New York City is in no way an underrated destination for adults. It gets a ton of buzz, and deservingly so. It’s home to just about anything you could want in a vacation spot, and a lot more that you probably didn’t even know you wanted! But when it comes to youngsters, there’s slightly less hype surrounding the city and its vacation prospects. If you’re planning a family visit to New York City, museums are a perfect destination for an educational and fun experience that will hold kids’ attention—and one that they’ll enjoy. For a must-see in NYC, check out our top recommendations for the best museums in NYC for young children:
American Museum of Natural History
From dinosaurs and ancient cultures to distant planets and ocean life, this museum has something that will interest everyone in your family. Check out the Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls for a close-up look at minerals, meteorites, and more. Plus, you can learn more about the landscape of our own planet and the science behind it in the Biodiversity and Environment Halls, which include exhibits on nature, animals, and the local environment. If you’re interested in human history and culture, the Human Origins and Culture Halls offer insights on ancient civilizations from all over the world.
The American Museum of Natural History obviously has a lot to offer—plus, what’s better than seeing the setting of Night at the Museum firsthand? In addition to all of the amazing permanent exhibits, there are always traveling exhibits taking place. Feel free to browse on your own or follow a self-guided tour of a specific exhibit. Check out the current exhibitions here and start planning your visit today.
National Museum of Mathematics
A museum based solely on math may not sound like the most kid-friendly destination in the city, but it’s really a great choice and here’s why: This museum isn’t all about equations and variables—it highlights how math is all around us in our everyday lives, and uses games, virtual reality, and hands-on activities to learn how it all works.
Interactive exhibits allow visitors to experience concepts like tessellations, fractals, shapes, encryptions, and more firsthand. From finding the perfect mathematical arc to shoot a free throw to using math to create music, this museum is sure to have your kids (and you!) thinking about math in a whole new way. Check out the exhibit guide here to learn more.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
This museum is specifically designed with young children in mind, with interactive exhibits that are so fun, your family won’t even realize they’re learning! These exhibits include EatSleepPlay, which teaches families about living a healthier lifestyle and how the human digestive and circulatory systems work, what nutrients are, and why it’s important to eat a healthy diet, and more. Plus,the Let’s Dance! Exhibit teaches the power of movement and creativity, and the Adventures of Dora and Diego brings your kids’ favorite TV characters to life. The Children’s Museum includes all of that and much more. Here is a list of exhibitions so you can see what else the museum has to offer.
New York Hall of Science
The Hall of Science offers more than 450 interactive displays that help explain the world around us in exciting ways. Permanent exhibits include the Sports Challenge, which shows how physics, physiology, and material science work and affect everyday life while visitors try various sports and physical activities. Meanwhile, the Wild Minds exhibit uses digital media to show similarities between human and animal minds, and the Health Connection exhibit explains how evolution and natural selection affected health, illness, and prevention. Plus, if you’re planning a trip during the warmer months, the Hall of Science also has 60,000 square feet of outdoor exhibitions that allow visitors to learn, play, and get some fresh air all at the same time. Learn more about the exhibits and the museum here.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
consider visiting the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. It was the first museum in the world intended solely for kids, when it opened in 1899. Located in the Brooklyn’s happening Crown Heights neighborhood, you can bookend your family’s several-hours-long exploration of the museum exhibits (like the “Brooklyn Block Lab”, and a kid-centric look back at the borough’s fascinating history) with coffee or meals from some truly outstanding nearby restaurants, many of which feature patio dining.
Once you’ve exhausted this list of all of the museums near Times Square and beyond, there is still more to see. If you want a few other options that your kids will love, check out these bonus activities for kids that are a must-see in NYC:
The Bronx Zoo
You probably didn’t book your travel arrangements to New York City on the basis of taking in world-class wildlife. But if you’re traveling with kiddos, you ought to reconsider. Keeping things in the outer boroughs (full disclosure, this activity is not practical to cram into the same day as the Brooklyn Children’s Museum as mentioned above!), the Bronx Zoo is one of the world’s largest and best. It’s also just a simple subway ride away from Midtown Manhattan. Home to just about any exotic animal you and your family could imagine, you’ll also enjoy the stroll between exhibits, as the Zoo’s landscaping is gorgeous as well. You could make an entire day out of your Bronx Zoo visit, but if you are feeling especially bold (and the kids aren’t too tuckered out), it shares a border with the equally beautiful Bronx Botanical Garden.
For a peek into the more cinematically-featured parts of the city, head to the East Village. It’s an eclectic, always changing neighborhood that’s still managed to hold on to some of its quirky charm. This is the New York City of movies from the 1980s. But it’s also home to Dinosaur Hill, a truly unique children’s store that specializes in creativity-provoking toys and clothing, much of it handmade. Perfect for a quick souvenir purchase, and a taste of a classic New York mom and pop shop.
And if all else fails, turn to a tried-and-true activity favored by exhausted city parents for over a century. Grab a coffee for yourself, an ice cream for your kids, take a seat on a bench overlooking one of Central Park’s outstanding playgrounds, and cut the kids loose. There is no better way to ensure a tired child, ahead of a planned quiet family dinner.
As you can see, there is no shortage of activities, museums and must-sees in NYC for children. Here are some of our final tips when traveling to New York with children:
- Include hands-on interactive experiences that allow quality time as a family with children, parents and grandparents.
- Involve your children and grandchildren by asking for their wish list of what they want to do.
- Create the Itinerary first. Remember, what you do is more important than where you stay. A travel expert, can recommend options for accommodations that will maximize your time and minimize the transportation.
- Try new activities that you would not do at home to broaden your children’s horizons and bring all of you together.
- Make sure that your overview tour includes opportunities to stop and walk around the neighborhoods.
- Experiment with a variety of ethnic tastes by sampling the specialties from mom and pop venues. Please remember that formal restaurants enjoy having adults be able to dine without children. Our Beyond Times Square travel specialists know the best options for you and your family.
These tips will allow you and your kids to enjoy NYC like a native. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your next trip to make sure you explore all the must-sees in NYC, please contact our team today.