Need something new to do in NYC this winter? Why not visit one of the city’s lesser known museums?
When these chillier months roll around, entertaining the kids can get a bit more challenging. Luckily, not only does New York have museums that attract crowds from around the globe (we’re looking at you Met, Guggenheim, MoMA, and Museum of Natural History) but it’s also home to some of the best unique kid-friendly museums around. Check out our list of the top under-the-radar museums in the city to explore. We promise these will make bearing the winter winds worth it.
1. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling
Sugar Hill Children's Museum is specifically designed to foster creativity for young children ages 3-8. Developed by the Broadway Housing Communities, this museum's mission is to give kids the opportunity to both learn and express their own creativity through art and stories. Exhibits, reading nooks, and interactive storytelling all ensure your kids will get their creativity on. Whether you bring the kids for Saturday Story Hour (held weekly at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) or you drop in for special events, like Toddler Time with Evan V on Feb. 18, you'll always find something engaging for the kids here.
What's New & Cool: Check out the sculpture collection from Melvin Van Peebles "Blue Room"—MVP.
898 St Nicholas Ave. at 155th St.
2. El Museo del Barrio
Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures are all around us in New York City, and El Museo del Barrio brings them together in one rich setting. The galleries are housed on a single floor, so your visit will be a quick, happy jaunt for the kids.
What's New & Cool: Kids will marvel at Reynier Leyva Novo's Methuselah, a digital exhibit that follows a monarch butterfly's 6,000-mile journey from Canada to Mexico.
1230 5th Ave. at E. 104 St.
Upper East Side
3. Theodore Roosevelt Boyhood Home
Unbelievably, Teddy Roosevelt is the only U.S. president born in New York City. Although Roosevelt was regarded as a great nature lover and conservationist, he was an honest-to-goodness native New Yorker and was raised in a townhouse on E. 20 St. All tours through his boyhood home are guided. Kids will be able to explore Teddy’s taxidermy specimens (he was an avid bug collector), see his Rough Rider uniform, and the bullet-pierced eyeglass case that helped save his life during an assassination attempt.
What's New & Cool: Kids can earn a Junior Ranger Badge when they visit. Just print out the booklet before you head over.
28 E. 20th St.
Related: How to Get in Free at 20 NYC Museums
4. National Museum of the American Indian
Located in lower Manhattan, the National Museum of the American Indian could get lost in the shuffle of other go-to destinations like the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry. However, this Smithsonian branch of Native American art and cultural artifacts is housed in the majestic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (the rotunda itself is a “wow” moment). Featuring exhibitions, dance and music performances, children’s workshops, family programs, and film festivals, NMAI will turn your kids on to Native American cultures without boring them.
What's New & Cool: The photography exhibit Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is worth the outing, and we have a feeling the same can be said for the upcoming show, Shelly Niro: 500 Year Itch, opening in late May.
One Bowling Green
5. The New York City Fire Museum
Who doesn’t love a fire truck? Here’s a whole museum that celebrates those red machines and honors the men and women who fight fires with them. The New York Fire Museum is the perfect size for the smallest of museum-goers. It’s a short and sweet tour that traces the history of fire trucks from when they were bucket brigades and horse-drawn ladder wagons to the current motorized era.
What's New & Cool: The 9/11 Memorial Room is powerful.
278 Spring St.
6. The Tenement Museum
If your kids ever complain that their room is too small, take ’em on a tour at the Tenement Museum. Kids get to step back in time and see a preserved tenement apartment from the early 1900s. In these tiny, two-room spaces, extended families were jammed in together and the young’uns typically slept on the floor. The best tour for kids is the Victoria Confino Tour. An actress portraying a young girl who moved to New York at the turn of the century tells her tale of survival as a new immigrant. This experience is best for kids ages 5 and up.
What's New & Cool: The Neighborhood Walking Tours are a great alternative, especially if you have younger kids who love stroller time or baby wearing.
103 Orchard St.
Lower East Side
7. The Noguchi Museum
While the words “kids” and “serenity” seem on opposite ends of the stress spectrum, they come together in harmony at the Noguchi Museum. Dedicated to the sculptural works of Isamu Noguchi, the Queens museum is also devoted to including children and families in exploring the museum’s minimalistic artworks. On the first Saturday of each month, Open Studio invites families for kid-friendly tours and hands-on artmaking.
What's New & Cool: The In Praise of Caves exhibition will make kids feel at home...or at least start thinking about connecting modern living with the natural world.
9-01 33rd Rd.
Long Island City
8. Museum at Eldridge Street
Scout around some of old, old New York at the Museum at Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. Housed within a 127-year-old synagogue, the Museum at Eldridge Street offers tours of the synagogue, during which visitors learn about the Jewish roots of the downtown neighborhood, which was once home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world.
What's New & Cool: We're looking forward to the upcoming Eldridge Arts & Learning: Stained Glass class on February 12. How about you?
12 Eldridge St.
Lower East Side
9. The Morgan Library and Museum
While you might think that this former private library of financier Pierpont Morgan may sound a bit stuffy and academic, the Morgan Library and Museum makes a huge effort to be inviting to families. Some of the current exhibitions celebrate kid-centric subject matter like The Little Prince: Taking Flight (leaving soon). In addition, the Morgan hosts a monthly Family First Saturday program usually that includes a storytime, tour, and other activities. And if all else fails, your kids will love riding up (and down and up again) in the museum’s glass elevator.
What's New & Cool: Uncommon Denominator: Nina Katchadourian at the Morgan opens February 10, 2023.
225 Madison Ave. at W. 36 St.
10. The Louis Armstrong House Museum
In humble little Corona, a giant once lived. Jazz great Louis Armstrong set down roots in the Queens neighborhood in 1943 and made a home with his beloved wife, Lucille, for nearly four decades. A refuge from the world of nonstop touring and public demands, this modest home is now deemed a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. Beyond the home's nondescript brick exterior, you and the kids will find a tricked-out set designer’s dream with mint-condition decor from earlier eras, including electric blue metal kitchen cabinets and a gold and marble bathroom with mirrored walls. Older kids will dig the fact that rap music and hip-hop evolved directly from Armstrong's music.
What's New & Cool: During the winter holidays, families can enjoy the Holiday House Tour for two weeks.
34-56 107 St.
11. Museum of Mathematics
Filled with more than 30 interactive hands-on exhibits on its two floors, the Museum of Mathematics has achieved the remarkable feat of getting kids excited about numbers. While young visitors’ test scores won’t jump after one visit, those little brains will get an abstract thinking workout when they ride the square-wheeled trike, race a mini cart on the “Tracks of Galileo,” and boogie on the math square dance floor. Best of all? Your kids will equate math with fun.
What's New & Cool: With so many cool events at the museum, it's hard to pick just one. But we're fans of free museum days and the Math Discovery in the Museum programs.
11 E. 26 St.
Madison Square Park
12. The Skyscraper Museum
Kids dig anything big—including buildings. At the Skyscraper Museum, you and your budding architects can explore what makes New York City famous: its skyscrapers. Children can check out photos, films, and models all dedicated to really tall buildings in their hometown.
What's New & Cool: The family programming here is what it's all about. And while we don't like to pick favorites, we're pretty excited for the upcoming Iggy Peck, Architect event coming up on February 25, 2023.
39 Battery Pl.
Battery Park City