It’s also a good time to consider plunking down $100 for a family “Trailblazer” membership, because you can get a lot of mileage out of it. Namely, free admission for 2 adults and 4 kids to 300+ science and technology museums around the world. (And the word family is meant loosely, since those adults and kids don’t have to be related.)
Chances are you will only visit a handful in one year, but the ones on the list include the Exploratorium in San Francisco—which charges a hefty $15 for adults and $10 for 4-12-year-olds—and locally, the Intrepid, the Staten Island Children’s Museum (a favorite of this mom’s), the New York Transit Museum, and my favorite, the New York Hall of Science.
Located far, far away on the former grounds of the World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, it’s one of those destination museum trips that is easy by car but will require serious train time if you’re commuting from South Brooklyn. (But then, the same could be said for North Brooklynites regarding the Children’s Museum, which is in Crown Heights.) The payoff is a mammoth museum filled with 450 exhibits that speak to some aspect of science, be it pitching cages or a shadow “machine” by artist Ed Tannenbaum. There’s also an outdoor science playground open through December, with slides and kinetic sculptures, sound steps, and water features (great in summertime); mini-golf, rockets from pre-Apollo space missions and a Preschool Place that is stocked with everything a little kid could hope to fight over: wooden trains, a play grocery store, a doll house, puppets, books.
For older kids (and parents), NYSCI is enormous fun. Right now, Preschool Place is the key attraction for my two-year-old. We used to visit more often when we lived in Long Island City, but now that we’re back in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum makes more sense in terms of distance and scope, because it’s geared toward young kids. Their preschool/toddler area, Totally Tots, even includes a well-padded playspace for babies 18 months and younger, so your new crawler/walker isn’t clobbered by someone more mobile. An indoor pond is bobbing with bath toys, and there are waterproof smocks at the ready to keep kids mostly dry. It also keeps the fingerpaint off, which the museum staff puts out during weekly art classes that typically run Fridays through Sundays. Compared to buying a day pass plus a class at one of those indoor gyms, visiting the museum on a day when there are free activities will cost you less even if you don’t become a member. (Check the calendar for the latest activities, which also include story time and hands-on workshops like this Sunday’s Buggy Cuisine class and annual events like the popular IckyFest! Nov. 20-21.)
Upstairs, the current “Out on a Limb” exhibition is filled with interactive, woodland-themed stations where you can make music on tree trunks, gather leaves, and play with sticks to the sound of (simulated) chirping birds, which is actually pleasant and relaxing. And unlike the New York Hall of Science, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum lets you bring in your own food and microwave it, an option I highly recommend unless you want to buy an overpriced sandwich, salad, nachos or cereal. They also open at 10 am every day but Monday.
So, how much mileage have I gotten out of my $100 family plan?
Perhaps a better tally is the total I would have spent if didn’t have one:
1 visit to the Brooklyn Children’s museum with my 2-year-old, my girlfriend and her 16-month-old (my treat)=$30
3 visits to the NY Hall of Science with my toddler=$42.
Total to date = $72. I’m still in the hole, but I’m only four months into my membership.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., Crown Heights, 718-735-4400. It’s closest to the 3 at Kingston Ave. and the C at Kingston/Throop, and street parking is easy. New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street, Queens, 718-699-0005. It’s closest to the 7 train at 111th St. and there’s a parking lot on site, $10 for the day or free for members.