NYC’s museum scene can be overwhelming – but our round-up of the most unique and cool museums in NYC for families has you covered.
From MoMA and 9/11 to the American Museum of Natural History and MET, New York City has some of the coolest museums in the world. In fact, with over 140 museums, NYC is one of the world’s most museum-packed cities. How can you not visit a museum or the museums, when in NYC?
The Color Factory in the Soho area of New York City will capture the imagination of young kids and big kids alike. This unique museum in NYC celebrates the joy of color by having visitors walk through room by room, experiencing exhibits of vibrant colors that awaken every sense and represent the color palette of the city.
The Color Factory isn’t your traditional museum where you can pick and choose the exhibits you visit as visitors must follow the path through the different rooms that are all set up with their own installation.
However, there’s plenty to entertain the kids as each exhibit encourages them to taste, touch and immerse themselves in the celebration of color. Each visit starts with a colored snack of French-style macarons and finishes with a huge blue ball pit as the final room where the entire family can really let their hair down.
The C, E, and 1 trains service the area surrounding The Color Factory, which is located at 251 Spring Street in Soho, NYC, so it is easy to access for families staying in the city. General admission at The Color Factory ranges from $35 – $38 USD, but kids do get a discount for entry at $25 – $25 USD with children under 2 able to enter free of charge. It is good to buy the tickets online in advance.
Docked at the Hudson River in NYC, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a distinctive floating museum is one of the most kid-friendly museums in NYC. A decommissioned ship, USS Intrepid, which served as an aircraft carrier in the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and World War II is converted into a museum you see today.
One of the best things to do in NYC with kids, Intrepid attracts kids of all ages. Children love to explore the unique museum where they can see the fastest jet in the world, the Concorde that flew from New York to London, and a submarine (in real) from inside. Hangar Deck, Gallery Deck, Third Deck, and Flight Deck are the four decks inside the museum.
The Hangar Deck is home to fascinating exhibits viz. Space Shuttle Pavilion. You can see the first-ever space shuttle by NASA inside the Space shuttle pavilion, The Enterprise. There are many simulators that kids can ride to get a first-hand experience.
It’s Gallery Deck where the pilots would get their briefings before take-off, and the other crew members used to keep track of the aircraft and the ships.
The Third Deck displays the daily life of over 3,000 enlisted sailors and officers on the ship.
The top-level, Flight deck showcases airplanes and helicopters that landed here during wartime. Seeing the fighter planes up close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids. Also, you get to drink in the breathtaking view of the iconic Manhattan skyline from the deck.
The entry ticket is $33 per adult and $24 per child. You must buy the tickets online to get a good deal and skip the line.
No NYC itinerary would ever be complete without a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, aka MOMA. It is easily one of the coolest museums in New York City and is brimming over with modern art pieces from artistic greats like Van Gogh, Warhol, Picasso, Matisse, and more.
Founded in 1929, this museum is currently home to well over 200,000 pieces of art that walks visitors through the evolution of the modern art movement from the late-19th century and into today. There are many other interesting facts about NYC worth reading.
To get the most out of your visit, head to the information desk and see exactly what’s currently on display in their chronologically grouped galleries since works on display change every six months, You also will NOT want to miss Van Gogh’s Uber-iconic piece, Starry Night – which is usually on display for the public 99.999% of the time.
Other pieces you might want to check out include Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Anndy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, just to name a few.
And when you’re tired of looking at all these iconic works of art, enjoy a moment or two of solitude at MOM’s beautiful, on-site sculpture garden or catch a show in one of the museum’s various cinemas.
And although tickets are typically $25 for adults age 17 to 64, visitors can enjoy free admission on Friday evenings between 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm. Not surprisingly though, the museum can get quite crowded at that time of day. So it is advisable to buy the Skip the line ticket to save hassle and time.
Otherwise, you can try and skip the crowds altogether by visiting any time between 10:30 am and 5:30 pm daily.
One of the most incredible museums in the United States is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, located on the 9/11 Memorial Grounds in New York City. From the first moment you enter the museum, you’ll be taken on a journey through the events leading up to September 11th, 2001, as well as the timeline of events on the day and the aftermath.
Located mostly underground in what was once part of the World Trade Center complex’s underground parking garage, the museum has many artifacts from Ground Zero, including steel beams from the original Twin Towers, a firetruck that reported to the scene, clothes, papers, all interspersed with audio clips and footage from home videos and various newscasts reporting on the events of the day.
You also need to plan time to walk around the 9/11 Memorial Grounds, which is a free space to enter. Here, you’ll see the reflecting pools that encompass the spaces where the original Twin Towers were located; the black plates surrounding each pool list the names of the individuals lost in the respective Tower. You can also find the Survivor Tree and the Memorial Glade on the Memorial Grounds. Finally, you can visit one of the best observatories in New York City, One World Observatory, on the top of the new One World Trade Center, for a view of the whole 9/11 Memorial and Museum and New York City, from above.
Plan at least two hours to walk through all of the different rooms in the museum. Make sure you purchase tickets online in advance or take a guided walking tour of the 9/11 Memorial Grounds, including skip-the-line entry. If your schedule is flexible, plan to visit the museum on Tuesdays after 5 p.m., when they allow free entry into the museum.
One of the most unique museums in New York City for families is the Brooklyn Museum. Located near one of the best parks in NYC, Prospect Park, this stunning, 560,000 square foot, 19th-century beaux-arts style building is brimming over with nearly 1.5 million artifacts that are sure to intrigue each and every family that visits.
Because between ancient Egyptian mummies and 19th century period pieces and contemporary art pieces from LGBTQ+ artists, this place really does have it all. They even host a “First Saturdays” event every first Saturday of the month, from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm, where admission is free of charge and patrons are encouraged to enjoy free music and dancing – something that is currently on hold because of the pandemic.
Additionally, one of my all-time favorite galleries here is a stunning selection of 39 feminist art pieces done by Judy Chicago. They are all permanently displayed in the Sackler Center for Feminist Art and are well worth a look. The Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden is also a fun place to explore as well.
Plus, this building typically feels much less crowded than its Manhattan counterparts since it’s exceptionally spacious and perhaps not quite as well visited as some of the city’s other museums. You’ll also enjoy a selection of fantastic, rotating exhibits that cover a wide array of topics like European art retrospectives.
So, stop by today and add this amazing place to your New York itinerary! General admission tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for adults 65+ (as well as students with a valid ID and disabled visitors), and free for anyone 19 and under. The museum is also open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Guggenheim Museum is one of the sites that represent New York City. This circular building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looks like a work of art in itself.
Solomon R. Guggenheim started collecting art masterpieces in 1890 and later developed an affinity towards modern art. After his death, the museum opened on this site in 1959.
His foundation also opened museums in Bilbao, Spain, Venice, and Italy. Today you can find here works of Cezanne, Kandinsky, Klee, Modigliani, and many others. The spiral ramp inside the Guggenheim is 1,416 feet long with an 18-degree angle up for 96-foot from the atrium to the top of the rotunda topped with a glass dome.
Besides the large rotunda, there is a small rotunda and annex tower. The museum offers many activities for kids and families – you get free tote bags with sketch pads, colored pencils, activity booklets, scavenger hunts, touch objects, and art-related question cards at the kiosk in the lobby.
Children under 12 years of age have free entrance. On Saturdays, they offer Pay What You Wish admission after 4 pm.
Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the museum is adjacent to Central Park so, once you finish exploring the museum, you can go there for kids to enjoy the outdoors.
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021 and is a must-see attraction for families in every New York itinerary. The museum showcases all the natural wonders in the world from tiny insects, birds and amphibians to the largest mammals. The AMNH is renowned across the world for its amazing exhibitions and scientific collections.
The exhibition includes such themes as the nature of colour and why the T Rex dinosaur was the ultimate predator. Amongst the museum’s permanent highlights are an Alaskan Brown Bear, Blue Whale and mammoth. The Planetarium Space Show is excellent as are the halls of biodiversity, the North American Forest and the hall of the ocean which has 730 marine exhibits.
The museum is located at 200 Central Park West in New York.
Timings: The museum is open seven days a week from 10.00-17.30.
Tickets: for the museum and all exhibitions cost $33 for adults, $20 for children aged 3-12 and $27 for senior citizens (over 60 years). All tickets must be currently booked in advance online
There is free entrance on the first Tuesday of every month (except July & August) and all Tuesdays in September.
A visually delightful and highly interactive experience, the Museum of the Moving Image is a perfect NYC destination for families. With a robust collection of costumes, artifacts, and props, including the sesame street characters, the museum covers a range of motion pictures and famous television shows loved by all ages. Smaller than its more famous counterparts, families can explore the entire museum in 1.5-3 hours.
The museum offers admission Wednesday through Sunday with free admission hours on Friday evenings. It is least crowded on weekdays but Saturday is a family favorite when drop-in studio interactive sessions are offered along with themed, Mornings at MoMI, special family hours the first and last Saturday of each month. For most up to date hours and pricing, visit the museum website. Be sure to plan ahead for young children as strollers and backpacks must be coat-checked at the entrance and cannot be used in the galleries.
Families will have a wonderful time in the core exhibit Behind the Screen where kids can add sound effects and music to movies or star in their own flip-book. More fun will be had within the Jim Henson Exhibition making their own puppets and recording a puppet show.
After visiting the museum, families should head outside to explore one of the most diverse NYC neighborhoods and grab a bite to eat. Check out Pye Boat Noodle for delicious Thai, Latin Cabana for Cuban, or explore a new neighborhood at another toddler-friendly NYC restaurant.
New York City is museum central, and there is a museum to appeal to every taste. One of the best museums to visit with kids is the Cloisters in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, one of New York City’s most underrated attractions.
If you want to get kids interested in history and expose them to different cultures, a visit to the Cloisters is the perfect vehicle. This is a place where kids and adults alike can walk through history, stroll gardens where medieval characters roamed, and visit cloisters transported from Europe stone by stone.
The Cloisters form a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art network. It consists of cloisters that were purchased in Europe, dismantled, transported to the U.S. and reassembled on an elevation near the Hudson River in Fort Tyrone Park, Washington Heights, New York in the 1930s. Both the scenic location and the collection were purchased by John Rockefeller and donated to the MET.
There are over 5000 works of art in the collection. Besides the Cloisters themselves, the most famous works are the beautifully preserved Unicorn Tapestries from the early 1500.
Admission is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and children under 12 are free. Entry to the museum is by times ticket or reservation and capacity is limited. Book the tickets here.
The New York Hall of Science is a spectacular museum for families. It is located in Queens, NY, and has enough exhibits to keep kids of all ages occupied for hours. The museum has many interactive and educational exhibits, areas to build and create, a 3-D movie theater, mini-golf, and a huge science playground! This playground is all centered around scientific principles.
Kids can pull levers to balance their weight on logs, use force to push objects, climb spider-like structures and slide down slides. The sports challenge area is also a kid favorite. Kids can rock climb, test their pitching speed, and ride a surf simulator. The animation exhibit was another fun area where kids can create a stop-motion storyboard, trace Looney Tunes characters, and learn about the animation process.
There were also exhibits on finding life outside of Earth, the applications of math, motion, and gravity, a unique light exhibit, and an exhibit about the evolution of health. They also offer free workshops as well as dedicated play areas to build with various materials and paid small group maker space.
Admission to all the attractions and exhibits mentioned above is $30 per adult and $25 per child. Overall the New York Hall of Science is a great way to spend the day with your kids and an experience that is highly recommended if you are in the New York City area.
New York City museums can be both educational and fun. For families looking for an educational yet non-touristy thing to do in New York, the National Museum of Mathematics, known affectionately by locals as MoMath, is an excellent choice.
MoMath has two floors of interactive math-focused exhibits, for kids and adults. Kids will enjoy learning about geometric shapes, fractals, and multiplication. There is even an interactive floor that lights up in colored polygons when stepped on.
Many of the exhibits emphasize kinetic learning, using the whole body to engage with the exhibits. Whether it’s riding a bicycle using a square wheel or creating fractal designs with your body, families will enjoy the interactiveness of the National Museum of Mathematics. At the same time, the exhibits introduce concepts like parabolas, velocity, rhythms, robotics, and tessellations.
Due to the current public health situation, MoMath is currently closed for in person exhibits, but the museum has several online programs and events available for families. These include online versions of their exhibits as well as mind puzzles for kids.
The National Museum of Mathematics is located across from Madison Square Park. Families can get to the museum via the yellow R and W lines and the green 6 line. Exit at the 28th Street Station.
The museum is normally open seven days a week, from 10 am to 5 pm. MoMath closes at 2:30 pm on the first Wednesday of every month. Admission to the museum is $18 for adults and $15 for children.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is not only the largest museum in New York City, but it is also one of the coolest for kids. The Met has two locations – the main museum on Fifth Avenue and the Cloisters in northern Manhattan, which houses their medieval collection. The Cloisters has several cloisters taken from medieval monasteries and relocated to NYC. Kids will have fun exploring the courtyards and narrow staircases.
At the main Met museum, there are all sorts of cool places to explore. Children will love walking inside an actual Egyptian temple and seeing all sorts of ancient mummies and sarcophagi. There is also the rooftop terrace in summer, where the whole family can enjoy stunning views of Central Park and an art installation that changes each year. Plus, a Chinese courtyard, a huge armor collection, annual fashion exhibitions, and much more.
The Met also has an #MetKids program with an interactive map, projects kids can do in the galleries and behind-the-scenes videos made for young ones.
The museum’s hours are currently Thursday–Monday 10 am – 5 pm (4:30 at the Cloisters). There is timed entry that you need to reserve in advance. The regular admission fee is $25 for adults; $17 for seniors; $12 for students; free for children under 12. New York State residents and NY, NJ, CT students can pay what they want.
The museum is very popular and does get busy during holidays and weekends. So it is always good to skip the line and enjoy the museum. So Book the skip the line tickets and save the time.
Museum of Illusions is one of the best New York City attractions for families. It is a small two-storey interactive museum, close to the High Line or the Whitney Museum. It is the perfect NYC attraction for teenagers as well, as there is an element of participation and cool factor in almost every exhibit. In addition, parents are also thoroughly entertained by most of what is on display.
The exhibits are intended to trick your senses – sight in particular – confuse you, and ultimately educate you in the science of how the illusion confused you. It includes holograms and a center for brain bashers where you can try your hand at solving puzzles.
If you love to take photos for Instagram, many of these exhibits create great opportunities for some crazy illusions that make for a crazy shot. Museum Hours are Monday – Thursday 9 am to 10 pm, Friday – Sunday 8 am to 11 pm. Tickets range in price from $18-$22.00 (children under 2 are free). Currently, you have to buy your time-stamped ticket online. They are working at 25% capacity during Covid times.
If you are looking for unusual things to do in NYC as a family, the Mmuseumm, one of the most unusual and weird museums in NYC, is definitely worth checking out. It’s tucked out in a nondescript Downtown alley, not far from Canal Street, and if you find yourself going around in circles, fear not – you are in the right place, it’s just that Mmuseumm is really small! It’s actually argued to be the smallest museum in the world, located in a freight elevator.
So, if your children yawn when you mention the word ‘museum’, you can reassure them the visit won’t last long. Mmuseumm is dedicated to object journalism, the art of telling stories through objects, and exhibitions rotate regularly – for example, you may find counterfeit items from Venezuela revealing the hardship of life under embargo, border wall prototypes, a collection of paper clips, or other seemingly ‘random’ objects, all with a story to tell.
It’s fun to visit for people of all ages – children will love the fact that there’s a museum in an elevator, and depending on how old they are, it’s fun to read about the history behind the objects.
The Tenement Museum in New York is an absolute must-visit. Set in a traditional city building in the Lower East Side an estimated 15,000 residents called this building home between when it was first built in 1863 and 2011. Today you can take one of a number of tours to find out about a few of the people who lived here. The building itself has been stripped back to various eras, some reconstructed using photographs or descriptions, others using evidence the owners found, for example as wallpaper was stripped away.
A guide will lead your small group from room to room, bringing alive the stories of families who lived here, the tragedies, the good times, the struggles, and the outcomes. It is one of the most evocative experiences and once you take one tour you will want to take them all. This is such an accessible way to bring history alive and you feel as though you have literally stepped back in time as you creep up staircases and wander into front rooms.
Whether you’re on a family holiday to New York or a solo trip to the city don’t miss the Tenement Museum (although it’s worth bearing in mind they recommend it for ages 7 and up). Most tours taken between one and two hours and it’s good to pre-book as there are limited numbers on each one and they do regularly sell out in advance.
It is not an unusual thing to do in NYC to take your kids to one of the many great NYC museums. However, though museums are very family-friendly, they aren’t necessarily the most exciting places to bring your kids. After the twentieth exhibit of looking at paintings on the wall, you might want to pull your hair out. At that point, your kids are properly wanting to get out of there.
The interactive SPYSCAPE museum in New York City solves that problem. A recently opened private museum, SPYSCAPE is an espionage museum that features seven main experience zones, as well as a James Bond exhibit. Every guest entering the museum is given a wristband, which logs their scores as they complete the “missions” of the museums.
Some of these “missions” include detecting if someone is lying through micro facial expression, tracking down things through surveillance cameras, or passing through a laser-filled room without touching any of the lasers. As you move through the museums, you will learn through various interactive exhibits, some of which will assist you in the completion of your “missions” or tests. At the end of the museum, your score is tallied up and a role is given to you depending on how high you performed in each category. There are many different roles such as surveillance officer or spy and more.
The entrance fee to the SPYSCAPE museum is 39 USD for adults, 32 USD for children ages 6 to 14, and free for anyone under the age of 6. It is open on Friday from 2:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Saturday from 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am – 7:00 pm.
The Long Island Children’s Museum is one of the most unique New York metro area museums and top things to do on Long Island with kids.
Whether you’re a local or visiting, the museum’s many exhibits (including rotating ones) and hands-on centers are sure to wow children from birth through school-age! Explore instruments from around the world, climb through the museum’s crawl structure, build marble runs, discover dinosaurs, and turn yourself into a giant bubble. With a focus on STEM subjects, kids are certainly learning a thing or two along the way.
Babies and crawlers will enjoy the designated Tot Spot with soft toys, puzzles, slides, and developmentally appropriate stations. Outdoors, all visitors can walk through the nature garden or get wet with water okay activities during the warmer months.
The Long Island Children’s Museum is located in Garden City, NY in Nassau County. It is open year-round, Tuesdays through Sunday, from 10 am – 3 pm. Admission is $14 for all visitors over the age of one, or local families can choose to purchase a yearly membership.
If you’re looking for a great museum for families, the New York Transit Museum located in downtown Brooklyn is a fantastic choice! This museum catalogs the history of public transportation in New York, complete with subway train cars and buses from past decades — including the historic advertisements that were originally airing while these vehicles were in service!
The museum is located underground in a decommissioned subway station, so it’s a unique chance to get to visit a museum underground — you even go down a flight of stairs that looks just like subway stairs to enter the museum!
New York City’s subway is the largest mass transit system in the world by a number of stations — it’s absolutely incredible to learn about the history of the subway’s expansion and progress over its 100+ year history. Kids will love the chance to get a blast from the past sitting on the old subway cars and buses and noticing the differences between past and present.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays) between the hours of 11 AM and 5 PM on weekends and 10 AM and 4 PM on weekdays. The museum costs $10 for adults, $5 for kids aged 2-17, and free for infants. Entry is free with a New York Pass. The tips for New York will help you plan your visit for sure.