Sony Wonder Technology Lab: Visiting the Free High-Tech Museum with Young NYC Kids
Unfortunately, this venue closed in January 2016.
The Sony Wonder Technology Lab has long been one of our favorite free plays spots for kids in New York City. We first reviewed the technological wonderland after it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation in 2008. But a few things have changed since then, both at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab and technology in general. (Can you remember a time before Angry Birds? Probably not). So we decided to take a second look at the Lab, which is a great destination for February break or anytime the kids aren't in school.
As a hardcore techie (my resume includes stints as a network administrator and director of Internet development at a startup), I enjoy sharing my love of all things geeky with my preschool-age daughter. Although the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is recommended for children ages 8 to 14, younger kids will still find lots of things to do here (even though they'll probably need an adult's help). My almost-four-year-old loves pressing buttons and touch screens, so she was my sidekick throughout our visit.
The interactive exhibits we raved about last time are still there. My daughter enjoyed watching robots interact with each other in the Robot Zone. The Interactive Floor was another favorite. She loved the way circles of light rippled beneath our feet and pooled together when we got close.
The Dance Motion Capture installation is a big hit with tweens and teens, but it doesn't work well for younger children (although there's no official height requirement, my three-and-a-half foot daughter couldn't make it work). Still, she got a kick out of watching the video of the animated character she chose performing mommy's dance moves. Come in pants: If you wear a skirt or dress, it may have trouble capturing your leg movements.
Other highlights include the Production Studio, where visitors can record a TV segment which is broadcast on a large flat screen; Moviemaker, where you can create your own trailer from Sony Pictures clips; and a not-too-graphic Virtual Surgery station, where you can perform simulated open-heart surgery (this was particularly thrilling for me since I underwent open-heart surgery as a child!).
Since our original review, the Sony Wonder Technology Lab has added a handful of attractions. Our favorite was the Music Mixer, where we were able to remix Alicia Keys' song Empire State of Mind (Part II) by moving around "3-D audio blocks" on an interactive table. And of course the PlayStation® 3 alcoves are equipped with brand-new games and high-definition displays.
There are 23 attractions in all at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab, including a 73-seat high-definition theater, which regularly screens little kid favorites like Sesame Street and Dora as well as Sony features. There are also hands-on workshops for families, from bot building to nanoscience. Since you create a digital profile when you enter, you can follow the exhibits in sequence and then get a printed certificate when you log out at the end. But there's no guarantee your data will transmit properly; a couple of stops were missing on ours.
Although visiting the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is free, you should call ahead to reserve timed tickets. You can also show up and take your chances, but you may end up waiting a while or get shut out completely.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab is located at 550 Madison Avenue at 56th Street
Open Tuesday-Saturday (except major holidays) 9:30am-5:30pm
Read about other must-see museums for kids in New York City.