the direction of the museum’s experienced glassworkers.
Croghan: The American Maple Museum preserves the history and evolution of the North American maple syrup industry with exhibits that depict the history of maple syrup and sugar making techniques, ranging from those used by the Native Americans to the plastic tubing and stainless steel evaporators in use today.
Eden: The Original American Kazoo Company, established in 1916, is the only metal kazoo factory in the world. The company museum highlights history, amusing trivia, and shows step by step the way kazoos are made. This working museum continues to manufacture a complete line of kazoos.
Elmira: The National Soaring Museum preserves the history of non-powered flight with displays of gliders dating from the late 1890s to the late 20th century, computerized flight simulators, and educational programs.
Fishkill: The Van Wyck Homestead Museum preserves the 1732 home of Isaac Van Wyck, which was requisitioned by the Continental Army for use as an officers’ headquarters in 1776. It was General Putnam’s headquarters for a time and was visited by many notables, including Washington, Lafayette, van Steuben, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.
Hammondsport: The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, named in honor of Hammondsport’s favorite son, pioneer aviator and early motorcycle manufacturer Glenn Curtiss, displays a priceless collection relating to early aviation and local history.
Highland Falls: Located just outside the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy, the West Point Museum houses one of the largest collections of firearms, military equipment, and memorabilia to be found anywhere.
Hudson: The FASNY Museum of Firefighting displays over 2,500 artifacts, including nearly 70 pieces of fire equipment, dating back to 1725.
Huntington Station: Poet Walt Whitman spent his early years at a home here, now a State Historic Site.
Hyde Park: Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt is buried at the Franklin Roosevelt Library and Museum.
Hyde Park: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used a small cottage called Val-Kill as a retreat from her often hectic schedule. After her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, she lived at the cottage until her own death in 1962. Today the preserved cottage is administered by the National Park Service as the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.
Ilion: The Remington Firearms Museum tells the story of one of America’s greatest gun makers with exhibits of rare and antique firearms made by the Remington company.
Jamestown: Located in actress-comedienne Lucille Ball’s hometown, the Lucy-Desi Museum displays artifacts and memorabilia related to the First Couple of Comedy. Displays include priceless costumes, awards, photographs, and other memories from the estates of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Kinderhook: President Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook in 1782 and is buried in the Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery. The mansion he retired to in 1841 is now a National Historic Site.
Kings Point: The American Merchant Marine Museum is located on the grounds of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and displays nautical artifacts and artwork.
Kingston: The Hudson River Maritime Museum preserves the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and the industries dependent on the river. Displays include paintings, prints, photographs, vessel blueprints, artifacts such as ice-harvesting tools, and a variety of ship models. The museum’s collection of small craft includes an 1898 steam tug, a 100 year old shad boat, a lifeboat from the steamboat Mary Powell, a lighthouse tender, and several ice yachts.
Lake George: Sitting atop a small rise, Fort William Henry commanded the southern end of Lake George from November, 1755 to August, 1757. The Fort’s history is short but its final tragic days have been retold as fiction in James Fennimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans. Today the fort has been reconstructed and is open for tours. Guides dressed in 18th century military uniforms explain the weapons and warfare of the period and demonstrate a live musket and cannon firing.
Lake Placid: Visitors can explore the legacy of the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games in exhibits which include video highlights, athletes’ uniforms and equipment, and historical information about all of the area’s Olympic sites at the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.
Le Roy: Did you know there is a museum devoted to everybody’s favorite dessert? The Jell-O Museum tells the story of this sweet, wiggling treat everybody loves to eat.
Monroe: At Museum Village you can tour over 25 historic buildings, shop in a 130 year old general store, see a mastodon skeleton, dip a candle, step inside a 200 year old log cabin, sit in a one room schoolhouse, watch a broom or coverlet being made, and see costumed guides perform other colonial skills.
New Windsor: Seven thousand of George Washington’s troops spent a miserable winter at what is now New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site here following the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.
Niagara Falls: The Niagara Aerospace Museum tells the story of the aviation history of Western New York, from the earliest forms of flight to the most current aerospace innovations.
North Tonawanda: The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum occupies the original Allan Herschell Company factory complex. Exhibits include a collection of 20 hand-carved carousel animals, a photo exhibit documenting the production of a carousel at the factory from delivery of lumber to setup in a park, and the Wurlitzer Music Roll Shop, which contains the only remaining music roll production equipment from the Wurlitzer Company. The museum operates two historic carousels. The large 1916 #1 Special carousel is 40 feet in diameter, has 36 hand carved horses and over 580 lights. The second carousel is a small 1940s aluminum model called a “Kiddie Carousel” that was created specifically for small children to ride without the need for adults to accompany them. The horses are child-size and the machine moves more slowly than a full sized carousel.
Norwich: The Northeast Classic Car Museum displays an impressive collection of antique cars from Dusenbergs to Cords and Packards.
Ogdensburg: Frederic Remington, perhaps the greatest Old West artist who ever lived, grew up here, and the Frederic Remington Art Museum displays his artwork and personal effects.
Onchiota: The history and culture of the Indian tribes that came together to form the Iroquois Confederacy are honored at the Six Nations Indian Museum here.
Oyster Bay: Sagamore Hill was the home of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, from 1885 until his death in 1919. Today, Sagamore Hill is a National Historic Site and is furnished as it was during Roosevelt’s busy lifetime.
Palmyra: The William Phelps General Store Museum is a time capsule of early 20th century small town life, complete with stocked shelves of inventory dating back over 100 years.
Plattsburgh: The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum preserves the rich transportation history of the Champlain Valley with displays on the Lozier automobile, as well as other forms of transportation, including trains, airplanes, and other classic autos.
Rhinebeck: Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is home to a squadron of World War I biplanes that perform aerial dogfights throughout the summer.
Riverhead: The Hallockville Museum Farm is a living history farm that demonstrates life in the late 1800s, when this area was an important farming community supplying New York City.
Rome: Fort Stanwix National Monument preserves the history of the old fortress that was first built here by the British in 1758 and later played a vital role in the American Revolution.
Sag Harbor: The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum is home to a fine collection of whaling and maritime artifacts dating back to the 1700s.
Saratoga Springs: Fine racehorses and jockeys are honored at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame with videos, memorabilia, and photos of racing legends.
Seneca Falls: You can trace the beginnings of the Suffragist Movement at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park here. Included at the site is the Wesleyan Chapel, where the first women’s rights convention took place in 1848, and the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who is credited with writing speeches for her more famous friend, Susan B. Anthony.
Seneca Falls: The National Women’s Hall of Fame honors over 200 American women who have achieved greatness and contributed to mankind, including Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather, Sacagawea, Sojourner Truth, and Margaret Sanger.
Staten Island: Historic Richmond Town is New York City’s living history village and museum complex. Visitors can explore the diversity of the American experience from the colonial period to the present.
Syracuse: At the Erie Canal Museum, housed in the only surviving canal weigh station, visitors can see exhibits and displays on the historic waterway and explore a 65 foot long passenger boat.
West Point: The U.S. Military Academy has been training our nation’s military officers since 1802.
Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Baca: A Ronny Baca Mystery by my buddy Billy Kring. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. – Henry Ford