Visiting NY City with a curious 10 year old.
April 19, 2019 11:21 AM   Subscribe

So we landed in NY City yesterday with a ten year old girl whose interests start with Harry Potter (and sometimes seemingly end there as well). Looking for things to cater to her curiosity. More details inside.

This is a "Children's Wish Foundation" (she's fine now) trip so we have the Harry Potter and Cursed Child thing covered, as well as The Lion King broadway show. The trip is semi-scripted for us by the foundation, but we have several free days in the next week. From this recent AskMe I heard about Puffs which I think she would enjoy.

She is interested in seeing dinosaurs (so AMNH) and also some Impressionist painting. ColorFactory also looks interesting.

She is also interested in codes and cryptography, but I wonder if SpyScape is too old or mature for her? She is a big reader and can handle a large vocabulary but she is also a gentle 10 year old. She likes to read Potter, certain historical fantasy (the series with the mixed up Greek Gods), Warrior Cats, and the like.

The Ride, which appears to be a comedic meta-tour, looks interesting but again, for a 10 year old? Also, she has moderate hearing loss, wears hearing aids, but too-loud is potentially a problem.

Anyway, if you have some ideas for great, child-friendly NY City experiences then post away. Our hotel is in midtown but we can get around.
posted by Rumple to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Met Cloisters Might be a nice destination. It's got a lovely garden like atmosphere and artworks for a sort of monastic school oriented person.
posted by effluvia at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

At that age mine loved making animations, little movies and other media art at Museum of the Moving Image.
Also as no doubt others will say, The Tenement Museum is excellent for history-minded tweens.
posted by nantucket at 11:34 AM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: The activity-filled Museum of Mathematics?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:36 AM on April 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

The Gulliver's Gate museum.
posted by Melismata at 11:43 AM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: She sounds like she would be besties with my 10 year old. We live in NYC.

Agree with Museum of the Moving Image. We are members (we live down the street) and it's interesting, with tons to do, loads of interactive stuff as well as historical cinema stuff.

Take the roosevelt island tram over to the island and wander down to Four freedoms park. Beautiful views of the city, and the cherry blossoms are coming out.

If she is into ice cream, head down to LES/Chinatown area for all sorts of great treats, google will help you out there.

Mine still loves the sea glass carousel down in Battery park, but she skews young with her likes and dislikes.
posted by gaspode at 11:49 AM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, and the Museum of Math!
posted by gaspode at 11:49 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the Cloisters. The architecture is very Hogwarts-esque. The New York Public Library is another magnificant public space. If the weather is nice, just poking around Central Park, especially the east side, with the zoo and Cleopatra's Needle and the fountain and the Ramble, is a fun sort of open exploration. For kids, especially since you have a lot of theater-sitting planned, getting lots of interactivity is great. When you go to a place, give her the map and let her lead as much as possible. It's a great age for travel and sightseeing.
posted by rikschell at 11:52 AM on April 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Cloisters is indeed lovely this time of year, and the climb to the museum itself, which is located on a big outcropping of rock overlooking the river and park, feels very Hogwarts-y for sure. They sometimes have interesting sensory programs for kids that might appeal to the Potter fan in her -- what did unicorn fur feel like? You may want to call and see if anything's on offer currently, or perhaps could be arranged. There are also 'scavenger hunt' activities at The Met, plus all manner of themed tours (both guided and pre-recorded/done via smartphone) which could focus on particular areas of interest for her (and help narrow down what is an enormous museum, far too large to navigate on just one visit).

Their kids' section isn't huge, but she might like to make a trip to The Strand to see All The Books -- it definitely would have blown my mind at age 10. The Forbidden Planet comics shop is right next door, too, along with a wild year-round costume shop. And Union Square has a few fun treat-oriented places for a snack, including two different over-the-top 'chocolate lab' places (Blue Stripes and the older Max Brenner) as well as a Kellogg's cereal bar.

Make sure you don't overschedule yourselves -- NYC has a way of getting sensorily overwhelming. You may want to schedule a down-time afternoon or two -- have a picnic or grab lunch to go and just visit a park, lie on the grass, be outside in the city, and chill.
posted by halation at 11:53 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

N’thing Museum of the Moving Image for kids that age. It has wonderful interactive stuff for kids.
posted by spitbull at 12:00 PM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: I'll nth The Museum of Math as well; it's small (a few hours is plenty) but great for that age. They have a working enigma machine in the back corner downstairs to play with, if she's into cryptography...
posted by ook at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Couple of stores she might be interested in browsing:

posted by soren_lorensen at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

On the AMNH excursion you might want to stop off at Books of Wonder's UWS location.
posted by praemunire at 12:11 PM on April 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Met's ancient Greek and Roman section sounds just the ticket for a kid interested in Greek gods and magic.
posted by heatherlogan at 12:22 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great walk along the water with lots of interesting areas to take in and explore, including a carousel. If walking is a thing, that can be combined with a walk across the Manhattan Bridge (way less crowded than the Brooklyn Bridge) into Manhattan's Chinatown.

Another fun thing is riding on a city ferry (same price as a subway ride!). It stops at Gantry Park in Long Island City which is another great waterfront park.
posted by kokaku at 12:31 PM on April 19, 2019

Response by poster: Wow thanks for the responses so far, keep them coming.

Does anyone have experience with SpyScape and whether it would be pitched too old for a 10 year old?
posted by Rumple at 12:37 PM on April 19, 2019

I have a couple ideas - one museum and a few shops.

She is interested in seeing dinosaurs (so AMNH) and also some Impressionist painting.

The Met has an impressive Impressionist collection. It's on the other side of Central Park from AMNH. There's also a whole lot of other museum there, too (the Egyptian wing may knock her socks off, and also look for something called "the Vanderbilt Panorama" - and make sure you read the museum description of what it is, because it's an impressive detail.)

She is also interested in codes and cryptography [...] She is a big reader and can handle a large vocabulary but she is also a gentle 10 year old. She likes to read Potter, certain historical fantasy (the series with the mixed up Greek Gods), Warrior Cats, and the like.

Two shops:

* Forbidden Planet is probably a must-see. Their collection is mostly comic books, but they would probably have a lot of things to catch her eye.

* The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store is one of the shops benefiting the nonprofit organization 826; this organization is devoted to helping kids with their literacy and writing. There are about 8-9 of these shops in various cities around the country, and all have the same model - a shop selling quirky novelty gifts in the front, and the organizations' offices in the back, with classrooms, tutors, and afterschool programs. The novelty-gift theme for this one is various "superhero" gear like capes and masks, maps of "known villan hideouts," bottles of "invisibility serum" or "antigravity potion" (not for consumption!) and the like. It's profoundly silly, but fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

No knowledge of spyscape.

I recommend governors island. The ferry trip is fun, it tends not to be super crowded. I haven’t checked to confirm that it’s open for the season.

Coney Island night appeal.

Mid manhattan library branch is currently housed in the Schwartzmann building, which is famous for Patience and Fortitude guarding the front. Bryant Park right outside often has family friendly activities.

Central Park is great for walking.

If she’s into Alice in Wonderland and tea and dessert she might love Alice’s Teacup (there are a few locations).

If she wants a big tall building experience there are several and you can just do one based on your schedule. Many sell tickets in advance which can cut down the line waiting.

I don’t love tour buses but some kids do, there are a few companies.
posted by bilabial at 12:43 PM on April 19, 2019

Oh! And here's more about the ferry kokaku mentioned - there are more than one line.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on April 19, 2019

Oh! If you’re on the west side of the park for museum, go a bit west and get cream puffs from Beard Papa. So good. They sell small version now and not just the bigger size.
posted by bilabial at 12:45 PM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: We did Spyscape this weekend! There was a family there with kids - probably in the 10-12 range.

Basically, you go through and they have questions and games/tests you do - some of the questions are fine for a 10 year old, I think (do you stress easily, do you like to work in groups) and some of the tests were harder - matching patterns, doing math, that sort of thing. You also have a surveillance room where you watch video cameras and answer questions (which camera has someone playing an instrument on it, etc). There was one that was a code game, where you had to send an encrypted message to someone. There was also a booth where you had to determine if someone was lying, based on the instructions and things to look for (touching lips, etc).

Oh, and a room where you tried to get through the room without touching the lasers - that was a lot of fun.

A lot of these are timed, and you can time out on them, but I didn't feel like the time was unreasonable. (I also didn't sweat the math/pattern matching, and made my best guess on them.)

There are a lot of exhibits on spy stuff - code breakers, CIA, etc. There's also a little coffee shop and a lot of merchandise.

You can go through it at your own pace. The prices online are slightly lower than if you buy on site, though, so buy them online if you can.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:48 PM on April 19, 2019

Take her to Steamy Hallows, a Harry Potter-inspired cafe in the East Village.
posted by lovelygirl at 1:41 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I recently visited The Morgan museum, which was the billionaire's home and includes a very cool, old library...very dim and ornate Hogwart sort of vibe for a little kid, I think. I wasn’t there to check it out but they have a Tolkien exhibit going on as well.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:23 PM on April 19, 2019

I know this has already been mentioned several times, but really, the museum of the moving image is what you want. It's interesting for adults as well as kids and has lots of interactive activities mixed in with exhibits full of interesting, iconic stuff.
posted by mosst at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: I did Spyscape with my husband and his mother; based on how technologically savvy she is I think a ten-year old could do it but I’m not sure there’s enough overlap between Harry Potter magic stuff and the secret/undercover side of spying. There’s also more focus on the history of spying than I expected which I’m not sure would be that interesting to the average kid. But it’s fun and they take all of the results from the 10-15 different activity stations and assign you a type of spy which was cool and, we all felt, VERY accurate.
posted by kate blank at 2:44 PM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: Heads up that, while the dinosaur exhibit at AMNH has been redone recently and is pretty cool, many of the portions dealing with people have not (with the use of not only "Rhodesia" (so definitely pre-1979), but "negroes" when I went in 2016). There's really no suggestion that any of the cultures exhibited ("described" would suggest there's information or that someone had spoken to people about their culture rather than just taken their stuff, which isn't the case in some of the older exhibits) are actual existing, living cultures, nor that the last 30+ years of museum studies had happened. It was pretty shocking for someone who is used to the Field Museum in Chicago (which itself has a few dodgy exhibits). If your kid is going to want to wander the museum rather than just making a beeline for the dinosaurs and the exit, it's probably worth thinking about how you'll talk to them about this.

It looks like tomorrow night would be your only chance, but the Queens Night Market could be fun if she's into trying new foods. It's next to the Hall of Science which I haven't been to.

The Transit Museum is really good.

I'm of the opinion that the Cloisters are overrated (and 10 year old me hated religious art), but Fort Tryon Park is delightful. If you do go to the Cloisters, I'd recommend getting lunch somewhere and eating it in the park. (If you take the A train to 181st (one stop before where the guidebooks tell you for the Cloisters), exit at the 184th St end of the platform and take the elevator up to Fort Washington, there are some delis and grocery stores with prepared food at 187th. Walk north of Fort Washington into the park.)

If she's into stationery/pens, 10 year old me would have thought the basement of Kinokuniya was heaven. There's apparently a cafe with Japanese baked goods on one of the upper floors.

Be advised that it's spring break for NYC public schools next week. This means there's likely to be extra kid-friendly programming on, but also more kids about.
posted by hoyland at 4:26 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

On Monday at 6.15pm there's Late Night Science at Columbia, which looks like neuroscience grad students giving a talk and then a lab tour. There's an email address if you want to sound them out on kid-friendliness. (There's a kid in the picture, but they look older than 10. I'd guess this is the sort of thing some 10 year olds would eat up and others would be bored out of their skulls.)
posted by hoyland at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2019

That is prime age for a matinee musical.
posted by fshgrl at 7:51 PM on April 19, 2019

Best answer: Nthing the museum of the moving image. The Jim Henson exhibit that’s newly permanent is spectacular.

Also for a chill place to hang out and do some people watching, Washington Square Park is lovely this time of year. Lots of musicians on a nice weekend day around the fountain.

Check our Scott’s Pizza Tours if you like pizza.

The Staten Island Ferry is a great free way to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty-
Just get off the boat and get back on when you arrive in Staten Island.

Have fun!
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:13 AM on April 20, 2019

Best answer: Just noticed that there's only a single recommendation for the Metropolitan Museum itself and it'd be tragic to skip that. Apart from Greek and Roman sculpture, there's astounding Egyptian and Medieval stuff, Rodin sculptures...the whole place is a temple to hand work.

If you walk to the west side of the park, on the south side of the beautiful Turtle Pond, the NY Historical Society museum has a half floor devoted to Tiffany lamps. The kids that were there when I saw it seemed genuinely amazed.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:17 AM on April 21, 2019

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. A few comments in case they are helpful for others.

So many things to do and see and personally I was a little overwhelmed by Manhattan itself. The Harry Potter play was truly exceptionial in having real-time special effects and she was on the edge of her seat for 5 hours. Being the point of the trip, that did not disappoint, luckily. The Lion King also was magnificent, we were about six rows back and other than the people behind us real-time translating into German for their children it was incredible and she loved every second of it.

Because of her love of the Percy Jackson books she was really into the Greek and Roman section in the Met (thanks heatherlogan). At the AMNH it was dinosaurs of course but especially the ocean and space exhibits that turned her on. We went to the Guggenheim because I wanted to meet a friend to see the Hilma af Klint show but she wasn't really into it, unsurprisingly. We went to the Museum of Math based on the reccomendations and it is a very cool museum, however extremely crowded with schoolgroups and many of the exhibits weren't working, and the staff was very bored. I think on a different day it might be better -- she does talk about it a lot though, especially the square trikes, but it's one of those places where if the touch screens are broken then there may not be much else, and the ethos of exploration of the exhibits is a little too much of a good thing. Anyway she roared around for a few hours and had fun.

The Statue of Liberty seems to book up weeks in advance and in the end she went on the Staten Island ferry and back which she enjoyed a lot. She loved Central Park, she loved the little zoo there (I am ambivalent about zoos but we talked it over) and she LOVED ice skating at Rockefeller Centre (Canadian Kid I guess :) . She really loved the whispering wall in Grand Central station and riding the subway and all those big city things. And she loved the NY Public Library which also features in the Percy Jackson books.

One thing we found out about too late, but which I am sure she would have loved, so making a link here is the Museum of Illusions.

We didn't get to the Spy Museum thing or the Tenement Museum. We were quite busy and also pacing ourselves. Also the Museum of the Moving Image was very alluring and she was interested in going but we just didn't get there in the limited time.

Hoyland -- thank you for comments on the AMNH displays. I was struck by the archaic nature of the displays and labelling, even though as an archaeologist, I was ready for them. Some places like the Pitt Rivers are deliberately anachronistic while others are sort of defiantly so -- AMNH curiously seems to be in that category. But in the end we didn't really spend some time in the ethnological sections since it's not her jam so much and anyway the NW Coast Hall is closed which was disappointing for me.

Anyway the trip has inspired me to think of trying to spend a month or something in a NY airbnb and really dig into it. I don't deal with the super-crowded streets very well but the people were much friendlier than I had been led to believe and I could imagine lots of interesting walks and spending a quiet month doing one thing a day.
posted by Rumple at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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