The NYC Museum Shows for Kids to See This Season

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We’re in the home stretch of 2021 and the culture keeps on coming—along with a lot of holiday events and activities, of course. This winter, NYC kid’s museums, art museums, history museums and other NYC spots are mounting exhibits dedicated to everything from butterflies and sharks, to Paw Patrol and toy trains. 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.)

photo: AMNH

Butterfly Conservatory & Sharks at the American Museum of Natural History 

The popular Butterfly Conservatory exhibit returns for the American Museum of Natural History this November at the AMNH, bringing 500 of the insects to be observed up-close. See butterflies emerge from cocoons, or stand still and wait for one to land on you! 

Opening in December will be perhaps the most misunderstood animal in the kingdom: Sharks. Now you can see them like you never have before, up close and personal. Sharks will feature 30 life-size models that range from 33 feet to the size of the palm of your hand. Your kids will learn about their evolutionary history, anatomy, habitats, diets, and how to keep them safe for future generations to study and enjoy.

Butterfly Conservatory Opens Nov. 20; Sharks Opens Dec. 15

Tickets: (includes general admission plus one special exhibit) $28/adults, $16.50/children, $22.50/seniors & students, free/2 and under
American Museum of Natural History 
200 Central Park West

photo: NYPL

The largest branch of the New York Public Library has opened a new and exciting permanent exhibit called, Treasures: The Polonsky Exhibit. Here you will find 250 pieces from historical artifacts to pop culture. Some of the items on display include thousands-year-old Iraqi cuneiform tablets, the stuffed animals owned by the real-life Christopher Robbin that inspired the children’s book, “Winnie the Pooh,”  the Declaration of Independence with John Hancock’s famous signature, and so much more. The collection is expansive and includes at least a few things that will blow the kids' (and your) mind! Bring headphones to listen to the Audio Guide!

*Tickets are free, but you must reserve a timed-entry ticket in advance. Masks are required. 

Permanent exhibit
Tickets: Free, registration required
NYPL: Stephen Schwartzman Building
476 Fifth Ave. 

photo: Liberty Science Center

Paw Patrol: Adventure Play at the Liberty Science Center 

If you live in New Jersey or are just visiting, be sure to check out this exhibit where children are encouraged to be little rescuers just like the cartoon. Through interactive games and puzzles, they will be challenged to think critically and morally in order to problem-solve and save the day. The larger-than-life pups are made to be touched and ridden so little ones can embrace their canine heroes.  

Through May 1, 2022
Tickets: $27.99/adults, $22.99/children 2-12 (these are advanced ticket prices, at the door is $2 more.)
Liberty Science Center
Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Blvd. 
Jersey City, NJ
201- 200-1000

photo: Michael Palma Mir

Cicadian Rhythms & Home at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling

At the south end of Washington Heights is the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum which is open only on Saturdays. Cicadian Rhythm, addresses the issue of climate change through the vibrant illumination of a designed lush environment which is mirrored by a dark and tattered one to illustrate the impact of human interference on nature and the potential effects pollution has on the environment. In the group exhibit, Home, artists compose multi-media works that depict their idea of home whether it be physically, culturally or psychologically and how that provides a sense of safety but can also be vulnerable to external forces. 

Open Saturdays only, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Tickets: $7/adults, $4/students, seniors and 9-17, free/up to eight years old
Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling
898 St. Nicholas Ave. 
Sugar Hill

photo: NYBG

The New York Botanical Garden Train Show

The New York Botanical Garden celebrates the 30th anniversary of its holiday train show in 2021. This magical display features more than 175 New York landmarks re-created with nuts, bark, leaves, and other plant parts as designed by Laura Busse Dolan and the creative team at Applied Imagination. 

Humming along between familiar sites such as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Macy’s and the original Penn Station, large-scale model trains cover almost a half-mile of track across rustic bridges and trestles, through tunnels and past cascading waterfalls. And don't forget to look up at the trains zooming overhead!

On select dates, you can also check out the garden's holiday light display, NYBG GLOW, which in addition to dazzling light creations, features music, dance, food and more. 

Nov. 20 - Jan. 23, 2022
Tickets: $32/adults;$30/student/senior; $18/kids two–12; free for children under two. Combo train show/GLOW:  $35/adults (13-64), $20/kids two 0 12.
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection  at the New-York Historical Society

This year, this holiday train tradition goes to the amusement park! Joining a selection of toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, 2021's festive display includes never-before-seen toy rides. Visitors can marvel at a miniature Ferris wheel, carousel, blimp ride, and roller coaster. 

Aside from being fun for the kids, the Jerni Collection, which includes hand-crafted and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, is considered one of the finest collections of antique trains and toys in the world.

Tickets: Adults/$22; Seniors/Educators/Active Military/$17; Students/$13; Kids (five–13 years old)/$6; Kids four and under/free
Admission is pay-as-you-wish from 6-8 p.m. on Fridays 

Nov. 19-March 13, 2022
170 Central Park West at 77th St.
Upper West Side

photo: MoMA PS 1

Greater New York at MoMA: PS1

PS1 is the contemporary art annex of the famous MoMA and lives inside a former elementary school. Navigating the staircase is sure to be familiar for children and adults alike. Greater New York, focuses specifically on the art history of New York City. Featuring 47 artists whose works reflect their community and what New York means to them, this exhibit reflects the city as it emerges from a shut-down which left institutions with a very uncertain future. With a range of mediums and bright colors, this exhibit is a treat for the eyes.

Through April 18, 2022
Closed Tues. & Wed.
22-25 Jackson Ave. 
Long Island City


photo: Asya Gorovits/MCNY

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.
East Harlem

photo: MoMA

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 (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. 

photo: New York Historical Society

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 

A-MAZE-D at 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. Admission includes access to the ColorLab art studio, where families have the opportunity to explore printmaking, collage and sculpture projects inspired by artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Richard Hunt, Faith Ringgold and Kehinde Wiley, among others. You must make a timed reservation for a three-hour visit. Do that here.

Visiting for a limited time is A-MAZE-D, a maze created from corrugated cardboard boxes that transforms the museum's second-floor Exhibit Gallery into a twisting and turning adventure made up of winding corridors and tunnels. It's a full-body experience for visitors of all ages, with special areas designated for the smallest visitors. A painted cityscape sets the backdrop for the built environment, with visitors seeing NYC landmarks at every turn. The exhibit is created in partnership with artist and puzzlemaker Dave Phillips.

Sat. & Sun. and select holidays.; Thursdays, 2-5 p.m., pay what you wish
Tickets: $13
145 Brooklyn Ave. 
Crown Heights

photo: Rubin Museum

Mandala Lab at the Rubin Museum

Unlike other museums, this exhibit is meant to turn the focus on the viewer. It guides visitors through meditative practices and encourages them to dig deep and get in touch with their emotions. The exhibit provides activities to teach one how to channel any negative feelings through positive outlets in order to encourage personal growth and wisdom. Mandalas are meant to provide a point of focus so one can free themselves of the thoughts of daily life. There are also meditation rooms and spiritual gongs partly submerged in water to help center the mind. Advance reservation is required. 

Tickets: $19/adults; $14/students; free/kids 12 and under, and Fridays, 6-10 p.m.
Closed, Mon.-Wed. 
150 W. 17th St. 

photo: New York City Transit Museum

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. **Note that starting September 1, the New York Hall of Science will be open Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.**

Tickets: $25/adult. $20/children
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St., Queens

photo: Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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 
Brooklyn Museum 
200 Eastern Pkwy.

photo: D. Finnin/© AMNH

The Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History

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 museum's classics such as the  Blue Whale and the world-famous dinosaurs, special exhibits on view at the museum are The Nature of Color (closes December 5) 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


Liberty Science Center: SUE: The T. Rex Experience

The Summer of Dinos at Liberty Science Center is winding down, but SUE: The T. Rex Experience, is hanging around through January 2022. The exhibit is 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. (It's named after the scientist, Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990.) 

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


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 seven days a week, 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
Pier 86
West 46th St. & 12th Ave.
Midtown Manhattan

photo: The Muppets Studio LLC

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. Get yours here!

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave.

photo: CMOM

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. 

Visits to the museum are capped at two hours, and must be booked in advance. During that time, your family can explore all the exhibits at the museum, and take part in educator-led activities such as storytime, an art scavenger hunt, themed art projects and music and dance-time. 

The museum is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday - Sunday. 

Tickets: $15/kids and adults; $12/seniors, free/infants and members  
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 W. 83rd St.
Upper West Side

photo: Michael Brosilow

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


photo: Museum of Ice Cream NYC

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
558 Broadway

photo: Sloomoo Institute

Sloomoo Institute

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.  

Sloomoo Institute 
475 Broadway

photo: Museum of Illusions

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.

photo: AKC/David Woo

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

feature image: ©AMNH/R. Mickens

—Elba Rodriguez


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