While the word "museum" might not initially set your tot's eyes (or yours, for that matter) aglow with excitement, you both might be surprised at how unstuffy a day at the museum can be.
The locations below offer exhibits that cater to the younger crowd, which means they're specially designed to be interactive, colorful, and fun, as well as educational. Some may build on your child's school curriculum while others might introduce something totally new, but each specializes in creating an environment that brings learning and playing together for children - and, of course, their grown-ups are welcome too!
Also see our complete 2011 Guide to Children's Museum Exhibits, including Westchester County; Rockland County; Fairfield County, CT; and Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park
Open 10am-5pm daily. Monday-Friday: outdoor visiting only; Saturday-Sunday: farmhouse tours available (hayrides when weather permits). Free admission. The museum strives to preserve Queens' agricultural and horticultural past while heightening awareness of present-day sustainable agricultural and horticultural practices. Offers school programs for students in grades pre-K to 9, from September to June. Contact the education department for information and reservations: 718-347-3276 x 302, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street, Flushing Meadow-Corona Park
Open Tuesday-Thursday 9:30am-2pm; Friday 9:30am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm (Open 9:30am-5pm on Monday, February 21). $11; $8 children 2-17, students, and seniors.
In addition to more than 450 hands-on, permanent exhibits, the Hall of Science hosts traveling exhibits, including:
1001 Inventions: Highlights the scientific legacy of Muslim civilization in our modern age. The exhibit reveals the forgotten history of men and women from a variety of faiths and backgrounds whose contributions to the advancement of scholarship and technology during the Middle Ages helped pave the way for the European Renaissance. Open through April 24.
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
Open 10am-5:45pm daily. Suggested admission: $16; $12 students and seniors; $9 children 2-12. Kids' site: www.amnh.org/ology/anthropology.
The Butterfly Conservatory: Celebrating its 13th year at the museum, this exhibit invites visitors to mingle with up to 500 fluttering, iridescent butterflies among blooming tropical flowers and lush green vegetation in 80-degree temperatures. Open through May 30.
Brain: The Inside Story: Explore how the brain - a product of millions of years of evolution - produces thoughts, senses, and feelings; experience how the brain is continually changing at different stages of life; and discover how new understanding of the workings of the brain may help scientists repair and reverse declines in brain function Open through August 15.
Highway of an Empire: The Great Inca Road: A photography exhibition featuring more than 50 striking photographs that document the 25,000 miles of roads and trails the Incas built six centuries ago in South America. Open through September.
Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM)
The Tisch Building, 212 West 83rd Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam)
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm (closed Mondays, except February 21). $10; $7 seniors, free children under 1.
The Wizard of Oz: In this exhibit based on the beloved classic movie, kids can create a tornado in Dorothy's bedroom, explore Munchkin houses, visit the Emerald City, and meet Dorothy's friends the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man. Open through May 8.
PlayWorks: Children ages birth to 4 years old can feed alphabet letters to Alphie, the talking dragon, drive a fire truck, and more, all while exploring language, art, science, and imagination.
Adventures with Dora and Diego: Children ages 2-6 join Diego on a series of high stakes animal rescue missions where they can help save armadillos, build a bear's nest, and get ready for a fiesta at Dora's house.
Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece: Children ages 6 and older can climb a giant Trojan horse, escape the Cyclops, sing with the Sirens, and examine ancient artifacts as they learn about the myths, legends, and values of the Ancient Greeks.
Children's Museum of the Arts
182 Lafayette Street (between Broome and Grand Streets)
Open Wednesday-Sunday 12-5pm; Thursday 12-6pm (closed Mondays except February 21). $10 admission.
Art Within Reach: from the WPA to the Present: This art exhibit explores the connections between growing up in New York City during the Great Depression versus today. Features 19 Depression-era children's paintings along with 19 new paintings created by children in CMA's Young Artists' Residency program. Open through June 5.
SONY Wonder Technology Lab (SWTL)
56th Street and Madison Avenue
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm. Admission is free but reservations are highly recommended (especially during school vacations); a limited number of same-day tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
The SWTL is a four-story technology and entertainment museum for all ages. It houses a wide variety of permanent, interactive exhibits, including Virtual Surgery, where visitors can "feel" what it's like to perform open-heart surgery; WSWLTM Production Studio, where visitors can explore the various roles associated with television production; GameBuilder, where visitors can create their own computer racing game; and Wonder Of Music, where visitors explore the process of making music and perform in front of a virtual audience.
|Ever wonder how these exhibits come together, or what formula the museum's follow to find the perfect balance between learning and fun? Check out Children's Museums: Behind the Exhibits and get the answers, straight from exhibit developers in the New York metro area.