Best museums for kids in New York City
These cultural spaces will delight little and big Gothamites alike.
Fri Oct 23 2009
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 shape pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery.
Children's Museum of the Arts
Take a break from window-shopping and reward your well-behaved kiddies at this Soho mainstay, featuring more than 2,000 paintings and drawings from around the world, created by and for children. The real artists here, though, are the young visitors who are encouraged to paint, collage and sculpt in the Open Arts Studio (Wednesdays through Sundays). There's also a Performing Arts Gallery, where tiny thespians can put on their own theatrical shows in front of a green screen.
Children's Museum of Manhattan
This one's for the little guys: Many of CMOM's exhibits are geared toward tots ages six and under, including a Dora the Explorer play area and a six-foot-high paintable art wall. But with five floors of exhibits, there's fun for big kids, too, including a giant wooden Trojan horse they can climb, and hands-on models of amusement-park rides and games, where they can learn about the laws of physics.
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
For little ones, the highlight of the aircraft carrier turned science museum is the Exploreum, an indoor activity zone divided into areas with nautical, aviation, cosmos and life themes. In traversing the zone, kids get to board small boats, learn why huge metal ships don't sink, wander around the living quarters of the Intrepid?'s former crew and try on astronauts' gloves. An experiential simulator, titled G-Force Encounter, allows viewers to feel the power, speed and exhilaration of flying a fighter plane, minus the shooting.
New York City Fire Museum
Visitors survey the evolution of firefighting technology in Gotham and read about some of the department's little-known traditions. Located in a renovated firehouse built in 1904, the institution displays a colorful collection of fire-related art and artifacts, including horse-drawn vehicles, painted leather buckets, hand-pumped fire engines that predate the Civil War, and parade hats and belts. Youngsters can try on kiddie-sized turnout gear and leave with a free FDNY coloring book.
New York City Police Museum
Families can experience a brush with the law at this downtown spot celebrating the world's largest police force. The history of the NYPD is chronicled throughout the building's three floors—kids can view the uniforms worn by early-20th-century officers and wander through Heritage Hall, a room devoted to honoring the ethnic diversity of the force. There's also a real jail cell, complete with urinal and sink.
New York Hall of Science
Built for the 1964 World's Fair, the Hall makes science and technology fun. To wit, take a swing at the seasonal space-themed minigolf course, with two real NASA rockets placed amid its nine holes. Kids can slide, seesaw and climb the space net at the outdoor science playground, then geek out over the nation's largest interactive microbiology exhibit inside.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Tiny technophiles and their eager companions can go nuts amid the slew of exhibits on the Lab's third and fourth floors: Children can get their groove on in a dance pod that employs "motion capture" to map their movements to those of an animated figure, or try out haptic technology at a virtual surgery station.