After a few family trips, we have found a cache of fun museums in New York City that are perfect for families (and adults!) With so much to do and see in NYC, you may wonder whether a museum is the best use of your time. New York has some of the best museums in the world, and even with a packed itinerary, there are some you just can’t miss! Some on this list aren’t even what you would typically consider to be a “museum” – no stuffy exhibits or pre-recorded videos. Today’s New York City museums provide an immersive experience, an engaging visit, and some even include sweet treats.
I’ve compiled a list of our favorite fun museums in New York below, including some that we have visited multiple times! Read on for all the details on where to go, what ages will enjoy each museum, and practical tips to get the most out of your visit.
The best part? Several of our favorite museums are part of CityPASS – if you plan ahead and purchase a CityPASS, you can get access to 5 amazing New York sights at 40% off. Automatically included in the New York CityPASS is the American Museum of Natural History (our review on this is below!) and you can choose to add as one of your 3 additional sights the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museuem (also reviewed below) and several other museums we love, including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (covered in our New York with Kids guide).
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If your kid likes things that go zoom, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is a must-do. The museum itself is a decommissioned Naval aircraft carrier, and the size is just unbelievable! You can go onto the flight deck and see dozens of historical planes, including a B52 bomber, experimental planes, and a Blue Angels jet. You can go inside the carrier and experience what life was like as a sailor on a deployment.
The Intrepid Air, Sea, and Space Museum is home to an immense collection of aircraft and naval vessels, including the famous space shuttle, USS Intrepid itself and the Concorde. As a family-friendly destination spot, it packs in plenty of interactive exhibits and activities for kids and adults alike. If you’re looking for a fun and educational day trip, here is a complete guide to things to do and see at the Intrepid Air, Sea, and Space Museum in New York City.
We liked the one-way tour up and through the Intrepid, but my kids didn’t love going to the main level. There was a movie playing in part of the main level that had loud, scary sounds and accompanying flashing lights. My younger son wanted to leave immediately and both kids were kind of worried the ship was under attack or something. There was lots to see and do on this level, but unfortunately it was too scary for them to stay inside for long. This might be better for older kids or timing your visit between showings of the film.
Other suggestions at the museum:
1. Visit the Space Shuttle Enterprise – The Enterprise was a prototype and never actually took astronauts to space, but that doesn’t make it any less awe-inspiring. We loved visiting the Endeavor at the California Science Center in LA, so we jumped at the chance to see another of these beauties! Visitors can witness how astronauts lived and worked up in space, plus the history of the NASA program. My younger son was sorely tempted to touch the shuttle, which you can just about do by going up on a viewing platform near its nose. This is also the best spot for pictures!
2. Step inside a Nuclear Submarine – Visitors can explore the historic submarine USS Growler, which was decommissioned in 1964. This was my favorite part of the Intrepid Air, Sea, and Space Museum. I had never been inside a submarine before, and it was a little spooky thinking that you stood just feet from where nuclear warheads used to rest. You can walk through the submarine and see how its 65-crew operated in the tight space. Kids will enjoy climbing through the submarine and seeing the torpedoes and engine room up close.
There are some tight spaces and there can be a long line to enter the sub, so plan ahead about if this is a good add-on for your family. All visitors have to prove that they can climb through the submarine openings unassisted before they are allowed inside. My 6 year old and 9 year old were able to do this just fine, but younger than 5 would likely not be able to do it. Strollers and mobility devices are not allowed inside.
3. Get on Board the Concorde – Visitors can embark on a VIP tour of the Concorde plane, which was able to fly at twice the speed of sound. The tour includes stories of how it came to be, as well as walking through the plane’s interior. You can even sit in the pilot’s seat like you are about to take off to a destination somewhere abroad. I had really wanted to see this part of the museum but it was sold out when we booked our tickets. Plan ahead if you want to do this!
Practical Information – The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, closing early on Mondays and for select holidays. General admission is available to all, with prices ranging from $26 per adult and $19 for kids (ages 5-17). Or you can include Intrepid as one of the attractions included in the New York CityPASS, which can save you 40% on a bundle of 5 attractions. Additional VIP, private, or guided tour options are available for those interested in a more customized experience. If you’re interested in the add-ons like the Concorde, book early. I debated which day was best for our visit, and by the time I actually booked, the Concorde tour was sold out. You can buy the submarine add-on the same day, but the Concorde sells out early.
One of the best museums in the city for interactive exhibits is the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC). We checked it out on our last trip to New York. We were looking to find something similar to the Color Factory, which we loved when we visited in 2019. Yes, you can learn about some of the history of ice cream, but mostly this is not a museum…it is an indoor interactive space that both the kids and parents enjoyed. MOIC was built for Instagram, with beautiful spaces just asking to be photographed. Inside, you will wind from room to room, visiting places like a retro arcade, a play structure with swings and a jungle gym, go down a 2-story slide, and end with a visit to the sprinkle pool.
Both kids went crazy for the sprinkle pool, ending our visit sweaty and exhilarated and not at all ready to leave. The energy and vibe of Museum of Ice Cream was infectious – I found myself playing like a kid and eating things I haven’t had since childhood, like cotton candy. It was a ton of fun for all of us, and though they definitely have a lot for families to enjoy, there were plenty of groups of adults enjoying themselves as much as the kids.
My food-allergic son was able to eat most of the ice cream options, though there was no real signage to help navigate the allergies. My husband accidentally ate some “birthday cake” ice cream that had some actual cake in it, so it was a miss with his gluten allergy. Though the person working the station told us the flavors, we didn’t necessarily recognize that this flavor would have pieces of cake in it as opposed to flavoring. It would have been an easy and meaningful improvement to list allergens at the ice cream stations.
We first visited the Color Factory on our trip in 2019, and the boys were eager to revisit it on our 2023 trip, so we booked a return trip! The exhibits were largely the same as when we went the first time, which was fine with us! The Color Factory, similar to the Museum of Ice Cream, is an interactive museum with a heavy dose of Insta-worthy backgrounds. While the Museum of Ice Cream focuses more on pure fun, the Color Factory aims to be a bit more educational, with exhibits exploring the symbology of color and its role in culture. A lot of the more artsy aspects of this museum didn’t quite hit for me, but largely the kids loved it. They particularly enjoyed the music room with xylophones in different colors.
My favorite rooms were the cherry blossom confetti room, which I think changes seasonally (this was different from the time we visited before), and the silent disco, where visitors get a pair of headphones and enter a disco-ball-infused dance floor. Everyone hears the same music, but without disturbing the larger group. It was a ton of fun.
Lastly, similar to the Museum of Ice Cream, the Color Factory ends with a massive ball pit, where my kids could have spent hours pelting each other with balls and going down the slide.
Unlike the Museum of Ice Cream, the Color Factory had some whole sections of the experience that really felt like they were just there to be a backdrop to photos. I loved that they had photo stations set up and that you could engage with the selfie stations via QR code – and really, the Museum of Ice Cream should have invested in this as well! It made for adorable photos and we all had a lot of fun with it.
Overall, the Color Factory makes our list as one of the best places for kids in the city and I highly recommend it!
The American Museum of Natural History, located on Central Park West, is one of the largest and most famous museums in the world. Founded in 1869, it contains 28 interconnected buildings with over 33 million specimens, including dinosaur fossils, gems, and rare animals. The museum offers a wide variety of exhibits and activities to enjoy as a family, such as a planetarium, the butterfly conservatory, and the showstopper – dinosaurs!
The Natural History Museum is enormous, and you definitely need a plan for visiting it. If possible, plan ahead by looking at the major halls that house the permanent collection and picking your favorites. For instance, the blue whale replica and the dinosaurs were ones we knew we wanted to visit, and I booked tickets for the planetarium show as well. We focused first on the areas we knew we would want to see, because past experience showed us that you can quickly get overwhelmed and a little bored looking at gallery after gallery of taxidermied animals. The natural world is quite big, after all!!
Since dinosaurs are one of the major draws at this museum, let’s take a moment to cover them. The Dinosaur Halls showcase over 600 fossils and life-size dinosaur models, including a massive Titanosaurus. On our 2019 visit, my then-4-year-old was so excited to see the dinosaurs but then got overstimulated by the amount of noise and people in the rooms. This time around, at 6 years old, he did fine.
Another popular exhibit is the Hall of Biodiversity, which showcases the complexity and beauty of the planet’s ecosystems. It also highlights the impact of climate change on our planet’s biodiversity. This one seemed to be a newer part of the museum and had some interactive displays to it that other parts of the museum did not have.
Another must-visit section is the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which houses the Hayden Planetarium. This planetarium features a state-of-the-art virtual reality space theater that immerses visitors in the wonders of outer space. We saw the Worlds Beyond Earth show in the planetarium and it was stunning. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was immersive, beautiful, and very educational. If you have issues with motion sickness, you may need to close your eyes at times – I definitely got a little queasy at moments with how 3D feeling the show was! it is really one of the most special exhibitions I have seen at a museum and it was well worth visiting, even at an additional cost.
Practical details: The museum is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:45 pm, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. General admission tickets are reasonably priced at $23 for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $13 for children aged 2 to 12. However, the museum offers many different ticket options, including discounted tickets for groups of ten or more and a pay-what-you-wish admission policy on a designated day of the week.
You get this museum included automatically if you buy a CityPASS, which is $138 for adults and $118 for children, which is a 40% savings if you add up the admission prices for the 5 attractions included. You can use the CityPASS for 9 consecutive days, and there are options for shorter trips or to get all possible attractions included for additional savings.
Finally, visitors can take advantage of VIP or private tour options for a more exclusive and in-depth museum experience. The museum offers guided tours, which explore the highlights of the museum’s exhibitions and collections. Visitors can also book tours with specialized themes, such as the museum’s famous dinosaurs or biodiversity.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commonly known as the Met, is one of the most iconic museums in the world. It is also one of the largest museums, with over 2 million works of art including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from all over the globe. It’s recommended to set aside an entire day to explore the various exhibitions and galleries of the Met. Additionally, the museum offers family programs and interactive art-viewing experiences for children.
In our 2019 visit, my then-4-year-old didn’t have much patience for art, but we did find some things he loved. We didn’t get back on our most recent trips, but I maintain that the Met is one of the most fun museums in New York, with its Egyptian temple and the room with armor and weaponry. This one is a must-see for kids.
Another of the highlights for us is the Piet Mondrian collection, especially his Composition with Red Blue and Yellow. My kids studied Mondrian and made their own versions of this famous painting when we homeschooled, and it was super special to view it in person. Because the design and colors are simple, this is an easy worldschooling activity families could do at home prior to a trip. Paint your own, and then see the masterpiece in person!
Other collections that make the Met one of the best art museums in the world include:
1. Egyptian Art
The Met’s Egyptian art collection is hard to miss, with plenty of artifacts and mummies on display. You and your kids can explore ancient hieroglyphics, statues, and coffins that date back thousands of years. A must-see is the Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian temple that was relocated to the Met in the 1970s.
2. The Met Cloisters
If you and your little ones want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head out to The Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. This museum focuses on medieval art and architecture, and the kids will enjoy exploring the tranquil gardens and courtyards. You can also visit The Cloisters for free with a same-day admission ticket to the central Met Museum on Fifth Avenue.
3. American Wing
Travel back in time to explore America’s own artistic heritage at the American Wing. You can see iconic works like Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, and John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. This is an excellent option for families who want to see iconic American art.
4. Kids Fun Tour
The museum offers many educational activities for young visitors, and the Kids Fun Tour is one of them. This self-guided audio tour, narrated by museum educators, takes your kids on a fun and educational journey through the museum. With quizzes, games, and fun facts, your kids are sure to enjoy this tour. We didn’t get a chance to do this one, but we will definitely look for it and other educational programs on our next visit!
5. Private Tours
If you really want to indulge in the wealth of art and mysteries held at the Met, you might want to consider a private tour. The museum offers specialized tours like “Artists of the Met,” “Badge of Honor,” and “The Art of Food and Drink” among others. You can also get access to areas and collections that are not open to the public. If you’re not able to snag a private tour through the museum, there are several excellently-rated private tours offered through independent tour operators.
6. Old Masters
The Met has a stunning collection of some of the most famous painters in the world, from Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses to Monet’s Water Lilies to Renoir and Degas and more. The Met has some of the most well-known works of art in the world, and it can be fun for kids as well as adults with a little background in the time leading up to your visit. Try a Van Gogh paint by number activity or have them sculpt their own masterpiece from modeling clay to get them in the artistic spirit.
Let me start by saying we loved Spyscape. It is one of the coolest museums we have ever been to! This museum and interactive experience focuses on espionage and it was so much fun for everyone. You start by creating a profile and getting fitted with an RFID-enabled bracelet, which you use throughout the experience. There are kiosks dotted throughout the museum where you are challenged to solve mysteries, spot patterns, and test your risk tolerance. Your responses to all these tasks are stored and calculated to create a “spy profile” for you at the end of the experience.
Along the way, you learn about espionage in World War 2 and how the British broke German codes to get an advantage in the war. You also learn about famous spies throughout history, see modern spy techniques, and even see a car used in the James Bond movies. You can test your skills at lie detection, and
The challenges were a bit too hard for my 6 year old, but the 9 year had a blast working through them. We all loved pretending to be a spy for the day, and it was so much fun getting our spy profiles at the end. The options our family got were Intelligence Operative, Agent Handler, and Spymaster. Some of the other options are Hacker, Cryptologist, Surveillance Officer, and Special Operations Officer. Along with your profile, you get a personality analysis, sample careers that people with your skills may be successful at, and examples of real life and fictional characters who had your profile’s job.
Spyscape is super highly rated for a reason, and we would love to go back in the future. I’m sad that they don’t have other locations in the United States, because I think this would be a huge hit in other cities too! That said, it is one of the most fun museums in New York, and it is was my personal favorite of all of them on this list.
In addition to the amazing programming at Spyscape, they also had a gift shop to die for. It is full of spy gadgets, every book imaginable about the craft of espionage, and cute merchandise. It was really well curated and a great place to get some gifts for someone in your life who fancies themself an operative.
The Museum of Modern Art, located in Midtown, is the perfect spot if you love contemporary artists. This museum has an impressive collection of more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and films from the late 19th century to today. On top of this vast collection, the MoMA also offers temporary exhibitions and interactive exhibits and workshops for children and families, so make sure to check out their schedule of events before your visit.
What to do at the MoMA:
1. Explore Picasso, Monet, and Warhol
MoMA’s permanent collection boasts over 200,000 works of art, including masterpieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and Warhol. You cannot miss Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a significant painting that transformed the way people looked at art in the 20th century. The galleries also have Monet’s water lilies series and Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, giving an exceptional sense of pop art in the United States, as well as Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
2. Admire the Architecture of the Museum itself
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has undergone numerous renovations since its inception in 1929 and has always retained its status as an architectural marvel. Designed by renowned architects, including Philip Johnson and Yoshio Taniguchi, the museum has an open & fluid layout that connects the different exhibit spaces. Be sure to walk through the Sculpture Garden, the perfect place to relax and unwind amidst fine art and nature.
3. Watch a film in MoMA’s theater
MoMA’s film department features classic and contemporary works, including indie, foreign, and documentary films. The museum has a state-of-the-art theater designed to provide the best cinematic experience. If you’re visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, make sure you catch a flick and enjoy spending some time in this unique space.
4. Take a guided tour to learn even more!
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City offers a variety of tours guide by knowledgeable docents who can take you through the galleries and provide insightful information about the artwork displayed. Visitors can choose a private tour with an art expert or take the audio-guided tour, which is available in several languages. For an immersive experience, you can even book a VIP tour that includes a visit to the museum’s conservation lab and art storage space.
Practical Information: Hours and Tickets
The Museum of Modern Art is open seven days a week. Timing varies but typically falls between 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM. The museum sells advance online tickets; however, if you don’t have one, the museum does have a limited number of tickets available for on-site purchase based on availability. General admission tickets cost $25, while senior citizens and students with ID can purchase the ticket at a discounted price of $18. New Yorkers enjoy free entry into the MoMa with ID.
I know, this one sounded dubious to me as well, but we really enjoyed it! I had been on the fence about visiting (both my kids love math and I’m always looking to turn a family vacation into a worldschooling opportunity) but a friend saw that we were in New York and asked if we had visited the Museum of Math yet. Our kids are about the same age, so I knew that if she recommended it, it had to be worth a visit!
We combined the Museum of Math with a stroll around Madison Square Park and a visit to Eataly, which I also highly recommend. We stopped first at the playground at Madison Square Park, which was totally full with kids. It skews younger, and my 9 year old got bored pretty quickly. My 6 year old was entertained for longer, but I’d say the majority of kids were in the toddler and preschool range. We then went to Eataly for brunch and some shopping, and then headed over to the Museum of Math.
Of all the NYC museums, I think this one might have the worst name. I had been picturing exhibits focused on math equations, or something equally boring. In reality, it’s more like a science center, chock full of hands-on learning and ways to experience math in the real world. Our favorite exhibits were the square trike you can ride on, the car racing activity where you move the track and try to get the fastest time, and the spatial reasoning puzzles on the lower level. The interactive floor was also a hit. This ended up being one of the best things we did, and though we experienced a lot of fun museums in New York, this one was near the top of the list. Don’t sleep on it!
We visited RiseNY on a whim, and while it makes our list of fun museums in New York, our review of it is mixed. RiseNY offers a history of New York, from its founding and the Native Americans who once inhabited Manhattan to current-day Broadway and the neighborhoods that give New York its unique character. There were lots of exhibits we loved, like getting to ring a replica stock exchange bell and seeing how skyscrapers were made. The museum is self-guided, with timed entry times. It ends with an augmented-reality ride similar to what you find at a theme park, where you soar over New York.
My 9-year-old loved the ride but my 6-year-old was terrified. I would have enjoyed it if I weren’t consoling a screaming child, and it really made you feel like you were flying between buildings and over some of the city’s greatest landmarks. I would save this museum for 8+, or they will feel let down at the most exciting part. The ride does have a 40 inch height minimum.
What we didn’t like about RiseNY was the very long wait to get to the ride. We were stuck in a line in a room about Broadway, and had to watch the same video on repeat over and over as we waited for our chance to pass through the room and into another holding area. From this line, we entered a simulated elevator ride (a moving floor and projections on the walls and ceiling). However, the simulation was that the elevator was breaking down and might free fall, which was needlessly scary for my kids. Lights flicker and alarms sound and the floor shakes and it just added nothing to our experience except to freak out the kids and eat up a little of the time you spent standing in line.
You exit the “elevator” and go into yet another room where you stand in line, until you finally can enter the ride itself.
Pro tip: The VIP tickets really do cut down on the waiting at RiseNY.
I didn’t purchase them for this visit but a big reason that our wait was so long for the ride was because anyone with VIP tickets got first priority, and everyone else filled in the open spots. It made a meaningful difference in the amount of time you were waiting and the price difference isn’t that meaningful. Regular adult tickets are $39, child tickets are $35, and VIP tickets (adult and child) are $49. If we returned, I would buy the VIP option.
This museum is exclusively for children aged six months to 10 years old. It’s located on the Upper West Side and contains five floors of interactive exhibits, including water play stations, art studios, and even a climbing structure. The museum focuses on child development and offers infant programs, early childhood literacy workshops, and other family programs.
The New York Transit Museum, located in Downtown Brooklyn, is a great place to explore the history of transportation in New York City. You can learn about the New York City subway and its evolution over the years or take a ride on an antique subway car. The museum is suitable for all ages and offers exploration of interactive exhibits on the history of public transportation in NYC.
We haven’t had time to visit everything yet, and these museums are on our future list:
- Brooklyn Museum
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- Jewish Museum
- Tenement Museum
- Museum of the Moving Image
- Whitney Museum of American Art
- Museum of the City of New York
- El Museo del Barrio
- Queens Museum
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
- Rubin Museum of Art
- Noguchi Museum
New York City has endless ways to entertain families on vacation. For those looking to be entertained AND learn something, visiting one of these fun museums in New York is a great choice. My kids say it’s impossible to pick a favorite museum, but we do have a short list of the ones we want to go back to. Spyscape, the Museum of Ice Cream, and the Met make our top list, but all 11 museums get our thumbs up.
They offer exhibits and activities that will keep both parents and children engaged and will leave you with life-long memories. Make sure to add one or two of these museums to your itinerary, and don’t forget to share your experience with us!
See what else we recommend in New York in our full itinerary for NYC with kids and check out our comparison of Aladdin vs The Lion King on Broadway – which is better for kids?