The best children's museums in NYC

NYC is home to some incredible children's museums, and they're some of the best museums for kids in the world!

By Oliver Strand, Danielle Valente and Allie Early |
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Arty Gras Celebration at CMA
Photograph: Grace Chu

You'll never hear "I'm bored" when you visit the best children's museums in NYC. These museums for kids are more than educational, they're as engaging as they are entertaining. Learning is fun, and these cool museums are a big part of what makes the city so special.

When you head out to one of the 11 best museums for kids (okay, 10 plus the Bronx Children's Museum, which will open in 2020), you should also plan on a meal at one of the best family restaurants in NYC.

Looking for more family-fun inspiration? Explore our favorite 101 things to do with kids in NYC, including some of the top family attractions in the region.

Children's museums

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bcm01.jpg
Photograph: David Rosenzweig
Museums, Childhood

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Crown Heights

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum keeps getting better. 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 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.

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Museums, Childhood

Children's Museum of the Arts

West Village

An art museum just for kids? Absolutely. This institution feels like a Manhattan gallery, only with messy art studios and maker labs and a playroom where kids can tumble and thunk around. 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.

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Photograph: Marielle Solan
Museums, Childhood

Children's Museum of Manhattan

Upper West Side

This nearly 40,000-square-foot institution makes learning about culture, history and science a blast for kids ages six and under. Explore the benefits of good nutrition from "EatSleepPlay," a Dora the Explorer play area and immersive exhibits that rotate in and out of the five-story space. 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.

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Photograph: Jewish Children's Museum
Museums, Childhood

Jewish Children's Museum

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.

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Photograph: Marielle Solan
Things to do

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

Upper West Side

Exhibits and programs 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. Galleries highlight the lives of kids who grew up to become famous doctors, athletes and political figures—hello, Alexander Hamilton! Little New Yorkers cn get in on sing-alongs and crafts. Other family programs include cooking classes, scavenger hunts, games and story hours.

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Photograph: Russell Frederick of Russell Frederick Photography
Museums, Childhood

Staten Island Children's Museum

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. 

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Playground at New York Hall of Science
Photograph: David Handschuh/NY Hall of Science
Museums, Science and technology

New York Hall of Science

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.

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Photograph: Jessica Lin
Museums, Science and technology

Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)

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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Liberty Science Center
Museums, Science and technology

Liberty Science Center

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).

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Courtesy of Argyle Design
Museums, Childhood

Bronx Children's Museum

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.

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Things to do

Long Island Children's Museum

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.

More on museums for kids

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