Here is a rundown of our favorite family programs at museums throughout New York City. Most of them are FREE with admission—two of them even include FREE museum admission! These programs are a great way to spend a few hours indoors this season, and you can always explore the rest of the museum before or after! Kids can follow their imaginations and let their creative juices flow, while learning new skills and fun facts in each and every venue on this list.
For more museum fun (and to see cute pics of younger G at play in museums around town), read all about our 14 Museums to Explore This Summer: Kid-tested, Parent Approved Museums That You Will Both Enjoy. This is a list that applies to the winter time as well!
And, as always, don't forget to follow along with our adventures on Instagram!
1. MoMA Family Art Lab and Tours for families
11 West 53rd Street
The MoMA recently re-opened after an expansion and renovation. So, why not explore the “new” MoMA and visit the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Family Art Lab?
Entry to the art lab is free with museum admission ($25 for adults and, free for kids 16 and under), and it’s open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Fridays until 6:30 p.m. Currently, kids can create sculptures at different stations, play with toys, and read a vast collection of art-inspired books. We have stopped into the lab for an hour and we have also spent a few hours in the lab solo and with friends. We started coming to the lab when G was two, and we often see older kids creating masterpieces. The art projects are self-guided so I would recommend this for ages 2 -12.
We love the family art tours at MoMA as well, and the educators who lead them are very engaging towards both kids and their grown-ups. You can find a schedule of family tours here.
2. The Met Fifth Avenue Start with Art and Art Trek
Start with Art is recommended for ages 3-6, but if your child is slightly younger and interested in art, I would encourage you to try it. Young art appreciators are led through a mini tour of an allotted section of the museum, while stopping to discuss elements of different works of art. After brief discussions, kids are given the chance to create drawings based on the theme of their discussions. The kids are always very focused and look like young art students sketching in the little booklets provided by the museum. You can also read about the new programs Start with Art and Music and Art Trek (for kids ages 7-11). These programs are all free with admission, and you can find the schedules here. Admission to The Met Fifth Avenue is pay-what-you-wish for all New York State residents as well as NY, NJ, and CT students. Otherwise, general admission is $25 for adults, $12 for students and free for children under 12.
99 Gansevoort Street
Again, this Open Studio is free with admission ($25 for adults and free for kids under 18), and it is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am - 3:00 pm. Every week, a new project is led by educators based on the current exhibits in the museum. Sometimes, guest artists and authors will drop in to lead a project inspired by their work. While the studio provides the inspiration and educators to help along the way, the projects appeal to a wide range of ages. G has made papier mache sculptures, water color paintings, and more.
150 West 17th Street
Every Sunday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, families with kids ages 3 and up can drop in for FREE to create art based on current exhibitions in the museum, and then take a free family tour from 2:00 pm -2:30 pm. The entire experience is FREE. The last time we went, G created a Rangoli with special paint to celebrate Diwali. We found the tour to be very educational and the guide was great about stopping to answer questions and open up a discussion along the way.
5. Museum of Arts and Design Studio Sunday
2 Columbus Circle
Every first Sunday during select months, families with kids ages 5 and up can visit the studio to participate in a project led by the museum artists-in-residence. Upcoming projects include upcycling your own clothing with embroidery and other embellishments and clay self-portraits. The last time we went, recently, G decorated a tote bag with fabric scraps, feathers, and gems inspired by the Anna Sui exhibit. We then enjoyed the Anna Sui exhibit afterwards. This program is free with admission ($18 for adults and free for children 18 and under).
1071 Fifth Avenue
If you have read up to here, you know the drill; drop into the studio and create art based on current exhibits. The studio is open to families with kids ages 3 and up, and is free with admission ($25 for adults, kids under 12 are free and $18 for students). The first time we visited the Open Studio, G truly recreated her feelings through art. She set a square of oak tag ablaze with fiery red and maroon paint and created a woodblock print that represented the fury she was about to unleash on her poor unsuspecting parents. Let’s just say she may have thrown a loud mega tantrum in the café after we tried to appease her with a chocolate chip cookie. She then passed right out during the bus ride home, holding on tight to her furious red print. Saturday Sketching, Little Guggs, and other family programs can be found here.
7. Children’s Museum of the Arts Under 5s Drop-Ins
103 Charlton Street
We adore this program, and detailed it in our post about a fun gallery day we had when G was three. This museum is amazing. Please bring your kids for a visit if you have not done so already. There is so much to explore. Our first visit here was a Under 5s Drop In play date where G created art at different stations, played with flubber, participated in musical story time, then took a spin in the swirl studio. She left with the art she created, then we ate lunch at Westville across the street. This program is $30 per family (up to 5 members), and takes place Monday-Friday from 10:45 a.m. – noon.
8. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Musuem Drop In On Design
2 East 91st Street
On Saturdays from 11:00 – 3:00 pm, families with kids age 5 and up can drop in and take a free design workshop. Admission to the museum is $16 for adults if purchased online ($18 if purchased at the museum). Kids 18 and under are free. We love exploring this museum, and one of the biggest draws is the beautiful Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, located on the 90th Street side of the museum. We love grabbing sandwiches from the museum’s Taralucci e Vino café and eating them outside in the garden.
9. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling PLAYDATE
898 St. Nicholas Avenue
This museum is an absolute treasure. We have so many fun memories here of G creating art, meeting children’s book authors, participating in movement workshops, and watching compelling performances. Once a month, on chosen Sundays, the museum opens its doors to families for a FREE (10:00 am – 5:00 pm) full day of art-making, story-telling, workshops, and fun performances. The last time we came, G had a conversation with artist and author Faith Ringgold. Two years ago, before G’s very first day of school ever, we created her “first day of school” sign in the art lab at this very museum. Go, and create some memories of your own!
10. The Jewish Museum Studio Art Sessions, Dig Drop-In, and Concerts
1109 Fifth Avenue
Two years ago, when G was two, we came here after purchasing tickets for a Funkey Monkeys concerts. We had to pay the museum admission ($18 for adults, free for kids 18 and under) in addition to cost of the concert tickets. G was lukewarm about the concert, but I found it pretty entertaining. Click here for the family concert schedule. After the concert, G absolutely loved participating the Studio Art Session where she made a paper crown, and she loved playing in the Dig Drop-In. Both the Studio and the Dig are free with admission and recommended for kid ages 3 and up. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the in-house Russ and Daughters.