Although visiting The Panorama at the Queens Museum is No. 91 on our list of 100 things to in New York City with kids, we've never written a post about this amazingly intricate model of NYC. And even though I've lived in the city for decades, I'd never seen it myself. Since my son and I have been reading Brian Selznick's book Wonderstruck, which features The Panorama as a character, we decided to visit the museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park over holiday break to see it for ourselves. Every New York family should go at least once. It's the best way to give your kids the sense of how big and awesome NYC really is.
Visitors enter the dimly lit cityscape of The Panorama at northern Manhattan and the George Washington Bridge. If you look closely, you can see the tiny red lighthouse that stands below. All five boroughs are spread out before you, somehow seeming claustrophobic and sprawling at the same time. You get a bird's-eye view of all 895,000 buildings that make up NYC’s skyline, crammed into the space of a two-bedroom apartment. As you walk around the display, you're on a slightly elevated ramp, so you're always looking down. It's a dizzying experience, and my photos really don't do it justice.
Like many of the attractions in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, The Panorama was created for the 1964 World's Fair. It took 100 workers three years to complete, and was hugely popular. In 1992, The Panorama was updated to reflect the then cityscape. Even if your building predates 1992, you probably won't be able to locate it since the models are really small. The Empire State Building is a mere 15 inches! But you'll be able to spot lots of landmarks, like JFK and LaGuardia Airports, the Bronx Zoo, the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, all of our iconic bridges and, a bit depressingly, the Twin Towers. Parks and green spaces can be found too, like the Arch in Washington Square Park, Green-Wood Cemetery and even a tiny Queens Museum and the adjacent Unisphere. You can also "adopt" a structure to help support the upkeep of The Panorama.
The Panorama is certainly the highlight of the museum, which is located in the New York City Building that was built for the 1939 World's Fair. But there are other interesting things on view, such as the display of World's Fair memorabilia and an exhibit of gorgeous Tiffany Glass.
QMA also hosts kids' programing, including Drop-in Family Art Workshops, which are free with admission.
The Panorama is on permanent view at the Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-6pm. Suggested admission: $8 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, free for children under 12.
Read about other wonderful exhibits for families in our Museum Guide.