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5 Unexpected Museums in Massachusetts


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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Massachusetts is well known for having some of the most famous museums in the country, including the iconic Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Science and Berkshires Museum.

Beyond these renowned institutions, there also awaits a variety of great Massachusetts museums that many folks might not know quite as well.

Despite their slightly lower profile, these spots are all well worth a visit. Here’s what makes them special.

Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA

Cadillac Hood Ornament

Photo: Vintage Cadillac Goddess Hood Ornament via Facebook

Home to America’s oldest car collection, the Larz Anderson Auto Museum has welcomed visitors for more than 85 years, allowing them to browse a truly impressive collection of antique automobiles. Originally opened by socialites Larz and Isabel Anderson at their Brookline home, the museum began as a way for the couple to showcase their growing collection of automobiles each Sunday at their stunning Carriage House.

The tradition continues today with revolving annual exhibits of the collection, as well as educational forums, an archive of early automotive material, and themed Lawn Events. The adjacent Larz Anderson Park allows visitors to explore the charming scenery of the area after their visit. You can find hours and directions here.

The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA

As New England’s only museum of contemporary craft, the Fuller brings to life the materials, techniques and artistic expression involved in modern crafting. Through the exhibitions, workshops and special events, visitors can actually touch and interact with materials and objects used to create art, an opportunity you won’t find at many museums.

Fuller Craft Museum

Photo: Fuller Craft Museum via Facebook

The Fuller also gives visitors the delightful choice to experience art and nature together in one, with a number of outdoor sculptures and more than 700 acres of surrounding woodlands, gardens, courtyards and nature trails. This interactive and dynamic environment is pretty much summed up by the Fuller’s motto: “Let the art touch you.” For hours and admission rates, click here, and for more info to help plan your visit, click here.

The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton

The largest of its kind in North America, the Museum of Russian Icons is home to more than 500 Russian icons and artifacts that span six centuries. Through the medium of art, the museum works to enhance the understanding and appreciation of Russian culture and history. One of the current exhibits (on view now until May 24th) is “The Tsars’ Cabinet,” which counts more than 230 decorative art objects that were actually used by the Tsars and other Romanovs between the 18th and 20th centuries.

For a taste of traditional Russian snacks, head to the Russian Tea Room during your visit for treats like Moscow chocolates. To start planning your visit, click here for hours & admission rates, and check out this list of nearby restaurants and hotels provided by the museum.

Russian Icons

Photo: Museum of Russian Icons via MOTT

Concord Museum in Concord, MA

Inside the Concord Museum, you’ll find historical gems both national and regional. The Shot Heard Round the World Exhibit, on display through September 2014, draws from the museum’s extensive Revolutionary War collection, including Paul Revere’s Lantern, a letter written by John Hancock and a number of items from the 1775 Battle of Concord. Along with artifacts from our nation’s founding, the Concord Museum also contains a variety of possessions once own by famed local transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, including the latter’s desk from his time at Walden Pond. For more information on hours, admission and directions to the Concord Museum, click here.

Fruitlands Museum in Harvard

Fruitlands Museum

Photo: the Fruitlands Museum via Facebook

Located on the grounds of a former 19th-century utopian community, the Fruitlands Museum still very much looks the part. The site is now home to four historic buildings, including the Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane’s Farmhouse, the Shaker Museum, the Native American Gallery and the Art Gallery. With over 210 acres of land, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore the surrounding area, and you can plan to stay to eat at the Fruitlands Museum Café. Fruitlands reopened for the season during the past couple weeks and you can peruse the full events calendar here. For hours and admission info, click here.

While you’re in the area, there’s no shortage of overnight options, either. Near Brookline, Encore Bed & Breakfast is cozy, while the North Bridge Inn will put you just a 10-minute walk from the museum in Concord. Around Brockton, the Residence Inn is good for a sleepover and the Westborough Inn is a nice place to rest up in Central MA. If none of those catch your eye, you can see a whole range of Massachusetts lodging choices here.

And, of course, there are many more fine Massachusetts museums to explore, along with plenty of other artistic pursuits around the Commonwealth.

What’s one under-the-radar spot that you love to visit in Massachusetts? Let us know in the comments below!


  • Frederick Wright

    That Russian Icon Museum looks incredible – I’d never heard of it, although I have a lot of Russian friends. My current favorite spot is the New Bedford Whaling Museum. A beautiful spot in the stunningly restored fishing town of New Bedford.

    • MassVacation

      New Bedford is another excellent one, Frederick! We have a few very cool photos of that space. Lots of history to explore there as well.

  • Jods

    The Russian Icon Museum is fantastic . . . you should really try to visit!

  • Maggie

    The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst is not to be missed either, especially for anyone who loves childrens books

    • MassVacation

      Absolutely, Maggie. That’s a great one, too!

  • Mom

    Mass MOCA, Clark Art, Norman Rockwell Museum, Hancock Shaker Village – all Berkshire gems not to be missed! And my favorite in Boston is the Isabella Stuart Gardner on the Fenway, close enough to MFA to do in the same day!

    • MassVacation

      All good options! 🙂

    • Mohawk Trail

      Traveling between Mass MoCA and The Clark Art gem not to miss would be the WCMA – Williams College Museum of Art of the Williams College Campus – open and free to the public

  • There’s a little museum in Rockport that could definitely be categorized as “unexpected” and unconventional called “The Paper House” and it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the Cape Ann area. You can read all about it (yes, slight newspaper pun there!) at http://www.travelswithnathaniel.com/2012/07/extra-extra-read-all-about-it-nathaniel.html

    • MassVacation

      A very unconventional place indeed, Linda! And absolutely well worth visiting 🙂

  • Jeff P

    Don’t forget the Museum of Vintage Trial Bikes in Cheshire, a “must visit” for anyone interested in trials motorcycling. Call ahead and you can get a tour.

  • Mohawk Trail

    You should check out two small museums in Adams, MA – The Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum and the Quaker Meeting House and Many of the Local Historical Society

    • MassVacation

      Both very good ones! The Susan B Anthony Museum got a mention in our most recent post, a profile of Route 116.

  • Suzanne

    Cape Ann Museum.. Largest collection of Fitz Henry Lane. Under going renovations and will open in August. New addition will be an original Fresnel lens from one of the twin lighthouses of Thacher Island.

    • MassVacation

      Definitely, Suzanne! We will help spread the word when the refurbishing is done.

  • Lizzie

    Right down the street (easy walking distance) from the exceptional Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton is the Gallery of African Art. Very cool.

  • Mike Hoyt

    Willard House and Clock Museum. Worcester Art Museum. DeCordova museum.

  • Fram

    Um, hello! The WWII Museum in Natick off Route 9. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen and since you can touch almost everything, it’s great for school groups (older students) too. No one knows we have this gem in our backyard.

    • MassVacation

      Thanks for adding that, Fram! We’ll definitely include it in a future post.

  • Dahun

    Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich

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