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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Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!

Travel Tips

8 of the Best Donut Spots In the United States

Celebrate National Donut Day with our favorite treats across the country.

November 5th marks one of 2020's two National Donut Days.

Occurring in both June and November, National Donut Day allows fans of those delectable yeasty treats to embrace their sweet tooth. But like any niche food group, people often take their donuts very, very seriously, and there are countless places to get your fix.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best donut spots across the country. From coast to coast, these bakeries are sure to impress even the pickiest donut-heads.

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop – Modesto, CA

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's worth taking a short trek out east towards Modesto for some of California's best donuts. Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop has remained family owned since its opening over 30 years ago, providing both tried-and-true classic donuts as well as experimental flavors and holiday specials. Even their 24-hour service doesn't diminish the line that trails out the door most mornings.

Dough — New York, NY

Dough \u2014 New York, NY

Donuts might not be the first circular, doughy treat you think of when it comes to New York City. If you've had your fair share of bagels, the Big Apple also boasts some spectacular donuts at Dough, a go-to spot for both tourists and locals alike. Here, you'll find a host of Latin American-inspired flavors that are hard to come by anywhere else; their Dulce de Leche flavor is a customer favorite, while the tangy Hibiscus donut is just as good for Instagramming as it is for eating.

Blackbird Doughnuts — Boston, MA

Blackbird Doughnuts \u2014 Boston, MA

Boston's Blackbird Doughnuts is a no-frills donut spot specializing in both brioche "raised" donuts and old-fashioned cake donuts. With a small menu of year-round donuts and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors, Blackbird keeps it simple and classic. Why mess around?

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — Brooklyn, NY

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop \u2014 Brooklyn, NY

For over 60 years, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop has been calling the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint home. Since then, the bakery has remained a popular spot for both regulars and new visitors passing through the area. Here, you won't find uber-trendy decor or gimmicky recipes, just damn good donuts that prove the power of long-standing local businesses.

Pip’s Original — Portland, OR

Pip\u2019s Original \u2014 Portland, OR

In both their mobile catering van and brick-and-mortar locations, Pip's Original is a staple for small, sweet treats in Portland. They're known for their tiny donuts that come in inventive seasonal flavors like marionberry-lavender and mango ghost pepper. But even if you opt for one of the more traditional flavors, Pip's Original proves good things can come in small packages.

Round Rock Donuts — Round Rock, TX

Round Rock Donuts \u2014 Round Rock, TX

Founded in 1926, Round Rock Donuts—located just north of Austin—are impossible to miss. These donuts' distinct yellow-orange color, caused by fresh eggs in the original recipe, make them stand out among the crowd. While this classic outpost can easily churn out hundreds of dozens of donuts a day, they also offer Texas-Sized Donuts, which are just as ginormous as you'd imagine. Round Rock Donuts are not only delicious and easily recognizable, but they're a slice of Lone Star history.

The Holy Donut — Portland, ME

The Holy Donut \u2014 Portland, ME

In Maine's Portland, you might not find tiny donuts or a decked-out catering van, but you will find a slightly healthier alternative. The Holy Donut was founded on the premise of creating tasty donuts that used all-natural ingredients to make a treat you could feel good about eating. The secret ingredient is fresh, mashed Maine potatoes, which make these donuts delectably moist without sacrificing flavor.

Donut Friend — Los Angeles, CA

Donut Friend \u2014 Los Angeles, CA

As expected of a city so focused on entertainment, Los Angeles' Donut Friend puts an edgy spin on their inventive donut flavors. Their year-round menu features donut flavors with names like Green Teagan and Sara, Fudgegazi, and Bacon-182 that are sure to delight the rock music nerds. For everyone else, the delicious donuts speak for themselves.