Off-beat Museums to Explore in WNY

Culture & Arts, Museums


Written by Charley Arrigo

Published on April 21, 2015
Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park

Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park

Looking for something different to do? Something educational and enjoyable at the same time? Something semi-out of the ordinary. Not your average big-wig museum or gallery. We’ve got options. Well, actually Western New York has options. Enjoy!


Steel Plant Museum

Neighborhood: South Buffalo

100 Lee Street, Buffalo NY / (716) 821-9361

Open since 1984, this free exhibit has preserved many artifacts of the old Lackawanna Steel Company.  At its height over 20,000 people were employed at the site.  Working as a subsidiary under Bethlehem Steel, they helped create one of the biggest industrial giants of the 20th century.  Everything from documents regarding Union battles over working conditions, to worker contract booklets fill the reference library.  Also present are relics from other local companies such as Hanna Furnace, and Republic Steel.  Look out for their “First Wednesday Series” which brings in speakers with presentations on local history.

Hours:  Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 10am-5pm

Admission:  Free   



The Iron Island Museum

Neighborhood: Lovejoy

998 Lovejoy Street, Buffalo, NY   /  (716) 892 3084

A neighborhood, City of Buffalo, Military, Railroad museum.   Iron Island was named, back in the 1890’s, because the neighborhood is surrounded by the railroad and the railroad men and their families were settling in the area.

Built in 1883 as a Methodist Episcopal church, it remained as such until the late 1940’s.  In 1956 it was purchased and opened in 1958 as Church Funeral Home.  The building was donated, in August 2000, to the Iron Island Preservation Society of Lovejoy, Inc. by Mr. Anthony Amigone for the museum. The original church, including 4 large stained glass windows, is still visible.

The museum has been on 3 national televised programs, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab and My Ghost Story. The building has been declared haunted and we have visitors from all over the world, they come to see the spirits but end up appreciating our amazing history.

Hours: Thursday: 6 pm – 8:30 pm; Friday and Saturday 10 am – 12:30 pm

Admission: *SELF GUIDED TOURS $2.00 per person; *GUIDED  TOURS $5.00 per person
(Reservations Recommended) *PRE-PAID TOURS can be scheduled for groups by appointment. Guided tours Thursday 6:30 p.m. and Saturday 10:30 AM .


Explore and More Children’s Museum

Neighborhood: East Aurora

300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora, NY / (716) 655-5131

Geared towards children, ages 1-10, Explore and More prides themselves on stimulating the imagination of its visitors.  Through their hands-on exhibits, kids will have the opportunity to learn and stay engaged while enjoying the activities.  From designing and building a house in their “Frank Lloyd Wright-style studio” to “Food for Thought” where kids can play in anything from a farmers market to an international food stand.  The museum offers just about everything for kids looking to have some quality fun. 

Hours:  Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm, First Friday of Month 10am-8am

Admission:  Adults and Children 1 and up: $5, Children 1 and under: Free


Piece-Arrow Museum

Neighborhood: East Buffalo

263 Michigan Ave., Buffalo NY / (716) 853-0084

Open since 2001, this non-profit organization has been fueled by Jim, and Mary Ann Sandoro.  Over 45 years of experience obtaining memorabilia, their antique cars and automobile artifacts are on display for anyone to see.  Some of the vintage vehicles date all the way back to the early 1900s!  Better yet motorcycles and bicycles also fill the exhibit to help show the transportation history of Greater Buffalo.  One of the most unique aspects of the museum is the Frank Lloyd Wright Filling Station.  A fueling station that was designed for downtown Buffalo on Michigan Ave., and Cherry St.  It was never built but recreation of the architectural design is now displayed at the Piece-Arrow Museum.

Hours:  April 3, 4, 10, 11, 18, 25, May 2, 8, 9, 11am-4pm

Admission:  Adults: $10, Children (6-16): $5, Under 6: Free


Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park

Neighborhood: Canalside/Pegulaville

1 Naval Park Cove, Buffalo, NY / (716) 847-1773

The downtown site dedicated to veterans, provides a platform for which Western New Yorkers can appreciate and honor our military men and women.  From Naval Vessels to a Huey Helicopter as well as a tank and fighter jets; the downtown Naval Park has many historic attractions.  Perhaps the most recognizable, is the USS Sullivan which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.  Visitors can tour the ship and see the ins and outs of what it took to run a 20th century American Destroyer.  On display are Marine memorabilia and Vietnam Veterans relics along with a display of Western New York Medal of Honor Recipients.

Hours:  April-October, Open Daily, 10am-5pm

Admission:  Adults (17+): $10, Children (6-16): $6.00, Senior (60+) $6.00


Hallswalls Contemporary Art Center

Neighborhood: Business District

341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo / (716) 854-1694

Hallswalls was originally created in 1974 by local Buffalo artists.  Their goal was not only to promote their artwork but that of up-and-coming aspiring artists.  What they built was a voice for everything from visual artists, to filmmakers, musicians, writers, and performers.  Visitors will have the opportunity to see this new and unique contemporary art and the various influences of so many different mediums.  Perhaps a must see for any local aspiring artist hoping to spread their work, or maybe just some inspiration.  Hallswalls has many different events like film viewings and live music performances to showcase their artists, which can be found on

Hours:  Tuesday-Friday, 11am-6pm, Saturday, 11am-2pm

Admission:  Free


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin-Martin House Complex

Neighborhood: North Buffalo

125 Jewett Pkwy, Buffalo / (716) 856-3858

Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized as the “greatest American architect of all” in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects.  Located in the Buffalo Parkside neighborhood, the Darwin-Martin House Complex was designed and built from 1903-05.  It is considered to be one of his greatest works.  Wright revered the building and according to their website,, he “kept the site plan pinned to his drawing table for close to 50 years.”  The site is open as a museum and reservations for tours are strongly recommended.  A certified guide takes visitors through astonishing first-floor rooms of the main Martin House.  Also on the tour is the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house.  The Wright designed furnishing and fixtures are open for viewing in the Complex.

Hours:  Tours Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 11am, 12pm, or 1pm

Admission:  Martin House, Students $12, Adults $17, Seniors, $15


CEPA Gallery

617 Main St., Buffalo / (716) 856-2717

Located in Buffalo’s Market Arcade Complex, CEPA is a photography and visual arts center offering four galleries of changing exhibits and events.  Exhibits feature the most recent Buffalo contemporary photography and visual arts.  While art events consist of receptions, lectures, screenings, fundraisers, and auctions.   They also have a darkroom and digital photo lab for onsite photographers. Photography classes and workshops for film and digital design as well as things like wedding photography are available for those interested.

Hours:  Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 12pm-4pm

Admission:  Free


Buffalo Fire Historical Society Museum

1850 William Street, Buffalo / (716) 892-8400

Through time the BFHS has diligently collected and preserved information regarding fire safety over the years.  Among that, is the valuable teachings they still give to the community.  The museum gives citizens the opportunity to observe valuable artifacts from Buffalo’s firefighting history.  Horse drawn and motorized fire apparatus’, along with extinguishers, firefighter journals, and interactive exhibits are among those to see.  Special collections include a September 11th display along with relics from the December 27th, 1983 propane explosion which took the lives of five members of the Buffalo Fire Department.  The museum is available to group tours and various presentations throughout the year.

Hours:  Saturdays, 10am-4pm

Admission:  Free

Do you know of an awesome “off-beat” museum that should be included here? Email us at or leave a comment!


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Written by <a href="" target="_self">Charley Arrigo</a>

Written by Charley Arrigo

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