14 Museums to Explore This Summer: Kid-tested, Parent Approved Museums That You Will Both Enjoy

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

We love museums all year round, but these are our favorites from this summer so far. I also happened to sign up for the IDNYC this May, and reaped the benefits of a few free annual museum memberships that are included in the perks of having the ID. Read on to find out which ones.

Colorful installation in the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling entrance

Collaborative painting in the Studio Lab

Fishing game in the Studio Lab

Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago

Kelly Kelly performing for the Sugar Hill block party audience

1. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling

*Free membership with IDNYC

This museum truly sparks the imagination, and it made it to our 23 Things to do This Summer post. The first time we went, Curious G spent a couple of hours in the Studio Lab, where kids can create art and music, and experiment with other fun items. The story time held in the lab was fun and interactive as well. This summer, we went on a Thursday night when they host block parties. During the party, museum admission is free, and we had the chance to check out the current exhibits and play in the studio lab. Outside, where the festivities were taking place, we made creative accessories with mixed materials, C.G. created a sun print, enjoyed a concert by Kelly Kelly, and cooled off with ices from Lady Lexis Sweets. Check the website for other events because they host them often, and the kids love them.

Th Art Lab at the MoMA

Creating scenery for a mini-sized park with mixed materials

Creating a celestial mobile

This table holds some fascinating treasures

Andy Warhol camouflage dominoes

2. MoMA

*Free membership with IDNYC

We like to visit MoMA regularly, so this summer we went straight to the Art Lab. Since I signed up for the free membership we can always go back to check out the rest of the exhibits another time. Also, kids 16 and under are free and on Fridays the admission is pay what you want from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. (FYI, I have also signed up for museum admission via Kidpass in the past). We like to walk through the sculpture garden to access the Art Lab, but you can also take the elevator to the second floor and walk through the gift shop and past the café to get there. The theme of the lab is nature, and every activity in there links art and nature in some way. The wall, as you enter, is lined with themed cabinets filled with surprises and fun activity kits that you can take back to a table with you to complete. Curious G constructed a celestial mobile during our last visit, created trees and flowers out of mixed media, looked at shells and bones under a magnifying glass, and played with the toys on the shelves. We spent about two hours in the lab. There are teachers on site to help out as well.

Dragon tales at MOCA

Checking out the MOCA apothecary

Playing around in the Chinatown Learning Center and Collections Hub

The Noodle Cart in the Chinatown Learning Center and Collections Hub

Dress Up Items and Vintage Sewing Machine = Mini Project Runway contestant

3. Museum of Chinese in American

*Free Membership with IDNYC

This discreet museum, tucked away on Centre Street, currently has an intriguing exhibit on Chinese medicine. Both Curious G and I enjoyed it, but I did a fair share of (semi-awkward) explaining throughout the exhibit. The permanent exhibit is an interesting look at the Chinese experience in America. C.G. loved roaming through the Chinese apothecary set up. She also loved studying the Chinese Dragon head and costume hanging from the ceiling. There is a Children’s Room (a.k.a. The Chinatown Learning Center and Collections Hub) downstairs, where we sat for story time and arts and crafts. Afterwards, C.G. played dress up, toyed around with the vintage sewing machine and played noodle vendor, shop keeper, and taxi driver in the city block set up. Check the site for other family events.

Discovery Center at American Museum of Natural History

One of Curious G's favorite finds in this comprehensive dresser of scientific gems

Reptiles, insects, and other creatures for kids to peruse at their own leisure...the microscope gave me a compehensive (and somewhat undesirable lol) look at the pores on my hand

The splashpad outside the museum

4. American Museum of Natural History

*Free membership with IDNYC

We have been to this museum a countless number of times since Curious G started walking because there are endless points of interest and hours of amusement available for kids and adults; but this summer we discovered the Discovery Room (Curious G could spend a whole month in this room and never get bored), and enjoyed the Unseen Oceans exhibit. One of these days, we will make it to the planetarium! In the meantime, both the Discovery Room and Unseen Oceans will be on our list to revisit again and again while we can.

Interactive Mural Making at Museum of the City of New York

Curious G seeing herself in a NYC neighborhhood "from the future"

All about NYC

A sculpture from The Marvelous Sugar Baby Installation by Kara Walker

Conservatory Garden in Central Park

5. Museum of the City of New York

*Free membership with IDNYC

The subject matter in this museum is quite mature, and presents many teaching moments. It is fascinating to learn so much about our city's past, present, and future. We went on a weekday when they had mural making materials in the main entrance, which Curious G spent about half an hour working on. Upcoming events, which are hosted both indoors and outdoors, can be found here. The exhibit room that houses displays on urban planning includes a fun interactive screen that projects your own image onto virtual city designs which re-imagine various diverse neighborhoods throughout the city. After spending about two hours in the museum (with a snack stop at Chalsty's Cafe featuring Amy's Bread on the third floor), we headed to the Conservatory Garden across the street in Central Park to roam among the beautiful blooms and make wishes in the fountains and lotus ponds.

The Rainbow Tunnel at the Brooklyn Children's Museum

The wigwam on the rooftop pavillion

Color Cove

Water works

6. Brooklyn Children’s Museum

*Free membership with IDNYC

We love this museum so much, that we may have to move closer to it in order to maximize the membership that we signed up for via IDNYC. You can read about our favorite parts of the museum here.

Heavenly Bodies at the Met

We Come in Peace on the Met rooftop

I Love New York

Just chilling

7. The Met

The Met also made it to our 23 Things to do This Summer for its Start with Art free event, which takes place on Thursday afternoons. However, every summer we always go for the Costume Institute exhibit and then spend time taking in the views on the rooftop. This year, the sculptures elicited a few questions from Curious G that were met with pause, but we still enjoyed looking at them and, as always, stared at beautiful Central Park from above. Our trips to the Met often end up with lunch at Pizza Beach or Calexico. This year we went to an amazing event at the Park Avenue Armory after our visit to The Met.

Natural Beauty at The Met Cloisters

Strolling through Heather Garden

Natural Beauty...and the flowers ain't too shabby either. Kidding.

This Viktor and Rolf piece was just the tip of the iceberg for the Heavenly Bodies exhibit here. The whole exhibit throughout the museum will be forever seared into my memory.

8. The Met Cloisters

This branch of the Met is a must this summer, and it’s also fabulous to visit in the Fall. Read all about our visit here. You can make an entire day out of this visit by exploring Fort Tryon before or after the museum, where the scenery is unmatched.

Harmony of Spheres at MoMath

Triking it

Not certain she was looking in the right place, but she was really into it

Making patterns

9. MoMath

MoMath is a fun and fascinating place to visit, where kids and adults can expand and test their math skills with interactive exhibits. Read all about our visit here. Since the museum is right on the Northern side of Madison Square Park, you can roam freely in the playground right before or after, and grab a meal at Shake Shack.

Making a beautiful mess in Children's Museum of the Arts

Musical story time

Stairway to the Swirl Studio

Great teachers kept up the participation from the kids

10. Children's Museum of the Arts

We absolutely cannot get enough of this museum partially because of the drop-in classes for kids 5 and under on weekday mornings. Older kids can also participate in art projects, the sound lab, media room, clay bar, and animation studio. This summer we dropped in a few times, and you can read all about one of our days at Children’s Museum of the Arts followed by some gallery hopping here.

Open Studio at Whitney

Color inspiration for the kids

The outdoor sculptures are always fun

Zoe Leonard

11. Whitney Museum of American Art

The Open Studio for kids at the Whitney is very engaging for kids and parents. It takes place on the weekends, and is free with museum admission. The first time we went, the room was fairly empty so Curious G had the pleasure of receiving the full attention of a teacher who showed her numerous painting techniques (her favorite being splashing paint onto paper a la Jackson Pollock). The last time we went, the authors of the book These Colors Are Bananas were there to guide kids through a mixed media art project.

19th Century Sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum

Beautiful Facade of Brooklyn Museum

Found in the Design Hall

Nam June Paik

12. Brooklyn Museum

This museum is one of the country's oldest and largest art museums, and it is right next to The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Public Library, and a fabulous playground in Prospect Park. Read all about our day here, which naturally ended with ice cream at nearby Blue Marble.

One of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces

This spiral really never gets old

Dongfan Chan wind up toys


13. Guggenheim

Curious G’s first visit to the Solomon R. Guggenheim last year ended with a bus nap, which meant that she was exhausted because she never falls asleep on the bus. I’m chalking it up to the unusual layout of the Frank Lloyd Wright- designed museum that just kind of blew her mind. She also made wood prints in the Open Studio for families (free with admission every Sunday 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm), so she could have also exhausted her creative energy, which zapped her into slumber. This summer, we enjoyed making our way up the winding path while looking at Giacometti sculptures and checking out the One Hand Clapping exhibit, where Curious G played with wind up toys (When can your child ever play with art in the Guggenheim?! It was interesting…and we did confirm with the guard that it was allowed), and we all enjoyed watching the film, Asia One by Cao Fei.

Samantha Littman at Museum of Art and Design

La Palapa by Tanya Aguiniga

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary

Thought Provoking questions with every other step

14. Museum of Art and Design

* Free membership with IDNYC

We came here on a day when Curious G was not in the mood for a museum geared more towards adults. I found the exhibits fascinating. The artists’ aesthetics were right up my alley (read: lots of color and a variety of textures, rolled into worldly topics that are relevant to current events). Curious G, however, wanted to grab everything and talk to every museum go-er that made eye contact with her. She was in rare form; which is why, it was great when we stumbled into the Artists Studio on the top floor where Cynthia Alberto was conducting a weaving session. While this was a private event, the attendees kindly let C.G. practice weaving a beautifully embroidered ribbon and thick pink yarn on the giant upright loom. During regular Artists Studio hours, the general public is invited to observe and interact with an intriguing line up of artists.

The Escher Perspective Room

Escher Spiral

Bonus: Escher The Exhibition and Experience

While this is not technically a museum, it was a great exhibit to check out this summer (it runs through February 2019), and we rolled it into a day of family fun at Industry City, which is a must-do this summer. Check out how why it's a must-do this summer here.

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