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 world-class museums, including Liberty Science Center and the Newark Museum, 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 spots in North Jersey, and be sure to check out our roundup of museums in central and southern NJ, too.
Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey – Teterboro
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 special Dare to Fly program for ages 8–15 expands on the topic. Kids will love Open Cockpit Weekends (check website for upcoming events), where they can climb into different aircraft for a firsthand feel of what it’s like to be a pilot. You can also hold a party here. $9 per adult, $8 per child (Open Cockpit day rate $12 for adults and $9 for kids). Closed Mondays.
Have fun learning about pop music's biggest stars at the GRAMMY Museum. Photo by Dore DuHaime
GRAMMY Museum Experience – Newark
Rocking out is encouraged at the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center. Strutting onstage, playing electronic instruments, and singing karaoke-style are 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, with a spotlight on New Jersey's homegrown stars. Read about our visit to the GRAMMY Museum here. $10 per adult, $7 per child age 3–7, free for children 2 and under. Closed Mondays.
Located in one of the oldest buildings in Hoboken, this museum is historical 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 is the affiliated fire department museum. It houses fire gear, memorabilia, and a red Ahrens Fox fire engine from around 1932 that kids can climb aboard to ring the shiny brass bell. Storytimes are held at both the main museum and the fire department museum. Main museum admission is $5. Closed Mondays. Fire department museum is $3 per adult, free for children under 12. Open weekends.
Parents and kids alike will get a kick out the gigantic Lite-Brite. Photo by Margaret Hargrove
Imagine That!!! – Florham Park
Imagine That!!! Discovery Museum for Children specializes in 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 new castle, a new pirate ship, and a long-awaited sink in the art area. Kids will 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 play-scape where younger kids can climb and explore; bigger kids can jump aboard the refurbished fire truck. Several themed areas that invite kids to play pretend include a kitchen, grocery store, diner, and new baby-doll nursery. New, larger bathrooms (including a family bathroom) were also part of the renovation. $6.99 per adult, $15.99 per child (under age 1 free). Closed Mondays, except on school holidays.
Liberty Hall Museum – Union
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 back in that era. There are also a variety of tours you can take, with topics ranging from the landscaped gardens to the family’s luxury travel. While the museum is closed for regular visits in January and February, there are some fun special programs available, such as a Doctor Seuss birthday party and a Valentine party for moms and sons. $14 per adult, $10 per child, children under 3 are free. Open Friday–Sunday in March; open Wednesday–Sunday from April–December.
The Infinity Climber is a suspended, multi-story play space at Liberty Science Center. Photo courtesy of LSC
Liberty Science Center – Jersey City
It's virtually impossible to experience everything 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 (shown above) 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 Angry Birds Universe. Grab a bite at Cafe Skylines, or visit one of the family-friendly restaurants nearby. LSC also hosts birthday parties and overnight camp-ins. $24.99 – $34.99 per adult, $19.99 – $27.99 per child (ages 2–12), depending on whether you choose basic admission or add-on movie options and entrance to premium exhibits. Additional fees apply for special programs. Closed Mondays.
There is much for kids to do and learn at the Montclair Museum of Art, including tours. Photo courtesy of MAM
Montclair Art Museum – Montclair
The Montclair Art Museum is a great place to introduce kids to visual arts. Its education department offers a variety of programs that help children learn about and enjoy the art in the museum's collections and exhibits. These programs include guided tours, themed art projects, storytimes, films, and other activities. The Family Learning Lab (closed until February 8, 2020), in the third-floor lobby, is a place where kids and families can hang out and do interactive projects during museum hours. CREATEabilities, on the second Wednesday of each month, offers pre-K and early elementary–aged kids a guided tour of the museum, storytelling, art projects, and more. The Drop-In Studio, held each Sunday, is another way to explore the materials and processes used in current exhibitions in a hands-on way. Both are great ways to get creative with your kids and meet other families. Various special events include art activities, live music, and more. $12 per adult, free for kids under 12. *Admission is FREE through February 7, 2020; non-members must pay $6 fee for Drop-In Studio on Sundays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Mega Model Trains exhibit at the Morris Museum is open daily through February 29, 2020. Photo courtesy of the museum
The Morris Museum – Morristown
The Morris Museum is perhaps best known for its large collection of 19th-century musical dolls and machines. Viewing this ongoing 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. 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 both kids and adults. If you have a young train lover in your life, the museum's Mega Model Trains exhibit is a must-see. $10 per adult, $7 per child (ages 3–13), with additional costs for special programs. On the second and third Thursdays of each month, admission is pay as you wish from 4–8pm. Closed Mondays.
The Newark Museum of Art – Newark
The Newark Museum has plenty of offerings for kids and families. Highlights include interactive galleries where visitors can explore topics ranging from plate tectonics to Tibetan life; a planetarium where you can see video from the Cassini spacecraft's ongoing exploration of Saturn's rings; and a fire museum where kids can climb into the cab of a real fire truck and learn about fire safety in the Hazard House. Special programs for kids include Creative Play, geared toward kids ages 3–5, and Family Workshops, for kids ages 5–12, which include special tours, games and activities, hands-on art activities and science experiments, storytimes, and even concerts. On Saturdays, all ages can drop in to the Maker Space to work on monthly themed projects. Older kids will love checking out the museum's regular exhibits, which include one of the nation's oldest and most comprehensive collections of African art. Make time before or after your visit to check out one of these kid-friendly Newark restaurants! $15 per adult, $8 per child (ages 2 and under free). Planetarium admission is an additional $6 per adult and $3 per child under age 12. Planetarium not recommended for kids under 4. The Newark Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesdays for reserved tours and school groups only.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park – West Orange
Travel back in time and discover where America's greatest inventor changed the modern world. Visitors can walk through Edison's library, machine shop, chemistry lab, music room, and more. And don't miss the Black Maria, an exact replica of the world's first movie studio, built in 1893. $15 per person; kids under 16 are free. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Washington's Headquarters Museum – Morristown
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 new Discover History Center, where you'll find interactive and multimedia exhibits geared toward kids and grown-ups. Admission is free. Hours vary by season; visit the site for more info.
This post was originally 2016 published in and has been updated since.