There’s a reason the Met is one of the world’s most famous museums, and it’s not just because of the billions of dollars worth of invaluable art and artifacts housed inside its cavernous 46 acres of floor space. Despite its net worth, the Upper East Side museum isn’t stuffy. Instead, it has a welcoming casual vibe and adventurous charm that’s perfect for kids who want to do some cultural exploring. And the “suggested donation” price of admission means that you can pay what you want, so if the kids get rowdy and you have to take a hot dog break on the grand front steps, you won’t feel like you’ve been robbed blind (the $4 street hot dogs, on the other hand…).

What to see: This summer is a perfect time to take the family to the Met. Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno has an interactive installation on the museum’s roof garden through November 4th that’s both edgy and whimsical; Cloud City is a collection of modular shapes with reflective surfaces that visitors can walk through for a stunning view of the skyline and Central Park.

Of course, the Met’s permanent collection is a draw in and of itself, with so many wings of paintings and drawings, photographs, and sculpture that it would be impossible to see everything in one day. Pick up a Family Map at the Information Desk in the Great Hall for a guide to the most kid-friendly exhibits before you start wandering to avoid any embarrassing detours (for example, while there’s nothing wrong with nudes in art, you might want to avoid the photography exhibit “Naked Before the Camera”). The museum does a great job of engaging children, and the printed family guide gives kids fun facts and details to look for in some of the most famous works of art, creating a scavenger hunt that’ll keep pint-sized patrons from getting too stir-crazy. Surefire crowd-pleasers are the Arms and Armor exhibit, the Egyptian wing (which features life-sized tombs!), and the Greek and Roman sculpture galleries. There’s a no-touching rule, but kids will still get a kick out of the original 3D entertainment experience.

photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Facebook

Where to eat: The Met has five restaurants and bars (not counting the ones reserved for members and patrons), and while children are welcome at all of them, your best bet is the bright, comfy cafeteria on the ground floor, which serves junior versions of its surprisingly sophisticated fare (the grill, for example, might serve lemon chicken sandwiches with honey mustard for grown-ups alongside chicken fingers for those with pickier palates.)

Hours: Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Note: Visitors are asked to clear the galleries 15 minutes before the museum closes.

Admission: Recommended (read: optional!) donations are $25 per adult, $12 per student, and $17 for seniors 65 and over. Children 12 and under are free. To save time, you can purchase tickets in advance at metmuseum.org.

What’s your kid’s favorite place in the Met? Let us know!

— Una LaMarche