The best smaller museums to avoid the crowds

Big things come in small packages

Who doesn't love whiling away the hours in a museum? Losing track of time in hushed halls and imagining all those who created the mesmerizing antiquities and artifacts on display is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. The only problem, of course, is that you're not the only person with this idea in mind. If you're planning on seeing a popular museum like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The National Gallery you're pretty much looking at Disney-sized crowds, especially on a dreary or weekend day.

But fear not: with hundreds of museums in the US, and thousands more abroad, there are plenty of smaller, less crowded spots just waiting to be explored.

New York hideaways

The stories these rooms could tell

The Tenement Museum is a testament to those who boldly immigrated to the United States in search of a better life for themselves and their descendants. Unfortunately, living quarters for immigrants in 19th and 20th century New York City weren't exactly luxurious. In fact, most of these people lived in tightly packed buildings known as tenements (often only 25 feet wide and 100 feet long) which were divided up into cramped apartment spaces that often lacked access to natural light and fresh air. The Tenement Museum pays homage to the brave denizens of these overcrowded quarters, featuring guided tours to educate visitors on what life was like as an immigrant in the early days of America. Tours go through seven restored apartments and a German beer saloon located at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side.

The Wall of Tough Jews (real title of the exhibit)

Located in a former speakeasy, the Museum of the American Gangster informs visitors about the dark world of underground crime syndicates. From its insidious influence on politics to myths and carefully crafted lore, gangsters and criminals have had a tremendous hand in shaping New York City culture over many decades. The guided tour is a must, as the knowledgeable employees are walking encyclopedias of historic tidbits of prohibition-era underground world.

Philadelphia hidden gems

It's best not to visit before or after eating

If you're a fan of medical curiosities, the Mutter Museum will keep you amused for hours. Popular exhibits include a plaster cast of Eng and Chang, the famed Siamese twins, Einstein's brain, and 139 skulls from Dr. Joseph Hyrtl's famed collection. Located on a nondescript leafy street in Philadelphia within spitting distance of a Trader Joe's, this medical oddity museum fascinates over 130,000 visitors per year who pore over the primitive instruments once used to drain "excess bodily fluid" to correct humoral balances.

Eternal romance captured

The Rodin Museum is another oft-overlooked treasure. Nestled between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Free Library, the Logan Square location is a collection of almost 150 bronzes, marbles, and plasters created by the brilliant Auguste Rodin. This formidable assortment is the largest collection of Rodin's work outside Paris, and has been enthralling visitors since 1929. Take in the casting of The Kiss, one of his most well-known works, or goggle at the outrageous bronze doors inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy. If the weather cooperates, take a peek at The Thinker residing calmly outside in the garden.

London's most overlooked spots

Little cabinet of horrors

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when in London, why not carve your own path? Instead of making a beeline straight for the Museum of London or the Tate Modern, spend an afternoon at The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, where you'll be able to admire a haphazard accumulation of artifacts that have no relation to one another–other than the fact that they caught the eye of the founder at one point in his life. Taxidermy two-headed kittens, shrunken heads, celebrity fecal matter (seriously) and other oddities fill this so-called Wunderkabinett. Once you've exhausted yourself examining the collection, head to the World's Most Curious Cocktail Bar, where you can indulge in drinks that are almost too artfully crafted to imbibe.

This was once someone's home!

In the 19th century, celebrated architect Sir John Soane started his collection of artwork and collectibles from around the world. He decreed in his will that the home remain unrestored after his death and that all items were to be housed there indefinitely. Luckily for visitors, his ancestors took his edict to heart, which is why today you can tour the Sir John Soane's Museum. Almost uncomfortably crammed with artwork and antiquities, this beautiful mansion was designed by Sir Soane himself and houses various hidden paintings behind walls (which the guides are all too willing to display to guests). The crown jewel of the museum is an original Egyptian sarcophagus. When viewed on the first Tuesday of the month–when only candles light the museum–you can almost imagine the original occupant, Seti I, resting peacefully inside.

Escape the hoi polloi in Washington, DC

Enjoy an al fresco experience indoors

Bypass the crowds at the National Gallery and explore the fascinating National Portrait Gallery instead. It's most well-known for its America's Presidents Gallery (showcasing depictions of all 44 presidents, including Barack Obama) and hundreds of photographs and daguerreotypes, but the space itself is half the appeal. Enjoy a snack or coffee in the Kogod Courtyard, an enclosed light-filled space replete with verdant trees and tables for weary visitors.


The Spy Museum is the perfect opportunity to indulge your inner espionage artist. Filled with true-life stories and intelligence artifacts, this unique attraction lifts the cloak of intrigue surrounding the profession. Kick off your visit with a new assigned identity (which you'll be tested on later) and start exploring the interactive exhibits to help hone your skills. If you really want to amp up your game, try an overnight stay where you'll experience a live-action anti-terror simulation. Even if you're not a James Bond (or Carrie Mathison) fan, this museum provides for an engaging and imaginative afternoon.

Naturally, this is only a smattering of smaller institutions. The great thing about specialty museums is that no matter how esoteric your interest, there's probably a museum out there exhibiting treasures only a handful of people can appreciate. So the next time you feel like indulging in some post-school education, try a smaller, quirkier museum on for size. You may be surprised at what you find.

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7. Low Prices (vs. other Airbnb lodging options and flexible cancellation policy)

Before I found out about Getaway, I thought, gosh. Travel can be expensive, even with everything that is going on. Cabin rentals on Airbnb are so pricey, not to mention their no exceptions cancellation policy—which is totally a turn-off. Even the discounted all-inclusive lodging vacation I've been daydreaming about was out of the picture with my work schedule, sigh.

I was almost at my wits end, then, my friend Kiara brought up this cool new Getaway experience she recently got back from at a beautiful tiny cabin outpost nestled nearby in Hill Country, Wimberley, Texas for $99 a night! I immediately told my boyfriend, and we decided why not go ahead and try it for the weekend!

6. Facilities and Amenities (What's included)

So we went online to Getaway's website and chose the Cabin for Two, which actually had everything we wanted for a weekend escape in nature—giant windows with beautiful views and great amenities including: a comfy queen bed that sleeps two, warm shower, bath products, AC and heat, plus a mini-kitchen stocked with cooking supplies and light meal provisions available for less than $10 each. And, with self-check-in and check-out, booking was as simple and easy! That next weekend we set off into the auburn sunset, next stop—Getaway Hill County!

When we got to our tiny hand-crafted hideaway we instantly fell in love.

5. The Blue Hole Experience

The next morning after my boyfriend cooked us breakfast (yes, he's house-trained), our first stop was the Blue Hole Park Trail Loop with one of the most beautiful natural swimming holes in Texas. We made sure to make a reservation in advanced, and boy can I still smell the oak, cypress and cedar trees surrounding the crystal blue water and canopied trails, I didn't hesitate for a second and jumped in body-first. After a dip, we spent the rest of the afternoon in leisure completing the 1.6-mile hike around the Blue Hole Trail, can you say unplug and unwind, I couldn't recommend visiting this magical place enough.

4. The Wimberley Valley Driftwood Estates Winery Experience

Later in the evening, we headed to the Driftwood Estates Winery which had a great wine varietal, and the winery hostesses were very friendly and helpful in explaining the various wines. The building garden areas and facilities were set perfectly on lush rolling acres of surrounding vineyards with the cutest donkeys and little ponies—and the passing burros, longhorns, double decker English buses which added to the atmosphere, just perfect. Plan your to make a reservation in advanced and soak up the experience of tasting and exploring, a must-go winery!

3. The Wimberly Zipline Adventures Experience

After a sound sleep under the moon and stars, we woke up the next morning with one thing on our mind, the last and final stop on our Getaway weekend-adventure (and arguably most favorite) which included soaring over 10-miles of breathtaking views of Wimberley Valley creeks and canyons, absolutely a thrilling and unforgettable experience. Another must-go, you'll learn about the local ecosystem of plants and wildlife, local history, and other interesting Wimberley area facts. By the end of our tour, I was bursting with adrenaline and excitement. We had so much fun, and I must say I can't wait for our next weekend escape!

2. Disconnect to Reconnect

We got back home late after a late dinner following the ziplining, we were so exhausted but honestly I would not trade a great experience for anything else in the world. It's nice to disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with nature. I was so happy with my stay and how clean and cozy the cabins were. If you haven't had the chance to Getaway, then what are you waiting for!

1. Experience Your First Getaway

If you're looking for a safe, clean, and rejuvenating place to both relax and have an adventure, whether with your partner or friends, I'd highly recommend Getaway.

Plan Your Escape With Getaway! Book One Month In Advance And Take $20 Off Your Fall Adventure With The Code FALL20!

It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!