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The 15 Best Museums for Kids in NYC (Because They Need Some Screen-Free, Educational Fun)

Save this for a rainy day

best-museums-for-kids-in-nyc: a fossil in the american museum of natural history.
Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Whether you’re looking to beat the heat or seeking an activity for a rainy day, museums are an all-season favorite. Kids, however, don’t always take too kindly to the highbrow dose of culture and the long boring strolls. Fortunately, I put together a compelling list of the best museums for kids in NYC, which features an array of options—including everything from interactive museums dedicated to espionage to creative spaces with art exhibits and storytelling activities. Read on and your brood will be engaged in educational fun before you know it.

The 10 Best Family Getaways Near NYC (for a Vacation That Actually Feels Like One)


best-museums-for-kids-in-nyc: an attraction in the spyscape museum.
Spyscape

1. SPYSCAPE

  • Location: 928 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019
  • Known for: spy personality profile, lie detector test
  • Best for: ages 7+
  • Time Commitment: two hours

This incredibly cool ode to espionage is an immersive, interactive experience that, unlike some novelty museums, actually feels educational. The exhibits incorporate fascinating history relating to the secret lives of spies and the methods they used, and all of it is age appropriate. The museum also boasts a genius design that allows visitors to move through various interactive games and challenges that mimic spy training tests—all of which can be repeated as many times as you wish—and the whole experience culminates in an individualized spy profile that speaks to the unique strengths you might bring to the world of espionage.

2. Museum of Illusions

  • Location: 77 8th Ave, New York, NY 10014
  • Known for: gravity room, reverse room and tilt room
  • Best for: ages 7+
  • Time Commitment: one hour

The Museum of Illusions has locations in other cities as well, but I can only speak to the NYC one where I took my own kids…and it was pretty darn cool. This novelty museum is, as it sounds, devoted to optical illusions, and the numerous interactive exhibits and installations will indeed blow your mind—not just because they’re pretty trippy (and they are) but also because of the fascinating scientific explanations behind each and every curious experience. (Some highlights include the gravity room, tilted room and reverse room.) That said, families should keep in mind that the space is somewhat cramped and the crowds can become overwhelming on the weekends, so it’s wise to plan your visit for a quieter weekday if you want to fully appreciate the experience.

3. BLOOM at Rockefeller Center

  • Location: Rockefeller Center, Rink Level; 15 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10020
  • Known for: the Bloom Garden
  • Best for: all ages
  • Time Commitment: 90 minutes to two hours

A visit to BLOOM is an unforgettable experience that unlocks the history of New York’s original natural beauty, whilst offering access to an awe-inspiring secret garden in the most unexpected of places (i.e., below bustling Rockefeller Center). This immersive digital experience involves a series of exhibits that really capture the magic of the botanical world and take visitors on an amazing journey from seed to full bloom. Parents will also be pleased to know that this museum boasts kid-friendly attractions—like a mushroom forest that’s basically a giant, educational and eye-pleasing bouncy castle—as well as areas like the Conservatory, where families can relax together and enjoy a curated picnic lunch, complete with fresh herbs and CHANDON garden spritzes for the grown-ups. Bottomline: People of any age who want a break from the concrete jungle without having to leave the city will find what they’re looking for here.

4. New York Transit Museum

  • Location: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
  • Known for: Redbirds exhibit, vintage fleet
  • Best for: ages 6+
  • Time Commitment: one to two hours

Both my children have taken school field trips to the New York Transit Museum—and no, I didn’t chaperone, but based on their glowing reviews I can say with confidence that it’s a seriously cool place to visit. For starters, it’s a novel and very kid-friendly way to introduce young ones to technology, sociology and the immense (often underappreciated) impact that public transportation has on human lives. There are neat historical artifacts, including actual subway cars from times past, interactive exhibits and a whole lot of history and approachable engineering information that will engage any kid who’s fascinated by the way things work. Oh, and this one isn’t a huge time commitment either, so it’s pretty much the perfect way to break up a rainy day.

best museums for kids in nyc american museum of natural history
Craig Barritt/Getty Images

5. American Museum of Natural History

  • Location: 200 Central Park W, New York, NY 10024
  • Known for: blue whale, dinosaur exhibit
  • Best for: ages 4+
  • Time Commitment: at least two hours

The American Museum of Natural History, a world renowned scientific and cultural institution, has so much to see that you could easily spend an entire day exploring the exhibits. (It’s one of the largest museums in the world, after all.) But if you’re visiting with kids in tow, you’ll want to be a bit selective. Definitely don’t miss the blue whale (first floor) and the dinosaurs (fourth floor), and I suggest also stopping by the Discovery Room where kids can have some hands-on fun. Pro tip: Plan ahead and make sure everyone is well fed—the museum doesn’t allow you to bring in outside food and a hungry brood will definitely cut the visit short unless you want to take a detour to the cafe on the first floor.

6. Children’s Museum of Manhattan

  • Location: 212 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
  • Known for: Inside Art and Dynamic H20 exhibit
  • Best for: ages 1+
  • Time Commitment: two-plus hours

This Upper West Side gem is a veritable amusement park that serves up tons of hands-on learning for children of all ages, which is why it’s one of the best museums for kids in NYC. There are five different floors to explore as well as an outdoor splash area where kids can cool off in the summer. Naturally, the emphasis here is on early childhood education and there are numerous interactive exhibitions, workshops and performances that encourage kids to learn about different cultures, discover STEAM concepts and explore their own creativity while parents take a back seat.

best-museums-for-kids-in-nyc: kids playing double dutch.
Brooklyn's Children Museum

7. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

  • Location: 145 Brooklyn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
  • Known for: AirMaze, the NEST
  • Best for: ages 1+
  • Time Commitment: one to two hours

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is not as big as the Manhattan one, but if you live in the borough and don’t feel like schlepping into the city, it’s well worth a visit and particularly well-suited to toddlers, too. (It has a large exhibition devoted to the youngest ones called Totally Tots.) Nature, world cultures, STEM, art—this educational playground covers all the bases. Best of all, admission is free every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. so families can enjoy a day of indoor fun that doesn’t break the bank.

children with a museum guide.
Salvador Espinoza. © The Noguchi Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

8. The Noguchi Museum

  • Location: 9-01 33rd Rd, Queens, NY 11106
  • Known for: sculpture garden, unique installations
  • Best for: ages 8+
  • Time Commitment: one to two hours

This museum dedicated to the work of Isamu Noguchi has absolutely beautiful exhibits and a stunning sculpture garden as well. The art is spectacular, the space is unique and the experience memorable. (Just read the rave reviews.) The museum also has programming for kids that includes some pretty cool art-making activities. That said, the atmosphere is serene and meditative, which doesn’t exactly match the energy of most little ones. As such, I recommend visiting with slightly older children who have an interest in art.

best-museums-for-kids-in-nyc: a color wall in the musuem.
Color Factory

9. Color Factory NYC

  • Location: 251 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
  • Known for: confetti park, NYC hidden gems
  • Best for: 5+
  • Time Commitment: one hour

Color Factory is a novelty museum in SoHo that offers visitors of all ages an adventure into the world of art with an emphasis on (you guessed it) color. There are interactive exhibits with multisensory appeal and NYC themes, immersive rooms and even a giant ball pit. Families can also enjoy snacks and sweets as they move from room to room. Let’s just say that if you’re looking for an art museum that doesn’t make the kids moan about being bored, this one fits the bill.

10. Museum of the Moving Image

  • Location: 36-01 35th Ave, Queens, NY 11106
  • Known for: Jim Henson exhibit
  • Best for: ages 7+
  • Time Commitment: one to two hours

The exhibits at this media museum in Astoria, Queens, are a true feast for the eyes and fascinating for visitors of all ages. Museum of the Moving Image focuses on the history, art and technology behind producing television, film and digital media. There’s quality education to be had, family-friendly exhibitions (the Jim Henson one is a favorite) and a whole lot of information that promises to keep kids of the digital age engaged from start to finish.

a standing sculpture at the socrates park.
James Leynse/Getty Images

11. Socrates Sculpture Park

  • Location: 32-01 Vernon Blvd, Queens, NY 11106
  • Known for: waterfront park, community art
  • Best for: all ages
  • Time Commitment: one-plus hours

Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City is a beautiful public art production, formed and sustained by community activism, that features the artwork and multimedia installations of over 1,200 different artists. Best of all, this outdoor museum occupies five waterfront acres, thus providing families with a cultural experience that’s also conducive to picnicking and, well, romping around.

12. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum

  • Location: 898 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10032
  • Known for: story hour, art-making activities
  • Best for: all ages
  • Time Commitment: one hour

Sugar Hill, another one of the best museums for kids in NYC, is set apart by its emphasis on art and storytelling. The artwork is displayed in smaller exhibitions and presented in a way that allows children to fully appreciate and react to it. There’s also a lively story hour and an abundance of other activities that encourage creativity and imagination in visitors of all ages. Bottomline: If you’re looking for an introduction to the world of art that appeals to kids and adults alike, Sugar Hill is the place to go.

stone walls at the cloisters.
DEA/S.AMANTINI/Getty Images

13. The Cloisters

  • Location: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040
  • Known for: medieval art and architecture, gardens and park
  • Best for: all ages
  • Time Commitment: two-plus hours

Head to Washington Heights to enjoy the iconic outdoor branch of the Met, which is situated right on the Hudson River in beautiful Fort Tryon Park. This renowned museum boasts beautiful gardens, breathtaking views and incredible Gothic and Romanesque art and architecture from the Medieval Age. In other words, there’s a boatload of culture in a public park setting…and that’s a recipe for success when kids are involved, right?

14. Museum of Modern Art

  • Location: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
  • Known for: art lab, creativity lab, family programming
  • Best for: ages 5+
  • Time Commitment: two-plus hours

Your instinct is to groan at the thought of dragging your kids through a traditional art museum, but hear us out. The Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMa) does a particularly good job at appealing to the younger ones in your crew. The Heyman Family Program provides kids with engaging audio tours of the artwork, interactive scavenger hunts, an art lab where kids can create their own masterpieces and hands-on sensory spaces, too. Yep, head to MoMa and the whole family can enjoy some culture (minus the complaining).

an jungle gym at the museum of ice cream.
The Museum of Ice Cream

15. Museum of Ice Cream

  • Location: 558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
  • Known for: ice cream (!), sprinkle pit
  • Best for: all ages
  • Time Commitment: one hour

OK, I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that I have visited this one with my own family and am not sure that the ‘museum’ label really fits. Yes, there’s one room with some interesting information about the history of ice cream and the different flavors and forms it takes in cultures around the world…but you will be hard pressed to get your kids to take any interest in that singular educational aspect of the visit. That said, it’s a kid’s dream and a very whimsical and aesthetically pleasing space to explore, complete with interactive installations, a giant and very fun slide and a sprawling sprinkle pit with so much kid-appeal, you’ll likely have to extract them by force. Oh, and there’s lots of ice cream along the way. Basically, if you’re looking to beat the heat with a ‘museum’ visit that’s more about fun than learning, the Museum of Ice Cream is a summertime winner.



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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...