The best thing about living in New York City, for locomotive obsessed kids, is the subway. The second best thing is the New York Transit Museum. Housed in a decommissioned subway tunnel, entering the museum is just like embarking on our daily commute, except without stroller friendly elevator access (but there is stroller parking inside). Once inside, a tollbooth operator sold us tickets and then we were free to explore. And what a place to discover!
The first stop was the exhibit ElectriCity, an informative and interactive look at electricity. Designed by the Liberty Science Center and sponsored by Con Edison, it’s the first science exhibit housed in this historical museum. Turning a wheel shoots sparks of electricity, sliding a metal rig activates a “third wheel” and pressing buttons and switches make loud noises. It would be literally impossible to pull my child away–if not for the other exciting options up ahead.
Vintage trolleys, bus replicas and gas stations fill a majority of the top floor; all for children to climb on, drive, or “fill ‘er up.” With so many different options, the wait is never that long for a turn in the driver’s seat. My son could drive a bus for hours on end (“This button is the horn, this button opens the window, this button gives me ice cream…”), so it was a good opportunity for me to peruse the antique subway tokens and other artifacts on display.
The newest exhibit, “Meet Miss Subway: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-1976,” contrasts vintage photographs of this iconic beauty contest (strange but true!) with the present day photos of the queens. Rotary telephones line the walls, perfectly at child height, for listening to the pageant stars talk about their experiences.
An hour later, we headed down the stairs to the pièce de résistance: vintage subway cars lined up just waiting for passengers. Having free reign on a subway tunnel makes people giddy–it’s fun to walk freely in and out of these antique cars at whim. Lift your child high to ring the bell at the 1407 train, and don’t forget to check out the old subway maps–it’s surprising what’s changed! This is a real subway tunnel though, with a working third rail, so we tried not to get overzealous.
If you have any energy left after a few hours of burning energy, definitely check out the gift shop. Here you can buy all things ‘metro’: rain boots, ties, and magnets all emblazoned with subway maps; miniature subway cars; and train themed books, stationery and puzzles galore. This time we were too hungry to shop. Unfortunately, there’s no food sold here, but there is a great cafeteria to eat snacks that you bring. Save room for lunch though, like we did, and walk two blocks west to chef Danny Meyer’s world famous Shake Shack. Eating more calories than we usually do in a week seemed like a good idea when we gorged on a hot dog (my son), a portobello mushroom burger (me), large fries and a black-and-white frozen custard shake (to share). With grease and ice cream literally running down our arms, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant dreaming of an express line to nap-town.
The New York Transit Museum (718-694-1600) is located at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights, and open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm; admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children 2-17 years of age, and free on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month if you have a membership at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum or Queens Hall of Science.
Shake Shack (718-307-7590) is located at 409 Fulton Street between Willoughby and Adams Streets.