4. National Museum of the American Indian

Customs House
National Museum of the American Indian.

Belonging to the Smithsonian Institute, the National Museum of the American Indian holds one of the world’s most significant Native American artifact collections including photographs, archives, and other media from the Western Hemisphere, the Arctic Circle, and Tierra del Fuego. It provides a haven for Native voices and culture preserved in its unique research centers, where anyone can learn about the history of the tribes that lived there through books and “hands-on discovery boxes.” The George Gustav Heye Center is home to exhibitions, education, and performing arts programs.

The museum is filled with history and intriguing secrets, such as that the institute was built on the original site where New York colonial rule began. First, the site began as Fort Amsterdam as a place to defend New York, then known as New Amsterdam. The building is a work by architect Cass Gilbert and is a sight to behold on its own, with tiling inside by Guastavino. The marble in the walls comes from a few different states, and the last bit of Swiss marble worldwide is featured inside its columns. The museum’s expansion also includes the Diker Pavilion for Native Arts and Cultures, where performances and discussions are held. Take the 4 or 5 train directly off the Bowling Green stop. You can also take the Q and get off at Whitehall South Ferry station. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.