Best NYC Museum Exhibits to See with Kids Now
Autumn in NYC means school’s back in session, lots of fall festivals and a new crop of museum exhibits of all kinds. Here are the best shows for kids this fall, starring icons like RBG, Barack and Michelle Obama, a Volkswagon Beetle and Oscar the Grouch! Don’t forget: You’ll need proof of vaccination, “the key to NYC” to gain admission for anyone in your group who is 12 or older. (And you’ll probably need to make a reservation, and wear a mask.)
Puppets of New York at the Museum of the City of New York
The puppets take Manhattan at the Museum of the City of New York's latest exhibit. This delightful show explores the history of puppetry in New York City which dates back to the 1800s, with a look at the different kinds of puppets, from sock to shadow to rod. Familiar favorites on view include Howdy Doody, Oscar the Grouch and Lambchop & Friends, as well as lesser-known characters like the giant head of salsa legend, Hector Lavoe and the John Cusack string puppet from Being John Malkovich.
On view through April 2022
Tickets: $20/adults, Free/20 and under
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave.
Automania at the Museum of Modern Art
Does your kid just love a cool car or have a need for speed? If yes, head straight to MoMA’s Automania, a celebration of the car’s form and function. The exhibit includes a Formula One racing car, an early model of the Volkswagen Beetle, an early model Fiat and other vehicles that look like overgrown Hot Wheels. This particular exhibit is split between the Sculpture Garden and the third floor so aim for a day with good weather. Bring a tablet and headphones for your little ones as there is a kid’s audio guide for Automania that you can find at MoMA.org/audio (the Museum is no longer distributing headsets).
While you’re there, check out Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. In this exhibit, you will find Calder’s larger-than-life sculptures as well as his smaller-scale wire ones, but no matter the size, his art is full of whimsy and wonder. Both shows are up now and on through January.
Automania on view now through Jan. 2; Calder on view now through Jan. 15, 2022
Tickets: $25/adults, $18/seniors, $14/students, free/16 & under
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 St.
The Notorious RBG at the New York Historical Society
Many New Yorkers were deeply saddened by the September 2020 passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at age 87. Her legacy, of course, endures: as a trailblazer in academia, the workforce and as a legal scholar and outspoken justice on the highest court in the land. In the works since the weeks following her death, the New-York Historical Society’s, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, documents and pays tribute to this American icon and champion of women’s rights.
Oct. 1 – Jan. 23, 2022
Tickets: $22/adults, $17/seniors, active military, educators; $13/students, $6/5-13-year-olds; *Pay what you wish 6-8p.m. on Fridays
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen
Calling all drama kids! If your family loves stage and screen and wants to support the Broadway and film community, check out Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen. The exhibit, scheduled for a limited eight-week run, gives visitors the chance to see more than 100 of the industry's more complex and detailed costumes from shows including Frozen, Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, SIX and Wicked. Plus costumes from TV shows such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and SNL, and pieces from the New York City Ballet and Disney. Proceeds raised All proceeds raised will go to the Costume Industry Coalition Recovery Fund, benefitting one of the hardest-hit sectors of the entertainment industry.
Through Sept. 26
Tickets: $29/adults, $24/kids
234 W. 42nd St.
The New York Transit Museum Reopens
After being forced to shut its doors back in March 2020, the New York Transit Museum—one of our favorites for kids—is finally re-opening its doors! Set in an actual decommissioned train station with a functioning platform, you’ll see trains and turn-styles of bygone eras and unlike other museums, the NYTM encourages their young visitors to not only touch, but also to play. With several vintage train cars and buses, your child can get in the driver’s seat and be the conductor or choose to enjoy the ride through many decades!
New York Transit Museum
Tickets: $10/adults, $5/children & seniors
99 Schermerhorn St.
The Happiness Experiment at the New York Hall of Science
Raising a kid who is emotionally intelligent is #goals. Here to help is The Happiness Experiment at the New York Hall of Science. The exhibit will help children (and grownups) learn how happiness is translated from the external world into their minds and out of their personalities through neuroscience. Visitors will learn good habits on maintaining happiness—and how to interact with others when feeling out of sorts. The show also stresses that happiness is just one emotion that we experience and that it’s ok to not be happy all of the time. What's important is to learn how to verbalize hurt, disappointment or sadness, while also respecting others.
Tickets: $25/adult. $20/children
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St., Queens
The Obamas Portrait Tour the Brooklyn Museum
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. is taking the iconic official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama on the road. Unveiled in February 2018, Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of the former First Lady are coming to the Brooklyn Museum as part of a five-city tour that also includes Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. This special presentation enhances the conversations surrounding the power of portraiture and its potential to engage communities, and is accompanied by a richly illustrated book published by National Portrait Gallery and Princeton University Press.
On view Aug. 27 – Oct. 24
Tickets: $25/adults, $16/seniors & students, $10/4-12-year-olds
200 Eastern Pkwy
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at The Brooklyn Museum
Christian Dior’s parents wanted him to be a diplomat, but thankfully, he followed his passion. In another fall show at the Brooklyn Museum, decades after the designer's passing, his work and career are celebrated with this exhibit tracing the groundbreaking history and legacy of the House of Dior. Featuring more than 200 haute couture garments, as well as photos, sketches, videos and other archival material, this show includes a look at the elements that inspired Dior (nature, contemporary and classical art), as well as the creative directors that followed him. Among the show's highlights: the central atrium of the museum's Beaux-Arts Court is redesigned as an enchanted garden, and a concluding gallery celebrating dresses worn by stars such as Grace Kelly and Jennifer Lawrence.
Sept. 10 – Feb. 20, 2022
Tickets: $25/adults, $16/seniors & students, $10/4-12-year-olds
200 Eastern Pkwy.
The Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History Reopen
The American Museum of Natural History is a favorite of both kids and adults, and one of the museum's most popular and beloved spaces, the Hall of Gems has been completely redesigned and reinstalled, and is now the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.
The 11,000-square-foot hall showcases one of the greatest collections of its kind. Dazzling gems on view include the legendary 563-carat Star of India sapphire, the 632-carat Patricia Emerald, and the 110-carat diamond Organdie necklace designed by Michelle Ong for Carnet. Plus new specimens including a pair of towering, sparkling amethyst geodes that are among the world’s largest on display, a slice of a 35-million-year-old metasequoia—a petrified dawn redwood from the Cascade Mountains—the 9-pound almandine Subway Garnet discovered under Manhattan’s 35th Street in 1885, and the Tarugo, a 3-foot-tall cranberry-colored elbaite tourmaline that is one of the largest intact mineral crystal clusters ever found. Wow! Maybe the best news of all? It's included in the General Admission price to the museum, and is on permanent view!
In addition to the musuem's classics such as the Blue Whale and the world-famous dinosaurs, special exhibits on view at the museum are The Nature of Color and as well as one addressing the history and issues surrounding the museum's statue of Theodore Roosevelt, which the institution has requested be removed. Need more? Check out a show at the museum's Hayden Planetarium.
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
Upper West Side
KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature at the New York Botanical Garden
Postponed due to the pandemic, this highly-anticipated show featuring Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's work opens on April 10. The exhibit features large-scale installations of Kusama’s multifaceted art, including monumental floral sculptures throughout NYBG’s 250-acre landmark landscape. New works debuting in the show include Dancing Pumpkin and I Want to Fly to the Universe, as well as the artist’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse, Flower Obsession. More exciting news: Cosmic Nature will include a brand new Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart for which there will be timed entry tickets and Covid-19 safety protocols to be determined. Tickets go on sale March 11 for members, and March 16 to the general public.
April 10-Oct. 31
Tickets: $35/adults; $32/students & seniors; $15/ages 2-12; free/kids under 2
2900 Southern Blvd.
The Roof Garden Commission: Alex Da Corte, As Long as the Sun Lasts
The Met's 2021 Roof Garden Commission is hard not to love. Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte created a 26-foot-tall kinetic sculpture featuring the beloved Sesame Street character Big Bird and the modern aesthetic of Alexander Calder’s standing mobiles.
The work is comprised of a base with three interlocking pieces and a mobile component that sways and rotates gently with passing air currents. Suspended from near the top of the sculpture, covered in roughly 7,000 individually placed laser-cut aluminum feathers, Big Bird is found perched on a crescent moon with a ladder in hand—"suggesting the possibility of passage back to Earth or to other galaxies."
On view through Oct. 31, 2021
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
Upper East Side
KAWS: WHAT PARTY at the Brooklyn Museum
The work of Brooklyn's own KAWS (Brian Donnelly) is center stage at the Brooklyn Museum's KAWS: WHAT PARTY. The show is a sweeping survey that includes more than 100 broad-ranging works, such as rarely seen graffiti drawings and notebooks, paintings and sculptures, smaller collectibles, furniture and monumental installations of his popular COMPANION figures. It also features new pieces made uniquely for the exhibition along with his early-career altered advertisements. Visitors will also be able to interact virtually with his sculptures using their smartphones, thanks to new augmented reality works created in collaboration with digital art platform Acute Art.
Through Sept. 5, 2021
200 Eastern Pkwy.
ARTECHOUSE NYC: Geometric Properties
ARTECHOUSE NYC, New York’s first permanent art space dedicated solely to immersive digital art, is opening its 2021 exhibition season with Geometric Properties. Created by Julius Horsthuis, an award-winning visual and fractal artist based out of Amsterdam, the immersive audio-visual installation is described as "a mind-bending journey through the infinite geometric patterns of fractal worlds, [taking] us on an exploration from our recent past to an ideal future — one that returns to nature and math as a source for inspiration." (It looks pretty cool, too!)
Tickets: $24/adults; $17/ages 4-17; free/children under the age of 4; $20/Students, Seniors, Military & First Responders:$20
March 1 - Sept. 6
439 W. 15th St.
The Jim Henson Exhibition
This incredible retrospective of master puppeteer and creator Jim Henson at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is open again after a long Covid-19 pause. (The Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.)
Reserved-time tickets are on sale now through June 27. Get yours here!
Check out all the museum exhibits we're excited about this spring here!
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum—the real aircraft carrier parked on the west side in Midtown—is open and offering new and restored experiences for visitors. The Intrepid’s pilot escalator has been restored and made available to the public for the first time in decades. Installed in the 1950s, it is no longer operational; however, visitors can walk up the escalator from the hangar deck to the flight deck and learn about its mechanics and role during service. Also new is the opportunity to peek into one of the ship's bomb elevators, and in mid-May, visitors will be able to experience a recreated photo lab, and learn about the crew whose job included documenting everything from enemy aircraft and operational accidents to daily life on board.
Additional experiences have been made available to explore, including numerous spaces within the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the supersonic airliner Concorde and the space shuttle Enterprise. To get even more out of your visit, use the museum's Interactive Mobile Guide, which allows guests to scan QR codes on exhibits for more info.
Entrance is by timed tickets—buy them here—and the museum is now open Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Capacity is limited and some areas remain closed, but most of the 350,000-square-foot complex is open. Masks are required for all visitors over two years of age.
Tickets: $33/adults; $31/seniors, $24/ages 5-12
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
West 46th St. & 12th Ave.
Children's Museum of Manhattan
The Children's Museum of Manhattan is open with lots of safety precautions in place to keep everyone healthy, including routine sanitizing, temperature checks, reduced capacity, masks and social distancing.
The museum is offering two curated family experiences that must be reserved in advance, with timed entry. Each 1 hour and 45 minute session will have limited capacity and includes a visit to two of the Museum’s award-winning exhibits, allowing increased space to safely explore, climb, move, and play.
Playful Explorers, invites younger kids to play, learn and imagine in CMOM’s Playworks and Adventures with Dora and Diego exhibits. Educator-led experiences include storytime, singing and music and personal activity kits.
Big kids will enjoy Superpowered Creators, featuring the Inside Art and Superpowered Metropolis exhibits. Climb through original three-dimensional artworks and make your own art to take home, then visit a comic book-inspired NYC with a two-story treehouse headquarters for Zip, Zap and Zoom, three superpowered pigeons. Experience a delightful wind-blowing fountain, create city sounds in the magical subway car and drive a superpowered pigeon mobile. Educator-led experiences include art-making, a scavenger hunt and personal activity kits.
Tickets: $15/kids and adults; $12/seniors, free/infants and members
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 W. 83rd St.
Upper West Side
The Brooklyn Children's Museum
This popular kids museum is currently open on weekends, select holidays, and Thursdays from 2-5 p.m., when entry is pay what you wish. (You still need to make a reservation.) Popular longstanding exhibits include World Brooklyn, Neighborhood Nature, Totally Tots, Collections Central and The Nest, but you must make a timed reservation for a 90-minute session. Do that here.
ColorLab Sessions, workshops in the Museum’s art studio that offer families an opportunity to
explore print-making, collage and sculpture projects are also available through timed reservation. Make a reservation here.
Sat. & Sun. and select holidays.; Thursdays, 2-5 p.m., pay what you wish
145 Brooklyn Ave.
Liberty Science Center: Summer of Dinos and Hot Wheels
It's the Summer of Dinos at Liberty Science Center, with SUE: The T. rex Experience, an interactive, engaging, and hands-on exhibition that features an exact replica of a T. rex skeleton measuring 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip; Dino Dig Adventure, 1,750-square-foot space outdoors, where guests are immersed in the landscape of a real paleontological dig, and can dig for "fossils" themselves, and much more!
Plus Hot Wheels: Race to Win, a look at the thrilling world of racing and discover the scientific processes for designing super-fast cars. Kids can test and race cars to find the fastest—and safest—vehicles. (Closes September 6.)
Tickets and parking must be purchased in advance, capacity is reduced, there is no eating or drinking inside the building, and air filters have been replaced and upgraded. Face masks are required. Read all of the safety protocols here, and read our guide to the Liberty Science Center with kids here.
Open Wed. - Sun., 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Liberty State Park
Immersive Van Gogh
This high tech exploration of the Dutch painter's work has been selling out in cities nationwide. An hour-long, immersive experience (that promises Covid-19 precautions) the exhibit is made up of 60,600 frames of video, 90,000,000 pixels, and 500,000+ cubic feet of projections. Producers describe it as "merging state-of-the-art technology, theatrical storytelling and world-class animation."
Tickets: starting at $39.99
The Cloisters, the Met's uptown outpost devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, reopened September 12. You'll find approximately 2,000 works of art from medieval Europe here, including exquisite illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories and enormous tapestries. The buildings themselves are modeled on sacred spaces from 12th to the 15th centuries, and the courtyards and gardens contained within are filled with plantings based on historical writings and art.
Note that The Cloisters are open Thursday - Monday; winter hours are 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m., November to February. You must reserved tickets in advance. Do that here.
Tickets: $25/adults; $17/seniors; $12/students, free/kids under 12.
99 Margaret Corbin Dr.
Fort Tryon Park
The Museum of Ice Cream
Yes, the Museum of Ice Cream is open! An immersive walk-through experience dedicated to the sweet treat, the MOIC opened a permanent NYC flagship in December of 2019, but shut down in March. It's back, and COVID-19 precautions are in place, and include a new ventilation system, mask and glove requirements, deep cleanings at the beginning and end of every day, cleaning surfaces following any touching by visitors, capacity reduction, etc. You can read all safety measures here.
You must reserve tickets in advance, and the museum is open Thursday through Sunday now.
The Museum of Ice Cream
If you missed your chance to visit this shrine to slime when it opened last year, you have another chance. It's slightly altered (people play with their own slimes, not a collective vat, as was done previously), and you get to take slime home. Expect artisanal, scented slime, interactive activities, a massive DIY slime bar, slime experiments, an immersive ASMR tunnel, a lake of slime to walk on, and more. Advanced tickets are timed, masks are required, staff is in masks and gloves, and capacity is reduced. Dress in your get messy clothes and prepare to open your wallet: it's $39 a ticket. A percentage of sales goes to mental health charities.
Museum of Illusions
Created in Zagreb, Croatia (with additional outposts in Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, and beyond) the museum is both educational and a spot for fun photo ops. Visitors can explore more than 70 elements and experiences that include "illusionistic rooms", optical illusions, and puzzles. Every "piece" in the museum is accompanied by a clear and concise explanation of what is causing or creating the illusion; mathematical, biological, and psychological concepts are all touched upon, as are perception, vision, and how the human brain works. This museum is an outstanding (and very fun) way to engage kids with complex scientific principles, and help them understand through experience. The well-curated gift shop allows you to take home some of the brain-bending fun.
Entry is by timed ticket, masks and temperature checks are required, the air filtration system has been upgraded you'll find hand sanitizer throughout the museum. Read more COVID-19 safety measures here.
77 Eighth Ave.
Museum of the Dog
The American Kennel Club celebrates humans' best friend with its Museum of the Dog on Park Avenue. (Previously located in St. Louis, the museum is now housed in the same building as the AKC.) Expect fine art such as paintings and sculptures dedicated to dogs big and small, as well as tributes created using modern technology. Ticketing is by advanced reservation, and masks are required. The museum is closed Mondays.
Tickets: $15/adults; $5/kids 12 and under, $10/seniors 65 and older
101 Park Ave.
Upper East Side