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8 Museums that are Hidden World-Class Gems

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Posted by Johnny Monsarrat, guest blogger of Events Insider

Sure, you’ve been to familiar museum favorites like the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston or the Museum of Science, Boston, which are certainly always worth a visit with their ever-changing programing, and modern exhibitions, but did you know that Massachusetts contains many other world-class, must-see museums? The winter is a great time to trek out and see them!

Modern Art For the Rest of Us

Just outside of Boston, located in Lincoln, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is a magical place where the sculptures are strikingly new, yet warmly accessible. You can wander through their extensive park, and discover sculptures hidden in the woods and along the grounds, some of which even move in the wind. The deCordova features a kids activity center, as well as interactive programs like snowshoe tours — not to mention, plenty of free visitor days. It’s also a great place for a picnic lunch!

Photo by Kindra Cline

You’ll also find a collection of must-see programs and activities in the Berkshires at MASS MoCA, or the Museum of Contemporary Art, with frequent live music, theatre, and dance parties. For those looking for some Valentine’s Day fun, check out Mass MoCA’s “Date Night,” where you can tour galleries, craft a hand-made present for your significant other, and enjoy a candlelit dinner. The museum is enormous, and I’ve always found its new art accessible to me, a layman. The museum features a ‘KidSpace.’

Photo by Mass MoCA

The World’s Largest Museums of War

Did you know the most comprehensive collection of World War II memorabilia is right here in Massachusetts? The Museum of World War II just west of Boston in Natick features a private and unique experience, which actually requires signing a waiver in advance of your admission; reason being that many of the artifacts are not behind traditional museum glass, rather they can be touched. And Battleship Cove in Fall River is the world’s largest naval museum, with a real WWII battleship, a destroyer, a submarine, PT boats, and much more. You’ll find a carousel on their park grounds, and you and your kids can even sign up to sleepover on the battleships!

Photo by David Smith

Castle Museums

On the North Shore, you can find a medieval castle! Hammond Castle is a replica built in the 1920s by an inventor, Dr. John Hammond, who was second only to Thomas Edison in filing patents. They’ll be open during February school vacation, but their normal months are April to October. Along with a collection of interactive programs, the museum holds annual festivals, including a Renaissance Faire in July and a Halloween house in October. In Worcester, the Higgins Armory is an extensive museum of arms and armor placed in another castle replica, and they hold their own Renaissance festivals. At Higgins you can train to be a Viking or Roman Warrior, and they have a sleepover program (OverKnights), too! Photo by Patrick O’Connor.

Museums of Sports

If you’re visiting Springfield, head to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where you’ll find hundreds of interactive exhibits and can join in a shooting contest. The nearby Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke is also a great place to take in the birthplace of a worldwide sport!

Those are just a few of the hundreds of educational destinations around.

It’s cold this winter, but make that your excuse to explore Massachusetts’ many indoor spaces. So, don’t just sit around; get out and have some fun at a local museum!

Johnny Monsarratwrites Events INSIDER, New England’s largest source of festivals, events and shows, which features 11 regional Twitter streams in Massachusetts.

Lead photo: Mass MoCA, credit: NW.cmyk


  • CT mom

    MA MOCA is a fabulous museum. While they do have a small “kidspace” where you can make recycled art and other projects, don’t bring a kid that can’t keep his hands off the walls and installments in the other parts of the museum. My kids are old enough, and have been to many museums since toddlerhood and know the difference between touchable and not. On our last visit, a “docent” followed us through the entire place. It would have been great if she had shared information with us, sadly, she just stalked and skulked, presumably waiting for us to do something wrong.

    • Kitkat

      We have had that experience as well. I remember an early installation involving throwing soft balls at keyboards mounted on the wall. In the next room was a lone wooden seat swing. Nearby a hammer with nails lying on a board and some partially driven in. Only the first was meant to be interactive.

  • Colorado transplant

    I’m surprised you failed to mention the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum!

    • Anonymous

      Hi there! We’ll likely be featuring in Gardner museum in a post of it’s own sometime soon! Always appreciate the feedback! 🙂

    • I wouldn’t call the ISG hidden.

  • Anonymous

    If you have never been to the WW2 museum in Framingham then you are missing something amazing. There are things at this place you would not believe could exist in this type of musuem — one of the original copies of the Treaty of Versailles; one of the only 9 original copies of the Japanese surrender document signed on the USS Missouri ending WW2…the couch the Hitler blew his brains out on, along with his blood. Amazing artifacts, it will blow your mind. Where else can you pick up a real Teller mine or Schmiesser machine gun? Where else could you see a real Sherman tank used in battle, with bullet holes and scars? This museum will absolutely blow your mind.

  • Anonymous

    The ships at Battleship Cove are nice but they are not well maintained and the Battleship has been stripped of anything interesting (other than the massive engines). You might as well be touring a warehouse with lots of strange doors and ladders. The submarine is decrepit and covered in marine growth. The bilges are filled with cigarette butts and candy wrappers. No effort is made to clean or maintain the ships at all. Possibly the best thing is the PT boat and it’s indoors.

    • justsayin

      last time i went over to it the landing boat was covered in piss and alcohol, the USS Massachusetts was still a mess, everything outside was just a mess. Unless you get there after they clean for something special its just a waste. For stuff that could be truely remarkable pieces of machinery they really let it go.

  • recent visitor

    YES! The Stewart-Gardner ! Cannot be omitted from this list.

    • Anonymous

      Hi there! Thanks for the suggestion! We’ll likely be featuring in Gardner museum in a post of it’s own sometime soon! 🙂

  • torpedo bunny

    im mildly disappointed that this list did not include the isabella stewart gardner museum.

    • Anonymous

      We love the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Miles Bader

      It’s not really hidden though, it’s one of the better-known museums in Boston…

  • Simon Hawkin

    Peabody-Essex museum in Salem is a local gem, too.

    • Anonymous

      Great call, Simon! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Two gems in Central Mass: Worcester Art Museum .. a world class collection loaded with remarkable art from ancient to the newest contemporary. Also the relatively new and beautifully designed Museum of the Russian Icon in Clinton … even if doesn’t sound like your cup of tea it’s surprisingly beautiful and absorbing.

  • Off Duty

    The Clark….?

  • susan haldt

    So another gem in Clinton, MA is the Museum of Russian Icons! We just went this week and it is amazing! Who would think such a world class museum would be buried in this little town in central Mass.? A must see – doesn’t matter if you have any Russian ties at all because it is so informative and well done!

  • How about the USS Salem in Quincy? Its an old ship with no historical interest.

    • has plenty of history behind it. and rumored to be haunted.

  • kleeneth

    List should have included the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. But, what’s a few billion dollars worth of art in comparison with a volleyball exhibit?

  • Nick

    The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline is a good one. It’s the oldest collection of cars in the US.

  • Tselfglobal

    Harvard University has an incredible exhibit of glass flowers. This unique collection of over 3,000 models was created by glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolph. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades, and the collection represents more than 830 plant species. It was hard to believe some of them were not real. Worth it!

    • MuseumGoer

      Love the Glass Flowers! In the new Mollusks: Shelled Masters of the Marine Realm exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, there are a dozen or so of glass models of the marine animals –octopus, squid, paper nautilus –made by the same glass artisans who later crafted the famed botanical models.

  • I am mildly disappointed that this list did not include the Museum of hidden museums. A collection of miniature museums that have much to offer the discerning underwear fetishist.

  • ktf

    Wow. Mind blowing stuff. Sounds like a great day with grandma.

  • Nelida Payton5

    Great blog post . Apropos , if someone is interested a DA 31 , We edited a fillable version here http://goo.gl/N6MNTt

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