Do you live in New York City or the suburbs? Wondering about how New York came to be a major world city? Or perhaps you’re visiting New York and are a major history or urban planning junkie. If any of those ring a bell, then a visit to the Museum of the City of New York is for you! Visiting the Museum of the City of New York with kids is an interesting way to pass a weekend morning, or combine an indoor activity with a visit to Central Park. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting this New York City museum with kids.
Visiting the Museum of the City of New York
The Museum of the City of New York is located on the Upper East Side, in the northern most part of the Museum Mile. That means north of the MET and the Guggenheim…all the way between 103rd and 104th street on 5th Avenue.
The museum is easily accessible via public transportation on the 4/6 Lexington Ave trains, with a stop at 103rd Street. That said, on a weekend morning we were easily able to find street parking, so that is definitely an option for locals.
The museum is open daily, which makes it a great option for those Mondays when other museums are closed. Entrance to the museum is “suggested”, meaning you are not responsible for the full fee, if that is a burden, and kids are always free!
What to See at the Museum of the City of New York
First things first, this museum is all about New York City. The main floor galleries have a thorough history of New York from the time it was called New Amsterdam up until present day, called “New York at its Core”.
These galleries are very well done, with good explanations, interactive media displays and lots of artifacts from the different historical periods. I would say they are best for kids in elementary school and up, particularly if they have some background knowledge.
Just as an example, our kids were most interested in the interactive description of building the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Empire State Building model. (It was reminiscent of the Skyscraper Museum model. )
The other area on the first floor is about planning cities of the future. This room was the most kid-friendly in the museum, with individual screens where you could plan out the urban landscape. Just drag the different components into the city-scape on display. It reminded me of SIM City from back in the day!
Temporary Exhibits and More
As with any museum, temporary exhibits can be hit or miss. During our visit, there was an exhibition about the population in New York City, with lots of graphic maps. The kids enjoyed looking at them and talking about how they reflect the different demographics we see when we explore the city.
We also saw an exhibition about basketball and enjoyed looking at the Stettheimer Dollhouse, on the upper levels. The second floor also houses a small cafe.
On the basement level, there is a thirty minute movie about the history of New York City. That said, we were advised that it was not particularly child-friendly.
All in all, I would say you can see this museum in a couple of hours, but that it is best suited for adults and older children. There was really nothing appropriate or engaging for our three year old.
More Things to Do Around the Museum of the City of New York
If you’ve made it all the way to the museum, make a day out of it and check out some other things to do nearby.
The most obvious place to go when visiting the museum, is to Central Park! Here in the northern section of Central Park, there is the beautiful Conservatory Garden, just across the street. You can also walk around the Harlem Meer (lake), or just run around the grass and climb rocks in the North Meadow or the Ravine.
El Museo del Barrio
Just a block away, El Museo del Barrio, is a museum devoted to Latin American culture. This small museum has more limited opening hours, so check them out if you want to see both museums in one day.
Wrapping it up: my recommendation is that this museum is best for New Yorkers! I have heard they have good programing during school vacations for kids.