Best Kid-Friendly Museums in Northern New Jersey
When bad weather hits, a trip to a museum can be a great cure for cabin fever. Northern New Jersey is home to a collection of world-class, kid-friendly museums, including the Liberty Science Center and the Newark Museum of Art, where kids can study the stars at a planetarium, learn about dinosaurs that once roamed New Jersey, create their own works of art, meet animals, make music, and much more.
Read on for our favorite cultural spots in North Jersey, and be sure to check out our roundup of museums in central and southern NJ, too.
While these museums have reopened following their coronavirus-induced shutdowns, keep in mind that capacity is limited, regular hours may have changed, and many regular programs are not operating. Please click through to each museum's website for up-to-date hours, event schedules, and COVID protocols.
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Main museum: Adults, $5; FREE for children. Fire Department Museum: Adults, $3; FREE for children. The museum is closed Mondays.
Located in one of the oldest buildings in Hoboken, this museum is historic inside and out. It focuses on various aspects of Hoboken history and features works by local and regional artists. The 2,000-square-foot space also has interactive displays and various family programs. A short drive down the road leads to the affiliated Fire Department Museum. Open weekends only, it houses fire gear, memorabilia, and a red Ahrens Fox fire engine circa 1932 that kids can climb aboard to ring the shiny brass bell. Storytimes are held at the main museum and the Fire Department Museum.
Have fun learning about pop music's biggest stars at the Grammy Museum. Photo by Dore DuHaime
Grammy Museum Experience – Newark
Adults, $10; Children, ages 3-7, $7; FREE for children ages 2 and under. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays only.
Rocking out is encouraged at the Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center. Strutting onstage, playing electronic instruments, and singing karaoke-style is part of the fun at this museum celebrating pop music's biggest stars, including many with New Jersey roots. An electronic jam session may be the coolest way for kids to spend a rainy day. Located on the ground floor of the Prudential Center, the Grammy Museum is rich in music history and shines a spotlight on New Jersey's homegrown stars, including a new Bruce Springsteen Live! exhibit. Read about our visit to the Grammy Museum here.
Take a break from screentime at ImagineThat!
Imagine That!!! – Florham Park
Adults, $6.99; Children, $21.99 per child; FREE for children under age 1. The museum is closed Mondays.
Imagine That! caters to preschool-age and young schoolchildren. The 16,000-square-foot space recently underwent a gut renovation, adding attractions that include an interactive light wall inspired by Lite-Brite, oversized foam blocks and construction toys, a castle, a pirate ship, and a long-awaited sink in the art area. Kids learn through experiences based on play and discovery, including an arts and crafts area, a music room, and a mini dance studio with mirrors and a barre. There's a soft playscape where younger kids can climb and explore; bigger kids can jump aboard the refurbished fire truck. Several themed areas invite kids to play pretend, including a kitchen, grocery store, diner, and new baby-doll nursery. New, larger bathrooms (including a family bathroom) were also part of the renovation. To ensure availability on the date you want to visit, purchase tickets in advance online.
Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey – Teterboro
Adults, $10; Children, ages 3-12, $8. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays.
Learn all about flying at this museum adjacent to Teterboro Airport. You'll see various aircraft, helicopters, the first American hovercraft, and even a rocket engine. An interactive exhibit titled "Fundamentals of Flight" focuses on aerodynamics; a unique Dare to Fly program for ages 8-15 expands on the topic. Kids love Open Cockpit Weekends (check the website for upcoming events), where they can climb into different aircraft for a first-hand feel of what it's like to be a pilot. You can also hold a party here. Timed-entry reservations are required and must be booked in advance.
A variety of programming is available at the Liberty Hall Museum.
Liberty Hall Museum – Union
Adults, $14; Children, $10; FREE for children under 3. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays.
This historic home, built in 1772, was home to New Jersey's first elected governor, William Livingston. The Victorian mansion now houses 50 rooms full of antique furniture, toys, tools, textiles, and ceramics. It's a living history museum, meaning you can stroll through the bedrooms, dining room, garage, etc., to see what it was like to live in its era. There are also various tours you can take, with topics ranging from the landscaped gardens to the family's luxury travel. The museum also hosts fun special programs for kids and families, such as its recent breakfast with Santa.
The Morris Museum – Morristown
Adults, $12; Children, ages 3-17, $8. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Morris Museum is perhaps best known for its extensive collection of 19th-century musical dolls and machines. Viewing this permanent exhibition, Musical Machines and Living Dolls, feels a bit like walking around inside a music box. It's magical and slightly creepy (there are some sinister-looking clowns and monkeys), and we can't get enough of it. It's but one of many kid-friendly exhibits at this beloved museum, which is small enough to see in its entirety in one visit. We're very excited about its newly installed Spark!Lab maker studio, a STEM-filled space that lets kids turn themselves into engineers. Other permanent exhibits include the Dinosaur Den, where kids can sit in a dinosaur's nest, touch a dinosaur egg, and listen to the simulated sound of a Hadrosaur; and a collection of rocks and minerals that includes a "cave" for viewing fluorescent specimens. There are many special programs and events, including Family Fun Days, Tot Tours for ages 2-5, and art classes and workshops for older kids and teens. The museum is also home to the Bickford Theatre, which presents programming for kids and adults (proof of vaccination is required to attend for guests age 12 and older). If you have a young train lover in your life, the museum's Mega Model Trains exhibit is a must-see. You can book your museum tickets in advance online or purchase them at the door with a credit card only.
Let the universe take over your senses at the planetarium at the Liberty Science Center.
Liberty Science Center – Jersey City
Adults, $27.99-$29.99; Children, ages 2-12, $22.99-$24.99. The museum is open Thursdays-Sundays only.
It's virtually impossible to experience everything the Liberty Science Center has to offer in just one day. This interactive learning museum, located in Liberty State Park, boasts four floors of exhibits and experiences. A kids' lab allows budding scientists to conduct experiments. The Infinity Climber is a one-of-a-kind suspended play space. Inside I Explore, 2-5-year-olds can send balls whooshing through pneumatic tubes, build and test race cars, play with a giant light wall, and scoop and pour rice to their hearts' content. See a movie or laser show in LSC's IMAX and 3D theaters, visit the planetarium, and check out rotating exhibits, like the newly opened Wobbly World catering to the under 5 set. Grab a bite at Cafe Skylines, or visit one of the family-friendly restaurants nearby. LSC also hosts birthday parties and overnight camp-ins. Proof of vaccination is required for all visitors ages 12 and older. Buy tickets in advance and save $2 per admission; you also pre-pay for parking ($7) online.
The Newark Museum of Art – Newark
Adults, $10; Children, ages 3 and older, $8; FREE for children under age 2. The museum is open Thursdays-Sundays only.
The Newark Museum of Art has plenty of offerings for kids and families, and is home to one of the nation's oldest and most comprehensive collections of African art. While the planetarium and other high-touch and small-space areas, including the Fire Museum and MakerSPACE, remain closed, the museum continues to host some in-person special events for kids such as Family Drop-In, outdoor Community Day, and Creative Play, geared toward kids ages 3-5. Timed-entry tickets must be purchased in advance online and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required for all visitors ages 12 and older. Make time before or after your visit to check out one of these kid-friendly Newark restaurants!
There is much for kids to do and learn at the Montclair Museum of Art.
Montclair Art Museum – Montclair
Adults, $15; Students, $12; FREE for children under age 12. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.
The Montclair Art Museum is a great place to introduce kids to visual arts. Its education center offers classes and programs that help children learn about and enjoy the art in the museum's collections and exhibits. The museum has been collecting and preserving Native American and American artwork for more than 100 years and now holds an impressive 12,000 works of art. Various special events including art activities, live music, and more are held throughout the year. While walk-ins are welcome, timed-entry tickets are encouraged and can be purchased online. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required for visitors age 12 and older.
Washington's Headquarters Museum – Morristown
Admission is FREE. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.
Learn all about the brutal winter of 1779-80, when George Washington and the Continental Army hunkered down in Morristown. Part of Morristown National Historical Park, this museum includes artwork, portraits, maps, weapons, and other original artifacts from the Revolutionary War, as well as the sword Washington wore during his first presidential inauguration. Don't miss the Discover History Center, where you'll find interactive and multimedia exhibits geared toward kids and grown-ups.
RELATED: Outdoor Art Day Trips Near NYC
Discover where America's greatest inventor, Thomas Edison, changed our world forever at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park – West Orange
Adults, $15; FREE for children under 16. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.
Travel back in time and discover where America's greatest inventor changed the modern world. Visitors can walk through Edison's library, machine shop, music room, and more, as well as view his chemistry lab. And don't miss the Black Maria, a replica of the world's first movie studio, built in 1893.
All photos courtesy of their respective venues. This post was originally 2016 published in and has since been updated.
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