Must-See Museums

An insider's look at 18 cultural treasures in and around the county.



 

Top Museums In & Around Westchester

 

The Neuberger Museum’s permanent collection of African art has been vastly expanded in last fall’s reinstallation.

 

Richard Serra’s massive steel Torqued Ellipses series take up the ground floor at Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries.

Did you know that there’s a three-and-a-half-acre Japanese stroll garden in North Salem? How about a museum gallery with 72 Andy Warhol canvases in Beacon? Or a world-class collection of African art in Purchase? Indeed, Westchester County and its surrounding towns are rich with a wide variety of high-quality museums, ranging from an outdoor sculpture park in Mountainville to a cutting-edge contemporary art center in Peekskill. There’s plenty for kids to see and do as well, including marveling at the jellyfish and sharks at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk or the planets and stars at the Hudson River Museum’s Andrus Planetarium in Yonkers. Read on to discover some of the great cultural treasures that exist right in our own backyard, or close enough to it. 

IN WESTCHESTER

Puff the Magic Dragon by Carole De Nigris is part of a Chinese brush painting exhibit at the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden.

Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden

28 Deveau Rd, North Salem

(914) 669-5033; hammondmuseum.org

What’s There: An oasis of tranquility and culture, the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden was founded in 1957 by Natalie Hays Hammond, with a mission to promote inter-cultural understanding through art and nature. Guild Hall (the museum’s main exhibition space) and two other galleries showcase changing exhibitions, ranging from a display of the museum’s antique fan collection to a presentation of works on loan by contemporary Korean artists. This spring, make sure to see Brush with Nature, featuring the talented work of the Oriental Brush Artist Guild (April 12 to June 7).

What (Also) Makes It Unique: The Hammond’s three-and-a-half-acre stroll garden is a true gem. Entering through a charming wooden tea house, you can take your time wandering through the Zen Garden with its soft sand and stones, the bamboo grove stirring with the slightest breeze, and terraces filled with cherry trees, Ginkgos, Japanese maples, and Chinese chestnuts.

Don’t Miss: “Nowhere else in Westchester are you going to see mature Katsura trees with their multiple trunks, heart-shaped green leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall, and lovely, sweet fragrance,” says Lorraine Laken, the Hammond’s director. Also, make sure you pay a visit to the iris-bordered pond (whose center island is a popular wedding location) to view the beautiful water lilies, goldfish, and turtles.

Art Smart/Programming: The museum offers a broad range of annual events, from
the Blessing of the Animals to a Moonviewing Picnic and Concert. The popular Asian Arts Festival (Sunday, July 15, 1 to 5 pm) features an afternoon filled with martial arts demonstrations, Japanese music, and a performance of the Chinese Lion Dance. Adult education courses include brush painting and tea ceremony classes, while children can sign up for programs such as Origami Holiday Ornaments.

Where to Eat: Lucky for you, North Salem’s Silk is now the official caterer at the Hammond Museum. You can enjoy your delicious meal al fresco while sitting at a cozy table on the museum’s bluestone patio lined with towering London Plane trees.

Details: The museum is open mid-April to mid-November, Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and free for children under 12.

FYI: If you come in April and May, the cherry trees are blooming in multiple shades of pink. In the fall, Japanese maples, Euonymus (Burning Bush), and Ginkgo and Katsura trees set the garden ablaze with crimson, orange, and yellow foliage.

Chris Jones’s intricately designed paper sculpture of a life-size motor-cycle is on exhibit at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art until July 27. 

Hudson River Museum

511 Warburton Ave, Yonkers

(914) 963-4550; hrm.org

What’s There: Overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades, this Yonkers museum combines several appealing attractions. The 2,500-square-foot environmental teaching gallery, Hudson Riverama, showcases the local waterway’s diverse habitats. Historic Glenview provides visitors with an opportunity to tour one of the greatest examples of a 19th-century Hudson River home. Plus, the museum has more than 500 paintings and watercolors, highlighted by Hudson River School artists Asher B. Durand and Jasper Cropsey, not to mention world-class collections of works on paper, historical artifacts, costumes, jewelry, and up to six changing exhibitions per year.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: Come view the night sky across the 40-foot-wide dome of the museum’s Andrus Planetarium with a lecturer who introduces the season’s constellations, answers questions, and, as Museum Director Michael Botwinick puts it, “creates the show that unfolds live for you.”

Don’t Miss: Take time to walk through The Bookstore, a whimsical, three-dimensional “sculptural environment” by pop artist Red Grooms, complete with brightly colored browsers, clerks, and books. Learn more about Grooms by visiting In the Studio, a wonderful exhibition examining the artist’s path to creativity, on view through May 25.

Art Smart/Programming: There’s bound to be something to entertain any and all age groups here, from a family program on spinning tops to a lecture for seniors on the Domino Sugar Refinery in Yonkers, to the summertime Music in the Museum program on Friday nights.

Where to Eat: There’s no museum café, but you can drive over to the nearby Yonkers Pier and enjoy the local restaurants, including Peter Kelly’s fabulous new X20, outrageous Italian fare at Zuppa, or Belle Havana for interesting Cuban/French cuisine. Got the kids? Then try some pizza at the Pizza Place or Sam’s Wedges and Pizzeria, both on Main Street.

Details: Hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 pm; Friday to 8 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and youths 5 to 16, and free for children 4 and under; free for all Friday, 5 to 8 pm.

FYI: On Friday nights the museum turns on Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light sculpture, setting the museum lobby and skylights aglow in blue, green, pink, and yellow light.

Willem De Kooning’s oil abstract of Marilyn Monroe on display at the Neuberger Museum, the place to go to get a snapshot of the best work of the 20th century. 

Hudson Valley Center

for Contemporary Art

1701 Main St, Peekskill

(914) 788-0100; hvcca.org

What’s There: The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA) presents cutting-edge contemporary art exhibitions in the 12,000 square feet of brightly lit space of a former paneling factory on Peekskill’s main drag. The 24-foot-high walls are perfect for displaying works that have ranged from Maider Bilbao Echeverria’s video installation to French minimalist artist Daniel Buren’s massive all-blue painting.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: Founded in 2001 by the family of Livia and Marc Straus (named among the the Top 100 Collectors in America by Art & Antiques magazine) and opened to the public in 2004, HVCCA is the place to go to see a private collection—plus works on loan—of some of the most current works being created by international artists today.

Don’t Miss: Complete with garbage cans, plastic baskets and a linoleum floor, Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s long-term installation Laundrette (2001) takes over an entire room and looks just like a Laundromat, only it's filled not with dirty laundry and soap suds, but with video screens displaying human rights abuses.

Art Smart/Programming: Special events range from panel discussions with experts in the field to a Make-A-Zine work–shop for kids to a free preview screening of the latest installment of Art: 21, the PBS award-winning series about intriguing contemporary artists of today.

Where to Eat: Peekskill has great options, from south-of-the-border fare at Ruben’s Mexican Café to fine dining at Zephs’ to a potent “cup of joe” at the Peekskill Coffee House.

Details: Hours are Saturday and Sun­day, noon to 6 pm, or by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and educators, and $2 for students and children.

FYI: The HVCCA is the primary sponsor of the Peekskill Project, an annual, city-wide exhibition featuring more than 100 artists whose works are showcased in storefronts and parks as well as vacant lofts and lots around town. Keep your eyes peeled for the fall 2008 date, to be announced.

Michael Hayden’s Clean Up at the Neuberger Museum

Neuberger Museum of Art

735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase

(914) 251-6100; neuberger.org

What’s There: From an abstract canvas by Mark Rothko to a realist painting by Edward Hopper, there are 6,000-plus works of art in the prestigious permanent collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art. The museum is the place to go to see a “snapshot of the best work of the twentieth century,” says Director Thom Collins. In addition, it mounts changing exhibitions featuring such big names in the contemporary art world as Chuck Close, April Gornik, and Jim Dine, as well as emerging artists like Michael Hayden and Sarah Trigg, whose provocative pieces will be on view in the upcoming exhibition Future Tense: Reshaping the Landscape, running from May 11 to July 20.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: The museum’s permanent display of African art has been vastly expanded in a reinstallation that opened last October.

Don't Miss: Check out Willem de Kooning’s Marilyn Monroe (1954) and Jackson Pollock’s Number 8 (1949).

 Art Smart/Programming: Take advantage of one of the free Gallery Talks (Tuesday to Friday at 1 pm, Sunday at 3 pm), or enjoy lunch at Art Sandwiched-In (Wednesdays at noon, once a month). Get the kids involved too at Family First Saturdays, featuring themed gallery talks and hands-on art workshops.

Where to Eat: The museum’s recently remodeled Café a la cARTe offers tasty sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts, or at nearby Anderson Hill Road, you can try the Creek, which serves new American cuisine ranging from crab cakes to skirt steak, or the Cobble Stone, which has great burgers and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Details: Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 5 pm; closed major holidays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, free for children 12 and under, and free the first Saturday of every month.

FYI: Initiated in 1974 by financier and founding patron Roy R. Neu­berger, the 78,000-square-foot museum (with 25,000 square feet of gallery space) was designed by world-renowned architect Philip Johnson and is situated in a brown brick building that blends seamlessly into the Purchase College campus. 

There are 500 paintings and watercolors, some by Hudson River School artists, at the Hudson River Museum.
Below is an oil on canvas of The Narrows at Lake George by Jasper Cropsey.

NEARBY…

The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science

One Museum Dr, Greenwich, CT

(203) 869-0376; brucemuseum.org

What’s There: The Bruce Museum in Greenwich houses a diverse collection of more than 15,000 objects, which serve as a basis for its 12 to 14 changing exhibitions each year. Its holdings in art and science include everything from Native American textiles, Japanese snuff bottles, and rare minerals, to contemporary photographs and paintings by the Cos Cob Art Colony, a renowned group of local Impressionists.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: The two-billion-year natural history of this side of Long Island Sound comes alive inside the museum’s permanent Environmental History Galleries. Kids love the fossilized dinosaur bones, spear points, wooly mammoth tooth, and wigwam model.

Don’t Miss: The museum’s world-class mineral collection, which features striking pieces of beryl, topaz, opal, and amethyst, and includes a 1,200-pound meteorite from Arizona.

Art Smart/Programming: Lectures on art and science abound, free (with museum admission) docent-led tours are held on Fridays at 12:30 pm, and the museum’s audio tours allow you to hear highlights of current exhibitions on your cellphone.

Where to Eat: Among the many upscale shops on nearby Greenwich Avenue you can choose from a variety of top-notch restaurants, such as Abis for Japanese fare, Chola for Indian cuisine, Le Figaro Bistro de Paris for French fare, or even the très cher L’Escale, just a two minute walk from the museum.

Details: Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. Closed major holidays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5.

FYI: The Bruce Museum’s long history dates back to 1908, when Robert Moffat Bruce, a wealthy textile merchant and philanthropist, deeded his house and property to the Town of Greenwich.  

Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries

3 Beekman St, Beacon, NY

(845) 440-0100; diaart.org

What’s There: Located inside a former printing plant built in 1929 by Nabisco,  Dia:Beacon opened its doors in 2003 to welcome visitors to its 240,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with the work of art world luminaries from the 1960s to the present.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: According to Assistant Director Steven Evans, Dia:Beacon is one of the world’s largest contemporary art museum, but it exhibits only two dozen artists. “We work with a small group of contemporary artists in a way that’s unprecedented in terms of depth and scale,” he says. For example, one entire gallery space is filled with the 72 panels of Andy Warhol’s Shadows
(1978-79).

Don’t Miss: Walk through the massive steel plates of three of Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses (1996-97) and his Torqued Spiral, 2000. Also, make sure you visit Louise Bourgeois’s spider perched atop a metal cage, fluorescent light works by Dan Flavin, and call ahead to book the special tour that lets you past the safety barrier to get a closer look at Michael Heizer’s “negative space” sculptures.

Art Smart/Programming: Dia:Beacon offers free gallery talks on the last Saturday of the month at 1 pm and presents cutting-edge cultural events, including per­for­mances by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble.

Where to Eat: Dia:Beacon Café offers a seasonal menu full of local produce. (The Mediterranean wrap is superb!) Or drive into downtown Beacon, which is bursting with great restaurants as well as trendy galleries and boutiques.

Details: Hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 am to 6 pm, mid-April to mid-October; Friday through Monday, 11 am to 4 pm, mid-October to mid-April. Closed on major holidays. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12.

FYI: Beautiful inside and out, Dia:Beacon is situated on 31 acres on the banks of the Hudson River. The museum collaborated with American artist Robert Irwin (who also designed the Getty Center Garden) to develop the plan for the museum’s outdoor spaces.

Count on the Aldrich Museum to keep things lively with an ever-changing series of works. Pictured is Sol Lewitt's Project Space.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

10 N Water St, Norwalk, CT

(203) 852-0700; maritimeaquarium.org

What’s There: Focusing on the Long Island Sound, the 34 permanent exhibits of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk feature more than 1,200 marine animals. The museum also has changing exhibitions, such as the current shows Ancient Sea Monsters and Adventure Under the Sea (featuring live animals inspired by the SpongeBob cartoon). Plus, there’s a six-story IMAX movie screen.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: Want to get up close and friendly with a marine animal? The museum’s two touch tanks allow you to pet a cownose stingray or touch a horseshoe crab.

Don’t Miss: Come meet Suzie, Polly, Tillie, Orange, and Ariel at the museum’s daily harbor seal feedings at 11:45 am, 1:45 pm, and 3:45 pm.

Art Smart/Programming: Kids love to stop by the toy boat shop to make their own wooden keepsake creations to bring home. If you’re in the mood to take a ride on a real boat, then sign up for one of the Marine Life Study Cruises aboard the museum’s research vessel, Oceanic. (Both take place on weekends only.)

Where to Eat: The museum’s Cascade Café offers sandwiches, salads, pizza, and sustain–able seafood (but of course). You can also pack a picnic and eat at the outdoor tables in the adjacent Oyster Shell Park on the Norwalk River, or dine in the bustling SoNo (South Norwalk) neighborhood right outside the museum.

Details: Open daily, 10 am to 5 pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas days. During July and August, open until 6 pm. Admission (Aquarium only) is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $9 for children ages 2 to 12.

FYI: Call ahead and book one of the Behind the Scenes Tours (schedules vary). It’s like having a VIP pass to the aquarium—you can feed the stingrays and visit some of the otherwise restricted areas of the museum, including the top of the shark tank!

Stepping Stones Museum for Children

Mathews Park, 303 West Ave

Norwalk, CT, (203) 899-0606

steppingstonesmuseum.org

What’s There: The award-winning Stepping Stones Museum for Children has more than 100 hands-on activities that are bound to delight all kids 10 and under (and their parents). You’ll hear the sounds of bells ringing, gears grinding, balls clanging, and water splashing as kids dash around exploring every nook and cranny.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: “Fun is guaranteed,” says Carol Brennan-Smith, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. “Call it playing, call it learning—for children it’s all the same.” In exhibitions like Healthyville, kids can broadcast “live” from inside the body at W-BOD television studio, or they can shop and scan toy groceries for nutritional facts (apples—good; donuts—bad!) at the Good Foods Market.

 Don’t Miss: Kids never want to leave the Waterscape exhibit, where they wear plastic smocks and splash around to their hearts’ content. In the outdoor Bubbles exhibit (summer only) children can create mega-bubbles and even stand inside them.

Art Smart/Programming: Froggy, Maisy, Biscuit, and Winnie the Pooh, are just a few of the storybook characters who’ve come to visit during the museum’s extremely popular Family Fun Nights, which take place once a month on Friday evenings. The annual Halloween Monster Mash and New Year’s Eve Party are also big hits with the little ones.

Where to Eat: On a nice day you might want to bring your own lunch and enjoy it in the museum’s central Celebration Courtyard, complete with picnic tables and chairs. Otherwise, pick up some healthy sandwiches, such as tuna, turkey, or ham and cheese, in the Stepping Stones Café. There’s also milk and fruit juice in case the kids get thirsty.

Details: Hours are Tuesday, 1 to 5 pm; Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm; Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $9 per person, $7 for adults over 62, and free for children under one. Free the last Thursday of every month, 5 to 8 pm.

FYI: Parents in search of activities for tiny tots will be excited to discover Toddler Terrain, a cozy haven designed for the museum’s youngest explorers. Children three and under can roam freely, gliding down the small slide, climbing into the log cabin, playing with puppets, and creating crafts.

Storm King Art Center

Old Pleasant Hill Rd, Mountainville, NY

(845) 534-3115; stormking.org

What’s There: Widely considered to be the world’s leading sculpture park, Storm King Art Center boasts more than 100 modern and contemporary masterworks dotting its magnificent 500-acre grounds. Sculptures include Alexander Calder’s The Arch, a black, biomorphic 50-foot-high stabile  and the museum’s most recent acquisition, Mark di Suvero’s Mahatma, soaring 21-feet high and topped by a steel V-beam that blows in the wind. In addition, special exhibitions are sited on the grounds as well as inside the museum building, a 1935 Normandy-style chateaux.

What (Also) Makes It Unique: Director and Curator David R. Collens calls Storm King “a museum without walls.” The awe-inspiring grounds feature “farm fields, woodlands, a more formal area near the house, and breathtaking views of Storm King and Schunnemunk Mountains, as well as the sky."

Don’t Miss: Isamu Noguchi’s Momo Taro is a nine-part, 40-ton granite sculpture built atop a specially constructed hill that affords sweeping views of the Art Center’s fields. Also, make sure to wander alongside Andy Goldsworthy’s serpentine Storm King Wall, a 2,278-foot-long fieldstone structure made from stones gathered on the property.

Art Smart/Programming: Family programs include kid-friendly events, and adults will delight in the Art Center

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