Maker Faire New York 2013: What's New for NYC Kids at this Hyper-Creative Festival
This coming weekend one of our a favorite annual festivals, World Maker Faire New York, returns for its fourth annual edition. This massive celebration of creativity and innovation was launched in San Mateo, California in 2006 by Make magazine and has since expanded to numerous cities, including ours. It is, in a word, awesome. Lots of other adjectives come to mind too, like outrageous, over-the-top, thought-provoking, enriching and (unfortunately for me) indescribable. It's very hard to explain why World Maker Faire is so cool—hopefully the photos in our slide show give you an idea of what a unique experience it is.
My family and I have gone to every edition since it arrived in NYC and are consistently blown away. We're counting down the days until Saturday, when the fairgrounds surrounding the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park will overflow with more than 600 makers, crafters, tinkerers, hackers, techies, thinkers and artisans proudly showing off their wacky robots, homemade needlework, 3D-printed products, music-making gizmos and zillions of other wild things. Organized into five themed (more or less) Zones, Maker Faire features a crafts pavilion, a slew of Young Makers under 18, hands-on activities, fantastic demos and installations, and memorable live entertainment like the Coke Zero & Mentos Fountains and a life-size recreation of the board game Mouse Trap.
While Maker Faire's counterculture, do-it-yourself spirit seems to get a little more commercial every year, don't worry: We've gone through the program and there will still be plenty of super-offbeat stuff you won't see anywhere else. Plus this year there's a brand-new area specifically dedicated to families. But make sure you wander around: At Maker Faire there's something cool waiting to be discovered around every corner.
World Maker Faire is a mash-up of people doing different things. Some sell their creations, others display or perform their work, and many booths host hands-on activities. At this one-of-a-kind event, you'll find school-age kids selling homemade PVC marshmallow shooters or a geeky dad showing off his robots alongside established educational programs like Brooklyn Aerodrome, RoboFun, the Brooklyn Robot Foundry and, of course, the New York Hall of Science.
I won't lie: The whole thing can feel kind of overwhelming (heck it's overwhelming just to write about it!). Although the entire event is family-friendly and engaging, you may not know where to go or what to do first. That's why we've highlighted some must-sees for families, both new additions and returning favorites.
New and Notable Additions for Kids and Families
Duct Tape Bling – Create a colorful duct-tape bracelet studded with LED lights.
Congo – Check out a plywood elephant created entirely out of triangles.
Chopsticking – Use chopsticks to see how many pieces of sushi you can grab from a spinning bowl in 30 seconds.
And of course, there are many kids' attractions in the brand-new Family Fun area located in Zone E on the New York Hall of Science's west lawn including:
SkrapKins recycled art projects
Frankenbike, an exhibit of funky homemade recumbent bikes
Archimedes Basket, a dome-shaped shelter made of PVC and fabric
Puppet Phactory large-scale puppet workshops
Returning Favorites for Kids and Families
Swap-o-rama-rama – Clean out your closet for the world’s largest clothing swap! You can also learn how to turn your old duds into something new with DIY fashion workshops.
Lockpick Village – Play cat burglar for a day by learning how to outwit security and pick locks.
Nerdy Derby – Bring your own car or make one here to participate in races inspired by the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby.
Coke Zero & Mentos Fountains – Geysers of soda shoot more than 20 feet into the air in this mint-powered version of Las Vegas' Bellagio Fountains, brought to you by the mad scientists of EepyBird. Their online videos actually received multiple Emmy nominations.
Life-size Mouse Trap – This hand-crafted, 16-piece, 50,000-pound interactive kinetic sculpture is set atop a 6,500-square-foot game board. In addition to marveling at the fact that people actually made this, you can enjoy a charmingly amateurish vaudeville-style show with mice can-can dancers, clown workers, acrobatic high jinks and an original score by one-woman band Esmerelda Strange. My son is obsessed with this!
Brooklyn Aerodrome – Build your own aircraft and see how far it will fly or try a radio-controlled flyer.
Circus Warehouse – Watch the pros show off their skills and then learn a few new circus tricks yourself.
Maker Faire also features a bunch of talks and demos like Children as Makers, Makers as Children by former engineering professor and mom AnnMarie Thomas, where she'll talk about creating future-makers, and How to Make Upcycled Plastic Bag Bangle Bracelets where you can make your own bracelet.
Of course our list is by no means comprehensive. Visit the Maker Faire website for a complete list of exhibitors and activities. You can even browse by topic so you can see all of the exhibitors in each category, like crafts, electronics, music and best for families. If you're still not sure what to expect, watch this video of highlights Mommy Poppins shot in 2010.
Things to Know Before You Go
Buy your tickets in advance, You'll be able to save a few bucks and skip the line. The best deal for families is the Sunday Family Pass, which gets you admission for five people for $70 as long as you arrive between 10am and 1pm on Sunday. You can still stay the whole day.
Plan out your day. While you'll certainly want to spend some of your time roaming the grounds, you should go through the program and look at the map before you arrive so you know what attractions you absolutely can't miss.
Arrive early. The space is big but it gets crowded fast and you'll need at least one full day to cover everything. Life-size Mouse Trap, Coke Zero & Mentos Fountain and other main-stage attractions in Zone D get mobbed right before show time so again, come early. We hung around the Mouse Trap in between performances so we could get up close.
Download the app. There's a Maker Faire app available for Apple mobile devices and Android phones that ostensibly helps you navigate the grounds and create a schedule. It seems to work better for planning in advance than when you're actually there. But it's free so it's worth downloading.
Take the subway. The New York Hall of Science is about a 10-minute walk from the 111th Street stop on the 7 train. If you drive, you'll have to park your car at Citi Field for $10 and take a shuttle bus to the fair.
Bring cash for food. Unfortunately you're not allowed to bring your own food but there are tasty food trucks on hand. Warning: The lines get long! .
Prepare for a long day. Sleep well and arrive ready for a lot of walking, standing, engaging and learning. Maker Faire is not for the lazy!
World Maker Faire New York 2013 takes place at the New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. Saturday, September 21 10am-7pm and Sunday, September 22 10am-6pm. In advance: $30 for adults, $15 for children ages 2-17; more at the door. Various ticket packages are available on the website.
Find out about other great things to do with kids this month in our September NYC Go List.