It had been a while since we posted about the New York Transit Museum and since we're highlighting Brooklyn Heights this month, it seemed like a great time for a return visit. The Transit Museum is one of the neighborhood's biggest attractions for kids, especially the train-obsessed ones. Housed in a decommissioned (but still functional) 1936 subway station, it's a true underground museum and the country's largest institution devoted to urban public transportation.
When my son was in preschool, this was one of our go-to indoor play spots. I was pleased to find that, even though he's a mature first grader now, there's still plenty of hands-on fun to keep him engaged.
Opened in 1976, the New York Transit Museum has two interactive levels to explore. Most of the exhibits are permanent and educate visitors about the history of mass transportation in NYC and how it functions.
On the lower level, you'll find the bulk of the exhibits, like Steel, Stone & Backbone: Building New York's Subways 1900-1925, which examines the construction of New York City's first underground subway line via photos, cool historical artifacts (like explosives detonators and wheelbarrows filled with rocks) and videos. Nearby, Fare Collection features turnstiles from various eras, a subway booth that kids can play in and a 50-year timeline of the token (remember them?).
In the hands-on On the Streets: New York's Trolleys and Buses, visitors can climb into and pretend to drive several vehicles, including a wheelchair accessible 12-seat bus and a 1960s fishbowl bus. There's also a great hands-on section called Clearing the Air where kids can learn about various fuel technologies and their environmental impact by pumping gas into a bus, pushing buttons, and watching fluff and paper blow around inside wind tubes.
The temporary ElectriCity: Powering New York's Rails is a large installation that teaches kids how electricity works and makes the subway run. The display is on view through 2016 and you can read our in-depth review for all the details.
The platform level's Moving the Millions: New York City's Subways from its Origins to the Present featuring 20 vintage subway and elevated cars from various eras is the hands-down favorite. Kids can enter every car, sit on the seats, twirl on the polls, race down the aisles, check out the design changes over the years and chuckle at the awesome old-school ads (that last bit is particularly fun for parents).
While the Transit Museum is a fun destination on any day, it also regularly hosts kid-friendly events, including special programming every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30pm, most free with admission. It's best to check the online calendar to see what's happening. There are also classes for children with special needs, well priced birthday packages and awesome Nostalgia Train excursions to various NYC destinations, some of which leave from the Transit Museum station!
The New York Transit Museum is located at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, 718-694-1600. Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 2-17.
Find out about other great things to do with kids in Brooklyn Heights or check out our Museum Guide.