Photograph: Imogen Brown

The best kids' museums in NYC

The best children's museums in NYC are some of the best kids museums in the world, and fun for the whole family!

By Oliver Strand, Danielle Valente and Allie Early

Visit the best kids museums in NYC and you'll get a lot of "wow," and "cool," and "aww!" What you won't hear? "I'm bored." That's because the best children's museums in NYC are as entertaining as they are educational—your kids will have so much fun they won't even know they're learning. 

The 13 best museums for kids in NYC–okay, 12 plus the Bronx Children's Museum, which will open later this year–are some of the family attractions that make this city so awesome. Going to a children's museum in NYC is one of our favorite things to do with kids in NYC

When you're ready to extend your experience, consider taking part in one of the amazing museum sleepovers in NYC. Just imagine: You can spend the night on the Intrepid aircraft carrier, or have your very own Night at the Museum of Natural History—without the dinosaures waking up, thank you very much.

Children's museums

Photograph: David Rosenzweig

1. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Museums Childhood Crown Heights

Your kid will think the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is so much fun! Founded in 1899 as the country’s first museum specifically made for children, today the BCM todayis one of the most comprehensive, with a permanent collection of 30,000 objects, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils. Kids love the interactive “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where children can pretend to be working grownups. The recently-renovated play spaces upstairs is a great place to let your kids get their sillies out. Bonus: There's a sloth-in-residence until Feb. 2!

Photograph: Marielle Solan

2. Children's Museum of Manhattan

Museums Childhood Upper West Side

Looking for interactive art that welcomes curious minds—and grabby hands? Then head to "Inside Art," the current show up at the CMOM, which lets your little ones climb in and over and all around the exhibits. It's ideas like this that make the 40,000-square-foot so special. Learning about culture, history and science is a blast for kids ages six and under. CMOM also hosts classes and workshops—like Gross Biology for kids who love burps and germs—all designed with the latest child-development research in mind.

Crickets Children's Museum of the Arts
Photograph: Courtesy Children's Museum of the Arts

3. Children's Museum of the Arts

Museums Childhood West Village

That's right: An art museum just for kids. The CMA feels like a Manhattan gallery, only with messy art studios and maker labs and a playroom where kids can tumble and thunk around. The showstopper up right now is "Love Crickets, Save the Planet"—check out the live cricket farm. The 2,000-piece collection includes works by serious artists, and the shows are always thought-provoking. A big draw is the clay lab, where your little Giacometti works closely with a professional artist—savvy CMA-goers sign up first thing for a time slot. 

New York Historical Society. PBDW architect renovations
Photograh: Jonathan Wallen

4. DiMenna Children's History Museum at the New York Historical Society

Things to do Upper West Side

The hands-on displays at this kid-focused arm of the New York Historical Society transport children back through 350 years of U.S. history, with a special focus on NYC. Children are encouraged to climb around and interact with exhibits that highlight the lives of kids who grew up to become famous doctors, athletes and political figures—hello, Alexander Hamilton! Little New Yorkers can get in on sing-alongs and crafts. Other family programs include cooking classes, scavenger hunts, games and story hours.

Photograph: Russell Frederick of Russell Frederick Photography

5. Staten Island Children's Museum

Museums Childhood Staten Island

Staten Island Children’s Museum nurtures creativity. Offering hands-on experiences like the Block Harbor (plenty of blocks to play with!), larger-than-life games like Connect Four and Dominoes, and even the opportunity to crawl through a human-sized anthill or play firefighter at Ladder 11, you’ll find immersive fun around every corner. Don’t forget to stop by the wind energy powered Green Living Room, where the kids can keep their hands busy turning light switches on and off, and trying out the TV, radio and more, all while learning about the environment and ways to reduce our carbon footprint. 

Credit: Michael J. Palma

6. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling

Museums Childhood Washington Heights

This children's museum celebrates imagination through art, storytelling and education. Kids can explore different exhibits that explore fables and folktales. The museum hosts a variety of events for kids from story hours to art workshops.

Photograph: Jewish Children's Museum

7. Jewish Children's Museum

Museums Childhood Crown Heights

The Jewish Children’s Museum educates on Jewish history and heritage in a fun, immersive environment, fostering a natural curiosity through hands-on exploration. Learn all about the story of Chanukah and the meaning behind the menorah in its seasonal Soil to Oil workshop, where children press olive oil from fresh olives, make and eat their own delicious potato latkes, and spin the dreidel for chocolate gelt! Throughout the year, examine biblical history, Israel, Jewish holidays and more.

Playground at New York Hall of Science
Photograph: David Handschuh/NY Hall of Science

8. New York Hall of Science

Museums Science and technology Queens

Kids can get hands-on with hundreds of interactive exhibits and activities that bring science, technology, engineering and math to life. Built for the 1964 World's Fair and expanded in the last decade, NYSCI is home to a revolving lineup of displays about light, 3-D printing, outer space and robots, plus the Design Lab, where kids can tackle activities at five stations: Backstage, Sandbox, Studio, Maker Space and Treehouse. Check out "Connected Worlds," where visitors' movements influence a digitally-animated environment. Kids can also climb on a rope web and play minigolf at the massive Science Playground and Rocket Park.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

9. Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)

Museums Science and technology Flatiron

Math is powerful: Just look at all remarkable things math can be used to create. MoMATH lays it all out with the Wall of Fire, a laser "wall" that shows visitors that cross-sections aren't always what you think they are; Math Square, a Jumbotron on the floor that connects each person standing on it by the shortest path possible, changing the moment anyone moves; a design studio where participants create a 3-D design on a screen, for a chance to have it "printed" into an actual sculpture via a 3-D printer; and Enigma Café, a place where families can sit down at tables to work on digital puzzles. All ages.

Photograph: Courtesy Liberty Science Center

10. Liberty Science Center

Museums Science and technology

While the Liberty Science Center is technically in New Jersey, just a stone's throw from the Statue of Liberty, it's firmlay a part of the NYC circuit. The museum succeeds beautifully in its stated aim to reinvent the science-museum-going experience—an interactive heat-sensitive "cave painting" allows tykes to add their handprints to the mural just like real Cro-Mags. Then there's the giant blue nose that sneezes spray at visitors. And let's not forget the I-beam, suspended 18 feet in the air, which lets kids "walk the steel" just like a construction worker building a skyscraper (with a safety harness, of course).

Courtesy of Argyle Design

11. Bronx Children's Museum

Museums Childhood The Bronx

After 10 years without a permanent home, the Bronx Children’s Museum will open a 13,000-square-foot facility in Mill Pond Park at the end of 2020. The new venue overlooking the Harlem River will have permanent exhibits on the community arts, the natural sciences and early learning, plus an ever-changing artist’s loft, a multimedia space and studio classrooms. Individuality will be encouraged at the museum: Your little activist artists will be able to voice their opinions about what they see.

12. New York City Fire Museum

Museums History West Village

An active firehouse from 1904 to 1959, this museum is filled with gadgetry and pageantry, from late-18th-century hand-pumped fire engines to modern equipment. The museum also houses a permanent exhibit commemorating the heroism of firefighters after the attack on the World Trade Center.


13. Long Island Children's Museum

Things to do Long Island

The Long Island Children’s (permanent) Museum opened in 2002 after the renovation of a 40,000-square-foot facility. Today, it houses 14 hands-on exhibit galleries for little ones, plus a state-of-the-art theater and several learning studios.

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