So recently I had a really terrible idea. It was pouring horizontal rain, freezing cold AND the schools were all closed for spring break… and for some reason, I decided it would be a truly excellent idea to take one of my girls to the Planetarium at the Natural History Museum. The good news was that I got our tickets the night before on-line (which you should ALWAYS do if available) … the bad news is that I spent the morning in a complete state of nature with what seemed like all of human kind. Uggh!
Despite the human jigsaw puzzle, we had a great time but the whole experience served as a gentle reminder that a rainy day visit to a museum is really not such a great idea after all as chances are that every single other human being alive has the same idea. Here are some of my favorite museums in the city…
Children’s Museum of Manhattan – This popular Upper West Side destination is always great fun. On the top floor they have a huge 4,000 square foot interactive play space that caters to everyone from crawling babies to active four year olds. There is a fire truck, city bus, slides, sand, and lots of fun spaces to crawl around in. For the older set they still have the ever popular “Dora and Diego” exhibit which is a full floor of adventure and exploration. We especially love this museum because it has a lot of little nooks and crannies to get lost in. Note: They do not have food service here so either pack a lunch and eat in Central Park (a block away) or come in the late afternoon when it is less crowded.
Children’s Museum of Brooklyn – If I had to pick a favorite children’s museum this would be it due to the sheer amount of things to see. Before you launch their website turn the sound off because the music is brutal! Anyway – we love this museum and we don’t get there enough. They have TONS of exciting exhibits including a huge separate playspace for little ones with a gigantic water table. There is so much to do and see here that you can feel overwhelmed at times which is why I can’t wait to go back.
MOMA – Although not technically a museum for young kids it is fun to run around in and they have a ton of escalators! Gotta love the escalators. I did take one of my young ones on a walk around to some of the exhibits and she had a blast just people watching. They do have an interesting little set-up called the Shape Lab which is off the main museum and has quiet areas to read, draw and do magnetic art on the wall. The best part of the Moma for us however was the café – VERY VERY VERY child friendly and the food is AMAZING!!!! It’s worth the price of admission alone.
Natural History Museum — The mother of all the NY museums. I can’t say enough good things about it. I especially love going here because it reminds me of my own childhood as believe it or not, not much has changed. Things I have learned however… if you are going to eat lunch there go to the lunchroom EARLY – at like 11. Not a minute later. Take the train there if you can. The C train stops right in the building and the lines are not as long from that entrance. Definitely get tickets to the Planetarium on-line ahead of time, and just for the record, I would probably not bring a child there until they are at least 5 or 6. I had to answer a lot of tough questions about how the sun caught on fire in the first place and why stars die with my four-year-old and I think I might have traumatized her. And finally… don’t do more than 2-3 exhibits in a day or you will collapse from fatigue. This is the type of museum that will take many times to cover.
New York Hall of Science — A bit off the beaten path and requiring a trip to Queens. I would say it is a museum for older kids but they did have a little play area for younger kids with a dedicated treehouse and a playroom with puzzles and the like. It is not as shiny and new as the other museums but it’s a nice break from the city and it doesn’t get as packed. I find it to be a real “school” destination so I imagine that it is best to go in the afternoons to avoid the crunch. It’s also quite large so don’t expect to cover everything in one visit. Most importantly — bring your own food. There is a cafeteria but it is chock full of really unhealthy stuff. I am not this crazy organic freak-show but it always upsets me when I don’t see fresh alternatives at a kids museum.