12 Must-See Museum Exhibits in NYC This Fall

Christian Dior's wearable artwork is the subject of an installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo by author
Christian Dior's wearable artwork is the subject of an installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo by author

The fall brings with it not only a smattering of seasonal changes and outdoor fun like apple picking but New Yorkers can also look forward to an exciting roster of new museum exhibits to explore at NYC's top culture spots.

We've rounded up 12 exciting museum exhibits citywide that we can't wait to see with kids this season. From museum exhibits honoring history makers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Obamas, to interactive picks at our favorite children's museums, and two huge fashion installations, there's something on this list for everyone, from toddlers to teens.

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Keep in mind, visitors to museums must comply with the Key to NYC; vaccines are required for all who are eligible and in most cased, timed-entry tickets are required. So, pack your vaccine card and make reservations before staking out.

1. Inspiring Walt Disney, The Animation of French Decorative Arts – The Met

Friday, December 10, 2021-Sunday, March 6, 2022
Did you know Walt Disney was actually inspired and influenced by the colorful salons of Rococo Paris? This exhibition explores the influence of European art and the use of French motifs in Disney's films and theme parks. There will be about 40 works of 18th-century European decorative arts and design alongside 150 production artworks and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and Disney Archives. The exhibition highlights references to European visual culture in Disney films, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast.

2. The Costume Institute, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion – The Met

Through Thursday, September 5, 2022
The Met's Costume Institute recently launched this two-part exploration of fashion in the United States. Using the organizing principle of a patchwork quilt, the first part of the exhibition explores the varied cultural identities of American fashion by displaying approximately 100 men's and women's ensembles from a diverse range of designers from the 1940s to the present in its Anna Wintour Costume Center. Part 2 opens May 5, 2022, in the American Wing period rooms and aims to present a narrative of the space it occupies.

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Learn about RBG at a museum exhibit at the New-York Historical Society this fall
Learn about the Notorious RBG in a New-York Historical Society exhibition profiling her. Photo courtesy of the NYHS

3. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – New-York Historical Society

Friday, October 1, 2021-Friday, January 23, 2022
The New-York Historical Society honors the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a special exhibition based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. The exhibition takes an expansive look at RBG's life and work through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives. Highlights include a robe and lace collar from RBG’s Supreme Court wardrobe; the official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor, and listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments long before she sat on the court, plus her opinions, and forceful dissents.

The Obama Portraits are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery at the Brooklyn Museum
See The Obama Portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum

4. ​The Obama Portraits Tour – Brooklyn Museum

Through Sunday, October 24
Don't miss out on viewing the official portraits of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively. First unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., in February 2018, the official portraits of the Obamas have become iconic. The Obama Portraits Tour is accompanied by a richly illustrated book published by National Portrait Gallery.

5. Showstoppers: Spectacular Costumes from Stage and Screen – Times Square

Through Sunday, October 31
For anyone who's been amazed by the costumes in movies and theatre, don't miss this temporary exhibition featuring more than 100 of the industry’s most beautiful and complex garments. Visitors not only get to see up close the detail and craftsmanship of these costumes but also interact with costume makers and experts who will be on-site demonstrating their techniques and skills. Multimedia elements also provide a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process.

6. 9/11 Remembered: Search & Rescue Dogs – American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog

Through Sunday, January 2, 2022
In the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, hundreds of search and rescues dogs worked with the emergency crew to find any signs of life amidst the rubble. On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, two new museum exhibits focus on those dogs. At the American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog, there's an exhibit titled “9/11 Remembered: Search & Rescue Dogs,” that not only honors 9/11 search and rescue dogs but dogs who worked at other disasters around the world. There's also another exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan, “K-9 Courage,” which features the photographer Charlotte Dumas’ portraits of 15 of the dogs who aided in recovery efforts at ground zero.

RELATED: Best Children's Museums for Families to Visit in New York City

See the stunning designs of Christian Dior at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo by the author

7. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – Brooklyn Museum

Through Sunday, February 20, 2022
This expansive and breathtaking exhibition traces the groundbreaking history and legacy of fashion designer Christian Dior featuring more than 200 haute couture gowns as well as photographs, archival videos, sketches, vintage perfume elements, accessories, and works from the museum’s collection. The exhibition also showcases Dior's many sources of inspiration—from the splendor of flowers and other natural forms to classical and contemporary art. The collections of each of the artistic directors (Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri) who succeeded Dior are highlighted in the galleries.

8. Puppets of New York – Museum of the City of New York

Through Saturday, April 2, 2022
This unique exhibition explores the diverse history of puppets featuring the works of Jim Henson and Julie Taymor, Basil Twist and Theodora Skipitares, Ralph Lee and Pura Belpré, Great Small Works, and Teatro SEA. Like many New Yorkers, puppets are immigrants who enriched the city and were transformed by it as they encountered other puppetry traditions, practices, and languages. You'll see a wide array of familiar faces and characters—from Punch and Judy to Oscar the Grouch, plus marionettes, shadow puppets, rod, and hand puppets.

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Brooklyn Children's Museum – A-MAZE-D. Photo courtesy of the museum

9. A-MAZE-D – Brooklyn Children's Museum

Kids of all ages love navigating BCM's new exhibit featuring a maze created from corrugated cardboard boxes. Full of twisting corridors and tunnels, the maze is set against the backdrop of a painted NYC cityscape with landmarks at every turn. There are special areas designated for the youngest adventurers.

10. Sharks – American Museum of Natural History

Opens Wednesday, December 15
Fearsome and fascinating, this new exhibition at the AMNH takes a deep dive into this family of fish. Study shark's evolution and diversity through a "parade of sharks," which includes more than 30 life-like models of sharks ranging from a mere 5 inches in length to a whopping 33 feet. Learn about current conservation efforts to save sharks from overfishing and habitat destruction.

RELATED: The Best Children’s Museum in Every State

Trace the history of cars and their cultural influence at MoMA's Automania. Photo courtesy of MoMA

11. Automania – MoMA

Through Sunday, January 2, 2022
Got a kid who loves cars? Bring them to MoMA's exhibition Automania to learn how cars have become modern industrial products and their cultural influence. You'll see cars and their parts, architectural models, films, photographs, posters, paintings, and sculptures. The exhibit explores how cars have inspired innovation and social transformation but also their adverse effect on our society, public health, and the planet's ecosystems. The cars in the Sculpture Garden are on view through Monday, October 11 but the gallery portion of the exhibition remains on view through Sunday, January 2, 2022.

12. The Polonsky Exhibition of the New York Public Library's Treasures – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Opens Friday, September 24
The New York Public Library houses more than just books, and this exhibition aims to highlight its collections. A new permanent installation, visitors can see everything from a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence and a 1789 copy of the Bill of Rights, to more kid-friendly picks like the original Winnie the Pooh and friends. There are plenty of rare books, paintings and portraits, and more. Entry to the exhibition is by timed-entry ticket, and completely FREE. When you're done, might we suggest dipping across the street to explore a new library treasure: the recently remodeled Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library.

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