Timeout New York Kids

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Best museums and sights

American Museum of Natural History

  • Critics choice

Home to the largest and arguably most fabulous collection of dinosaur fossils in the world, AMNH’s fourth-floor dino halls have been blowing kids' minds for decades. Roughly 80 percent of the bones on display were actually dug out of the ground; the rest are casts. The thrills begin when you cross the threshold of the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, where you’re confronted with a towering barosaurus rearing up on its hind legs to protect its young from an attacking allosaurus—an impressive welcome to the world’s largest museum of its kind. During the museum’s mid-1990s renovation, several specimens were remodeled to incorporate new discoveries. The Tyrannosaurus rex, for instance, was once believed to have walked upright, Godzilla-style; it now stalks prey with its head lowered and tail raised parallel to the ground. The rest of the museum is equally dramatic. The newly opened Hall of Human Origins boasts a fine display of your old cousins, the Neanderthals. The Hall of Biodiversity examines world ecosystems and environmental preservation, and a life-size model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life. The impressive Hall of Meteorites was brushed up and reorganized in 2003. The space’s focal point is Ahnighito, the largest iron meteor on display anywhere in the world, weighing in at 34 tons (more than 30,000kg). The spectacular $210 million Rose Center for Earth & Space—dazzling at night—is a giant silvery globe where you can discover the universe via 3-D shows in the Hayden Planetarium and light shows in the Big Bang Theater. An IMAX theatre screens larger-than-life nature programs, and you can always learn something new from the innovative temporary exhibitions, an easily accessible research library (with vast photo and print archives), several cool gift shops and friendly, helpful staff.

  1. Central Park West, (at 79th St)
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Brooklyn Children’s Museum

When it was founded in 1899, the BCM was the country’s first museum specifically made for children. Today it’s one of the most comprehensive, with a permanent collection of 30,000 objects, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils. Kids have fun while learning (sneaky!) at interactive exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where young’uns can weigh ingredients and knead pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery.

  1. 145 Brooklyn Ave, (at St. Marks Ave)
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Children's Museum of the Arts

The CMA's new, 10,000-square-foot home has more than enough room to house its 2,000-piece collection of international children's art, including a huge center gallery to display it in. Artists lead workshops in classrooms, studios or media lab—that has a sound station, clay bar and video-making equipment. Kids can work their bodies as well as their minds on the museum's second floor, where they'll find interactive art displays and a ball pit.

  1. 103 Charlton St, (between Hudson and Greenwich Sts)
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Children's Museum of Manhattan

  • Critics choice

This one’s for the little guys: Many of CMOM’s exhibits are geared to tots ages six and under, including a Dora the Explorer play area. But with five floors of exhibits, there’s fun for big kids, too. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits.

  1. 212 W 83rd St, (between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway)
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Empire State Building

High-speed elevators shoot visitors up 1,050 feet to the Art Deco masterpiece’s 86th-floor observatory, where you can either peer out at the city from the comfort of a glass-enclosed pavilion or brave the elements on the open-air decks lining all four sides of the ESB.

  1. 350 Fifth Ave, (between 33rd and 34th Sts)
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Critics choice

Occupying 13 acres of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened in 1880, is impressive in terms both of quality and scale. Added in 1895 by McKim, Mead and White, the neoclassical facade is daunting. However, the museum is surprisingly easy to negotiate, particularly if you come early on a weekday and avoid the crowds. In the ground floor’s north wing sits the collection of Egyptian art and the glass-walled atrium housing the Temple of Dendur, moved en masse from its original Nile-side setting and now overlooking a reflective pool. Antiquity is also well represented in the southern wing of the ground floor by the halls housing Greek and Roman art, which reopened in 2007 after receiving an elegant makeover. Turning west brings you to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas collection; it was donated by Nelson Rockefeller as a memorial to his son Michael, who disappeared while visiting New Guinea in 1961. A wider-ranging bequest, the two-story Robert Lehman Wing, can be found at the western end of the floor. This eclectic collection is housed in a re-creation of his townhouse and features Bellini’s masterful Madonna and Child. Rounding out the ground-floor highlights is the American Wing on the northwest corner. Its Engelhard Court reopened in spring 2009 as part of the wing’s current revamp. Now more a sculpture court than an interior garden, it houses large-scale 19th-century works in bronze and marble—and one of its three fountains is by Tiffany.

  1. 1000 Fifth Ave, (at 82nd St)
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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

  • Critics choice

After a two-year redesign by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, MoMA reopened in 2004 with almost double the space to display some of the most impressive artworks from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Outside, the Philip Johnson–designed Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, which houses works by Calder, Rodin and Moore, overlooks the Modern, a sleek high-end restaurant and bar run by superstar restaurateur Danny Meyer. The Museum of Modern Art has a great deal of free family programming for all ages.

  1. 11 W 53rd St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves), 10019
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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

  • Critics choice

The Guggenheim is as famous for its landmark building—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored for its 50th birthday in 2009—as it is for its impressive collection and daring temporary shows. The museum owns Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works, along with the Panza di Biumo Collection of American Minimalist and Conceptual art from the 1960s and ’70s. In addition to works by Manet, Picasso, Chagall and Bourgeois, it holds the largest collection of Kandinskys in the U.S. In 1992, the addition of a ten-story tower provided space for a sculpture gallery (with park views), an auditorium and a café.

  1. 1071 Fifth Ave, (at 89th St)
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South Street Seaport

  • Critics choice

This historic harbor is home to the former Fulton Fish Market, the Seaport Museum, the country's largest privately owned fleet of historic ships and a shopping mall with retail stores and restaurants. It hosts outdoor concerts during the summer, as well as a range of lectures and public programs.

  1. 19 Fulton St, (at Front St)
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Staten Island Children's Museum

Kids get to check out interactive exhibits, engage in song and dance, and try their hand at a craft project, all led by a museum educator. Party-goers take home the ultimate goody bag: a three-month membership to the museum. Prices start at $315 for members and $350 for non-members for up to 16 kids; $18 for each additional child.

  1. 1000 Richmond Terr, (at Snug Harbor Rd)
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Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center

  • Critics choice

Sure, the 86th floor observatory at the Empire State Building is the original place to go for an eagle's-eye look at New York, and it's located atop a global icon. But at 70 stories up, the observation deck at TOTR affords a spectacular vista of Central Park without the crazy lines. Plus, the sprawling subterranean mall at 30 Rock offers amenities like shopping and eating.

  1. 30 Rockefeller Plaza, (between 49th and 50th Sts)
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