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NYC museums: best exhibits for kids

20 museum exhibits every New York City kid should see. 

  • Photograph: Denis Finnin

    American Museum of Natural History "Dinosaurs"

  • American Museum of Natural History "Dinosaurs"

  • Photograph: AMNH/D. Finnin

    American Museum of Natural History Rose Center for Earth and Space

  • Photograph: AMNH\D. Finnin

    American Museum of Natural History Rose Center for Earth and Space

  • Photograph: AMNH\C. Chesek

    American Museum of Natural History Rose Center for Earth and Space

  • Photograph: Vu Quang Tran

    Children's Museum of Manhattan "EatSleepPlay"

  • Photograph: Vu Quang Tran

    Children's Museum of Manhattan "EatSleepPlay"

  • Photograph: Vu Quang Tran

    Children's Museum of Manhattan "EatSleepPlay"

  • Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Brooklyn Children's Museum "World Brooklyn"

  • Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Brooklyn Children's Museum "World Brooklyn"

  • Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Brooklyn Children's Museum "World Brooklyn"

  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • Photograph: Antony Morales

    Liberty Science Center "Touch Tunnel"

  • Photograph: Antony Morales

    Liberty Science Center "Touch Tunnel"

  • Photograph: Antony Morales

    Liberty Science Center "Touch Tunnel"

  • Photograph: Peter Aaron/Esto. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

    "Behind the Screen" at the Museum of the Moving Image

  • Photograph: Peter Aaron/Esto. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

    "Behind the Screen" at the Museum of the Moving Image

  • Photograph: Brian Palmer / Museum of the Moving Image

    "Behind the Screen" at the Museum of the Moving Image

  • New York City Police Museum "Junior Officers Discvery Zone"

  • New York City Police Museum "Junior Officers Discvery Zone"

  • New York City Police Museum "Junior Officers Discvery Zone"

  • New York City Police Museum "Junior Officers Discvery Zone"

  • "ElectriCity: Powering New York's Subways and Rails" at New York Transit Museum

  • "ElectriCity: Powering New York's Subways and Rails" at New York Transit Museum

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art

    Queens Museum of Art "Panorama"

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art

    Queens Museum of Art "Panorama"

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art

    Queens Museum of Art "Panorama"

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    DiMenna Children's History Museum

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    DiMenna Children's History Museum

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    DiMenna Children's History Museum

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    DiMenna Children's History Museum

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    The Museum of the City of New York "Toy Collection"

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    The Museum of the City of New York "Toy Collection"

  • Photograph: Ernest Amoroso

    umuwam (Chief of the Undersea mask) at Museum of American Indian's...

  • Photograph: Ernest Amoroso

    The Tukanoan headring, with Macaw feathers, oropendola feathers, toucan...

  • Photograph: Ernest Amoroso

    Kootenai baby carrier, made of wood, deer hide, wool, glass beads, silk,...

  • Museum of Modern Art: The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890),...

  • Photograph: John Wronn

    Museum of Modern Art: Gibraltar, Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976), 1936...

  • Museum of Modern Art: I and the Village, Marc Chagall (French, born Belarus...

  • Museum of Modern Art: Water Lilies (Tryptic, Left Panel) Claude Monet (French,...

  • Photograph: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Temple of Dendur, Medium: Aeolian...

  • Photograph: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Temple of Dendur, Medium: Aeolian...

  • Photograph: David Handschuh

    Hall of Science "Rocket Park"

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

    Tenement Museum

  • Photograph: Keiko Niwa

    Tenement Museum

  • Photograph: Battman Studios

    Tenement Museum

  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum

  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum

  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum

  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Photograph: Denis Finnin

American Museum of Natural History "Dinosaurs"


5. Children's Museum of the Arts, main gallery
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 dating from the 1930s to the present. Be sure not to miss the works projected on the wall near the entrance or the colorful drawings made in 1963 by Harlem public-school students. While you're checking out artwork, have little ones create their own: Kids can sculpt, paint and draw in the main gallery—even creating wall art next to the masterpieces of famous artists.

4. Children's Museum of Manhattan, "EatSleepPlay: Building Health Every Day"
Healthy living for the entire family is the goal of CMOM's groundbreaking exhibit. A giant head, representing the body's decision center, is equipped with interactive games where young visitors can compete for the longest lifespan. Kids also get the chance to crawl through a digestive system; see how the lack of z's affects performance, in the Sleep Deprivation Zone; and pedal, dance, run, bounce and jump in the Play Center.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Temple of Dendur
Moved from its original Nile-side setting and now overlooking a reflective pool, the Temple of Dendur was built by the Roman governor of Egypt around 15 B.C. and dedicated to Isis, Osiris and two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain. Tots can step right into the compact structure to eye the inscriptions on its sandstone columns and walls (and the graffiti left by 19th-century European explorers). Off to one side, they can ogle the majestic, 11-foot-long granite sphinx of Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt's premier female pharaoh and possibly the world's first woman head of state.

2. New-York Historical Society, DiMenna Children's History Museum
The "museum within a museum," occupying 4,000 square feet on the Historical Society's lower level, offers kids the opportunity to learn NYC history through the eyes of children. Young historical detectives visit seven pavilions centered around New Yorkers both famous (Alexander Hamilton) and anonymous (boys and girls who hawked newspapers). Touch screens are ubiquitous, but it is the decidedly low-tech activities (think practicing penmanship or sewing a cross stitch) that truly inspire curiosity.

1. American Museum of Natural History, Dinosaur Halls
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. They'll never forget the first time they laid eyes on the fiercesome Tyrannosaurus rex, stalking its prey, or the towering barosaurus rearing up on its hind legs to protect its young from an attacking allosaurus.

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