Housed in the New York City Building, The Queens Museum is not only an art museum, it’s also a classroom, community center, and historical site. Here is your guide to visiting the four-in-one museum with your kids.
The New York City Building was originally built in 1939 with the purpose of housing the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair. After hosting the United Nations General Assembly from 1946-1950 and another World’s Fair in 1964, it finally became home to the newly founded Queens Museum in 1972. Designed by Aymar Embury III, the same architect who worked on the Central Park Zoo and Triborough Bridge, and renovated by Rafael Viñoly in 1994, the museum now boasts some of the most impressive exhibition spaces in New York. Within this building you will find a host of unique and educational exhibits, galleries, and fun and interactive programming for your family.
Year-Round Fun at Queens Museum
The Panorama of the City of New York is affectionately referred to as the “jewel in the crown of the collection” by the Queens Museum staff. Billed as an indoor helicopter tour of New York, the panorama was one of the most successful attractions at the 1964 World’s Fair. Created as a celebration of the city’s municipal infrastructure by World’s Fair President Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, the model was built by a team of more than 100 people working for Raymond Lester & Associates over the course of three years. The panorama now comprises an area of 9,335 square feet and is built to a scale of 1-to-1,200 where 1 inch equals 100 feet. Lester & Associates was enlisted to bring the entire model up to date in 1992, so each of the city’s 895,000 buildings constructed prior to 1992 and every street, park, and some 100 bridges are represented. Kids will love going up and down the gently sloping ramps that mimic the original helicopter tour ride of 1964.
The Panorama of the City of New York is a 9,335-square-foot model of the entire city, which was planned using aerial photographs, fire insurance maps, and other city materials.
Other permanent exhibits include The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, an extraordinary array of floral and geometric lamps as well as landscape and figural windows sure to delight even the youngest eye, a 540-square-foot Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System originally intended for the 1939 World’s Fair, and a World’s Fair Visible Storage collection of more than 900 three-dimensional pieces pertaining to 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.
In addition to fantastic exhibits, The Queens Museum also prides itself on educational programming and offers weekly Drop-in Family Art Workshops on Sundays from 1:30-4:30pm that are free with museum admission. The museum invites children ages 5-12 and their adult companions to take part in a number of diverse projects from building monsters to designing city blocks and making puppets. Teaching artists and a team of youth assistants from the Queens Teens program provide guidance and assistance. Ask the admissions desk where to go upon arrival, as family workshops take place in various locations throughout the museum each week.
Each year, the Queens Museum also offers a number of programs for children and adults with varying physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive abilities through its ArtAccess initiative. The Museum Explorers Club specifically aims to aid families affected by autism. Families participate in creating art inspired by the work in the galleries while exploration and play help bridge connections to the artwork and build literacy. Sessions are held from 11am-12pm on Saturdays with availability for up to six families registered through the online form.
Tiffany Studios, New York Peacock Library Lamp, ca. 1905, leaded glass, bronze with blown glass and glass inlay from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass
Annual Events at Queens Museum
The Queens Museum has been hosting Queens International, a biannual exhibition of artists living or working in Queens, since 2001. The exhibit has a central aim of highlighting and contextualizing the artistic vibrancy of the borough through contemporary cultural productions in all media. Thirty-four artists, collectives, and partner organizations have participated this year. Ongoing projects include experimental and often participatory events, genre-bending musical concerts, and international collaborations between Queens artists and their global counterparts. The current session will conclude at the end of July.
Four different two-week Summer Camp programs are offered between July and August. These camps for children ages 7-11 are held Monday-Friday from 9am-4:30pm. Campers spend time learning and creating in the galleries and studios as well as enjoying time outdoors in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, including trips to the Queens Zoo and the Queens Botanical Gardens.
The museum also offers a six-week Summer Youth Arts program. Queens residents who are entering seventh, eighth, or ninth grades in the fall are eligible to apply. Students attend the program Monday-Thursday from 10am-5pm from July-August with optional additional studio time. This free program is designed for artistic students with an interest in growing their skills in drawing, sculpture, graphics, and more.
Each year, with the help of Circus Amok!, the Queens Museum turns into a spooky wonderland for its Spooktacular event. The afternoon is full of exciting performances, face painting, art making, and scavenger hunts. This event is ticketed with proceeds benefitting the museum’s Education Department, which provides arts programs for students and adults of all abilities. Spooktacular is typically held in January; check the website for date information.
Circus Amok!, a New York City-based circus-theater company, provides musical entertainment as guests dance at the museum’s Spooktacular, an annual event typically held in January that benefits the museum’s education department.
Want to Visit the Queens Museum?
Address: New York City Building, Meridian Road, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm
Admission: $8; $4 seniors; free for children 18 and younger
For more information: queensmuseum.org or 718-592-9700
Main image: Queens Museum’s west façade is covered in glass panels spanning the length of the building, which are backlit by programmable LED lighting.
All photos courtesy Queens Museum