A Parents’ Guide into Navigating New York City Art Museums with Kids
We have all been there- you decide to spend the day at one of the many museums in the city, as NYC has no shortage of art museums. Perhaps you want to check out an exhibit or have you and the kids stare away at a Monet. And we are lucky- our city is full of the best museums in the world and visiting one is an educational day out for all. Plus, bringing your kids to museums comes with a whole host of benefits. It encourages a love of learning, develops their curiosity and critical thinking skills and inspires them to create independently!
But also, kids are kids and not all may want to hang out for hours. This is why we have our own personal tips coupled with representatives (from the most visited art museums in New York City) insider tips. We’ve gathered these helpful tips as well as the best offerings/programs for families and kids to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
Here’s a guide to New York City art museums for kids and families!
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Open Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday, 10 am to 5 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm
A New York staple, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) showcases over 5,000 years of art from around the world. The Met has a wide variety of programs for kids and their families to help them engage with the art, like story times, art treks around the museum, family afternoons and more. They also offer an audio guide for kids, which includes thirteen tours with kid-targeted messages for artworks throughout the major areas of the museum.
The Met is pretty vast and if you have young kids they may get a bit exhausted , we suggest checking online and mapping out what floors and wings you would like to visit. A few favorites are the Egyptian Art Wing, European Paintings and not to be missed is the ongoing exhibit, “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room.”
Your kids can even explore the Met from home! #MetKids is a digital feature where kids can learn about the museum’s works of art, watch behind the scenes videos and even get inspired to make art of their own.
Tip: Tickets for New York State residents and New York, New Jersey and Connecticut students are pay what you wish!
Open Sunday through Friday, 10:30 am to 5:30 pm; Saturday 10:30 am to 7 pm , Kids under age 16 are free
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is committed to sharing modern and contemporary art with visitors. When visiting galleries as a family with kids, try turning your visit into a search-and-find experience. Look for people and places on Floor 5, lines, shapes and colors on Floor 4 and interesting materials on Floor 2.
The MoMA, while rich with art that adults appreciate, can be a lot for kids, especially young ones. This doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy this amazing museum. We suggest you stay for a short time if bringing young kids and sticking to art that they may gravitate towards like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and Pablo Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror– both on the 5th floor. Since kids under age 16 are free you can visit this museum a few times a year and explore a new section at each visit! Definitely check out the MoMA’s Kid’s Activity Guide. They offer movement, writing and drawing activities to do in front of artworks.
While you’re visiting, be sure to visit the Heyman Family Art Lab, where families can create art by drawing, working with wire, engaging in light-box play and more.
Tip: Looking to take a break during your visit? Spend some time in the Sculpture Garden or in the lounges throughout the museum.
Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10:30 am to 6 pm; Friday, 10:30 am to 10 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm. Kids admission is free
Located in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the Whitney Museum of American Art displays a collection of twentieth-century and contemporary American art. One of the ways that the Whitney strives to make their collection more accessible to children is through their kids guides. Available in English and Spanish, the guides contain descriptions of artworks that could be interesting to children. They share information about the art (including the title, artist and what the piece is about) and invite visitors, especially children, to imagine themselves as an artist by thinking about questions and even giving them the opportunity to create artwork of their own.
Whether you are visiting for the first time or the tenth, the views from the terraces as well as from the picturesque widows within the museum are pure wow!
Additionally, the Whitney has an ongoing program called Open Studio for kids. Families and kids have the opportunity to create their own works inspired by what’s on view in the museum.
Tip: Cris Scorza, head of education at the Whitney, says families should bring a snack, maybe a pack of colored pencils and a notepad and, most importantly, an open mind when visiting as a family.
Open Sunday through Friday, 11 am to 6 pm; Saturday 11 am to 8 pm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collects, preserves and interprets modern and contemporary art. The Guggenheim offers programming for children and families. For example, students in third to fifth grades can explore and create art in the Art After School program. There’s programming for older kids too. GuggTeens give teens the opportunity to learn about museum operations from a variety of different perspectives. Families visiting can use the kids audio guides to learn about different artworks.
Tip: Download family-friendly Art Kit activity sheets to encourage your kids to create their own art!
Open Thursday through Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm
While the Frick Collection’s historic buildings are closed for renovation for the time being, you can still visit Frick Madison to explore artworks from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. This is a great choice if you’re looking for something to do with older kids– children under 10 are not admitted.
Tip: The Frick Collection offers pay what you will admission on Thursday evenings from 4 pm to 6 pm!
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm
The Brooklyn Museum’s mission is to connect visitors with art in a way that changes how they see themselves and the world. First Saturdays are a staple. Visitors of all ages from Brooklyn and beyond can enjoy free programming once a month. Keep an eye out for Stroller Tours, an interactive stroller-friendly tour designed for children up to 24 months old. It features touchable objects, music and an opportunity for parents to connect with each other.
Current exhibits the family will enjoy “Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls” and “Monet to Morisot: The Real and Imagined in European Art.”
Tip: Looking for a way to enhance your day in Brooklyn? Stop by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden after visiting the Brooklyn Museum! Buy a Museum & Garden Pass to visit both spots on the same day.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm
The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ collection includes over two thousand works of art. Be sure to check out “Michael Richards: Are You Down?”, the first museum retrospective on the visionary artwork of Michael Richards. Keep an eye on the museum’s website for upcoming exhibitions and events!
Tip: Admission is always free!
Open Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm; Friday through Monday, 10 am through 5 pm
The Museum of the City of New York gives visitors the opportunity to celebrate the city’s past, present and future. They offer programming for families. Exhibitions on view will give kids an opportunity to learn about the city. There’s also a Kids Create series, where kids have the chance to take part in interactive art-making activities.
Tip: If you’re looking for a unique tour, check out the 80s-themed scavenger hunt that will take you and your family through all three floors of the museum.
Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays through Sundays, 11 am to 6 pm; Thursday, 11 am to 9 pm
The New Museum is a contemporary art museum in Manhattan’s lower east side. Their goal is to create a dialogue between the public and contemporary artists.
While you’re there, also be sure to check out the 7th floor Sky Room. The floor to ceiling windows and balcony offer beautiful views of Downtown Manhattan that anyone of any age can enjoy.
Keep an eye out for the museum’s Family Days! These events include free admission to all exhibitions for kids and two adults per family and art-making activities at extended morning hours. If you can’t make it on Family Day, don’t worry: entry to the New Museum is always free for anyone under 18. The museum also offers a Kids Menu newsletter, so you can keep up to date with all of the museum’s offerings for kids and families.
Tip: Visit the galleries on weekdays for a quieter, more intimate experience. Go to the front desk for packets that include large print wall labels and stools.