10 Museum Exhibits and Immersive Pop-Ups to See this Summer in NYC

Looks can be deceiving at Arcadia Earth, where this sparkling kaleidoscope of colors is, in fact, a collection of plastic waste and a lesson in environmental conservation.
Looks can be deceiving at Arcadia Earth, where this sparkling kaleidoscope of colors is, in fact, a collection of plastic waste and a lesson in environmental conservation.

New York City kids are lucky to live in the shadow of some of the world-class museums and cultural institutions, and summer's arrival brings with it a spate of new (or nearly new) museum exhibits and exciting pop-ups that are perfect outings on days when you need to mix up your usual summer routine of hitting the swimming pool or splash pad.

We've found 10 museum exhibits, interactive pop-ups, and immersive installations worth your time this summer, ranging from Disney-inspired magic at CAMP to an activist-inspired look at Title IX at the New-York Historical Society. No matter your children's ages, here's where to find some cool culture this summer. Be sure to bookmark our Museums, Galleries, and Exhibit Guide to NYC for more picks and tips like when you can visit these top institutions for FREE.

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Must-See Museum Exhibits in NYC This Summer

Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books – Upper West Side

New-York Historical Society, through Sunday, July 24
Best for elementary-age kids and older
Stories familiar and formidable jump off the pages into a larger-than-life gallery at this exhibition, which uses children's book illustrations to shine a light on the struggle for civil rights. Marking the curatorial debut for well-known author Andrea Davis Pinkney, the use of picture books seemed the perfect medium to spark a conversation about race. Telling a story of its own, it traces the struggle of Jim Crow, the fight for civil rights in the past, and looks at contemporary race relations sparking conversations about Black Lives Matter and beyond. While the subject matter isn't sugar-coated for kids, the medium makes it accessible and a great jumping-off point to start a conversation in your own home.

Title IX Activism On and Off the Field – Upper West Side

New-York Historical Society through Sunday, September 4
Best for teens
Title IX may be just a 37-word clause in the Education Amendments Act of 1972, but it's changed much in its 50 years of existence. This exhibition, a project of the New-York Historical Society's Center for Women's History, looks at the law's effect on education, activism, feminism, and more. Divided into four thematic sections, visitors get an in-depth look at the law's formation, its impact on college campuses, its importance in women's sports, and its effect on classrooms from kindergarten to college.

RELATED: Best Children's Museums in NYC for Families to Visit

Museum exhibits in NYC Inside Art
Kids can run in—and through—the topsy turvy house designed by Isidro Blasco for CMOM's latest re-creation of its Inside Art exhibit.

Inside Art: Create, Climb, Collaborate – Upper West Side

Children's Museum of Manhattan, ongoing
Best for ages 8 and under
CMOM has again reinvented its popular Inside Art exhibition, which allows kids to get up close and even touch, manipulate, and contribute to the art on display. The exhibition's centerpiece is BARarchitekten-designed multi-story house kids can run around and through, draw on, and peek out from, and see it transformed as some of its unfinished surfaces take on new life throughout the run of the show. Kids can romp through a topsy-turvy house designed by artist Isidro Blasco or add to Aya Rodriguez-Izumi's wishing tree. Daily art-making experiences are available in the main gallery and adjoining maker space and artists-in-residence are on hand to work with the kids, too. With summer upon us take note: CMOM is now open daily so kids can explore Inside Art and the rest of the museum's fun things to do every day of the week!

RELATED: What Ages Get in Free to NYC Museums, Zoos, Amusement Parks

Museum exhibits in NYC Extinct and Endangered
Thanks to high-powered macrophotography, kids can get up close to insects at Extinct and Endangered at the American Museum of Natural History. 

Extinct and Endangered: Insects in Peril – Upper West Side

American Museum of Natural History, ongoing
Best for all ages
Bugs have never looked so good as when famed macro photographer Levon Biss turns his camera onto these tiny species. Explore large-scale photos of 40 different bugs, whose stories tell the tale of changing ecosystems, human impact, and disappearing insects' effect on all of us. We were wowed by these ultra-detailed photos and had fun exploring the fact sheets and touch-screen display to learn more.

RELATED: 7 Space Museums Near NYC for Out of This World Fun

Museum exhibits in NYC Around the Table
The NYBG puts food front and center in its Around the Table exhibition, which includes a series of artist-designed tables for guests to gather around.

Fun Outdoor Exhibitions at NYC Zoos and Gardens in Summer 2022

Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love – Bronx Park, the Bronx

New York Botanical Garden, through Sunday, September 11
Best for all-ages
This year's season-long exhibition at the kid-friendly NYBG takes an in-depth look at the art and science of food. Local artists contributed communal tables that you can explore and lounge at during your visit. Get up close with a wide array of food-producing plants to see what really grows on trees (chocolate!) and learn how to create an edible garden of your own. Themed weekends bring tons of family-friendly programming to the grounds, celebrating seasonal harvests, food traditions, and more. We also loved exploring the African American Garden, located near the Edible Academy, and the accompanying artwork from Lina Puerta in the Mertz Library.

RELATED: 10 Things to Love About the New York Botanical Garden

Museum exhibits in NYC For the Birds
Grab your binoculars to explore the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's bird-centric exhibit this summer. Photo by Rosalind Muggeridge

For the Birds – Prospect Heights

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, through Sunday, October 23
Best for all-ages
Celebrate Brooklyn's feathered flocks at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's summer exhibit. Dozens of artist-made birdhouses dot the landscape, built to honor the species who migrate through the gardens. Beyond searching the grounds for these unique dwellings, visitors can enjoy exhibition-specific programming like guided bird walks and kid-focused programs in the Discovery Garden, where little ones can learn about the connection between plants and birds—and help build out an environment to support them.

Dino Safari – Bronx Park

The Bronx Zoo, through Sunday, October 30
Best for all-ages
Walk through a prehistoric forest hidden in plain sight at the Bronx Zoo and explore the 52, life-size animatronic dinosaurs who have taken up residence for the summer. These larger-than-life animatronic beings are posed in lifelike scenes, and little ones can spot favorites like T. Rex, Stegosaurs, and lesser-known species. If you visited the previous iteration of Dinosaur Safari, take note: It's worth a return in 2022, as the experience is all-new. 

RELATED: See Bronx Zoo Like a Local: Top Tips for a Great Visit with Kids

Museum exhibits in NYC Stranger Things
Demogorgons are life-like and terrifying at the Stranger Things experience.

Playful Pop-Ups in NYC to Explore Now

Stranger Things: The Experience – Brooklyn Navy Yard

Duggal Greenhouse, through Sunday, July 31
Best for ages 10 and older
Fans of the uber-popular Netflix series are invited into the Hawkins Lab during this immersive, Hollywood-worthy attraction. You're duped into thinking you've enrolled in a sleep study, but things quickly go awry, and you'll find yourself working alongside the show's characters to escape the demogorgons stalking you. Once you've completed your mission and returned from an adventure to the Upside Down, explore an '80s-inspired wonderland with treats from Scoops Ahoy, fun photo-ops, and plenty of show-inspired merchandise—consider your bank account warned.

RELATED: 65 Indoor Activities for Kids on a Rainy Day

Museum exhibits in NYC CAMP Mickey's Big Adventure
Grab your crew and head to CAMP for a Disney-inspired adventure that is big fun for little kids. 

Mickey & Friends: An Extra Big Adventure – Flatiron

CAMP Fifth Avenue, through late summer
Best for ages 2-8
Family experience shop CAMP has teamed up with Disney for an interactive adventure that takes visitors on a fun-filled journey with the ultimate destination: Mickey Mouse's birthday party! But, getting to the party is the adventure. Visitors and CAMP's ultra-fun counselors, who keep the storyline moving, find themselves hit by Goofy's shrink gun and must repair it using teamwork to explore a supersized world and find all the pieces necessary to put it back together. Of course, there's plenty of room for play along the way with some CAMP favorites (hello, twisty slide) and brand-new features.

Arcadia Earth – East Village

Arcadia Earth, ongoing
Best for ages 7+
See nature in a whole new way in this long-running immersive experience. You'll wander through 15 rooms highlighting the plight of a changing environment and have a chance to interact with many features along the way thanks to an augmented reality component. Be wowed by stunning visuals, like a sea of plastic waste or a wonderland made from recycled plastic bags. See stunning video projections and get up close to animals with the help of an augmented reality app. Want to elevate the experience even further? Its newest ticket allows visitors to strap on a Microsoft Hololens and interact with holograms scattered throughout the rooms for an out-of-this-world experience.

Unless noted, all photos by author

Lunar New Year Celebration
The New-York Historical Society - 1:00 PM Pick
Young People's Chorus: Brundibar
The Museum of Jewish Heritage - 3:00 PM Pick
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