Despite the name, there is lots more to The Newark Museum of Art than art—with creative interactive exhibits, a family-friendly planetarium, and programming that engages kids and their parents, the state’s largest museum offers a chance to immerse your family into a day of wonder and curiosity. Read on for the surprising and fun things to do while you’re there, and take a look at more of our favorite museums in New Jersey. (featured photo taken at The Newark Museum of Art)
Exploring the museum
Before you get started, get the lay of the land—the Newark Museum of Art contains 80 galleries of collections that include Asian, American, African, and Classical art, in addition to lots of kid-friendly places to explore. Older kids will enjoy seeing the Ballantine House from 1885, which recently reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation inside and out. The mansion highlights the unseen stories of the skilled craftspeople who built the home, those who kept it running, and the Ballantine family who lived there through rotating exhibits of contemporary art, historical objects, and new interactive experiences. Younger families will want to focus on exhibits like Animal Kingdom on the third level and, in warmer months, The Garden, which includes a Fire Museum, Old Stone Schoolhouse, and Discovery Garden. The museum is one big loop around, and plan to spend the bulk of your visit at Animal Kingdom, featuring animal and oceanic creature interactive interactive displays that beg “please touch me” to keep kids engaged. Kids will be mesmerized by the Audubon Immersive Experience, where they can travel through forests, coastal areas, and wetlands to see Audubon’s Birds of America come to life. They’ll also want to experience the Animal Match Game, where you can step into a cave of ancient rock drawings to learn about the animals pictured.
See an aquarium come to life
At one of the newest exhibits, Sketch Aquarium: Connected World, kids can draw their own creatures on paper and then scan them to “swim” in an underwater digital aquarium designed by the international art collective teamLab. Kids will be thrilled to see their drawing leap from the page and watch the sea creation enter the digital habitat. It’s truly interactive—tap on the wall to change the course of the sea life or even get one to follow your drawing. There’s also a bag of treasure that floats by every so often. Kids can touch it to reveal gems that feed the fish and their creations.
Engage in family activities
The Newark Museum of Art hosts First Family Saturdays, an ideal way to immerse the whole family in art and catch a live performance during special days. From events like planetarium shows to creative play to acts of service and science drop-ins, parents and kids will find engaging in the activities a fun way to create and learn. Upcoming events include a Lunar New Year celebration with performances and creative projects celebrating Black History Month. Tip: check the activities beforehand since they are recommended for different ages and locations can vary. Before you visit, you can also engage in virtual tours and games, which include a Murder Mystery Game and an Escape at The Ballantine House, where you have to work together to solve puzzles to get everyone hyped before their visit.
See the world at the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium
On First Family Saturdays, check out the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium in the South Wing for unique presentations that change throughout the year. Find out the schedule before you visit—there are usually two shows, one for younger children and one for ages 12 and up. Though the planetarium is smaller than other museums, it still gives you an out-of-this-world experience that kids of all ages will love. Currently, The Wonders of The World show offers a birds-eye view of the Wonders of the World, including the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China, as well as a star map and black holes.
What to know before you go
Tickets to the museum are $10 for adults and $8 for children, seniors 65+, and teachers and students with valid IDs. Free admission is granted to members 2 years and younger, Newark residents, active duty military, veterans and their families, and some other exceptions. The planetarium is first-come, first-served, and included in general admission. The museum is open Thursday-Sunday and closed Monday-Wednesday. Parking is next to the museum for $10 with entrances on Washington Street and Central Avenues, and you can pay through Pay by App and Text to Pay (cash payment is not available, and be aware that this can change depending on museum events). There is a handicapped entrance with automated doors, elevators to the first and second floors, and stroller wheelchair-friendly restrooms on the second level. The main level bathroom is not stroller-friendly; there is a small flight of stairs you need to climb to get to it. The cafe offers breakfast and deli to-go lunch items, and there are small tables to eat at. Exhibits rotate throughout the year, so be sure to check often to see what’s new and what’s closing.
The Newark Museum of Art
49 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
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