Soak up Local History and Art at These Must-Visit Westchester Museums
These are the best places to take in Westchester's rich history and culture.
The Hudson River Museum
Jim Henderson | Wikimedia Commons
Westchester County is rich in history — it’s not secret. Luckily for us, the county is also rich in high-quality museums that preserve that history. With a world-class collection of African art in Purchase to a three-acre Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem, the area proves that you don’t have to extend your journey to the city for your culture.
The Hudson River Museum has a lot to offer — after more than 100 years of history, the museum continues to expand its available attractions and programs. Known for more than just art, the museum also focuses on history and science by utilizing Glenview, a 19th Century Hudson River home; the Hudson Riverama, a 2,500-square-foot environmental teaching gallery; the Planetarium; and, yes, art galleries. There is always something going on for attendees of all ages, most frequently on the weekends.
511 Warburton Ave, Yonkers
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Planetarium shows Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30, 2, and 3:30 p.m.
Admission: $7 for adults; $5 for seniors, students, and veterans; $4 youths 3-18, and free for members and children under 3. (Planetarium tickets not included.)
Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden
The Hammond Gardens — photo courtesy of Hammond Museum
When we think of museums, the feeling of stuffiness and snobbery comes to mind. However, that feeling is nowhere to be found at the oasis that is the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden. Founded in 1957 by Natalie Hays Hammond, the offbeat treasure was created to promote understanding of Eastern and Western culture through both art and nature. The museum offers many frequent programs for children and adults alike on designated Saturdays, along with annual events including the Moonviewing Picnic and Concert and the Blessing of the Animals. The Guild Hall is the museum’s main exhibit space, complimented by two galleries that feature a variety of Asian and Contemporary art. Of course, the garden is the main attraction featuring a bamboo grove, a waterfall, blossoming trees and two ponds filled with frogs and fish.
28 Deveau Rd, North Salem
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4:00 p.m., April through November
Admission: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, free for members and children under 12.
The Katonah Museum of Art (KMA) is among the most celebrated small museums in the country. It showcases art from all different cultures and time periods, appealing to both museums regulars and newcomers. The KMA originates about 10 to 12 exhibitions each year, promising unique offerings at each one. Looking for something a little more interactive? Visitors can also learn about the art in the museum after appreciating it at one of the many lectures, films, workshops, and other events the KMA offers. Also, don’t forget to bring the kids to the KMA’s Learning Center, the only space in the county where kids can go every day to explore and create art.
134 Jay St, Katonah
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; Closed Monday. Guided tours daily at 2:30 p.m.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, free for members and children 12 and under.
The Neuberger is more than just a part of Purchase College — it’s a high-quality museum that deserves its own recognition. Since it’s founding, the Neuberger has championed the art our age and is known for its collections of modern, contemporary, and African art. The permanent collection at the Neuberger has over 6,000 pieces, and if that isn’t enough, there are rotating exhibitions throughout the year as well. As a teaching museum, the Neuberger also offers an, array of programs (that are often free), including Gallery Talks, Art Sandwiched-In, and family programs.
735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed major holidays.
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, free for members and children under 12; free for all visitors the first Saturday of every month.
If you’re tired of looking at the same old stuff you studied every year in school, visit the Hudson Valley MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) for some of the most current works being created by artists around the world. Boasting both a permanent collection and works on loan in a 12,000-sq-ft exhibition space, the HVMOCA champions Peekskill as a major arts destination. The museum offers an Artist-in-Residence program that gives artists the opportunity to create long-term installations as well as many educational programs, like lectures and varying special events.
1701 Main St, Peekskill
(914) 788-0100; hvcca.org
Hours: Wednesday/Thursday/Friday 11a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: $10 for adults; $5 for Peekskill residents, seniors, students, and children 8 and over; free for members and children under 8.
Go ahead, touch the exhibits. While children and their occasionally peanut buttery fingers are generally discouraged from playing with most museum collections, the Westchester Children’s Museum is specifically designed with interactive displays that will introduce your child to concepts from physics, nature, art, and more. It’s also available for field trips, groups, and even birthday parties.
100 Playland Parkway, Rye
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Available for group visits Monday and Tuesday by appointment only.
Admission: $7.50; $6.50 for seniors; $3 for those using an EBT card; free for members, children under 1, and active-duty military and their families
Unless you grew up in Northern Westchester, you might not know that we’re considered the birthplace of the modern circus. (We did, and we’ll never let anyone forget it.) Somers’ Elephant Hotel commemorates Old Bet, the first (er, second, really) elephant brought to America, and the legacy of the Bailey Circus (as in “Barnum &” later). Now a national historic place and the Somers town hall, the third floor of the Elephant Hotel actually includes the Somers Historical Society and the Museum of the Early American Circus, displaying small exhibits chronicling the history of America’s first traveling menageries and circus.
335 Route 202, Somers
Hours: Thursdays and select holidays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment
In February 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural train tour stopped in Peekskill to make a brief speech. Nearly half the town came out to attend the event (a whopping 1,500 or so people at the time), and, sadly, the event was recreated with Lincoln’s funeral train just a few short years later. To commemorate the president and his time in Westchester, the museum was recently established inside the Peekskill Freight Depot, carefully restoring the town’s original rail stop. A statue of Lincoln and commemorative plaque mark the spot, while the museum’s collections of historic memorabilia and antique pieces serve as an educational look back into one of the most strife-ridden periods in our nation’s history.
10 S. Water St, Peekskill
Hours: Saturday & Sunday 1 p.m. to 4p.m., April through November
Admission: $10; members and children under 12 free
Lasdon Park and Arboretum is also the site of a museum dedicated to Westchester’s service members over the decades, including the Merchant Marine Memorial, the Trail of Honor Memorial for soldiers from every major conflict from the American Revolution through Operation Desert Storm, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The museum itself hosts a rotating series of exhibits of photos, artifacts, historical documents, and more detailing Westchester’s residents and their service to our country over the centuries.
Lasdon Park, 2610 Amawalk Rd., Route 35, Katonah
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; weekends and holidays after Labor Day.
Not open yet but eagerly anticipated, this in-the-works museum will pay homage to the historicity of the nearly 200 year-old facilities still standing at the working Westchester prison, as well as the history and development of the modern system of incarceration, rehabilitation, and frequently punishment of inmates. One of the museum’s chief goals is to become a leading voice in the national conversation surrounding social and criminal justice. In the meantime, you can catch the museum's free Sing Sing exhibit at the Joseph G. Caputo Community Center.
95 Broadway, Ossining
Home to three major families in Westchester's history, including the prolific Jay Gould, Lyndhurst Mansion and its sprawling grounds are now a collection of art, artifects, and furnishings acquired by its various owners. Owing to personal tastes and fashions of the day, the house has become a functional museum to the individual design themes of the 19th and 2th Centuries, from original architect Alexander Jackson Davis to its time as a convalescence home for soldiers during World War II under the ownership of Gould's sister-in-law, the Dutches of Talleyrand-Perigord.
635 South Broadway, Tarrytown
Hours: Thursday through Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., May through September; seasonal hours October through December; mansion closed but grounds open dawn to dusk December through April.
Admission: Tours $18-20 per person; $5 parking fee may be applied towards tour/event ticket purchase.
Westchester’s Other Historic Houses
As a county that’s more than 300 years old, Westchester is home to quite a few historic sites that serve as museums and exhibitions of our rich history. Locations like Philipse Manor Hall, the Horace Greeley House, and John Jay Homestead offer glimpses into how former residents lived in their respective eras, often with fun and family-friendly exhibits, activities, and local community events and workshops.