With so much history, culture, and art around, it won’t be too hard to find the best museums in New York City for kids. Maybe your little ones want to burn energy by running around, playing games, and making new friends. Or, perhaps you have kids in elementary school interested in math and science. Even teens will be impressed by all the amazing art you can see in New York City! From the MET to the New York Transit Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and more, there are so many fun places to explore as a family. Of course, certain museums are best for certain age groups, which is why we’ve put together this helpful guide. From toddlers to tweens, the options on this list are plentiful and parent-approved. Keep reading to learn more about the Best Museums In New York City For Kids!
Best Museums in New York City for Young Kids
Navigating New York City with young kids doesn’t have to be difficult when you have all these wonderful museums! Whether your little ones are interested in dinosaurs, science, or arts and crafts, there are countless places they can entertain themselves for a few hours. Here are our favorite museums in New York City for young kids!
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American Museum of Natural History
Want to feel like you’ve entered your very own viewing of Night at the Museum? See thousands of prehistoric artifacts come to life at the American Museum of Natural History! Take the B or C to 81st to visit this family-friendly museum, which splits exhibits based on location, like Asia, America, and Africa. It’ll be amazing to see your kids’ faces as they pass through life-size dinosaurs, Alaskan brown bears, sea creatures, and other animals. Of course, don’t forget about the giant blue whale hovering over the main area! Between Hayden Planetarium, a Sea Lion movie, and special rotating exhibitions, there’s enough to keep you entertained for hours. In fact, one day may not be enough here, so we suggest you visit in the morning to make the most of your time. There’s a reason this is one of the best museums in New York City for kids!
Pay What You Wish: The American Museum of Natural History offers pay-what-you-wish general admission to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents with an official ID. Kids under three always enter for free. Check the website for more details.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan boasts a whole five floors of family fun! Located on West 83rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, this is surely one of the best museums in New York City for younger kids. Every exhibit caters to different ages, but most are suitable for kids between two and ten years old. From the environmental center, which has an outdoor water section, to the first-floor art gallery, they’re all designed to get little ones on their feet and thinking. Kids can even climb through a giant, kaleidoscopic sculpture! Plus, comic book lovers will adore the hands-on, interactive exhibit where they can pretend they’re the stars of their very own comic book. Don’t forget about joining Diego and Dora on their adventures on the second floor! The Children’s Museum of Manhattan also provides families with various educational resources, like classes for kids.
New York Transit Museum
Dive into the city’s underground history at the New York Transit Museum! Located in a vintage subway car, this downtown Brooklyn museum features fun, interactive exhibits the whole family can enjoy. In addition to rotating shows, the museum also has a permanent collection for guests to learn more about the transit system. Kids will love spotting old subway artifacts such as turnstiles, conductor uniforms, and more. Even better, since the museum is housed within an old subway station, it’ll be a completely immersive experience – almost as if you’re traveling back in time! Don’t forget about the museum’s restored fleets of subway cars and buses, which you can see inside, touch, and pretend you’re really riding. You’ll learn lots of contextual information, and it’s a wonderful place to let kids run around for a few. There’s also a food court on-site if you’re hungry afterward, and a Shake Shack nearby.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Aspiring sailors will love learning more about maritime history at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum. Located on Pier 86 on West 46th St and 12th Ave, this kid-friendly museum is located on an actual ship, sure to dazzle any visitor! From the history of the Cold War to nuclear submarines, airplanes, and more fun, it also features a variety of interesting exhibits. Kids will especially appreciate all the hands-on interactions. The Museum also features the Exploreum, a fully interactive exhibit space offering 13,000 square feet of interactive, hands-on exhibition space, where kids can climb into a real Bell 47 helicopter, land a space shuttle, and much more!
Then, don’t miss the star of the show: The Space Shuttle. Not only can you visit the crew’s quarters, but there’s also a 4D simulator. It’s so realistic you’ll feel you’re actually on a plane! Afterward, check out the Submarine Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Get a glimpse inside the crew’s quarters, control center, and even the torpedo room!
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Bring your toddlers or young children to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum! Located in a primarily residential neighborhood near Prospect Park, this hidden gem has lots of fun exhibits to inspire your children. Enjoy touch, sound, and sight exercises at permanent installations like The Sensory Room. Or, visit The Nest, an outdoor climbing structure located on the museum’s terrace. Featuring water, sand, and other sensory games, there’s even a Totally Tots section for the museum’s tiniest visitors. Kids can also learn about the environment and local animals in the area at the Science Inquiry Center. Plus, families can also enjoy a temporary maze exhibition on the second floor right now. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum also hosts a range of programs for all ages. Try your hand at Making Art in the Color Lab to inspire your little budding creative!
Pay What You Wish: The Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers pay-what-you-wish hours every Thursday from 2 pm to 5 pm. Kids under twelve months always enter for free. Check the website for more details.
Museum of Ice Cream
There’s no better way to satisfy your sweet tooth than with a trip to the Museum of Ice Cream! You can expect long lines at this interactive, Instagram-worthy exhibition in SoHo, but it’ll totally be worth the wait. Explore 13 multi-sensory installations spread over 3 floors, giving kids plenty of chances to play, dance, and slide. Not only will you uncover amazing photo opportunities, but just exploring the museum and all its hidden treasures is a treat within itself. Step inside a colorful replica subway car, pose with giant ice cream scoopers, and don’t forget about the giant sprinkle pool! Afterward, you can visit the cafe to sample some of the ice creams. Keep in mind that while this experience may be fun for kids, a lot of parents consider it quite overpriced for what you get. We suggest it for younger kids.
Children’s Museum of the Arts
If you want to keep little kids entertained, you can’t go wrong with the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Located in Lower Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood, it’s rated one of the best museums in New York City for young kids. Get your hands dirty at this family-friendly museum, which showcases interactive exhibits and unique workshops. Each is designed to inspire children and jumpstart their imagination, from the galleries to the workshops. In the galleries, children can immerse themselves in the hands-on exhibits to learn more about the artistic process. This includes shows about space, among other subjects. Then, in the workshops, they can put their knowledge to the test! From Screenprints to oil painting, clay, collages, sculpting, animation, and sound art, this class will give your little ones the confidence of a budding artist. Check the schedule for when you’re visiting, because a few workshops require sign-up ahead of time.
Stop by Sloomoo Institute for family fun with all things slime! Located between Broome and Grand Street along Broadway, kids can get up close and personal with all kinds of crazy textures at this experimental pop-up museum. Dig your hands into over 30 vats of slime, listen to the ASMR sound station, and marvel at CGI renderings. Little ones will love “tagging” the museum’s slime wall with all different colors! Kids can even build slime sandcastles in the toy area. Or, make your own slime at the DIY slime bar. Plus, if you really want to get down and dirty, Sloomoo Institute offers the ultimate slime adventure. Take a special “slime shower” as you walk through 250 gallons of brightly-colored goo! Parents should remember that a visit can get sticky fast, so we suggest bringing some wipes or even a vinegar solution to remove the slime.
Best Museums in New York City for Elementary School-Aged Kids
Kids who are in elementary school will love these New York City museums. They’re interesting, educational, and will be a great companion to whatever your kids are learning in school too. Keep reading for the best museums in New York City for elementary-school-aged kids!
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National Museum of Mathematics
If you have a numbers whiz in your family, take them to the National Museum of Mathematics! Right across from Madison Square Park, families can explore the wonderful world of mathematics at this thought-provoking museum. We suggest this experience for kids between eight and thirteen, however, the museum strives to create exhibits that are engaging for audiences of all ages and interests, making this museum a great choice for large families. Hands-on exhibits let kids immerse themselves in educational topics like kinetics, geometry, and more to get them engaged and learning. For example, you can visit the pattern-making station, design 3D shapes, and try your hand at a challenging puzzle. Other fun activities include riding bicycles with square wheels, recreating mock rollercoasters, and endless spinning in chairs. Touch screens throughout the museum share in-depth information about each exhibit, deepening the experience for your family!
New-York Historical Society
See the city change throughout the ages at the New-York Historical Society. Nestled right off Central Park West and 77th Street, this museum and library focus on New York’s rich and varied history, as well as United States history. It also appeals to all ages, with historic exhibitions on Frederick Douglass and other topics your older kids may be learning about in school. However, if you’re visiting with younger kids, you’ll definitely want to check out the museum’s Children’s Section. Otherwise known as the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, it has interactive exhibits and digital games designed for children between eight and thirteen. From the children who rode New York City’s orphan trains to Alexander Hamilton, interactive exhibits tell the story of important youngsters throughout history. Certainly, it’s one of the best museums in New York City for kids!
National Museum of the American Indian
Searching for the best free museum in New York City for kids? Look no further than the National Museum of the American Indian! It’s in Lower Manhattan right by The Battery, which makes it a perfect place to stop for a quick break or escape the weather. Exhibits explore indigenous cultures native to New York and throughout the United States through a variety of interesting artifacts. You can see examples of Native American art, weapons, and ceremonial clothing throughout the life-size displays when you walk through the installations. One reason this place is popular with families who have young children is due to the Kids’ Play Area on the lower level. Here, little ones can keep themselves entertained with educational games, toys, and other fun activities as they make new friends. Keep in mind most of these activities are targeted toward elementary-school-aged children.
New York Hall of Science (Temporarily Closed)
The New York Hall of Science is surely one of the best museums in NYC for kids. Located in Flushing, Queens, it’s a bit out of the way from the usual Manhattan sightseeing. However, science-oriented kids between eight and thirteen will love the interactive exhibits, from installations exploring happiness to the hands-on Design Lab. Kids can also check out educational films in the 3D Theater. Plus, when the weather is nice, the museum also has an outdoor play area to play games and make friends. Otherwise known as the Science Playground, it features sandpits, fog machines, and other experiences to stimulate their senses. Outside, you’ll also find some replica rockets on display that children will love. Don’t forget about a friendly round of mini-golf! Occasionally, the museum also hosts programs and events for children of all ages to participate in.
The New York Hall of Science is currently closed but plans to reopen soon.
Families can easily spend an entire afternoon getting lost at the Brooklyn Museum. With its prime location near Prospect Park, this sprawling museum attracts visitors of all ages with its excellent exhibitions. It covers everything from Ancient Egyptian art to modern times, so whether you’re interested in mummies or Warhol, you’ll find something for you. Right now, you can check out designs by Christian Dior, an exploration of Gothic furniture, and so much more. Elementary-school-aged kids or even teens will enjoy these installations best. Be sure to keep an eye out for the museum’s events, as in the past they’ve hosted fun evenings like live music. Though they’re currently on pause until 2022, the museum also hosts hands-on art classes during its First Saturday events. It’s a perfect way for aspiring artists to get a feel for the craft!
Pay What You Wish: The Brooklyn Museum offers pay-what-you-wish general admission for most exhibits and the permanent collection. Ticketed exhibits vary, but kids three and under can enter for free. Check the website for more details.
Best Museums in New York City for Teens
Even hard-to-impress teens will love a visit to New York City’s finest museums. Art buffs are especially in for a real treat, since there’s so much to see throughout the boroughs. Stay tuned for our list of best museums in New York City for teens!
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Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
Teens who love art will appreciate a visit to The Guggenheim Museum. You’ll find this elegant, Upper East Side destination on East 89th Street and 5th Avenue, along what’s known as “Museum Mile.” Exhibits here range from modern to contemporary art, spanning across a permanent collection and rotating shows. In the permanent collection, families can check out works by Van Gogh, Manet, and more famous artists. Right now, the museum is also showcasing a temporary exhibit about the life and work of Russian-born artist Wassily Kandinsky. You can enhance your visit with a Digital Guide, and kids who are interested in learning more can also get an audio guide. Though the Guggenheim welcomes all ages, little kids may not find the art all that interesting. However, they may love the building’s unique spiral structure, as you loop around the art until you eventually reach the top!
Whitney Museum of American Art
Head to Whitney Museum of American Art for your daily dose of creative inspiration. Located in the Meatpacking District near the A/C/E 14th Street Station, this family-friendly museum has a lot to offer kids of all ages. Teens will best appreciate the rotating exhibits here, which feature legendary painters such as Jasper Johns and lesser-known artistic movements such as craft art. But little kids may find some of the art entertaining too, especially in its outdoor sculpture section. Get a great view of New York City as you venture outside and climb the stairs to the next floor –– you never know what art you’ll find! The museum also has indoor/outdoor dining and a cafe if kids want a snack. Afterward, make a day of it in Chelsea. Take a walk along The High Line, visit Chelsea Market, or even head further uptown to Hudson Yards.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an iconic destination. Not to mention, one of the best museums in New York City for kids. Located in Midtown Manhattan near West 53rd Street and 5th Avenue, it’s also easy to fit into any NYC itinerary. All ages are welcome, but teens or older children interested in art will find the exhibitions the most fascinating. With a sprawling permanent collection, you can see famous pieces of art like Starry Night by Van Gogh, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, and The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. If you have younger kids in your family, they’ll love a visit to the outdoor sculpture garden as well. Kids also have access to a special audio and activity guide for exploring. In the last two years, the museum has completely revamped its floor plan, so you can see your favorite works from a new perspective!
Pay What You Wish: The Museum of Modern Art usually offers pay-what-you-wish hours every Friday from 5:30 pm to 9 pm. However, this service is suspended until further notice due to COVID-19 precautions. Kids under sixteen always enter for free. Check the website for more details.
Best Museums in New York City for Kids of All Ages
If you’re looking for a museum to appeal to young kids and teens, it won’t be as hard as you think! New York City has plenty of options for all ages, so keep reading for our suggestions!
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Museum of the Moving Image
Movie buffs and television fanatics unite at the Museum of The Moving Image! Take the Queens-bound N Train to 36th Avenue to visit this incredible museum in Astoria centered on all things media. Younger kids and teens alike will jump at the chance to see the film-related exhibits with cool artifacts from Hollywood’s past and present. One particularly popular exhibition among families is the Jim Henson Exhibition, which traces the immense impact the puppeteer had on visual culture. Kids will love seeing all their favorite characters in the flesh, from Kermit the Frog to Elmo! Temporary exhibitions, like the current show about Deep Fakes, are usually quite fascinating too. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the behind-the-scenes process of producing a film or television show with the museum’s interactive show Behind The Screen. Get a glimpse at old cameras, create your own stop-motion animations, and more!
Note: Kids under three always enter for free. Check the website for more details.
Everyone in your family can channel their inner child at The Color Factory. Nestled in Lower Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood, it’s conveniently located off Spring Street on the C or E Train. This multi-sensory art experience especially appeals to younger children who want to run around, but older kids and teens may have fun here too. Venture through sixteen different installations about the study of color and how it’s employed in different landmarks around the city. There’ll be plenty of interactive opportunities throughout, including chances to scan QR codes and grab photos of your family. Take turns drawing one another, see work by local artists, and so much more. Kids will especially love how the staff gives you a bag of sweet treats upon entering to make the experience more fun. In the end, don’t forget to jump into the giant blue ball pit for an even more epic photo!
Museum of Illusions
You won’t believe your eyes when you explore the Museum of Illusions! Located on 8th Avenue and 14th Street, this family-friendly museum is accessible by the A/C/E trains. (And it’s also near The Whitney if you want to kill two birds with one stone!) From exhibits that appeal to young kids to Instagram-worthy shots for teens, a visit here is so versatile. Every room is designed to deceive your senses, between colorful kaleidoscopes, holograms, and other fun visual illusions. Snap a picture with your head on a plate, stare down into the Bottomless Pit, and tilt your perception 90 degrees in the Reverse Room. Kids will have a blast in the Tilted Room, and even more fun with the True Mirror. You’ll definitely want to have your camera ready when you visit this museum, since there are so many fun photo illusions to choose from!
Pay What You Wish: The Museum Of Illusions does not offer pay-what-you-wish hours. However, kids under two always enter for free, and those thirteen and under get a discount. Check the website for more details.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
A trip to New York City would be incomplete without a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Located on East 82nd Street and 5th Avenue along “Museum Mile,” families should set aside time to visit the biggest museum in the United States. With so much variety throughout its exhibits, young kids, middle-schoolers, and even teens will be entertained here. Pass by ancient Egyptian artifacts, learn more about the decorative arts in Africa, and even explore European painting. Kids will particularly love the Medieval suit of armors! In addition to a huge permanent collection, there are also rotating exhibits, like the current one on surrealism. Remember that the property is huge, so even with a helpful map or audio guide, you may not be able to see everything in one go. The MET also offers families lots of other perks. This includes interactive programming like storytime, art classes, and more!
We hope you liked this list of the Best Museums In New York City For Kids! Whether you’ll be visiting Brooklyn, Manhattan, or the Bronx, we know you’ll love the Big Apple. Enjoy New York City with your family!
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*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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