The echoing marble-clad Great Hall tells you as you enter that this is a Serious Art Museum. But don't let that put you off -- New York City's number-one tourist attraction can be a lot of fun for children, even toddlers. Make a beeline for the areas kids really love: Arms and Armor (first floor), the extensive Egyptian rooms (also on the first floor -- don't miss the glorious mummies), musical instruments (second floor, off the American Wing's courtyard), the Costume Institute (ground floor -- rotating installations will often be of interest to kids), and the European and American furniture rooms (all over the place -- any kid who's read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, about a brother and sister who hide out for weeks in the Met, will adore these). On the first floor of the American Wing, a side gallery displays vintage baseball cards, and a whole gallery of grandfather clocks ticks away on the second floor. Older kids who are beginning to appreciate art may go for the Impressionist gallery (second floor), full of Monets and van Goghs they'll instantly recognize, or the Lehman Wing, set up like the town house of the wealthy collector -- it's art in small enough doses that it doesn't overwhelm.
Our favorite corner, hands down, is the courtyard of the American Wing, a light-filled open space with plantings, benches, and statues kids can actually relate to (a mountain lion and her cubs, a pensive Indian brave). Back in the corner is an entire Frank Lloyd Wright room -- all dark wood and low-slung right angles -- that our family could move into at a moment's notice. Bring lots of small change for kids to throw into the American Wing reflecting pool and in the pool in front of the Egyptian Wing's serene Temple of Dendur. In the Japanese galleries, find the room overlooking the Temple of Dendur; off the musical instruments gallery, find the balcony overlooking the mounted knights in armor.
The huge museum gift shop has a lot of good stuff for kids, and there are plenty of free children's programs.
Nearest Airport: John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia.
Where to Stay: $$ Excelsior Hotel, 45 W. 81st St. (tel. 800/368-4575 or 212/362-9200; www.excelsiorhotelny.com). $$$ Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St. (pedestrian entrance: 118 W. 57th St.; tel. 800/543-4300 or 212/245-5000; www.parkermeridien.com).