A lot of lucky kids can’t wait for bedtime this weekend. Various museums and cultural institutions in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and San Francisco are hosting after-hours adventures from sleepovers aboard ships to nighttime feedings of exotic animals.
In New York, the American Museum of Natural History holds its hugely popular A Night at the Museum sleepover on Sept. 26. Kids can search for fossils by flashlight and sleep under the massive suspended whale. Across town at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Sept. 27, future mariners can discover what it takes to live, eat, and sleep on the U.S.S. Intrepid at Operation Slumber. If you’ve got animal lovers in your family, check out the Bronx Zoo’s Family Overnight Safari on Sept. 27 where kids can get up close and personal with the animals and then rest with ring-tailed lemurs.
Atlanta’s young’uns must love animals at night, too, because Zoo Atlanta’s Sept. 26 sleepover event Nightcrawlers is sold out (the next available sleepover is Oct. 25—get tickets now!). If your kids still want to get into their PJs and stay up late, try Kids Drive-In Movie Night at the Little House of Art. While you go on a much-needed date night, kids eat pizza, climb into their sleeping bags, and watch Puss In Boots from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Little night owls in Boston can also stay up past their bedtime on Friday at Nocturnal Night at Animal Adventures. From 7-8:30 p.m., your mini-zoologists can meet exotic animals, learn about their world after dark, and attend a special night feeding.
In San Francisco, kids can camp out with seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Center on Sept. 26. At the Seals & Slippers sleepover, families will snooze under the stars but not before they watch the night crew take care of the animals at the evening feeding.
Kids are taking it to the streets this weekend. Literally. In pockets of Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Brooklyn, select streets will be closed for families to gather for block parties, bike and trike tours, and street fair celebrations. It’s a great way for kids to have fun and take in the cityscape. (Plus, it’s so exhilarating to stand on that center yellow line!)
Brooklyn artists and kids will overtake the streets during the Dumbo Arts Festival this weekend. Roads bracketed by Water and Plymouth Sts. will be closed to cars and open to gallery-goers and kids during this celebration of art on the waterfront. Also in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Antic will shut down a massive swath of Atlantic Ave. for “the street festival to end all street festivals.” Live music, pony rides, face painting, and lots of food will keep the kids entertained for hours.
On that same day, plenty of kids in Atlanta will be biking in the streets—specifically a five-mile loop along Highland, North, and Boulevard. Atlanta Streets Alive celebrates all things bicycles and includes a bike parade. Kids can join the parade and see their neighborhoods from a new, two-(or three) wheeled perspective.
In Boston, Circle the City hosts Open Streets, Open World, which will close down Blue Hill Ave. (between Dudley & Warren Sts.) on Sept. 28. Free bikes will be available for all ages. Besides pedaling the roads, families can enjoy live music, kids’ games and arts and projects, and Zumba and yoga sessions.
In San Francisco, Sunday Streets will close down traffic on Mission St. between Geneva & Theresa/Avalon in Excelsior. Along the route, families can check out the Excelsior Festival for live music and performances and delicious multicultural food. As well, your youngest kids will dig the Tricycle Music Festival with tons of tot-bopping bands and activities.
Photo: Central Atlanta Progress via Flickr
If Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Tin Man were transported to any number of children’s museums this weekend, they’d be likely to exclaim, “Spiders and cockroaches and snakes! Oh, my!” There are plenty of creepy crawlers on view at museums from New York to Boston and San Francisco, where kids can get an up-close look at critters and learn how cool—and important to the Earth’s ecosystem—they really are.
New York’s American Museum of Natural History spins an enormous web of an exhibit with Spiders Alive! Kids can get up close (and safely) to more than 20 species of spiders, including a Black Widow and the type of spider featured in Charlotte’s Web.
While spiders also get their moment at Arthropods: Creatures that Rule at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, in Boston, cockroaches take center stage with their own mini-exhibit at the museum. City dwellers may get freaked out at these creepy crawlers, but scientists attest that cockroaches are nurturing parents and often carry and protect their young.
If spiders and cockroaches are a little too commonplace for your kids, the staff at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco would be happy to introduce them to some exotic and colorful snakes this Saturday at Ssssnake Encounter. Kids will learn about these slithering creatures’ unique natural history, predatory behavior, and surprising special senses.
Photo courtesy of Alice Perry
It’s time to get yer geek on this weekend. Dubbed the “greatest show (and tell) on Earth,” the World Maker Faire takes over New York Hall of Science Sept. 20-21. This traveling circus of invention and creativity will feature hundreds of DIY makers who will showcase their fun and over-the-top creations, such as rockets, electronics, and robots.
Speaking of robots, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta hosts Grady Robotics on Saturday where Grady High School’s First Robotics Team will demonstrate some of its cool robots and other engineering feats. Kids will be able to build their own LEGO robot and operate a remote-control robot.
Over in Boston, some super smart MIT students will also be showing off their quirky inventions this weekend at the Inventions: 2014 Student Showcase at the MIT Museum. Kids will dig the futuristic creations like the tabletop interface that converts everyday objects into musical instruments.
Meanwhile at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, kids can build their own geeky gadget on Saturday at Chibitronics. At this hands-on workshop, your little inventors will learn how to create light-up LED cards using circuits and paper.
Photo courtesy of Maker Media
If there were a heaven for abandoned playground equipment, it might look a lot like the Nancy Rubins exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery. Entitled Our Friend Fluid Metal, the show features four colossal installations made from old spring riders. This is one Chelsea gallery exhibit where your kids will definitely recognize the source material.
All photos by Alice Perry
Defying gravity, the forgotten duckies, elephants, and ponies are tied together and suspended in the air by bridge cable wire. Kids will groove on the carnival of colors and toy animals even if they can’t touch them. They’ll love that they’re able to not only walk around the artwork but can stand underneath 20,000 pounds of metal.
The gymnasium-sized Gagosian gallery gives the artwork space to spread out and breathe. The largest of the group stretches 42 feet by 24 feet across the gallery, floating like a celestial body. Another of the assemblages, also made from industrial steel coils and chipped-painted animals, rises from the floor, shaped like a freeze frame of a mammoth wave that never crashes. What’s interesting about the show is that there’s no feeling of an ironic wink-wink about using old playground toys. Rubins is simply reusing and recycling the equipment in the most artistic way possible.
The free exhibit is on view until Sept. 13 at the Gagosian gallery at 522 W. 21st St., open Mon. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The New York International Fringe Festival isn’t just for hipster theatergoers. As part of the two-week fest, FringeNYC offers Fringe Jr., which is specifically designed for families and is a great way to turn your kids on to live theater.
The Fringe Jr. plays are recommended for kids age five to 12 (although we think younger kids would dig them as well). Most of the plays include music and lean toward the goofy end of the spectrum. The best part is that the productions respect the younger audience and never talks down to them.
One of the four plays in rotation for Fringe Jr., Vagabond$ tells the story of a friendship between two travelers who speak different languages but learn to communicate through their love of music and pizza. Presented by the bilingual ExtraTeatro, the one-hour show traces their rags to riches and back to rags journey using lots of physical comedy (one of the actors has Harpo Marx’s moves down pat). Although it may rehash the old adage that money can’t buy happiness, it does it in a fresh and entertaining way that will get the kids (and you too) laughing.
Other shows include Alienne: The Musical Adventures of My Little Martian, which transports Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid into a wacky world of outer space; And Then Came Tango, inspired by the true story of male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who raised a baby fledgling and caused a public outcry; and My Monster Friend about a lonely doctor who creates a friend in his lab with a mail-ordered brain.
All shows are performed at the Theater at the 14th Street Y and cost $13 per person.
The Central Park Conservatory may sound very serious and officious, but its Sandbox series is a lot of fun with large doses of silliness. Taking place in different Central Park playgrounds, the weekday summer program includes storytime, music, dance, and puppet shows. (And they’re all free.)
At a recent Sandbox Stories at the Safari Playground at W. 91st St., seasoned storyteller Brennan Lowery regaled the under five set with a Brother Grimm-style legend about a ravenous little girl who ate everything in sight (including family members). Besides telling tall tales, Lowery read from a storybook and got the kids dancing. Throughout the session, he recruited the kids to help bring the stories alive by asking questions and having them make lots of silly animal noises and sound effects.
The best part of the Sandbox program is that it’s outside at a playground. In the fresh air and under a canopy of trees, a Sandbox event makes a visit to the playground extra special. It also gives you a short break as well (but don’t be surprised if you find yourself joining in on the fun as well).
The Museum of Jewish Heritage knows how to get kids to pay attention to history. Just get techie and give ’em an Ipod and a stunning view.
At the museum’s Voices of Liberty exhibit, kids are handed a sensor-activated Ipod. When they stand in one of the themed spots in the room, they’ll hear a voice of a Holocaust survivor, refugee, and others talk about his or her immigrant journey to the U.S.
The extra cool thing about this exhibit is that the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island provide a very real, spectacular backdrop to the soundscape of stories. As kids listen to a first-person account about seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, they can look out from the floor-to-ceiling windows and see the real thing.
At the start of the show, be sure to check out Timekeeper, another exhibit that incorporates technology and the very real to convey history. This interactive exhibit uses a time-lapse camera to record changes to the Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones sculpture. At the interactive station, kids spin a dial to flashback to the sculpture’s beginning. Afterwards, they can visit and walk through the peaceful park outside just a few floors below.
All photos by Alice Perry
Designed by Dan Graham with Günther Vogt, the commission’s centerpiece is a structure made with curved, reflective glass between two hedge rows. Graham calls the artwork a “two-way mirror hedge labyrinth walkabout,” and although that’s a mouthful, that description basically sums it up. Kids will dig walking into the patio structure and following the S-curved glass, which reflects the skyline and your image in funhouse proportions.
The rooftop itself is covered with synthetic grass so soft that when you sit down you may absented-mindedly pull on a “blade” like you do with the real stuff. Walk over to the terrace’s edge and drink in the amazing one-of-a-kind views of Central Park. The rooftop area feels like it’s floating and hovering just over the treetops like a magic carpet ride.
While you’re enjoying the view, buy a bite to eat at the Roof Garden Café, which serves tasty sandwiches, salads, and sweets, and take a seat under the shady pergola. And if you’re with some friends and a bit thirsty, try one of the fun specialty drinks like “The Ramble” (sweet tea and lemonade with bourbon) or “The Meadow” (basil syrup and cucumber juice with gin).
All photos by Alice Perry
C’mon, admit it. You’ve always wanted to go on one of those NY Harbor cruises with your kids, but you thought they just seemed too (that dreaded word) “touristy.” Well, have no fear. The Circle Line NYC Kids Cruise is a blast for everyone in the whole family and doesn’t feel touristy at all.
Throughout the 75-minute cruise (just the right amount of time), kids are entertained with a roving magician, face-painting or a balloon artist on the top deck, and a musical performance on the lower level. Despite all the goings-on, the fun feels loose and not regimented or overly organized.
Oh, and did we mention the views? Yes, your kids will be occupied with silly songs and onboard entertainers, but it’s really the sights of lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty that will most captivate your kids (and you too). Thankfully, a tour guide’s loudspeaker facts are kept to a minimum, so that your family can take in NY Harbor’s majesty on your own terms. Even if you do feel a teeny tiny bit like a tourist, you’ll love every minute of the voyage.
Circle Line’s next kids cruise departs this Sat., July 26.
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