Autumn in NYC means school’s back in session, lots of fall festivals and a new crop of museum exhibits. Here are the best shows for kids this fall, starring icons like RBG, Barack and Michelle Obama, a Volkswagon Beetle and Oscar the Grouch! Don’t forget: You’ll need proof of vaccination, “the key to NYC” to gain admission for anyone in your group who is 12 or older. (And you’ll probably need to make a reservation, and wear a mask.)

photo: Asya Gorovits/MCNY

Puppets of New York at the Museum of the City of New York 

The puppets take Manhattan at the Museum of the City of New York's latest exhibit. This delightful show explores the history of puppetry in New York City which dates back to the 1800s, with a look at the different kinds of puppets, from sock to shadow to rod. Familiar favorites on view include Howdy Doody, Oscar the Grouch and Lambchop & Friends, as well as lesser-known characters like the giant head of salsa legend, Hector Lavoe and the John Cusack string puppet from Being John Malkovich.

On view through April 2022
Tickets: $20/adults, Free/20 and under
Museum of the City of New York 
1220 Fifth Ave.
East Harlem
212-534-1672
Online: mcny.org

photo: MoMA

Automania at the Museum of Modern Art

Does your kid just love a cool car or have a need for speed? If yes, head straight to MoMA’s Automania, a celebration of the car’s form and function. The exhibit includes a Formula One racing car, an early model of the Volkswagen Beetle, an early model Fiat and other vehicles that look like overgrown Hot Wheels. This particular exhibit is split between the Sculpture Garden and the third floor so aim for a day with good weather. Bring a tablet and headphones for your little ones as there is a kid’s audio guide for Automania that you can find at MoMA.org/audio (the Museum is no longer distributing headsets).

While you’re there, check out Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. In this exhibit, you will find Calder’s larger-than-life sculptures as well as his smaller-scale wire ones, but no matter the size, his art is full of whimsy and wonder. Both shows are up now and on through January. 

Automania on view now through Jan. 2; Calder on view now through Jan. 15, 2022
Tickets: $25/adults, $18/seniors, $14/students, free/16 & under
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 St. 
212-708-9400
Online: moma.org

photo: New York Historical Society

The Notorious RBG at the New York Historical Society

Many New Yorkers were deeply saddened by the September 2020 passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at age 87. Her legacy, of course, endures: as a trailblazer in academia, the workforce and as a legal scholar and outspoken justice on the highest court in the land. In the works since the weeks following her death, the New-York Historical Society’s, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, documents and pays tribute to this American icon and champion of women’s rights. 

Oct. 1 – Jan. 23, 2022
Tickets: $22/adults, $17/seniors, active military, educators; $13/students, $6/5-13-year-olds; *Pay what you wish 6-8p.m. on Fridays
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West 
212-873-3400
Online: nyhistory.org

A-MAZE-D at The Brooklyn Children's Museum

This popular kids museum is currently open on weekends, select holidays, and Thursdays from 2-5 p.m., when entry is pay what you wish. (You still need to make a reservation.) Popular longstanding exhibits include World Brooklyn, Neighborhood Nature, Totally Tots, Collections Central and The Nest. Admission includes access to the ColorLab art studio, where families have the opportunity to explore printmaking, collage and sculpture projects inspired by artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Richard Hunt, Faith Ringgold and Kehinde Wiley, among others. You must make a timed reservation for a three-hour visit. Do that here.

Visiting for a limited time is A-MAZE-D, a maze created from corrugated cardboard boxes that transforms the museum's second-floor Exhibit Gallery into a twisting and turning adventure made up of winding corridors and tunnels. It's a full-body experience for visitors of all ages, with special areas designated for the smallest visitors. A painted cityscape sets the backdrop for the built environment, with visitors seeing NYC landmarks at every turn. The exhibit is created in partnership with artist and puzzlemaker Dave Phillips.

Sat. & Sun. and select holidays.; Thursdays, 2-5 p.m., pay what you wish
Tickets: $13
145 Brooklyn Ave. 
Crown Heights
718-735-4400
Online: brooklynkids.org

photo: Rebecca J. Michelson

Showstoppers!  Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen

Calling all drama kids! If your family loves stage and screen and wants to support the Broadway and film community, check out Showstoppers!  Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen. The exhibit, scheduled for a limited eight-week run, gives visitors the chance to see more than 100 of the industry's more complex and detailed costumes from shows including Frozen, Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the  Cursed Child, SIX and Wicked. Plus costumes from TV shows such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and SNL, and pieces from the New York City Ballet and Disney. Proceeds raised All proceeds raised will go to the Costume Industry Coalition Recovery Fund, benefitting one of the hardest-hit sectors of the entertainment industry.  

Through Sept. 26
Tickets: $29/adults, $24/kids 
234 W. 42nd St.
Times Square
Online: showstoppersnyc.com

photo: New York City Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum Reopens

After being forced to shut its doors back in March 2020, the New York Transit Museum—one of our favorites for kids—is finally re-opening its doors! Set in an actual decommissioned train station with a functioning platform, you’ll see trains and turn-styles of bygone eras and unlike other museums, the NYTM encourages their young visitors to not only touch, but also to play. With several vintage train cars and buses, your child can get in the driver’s seat and be the conductor or choose to enjoy the ride through many decades!  

New York Transit Museum
Tickets: $10/adults, $5/children & seniors
99 Schermerhorn St.
718-694-1600
Online: nytransitmuseum.org

The Happiness Experiment at the New York Hall of Science

Raising a kid who is emotionally intelligent is #goals. Here to help is The Happiness Experiment at the New York Hall of Science. The exhibit will help children (and grownups) learn how happiness is translated from the external world into their minds and out of their personalities through neuroscience. Visitors will learn good habits on maintaining happiness—and how to interact with others when feeling out of sorts. The show also stresses that happiness is just one emotion that we experience and that it’s ok to not be happy all of the time. What's important is to learn how to verbalize hurt, disappointment or sadness, while also respecting others. **Note that starting September 1, the New York Hall of Science will be open Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.**

Ongoing
Tickets: $25/adult. $20/children
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St., Queens
718-699-0005
Online: nysci.org

photo: Brooklyn Museum

The Obamas Portrait Tour the Brooklyn Museum

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. is taking the iconic official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama on the road. Unveiled in February 2018, Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of the former First Lady are coming to the Brooklyn Museum as part of a five-city tour that also includes Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. This special presentation enhances the conversations surrounding the power of portraiture and its potential to engage communities, and is accompanied by a richly illustrated book published by National Portrait Gallery and Princeton University Press.

On view Aug. 27 – Oct. 24
Tickets: $25/adults, $16/seniors & students, $10/4-12-year-olds 
Brooklyn Museum 
200 Eastern Pkwy
718-638-5000
Online: brooklynmuseum.org

photo: Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at The Brooklyn Museum

Christian Dior’s parents wanted him to be a diplomat, but thankfully, he followed his passion. In another fall show at the Brooklyn Museum, decades after the designer's passing, his work and career are celebrated with this exhibit tracing the groundbreaking history and legacy of the House of Dior. Featuring more than 200 haute couture garments, as well as photos, sketches, videos and other archival material, this show includes a look at the elements that inspired Dior (nature, contemporary and classical art), as well as the creative directors that followed him. Among the show's highlights: the central atrium of the museum's Beaux-Arts Court is redesigned as an enchanted garden, and a concluding gallery celebrating dresses worn by stars such as Grace Kelly and Jennifer Lawrence.

Sept. 10 – Feb. 20, 2022
Tickets: $25/adults, $16/seniors & students, $10/4-12-year-olds 
Brooklyn Museum 
200 Eastern Pkwy.
718-638-5000
Online: brooklynmuseum.org

photo: D. Finnin/© AMNH

The Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is a favorite of both kids and adults, and one of the museum's most popular and beloved spaces, the Hall of Gems has been completely redesigned and reinstalled, and is now the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

The 11,000-square-foot hall showcases one of the greatest collections of its kind. Dazzling gems on view include the legendary 563-carat Star of India sapphire, the 632-carat Patricia Emerald, and the 110-carat diamond Organdie necklace designed by Michelle Ong for Carnet. Plus new specimens including a pair of towering, sparkling amethyst geodes that are among the world’s largest on display, a slice of a 35-million-year-old metasequoia—a petrified dawn redwood from the Cascade Mountains—the 9-pound almandine Subway Garnet discovered under Manhattan’s 35th Street in 1885, and the Tarugo, a 3-foot-tall cranberry-colored elbaite tourmaline that is one of the largest intact mineral crystal clusters ever found. Wow! Maybe the best news of all? It's included in the General Admission price to the museum, and is on permanent view!

In addition to the museum's classics such as the  Blue Whale and the world-famous dinosaurs, special exhibits on view at the museum are The Nature of Color (closes December 5) and as well as one addressing the history and issues surrounding the museum's statue of Theodore Roosevelt, which the institution has requested be removed. Need more? Check out a show at the museum's Hayden Planetarium

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
Upper West Side
212-769-5100
Online: amnh.org

CATCH IT BEFORE IT’S GONE!

photo: NYBG/Ota Fine Arts

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature at the New York Botanical Garden

Postponed due to the pandemic, this highly-anticipated show featuring Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's work opened on April 10. The exhibit features large-scale installations of Kusama’s multifaceted art, including monumental floral sculptures throughout NYBG’s 250-acre landmark landscape. New works debuting in the show include Dancing Pumpkin and I Want to Fly to the Universe, as well as the artist’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse, Flower Obsession. More exciting news: Cosmic Nature will include a brand new Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart for which there will be timed entry tickets and

April 10-Oct. 31
Tickets: $35/adults; $32/students & seniors; $15/ages 2-12; free/kids under 2
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx
718-817-8700
Online: nybg.org

photo: The Roof Garden Commission, Alex Da Corte, Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Anna-Marie Kellen

The Roof Garden Commission: Alex Da Corte, As Long as the Sun Lasts

The Met's 2021 Roof Garden Commission is hard not to love. Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte created a 26-foot-tall kinetic sculpture featuring the beloved Sesame Street character Big Bird and the modern aesthetic of Alexander Calder’s standing mobiles. 

The work is comprised of a base with three interlocking pieces and a mobile component that sways and rotates gently with passing air currents. Suspended from near the top of the sculpture, covered in roughly 7,000 individually placed laser-cut aluminum feathers, Big Bird is found perched on a crescent moon with a ladder in hand—"suggesting the possibility of passage back to Earth or to other galaxies."

On view through Oct. 31, 2021
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 
1000 Fifth Ave. 
Upper East Side
212-535-7710
Online: metmuseum.org

Liberty Science Center: SUE: The T. Rex Experience

The Summer of Dinos at Liberty Science Center is winding down, but SUE: The T. Rex Experience, is hanging around through January 2022. The exhibit is an interactive, engaging, and hands-on exhibition that features an exact replica of a T. rex skeleton measuring 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip. (It's named after the scientist, Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990.) 

Tickets and parking must be purchased in advance, capacity is reduced, there is no eating or drinking inside the building, and air filters have been replaced and upgraded. Face masks are required. Read all of the safety protocols here, and read our guide to the Liberty Science Center with kids here

Open Wed. - Sun., 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Liberty State Park
201-200-1000
Online: lsc.org

ONGOING

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum—the real aircraft carrier parked on the west side in Midtown—is open and offering new and restored experiences for visitors. The Intrepid’s pilot escalator has been restored and made available to the public for the first time in decades. Installed in the 1950s, it is no longer operational; however, visitors can walk up the escalator from the hangar deck to the flight deck and learn about its mechanics and role during service. Also new is the opportunity to peek into one of the ship's bomb elevators, and in mid-May, visitors will be able to experience a recreated photo lab, and learn about the crew whose job included documenting everything from enemy aircraft and operational accidents to daily life on board. 

Additional experiences have been made available to explore, including numerous spaces within the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the supersonic airliner Concorde and the space shuttle Enterprise. To get even more out of your visit, use the museum's Interactive Mobile Guide, which allows guests to scan QR codes on exhibits for more info. 

Entrance is by timed tickets—buy them here—and the museum is now open seven days a week, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Capacity is limited and some areas remain closed, but most of the 350,000-square-foot complex is open. Masks are required for all visitors over two years of age. 

Tickets: $33/adults; $31/seniors, $24/ages 5-12
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Pier 86
West 46th St. & 12th Ave.
Midtown Manhattan
212-245-0072
Online: intrepidmuseum.org

photo: The Muppets Studio LLC

The Jim Henson Exhibition

This incredible retrospective of master puppeteer and creator Jim Henson at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is open again after a long Covid-19 pause. (The Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.)

Reserved-time tickets are on sale now. Get yours here!

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave.
Astoria
718-777-6888
Online: movingimage.us

photo: CMOM

Children's Museum of Manhattan

The Children's Museum of Manhattan is open with lots of safety precautions in place to keep everyone healthy, including routine sanitizing, temperature checks, reduced capacity, masks and social distancing. 

Visits to the museum are capped at two hours, and must be booked in advance. During that time, your family can explore all the exhibits at the museum, and take part in educator-led activities such as storytime, an art scavenger hunt, themed art projects and music and dance-time. 

The museum is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday - Sunday. 

Tickets: $15/kids and adults; $12/seniors, free/infants and members  
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 W. 83rd St.
Upper West Side
212-721-1223
Online: www.cmom.org

photo: Michael Brosilow

Immersive Van Gogh

This high tech exploration of the Dutch painter's work has been selling out in cities nationwide. An hour-long, immersive experience (that promises Covid-19 precautions) the exhibit  is made up of 60,600 frames of video, 90,000,000 pixels, and 500,000+ cubic feet of projections. Producers describe it as "merging state-of-the-art technology, theatrical storytelling and world-class animation."

Tickets: starting at $39.99

Online: vangoghnyc.com

photo: Museum of Ice Cream NYC

The Museum of Ice Cream

Yes, the Museum of Ice Cream is open! An immersive walk-through experience dedicated to the sweet treat, the MOIC opened a permanent NYC flagship in December of 2019, but shut down in March. It's back, and COVID-19 precautions are in place, and include a new ventilation system, mask and glove requirements, deep cleanings at the beginning and end of every day, cleaning surfaces following any touching by visitors, capacity reduction, etc. You can read all safety measures here.

You must reserve tickets in advance, and the museum is open Thursday through Sunday now. 

The Museum of Ice Cream
558 Broadway
SoHo
Online: museumoficecream.com

photo: Sloomoo Institute

Sloomoo Institute

If you missed your chance to visit this shrine to slime when it opened last year, you have another chance. It's slightly altered (people play with their own slimes, not a collective vat, as was done previously), and you get to take slime home. Expect artisanal, scented slime, interactive activities, a massive DIY slime bar, slime experiments, an immersive ASMR tunnel, a lake of slime to walk on, and more. Advanced tickets are timed, masks are required, staff is in masks and gloves, and capacity is reduced. Dress in your get messy clothes and prepare to open your wallet: it's $39 a ticket. A percentage of sales goes to mental health charities.  

Sloomoo Institute 
475 Broadway
Soho
1-888-718-4253
Online: sloomooinstitute.com

photo: Museum of Illusions

Museum of Illusions

Created in Zagreb, Croatia (with additional outposts in Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, and beyond) the museum is both educational and a spot for fun photo ops. Visitors can 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. 

Entry is by timed ticket, masks and temperature checks are required, the air filtration system has been upgraded you'll find hand sanitizer throughout the museum. Read more COVID-19 safety measures here. 

77 Eighth Ave.
Chelsea
212-645-3230
Online: newyork.museumofillusions.us

photo: AKC/David Woo

Museum of the Dog

The American Kennel Club celebrates humans' best friend with its Museum of the Dog on Park Avenue. (Previously located in St. Louis, the museum is now housed in the same building as the AKC.) Expect fine art such as paintings and sculptures dedicated to dogs big and small, as well as tributes created using modern technology. Ticketing is by advanced reservation, and masks are required. The museum is closed Mondays.

Tickets: $15/adults; $5/kids 12 and under, $10/seniors 65 and older 
101 Park Ave. 
Upper East Side
212-696-8360
Online: museumofthedog.org

—Elba Rodriguez

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