Fall means back to school, cooler temps, and time to hit the museums with the kids. NYC is hosting a museum exhibit for every kind of family: the hipsters, the highbrow, the Harry Potter maniacs. What do we mean? Read on to check out what we think is one of the most eclectic group of  New York City museum shows for kids (and their adults) that we’ve seen in a while. (If you’re looking for something a little under the radar, try these awesome NYC museums for kids!)

photo: Museum of Illusions

For Mind-Bending (and Expanding) Fun: Museum of Illusions

The Museum of Illusions is not a passing thing. It opened its doors late September and is here to stay at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street. While it offers plenty of fun photo ops, this museum is less technicolor extravaganza, more exercise for your brain (in a good way). Created in Zagreb, Croatia, the concept has expanded to other cities (Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, and beyond) and invites visitors to explore more than 70 elements and experiences that include "illusionistic rooms", optical illusions, and puzzles. Every "piece" in the museum is accompanied by a clear and concise explanation of what is causing or creating the illusion; mathematical, biological, and psychological concepts are all touched upon, as are perception, vision, and how the human brain works. This museum is an outstanding  (and very fun) way to engage kids with complex scientific principles, and help them understand through experience. The well-curated gift shop allows you to take home some of the brain-bending fun. PS: Looking for a fun indoor birthday party idea? You can host one here. 

77 Eighth Ave. 
Online: newyork.museumofillusions.us

photo: Color Factory

For a Transporting Technicolor Experience: Color Factory

Already tackled Candytopia and ready for more pop-up, immersive fun? Head downtown to Color Factory, a similarly vibrant and interactive experience that celebrates hues of all kinds in myriad ways. (And while Candytopia does have that candy X-factor, we found Color Factory to be not only fun, but thoughtful, thought-provoking, and even a bit magical; any kid will have a blast, older ones will have an appreciation for its sophistication, and you'll probably love it.) After a wildly-popular run on the west coast last year, Color Factory NYC features new collaborations with artists and partners including OH HAPPY DAY, Leah Rosenberg, Erin Jang, and Roz Chast. It’s 20,000 square feet and 16 installations of Technicolor, Instagram-friendly fun, such as ombré floating balloons with wishes for the world written by students at 826NYC, a walkable infographic leading you to your “secret color”, a palette of colorful treats featuring a custom color ice cream scoop, a unique activity on color and human connection, and a luminous dance floor. And of course, there is (a very large) ball “pit” — but it’s more like a ball room. (Everyone will love that.) 

Through September 30 (with possible extension)
Tickets: $38; kids 2 and under are free (Tickets must be purchased in advance)
Daily, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.; closed Wednesdays
251 Spring
Online: colorfactory.co

photo: Jim Kay/Bloomsbury Publishing/NYHS

For the Potterheads: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

The wait is almost over! (But you can buy tickets now harrypotter.nyhistory.org) Developed by the British Library, Harry Potter: A History of Magic Captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. The exhibit unveils century-old treasures including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of both the British Library and New-York Historical Society—including original material from Harry Potter publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives. From medieval descriptions of dragons and griffins to the origins of the sorcerer’s stone, explore the subjects studied at Hogwarts and see original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling as well as Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay. The museum has a lot of fun activities planned for the run of the exhibit, including a family book club, a history of HP magic, and family trivia events — plus a special Halloween celebration! (They’re also doing special HP birthday celebrations, FYI)

Oct. 5, 2018 - Jan. 27, 2019
Tickets: $21/adults; $16/seniors; $13/high school and college students; kids 5-13/$6; kids 4 and under/free
170 Central Park West
Upper West Side
Online: harrypotter.nyhistory.org

To Explore Oversized Art in a Harlem Park: Maren Hassinger: Monuments

Go on an artistic scavenger hunt uptown. Longtime Studio Museum in Harlem collaborator Maren Hassinger has created eight, site-specific sculptures in the neighborhood’s Marcus Garvey Park. Hassinger uses branches to create forms that respond to aspects of the park’s landscape—an outcropping of rock, a triangle near flower beds, an oval near the pool. She created the works with the assistance of volunteers from the Studio Museum’s Teen Leadership Council and Expanding the Walls program, the latter of which helps young people learn about and practice visual arts, making it a piece created in Harlem, for Harlem. Marcus Garvey Park is located along Madison Avenue between 120th and 124th Streets, and you can enter at any entrance to view Maren Hassinger: Monuments.

Through June 2019
Marcus Garvey Park
Online: studiomuseum.org

photo: Children's Museum of Art

For Creative Agitators: Art & Activism: Drawing the line

This timely exhibit looks at art as a form of activism and considers different aesthetic strategies that artists have used to address the politically urgent questions of their time. The work of Andrew Bowers, Rico Gatson, Eric Gottesman, Guerilla Girls, Monica Lundy & Walter Maciel, Gordon Parks, Shane Aslan Selzer, are featured in the show, as is art from the CMA Permanent Collection. Art & Activism: Drawing the line explores the different mediums artists have used to call attention to injustice, reject the status quo, and inspire others to help create change on topics including sexuality, race, immigration, and gender.

Sept. 15 - Oct. 28
103 Charlton St.
Online: cmany.org

For the Cool Clan: The Velvet Underground Experience

Your kid wears the VU T-shirt, now put your money where your mouth is. Previously mounted in Paris, The Velvet Underground Experience is a deep dive into the history, and impact (on music, fashion, art, and pop culture) of the influential band. The exhibit includes six original films, more than 350 photos (many from the photographers who documented the band’s emergence and rise), over 1,000 objects and a “VR greenhouse” that will somehow feature Andy Warhol’s iconic banana album cover art. Expect a close look at the early days of Lou Reed and John Cale, the development of the band, as well as the cultural figures and forces of the time, i.e. Andy Warhol and The Factory, Allen Ginsberg, Candy Darling, etc. Note: the show is all ages, but one room is restricted to 18 and up.
(Kids under 12 are free!)

Oct. 10 - Dec. 30
Tickets: $25-35; kids under 12/free
718 Broadway
Tues. & Wed., Noon- 7p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., closed Mondays
Online: eventbrite.com/o/the-velvet-underground-experience

To Cover Some Classics: In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met

The Met is obviously known for being the home of many singular works of art, but one of its crown jewels is a collection of Dutch Masterpieces, including five of the existing 34 paintings by Johannes Vermeer. This exhibit (which you know is a big deal, because it’s sticking around until 2020), showcases those paintings as well as the work of other Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt and Jan Steen. Featuring 65 paintings, the show explores the key issues of 17th century culture, and provides a new perspective on these works, displaying them together in one exhibit, instead of in different galleries throughout the museum.

Oct. 16, 2018 - Oct 1, 2020
The Met 5th Avenue
1000 Fifth Avenue
Online: metmuseum.org

photo: Purchased 1980© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014

For the Pop-ular Clan: Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again

A nice companion to the Velvet Underground Experience, the Whitney Museum of American Art will mount a comprehensive show dedicated to Andy Warhol, the first retrospective of the artist’s work in the U.S. since 1989. Incorporating new materials, research and scholarship, the exhibit looks at Warhol’s early work as a commercial artist, his pop art pieces of the 60s, and his later more experimental work in film and other mediums in the 70s and 80s. The largest monograph exhibit to date at the Whitney’s new location, the show will include more than 350 works of art.

Nov. 12, 2018-March 31, 2019
99 Gansevoort St.
Meatpacking District
Online: whitney.org

For Nom Nom Nom: The Museum of Pizza

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this pop-up experience, as pretty much every New York City kid we know holds pizza very near and dear to their heart (and stomach). The Museum of Pizza, or “MoPi” bills itself as the “first and only immersive art experience celebrating pizza” (sounds about right) and a space to bask in multi-sensory, psychedelic, pizza joy. In addition to actual pizza you can eat, you can expect a pizza cave, pizza fun house, pizza beach, and a pizza Zen experience. That’s a lotta pizza!

Oct. 13-28
Tickets: $35
718 Broadway
Greenwich Village
Online: themuseumofpizza.org

— Mimi O’Connor


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