Anyone who’s raised kids in the past decade is likely familiar with Magna-Tiles. And if your house is anything like mine, there are never enough no matter how big your collection. Enter Genius Gems, the long-beloved, STEM-inspired play space that’s been a mainstay in Millburn, New Jersey, since 2018 has just debuted its first NYC location, and its collection of 100,000 (yep, you read that right!) magnetic tiles are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun things to do at this interactive, educational fun zone.
We spent an evening building, exploring, and designing in Genius Gems’ new Chelsea location and are already plotting a return visit. Read on for our review of Genius Gems and find more STEM-inspired fun in our Guide to Science Experiments and STEM.
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There's plenty of space and plenty of magnetic tiles to build with at Genius Gems!
Exploring Genius Gems NYC
Spread out over 10,000 square feet and spanning two floors, the heart of Genius Gems is its large, open room stocked with stacks and stacks of magnetic tiles in every color and shape imaginable. Genius Gems’ own Glitter Tiles add a little flair to kids’ creations, whether they’re building from their imagination or tackling a Genius Gem Design Challenge.
Building on the magnetized floor or back-lit wall adds another dimension of fun, which you surely can’t enjoy with your at-home collection of Magna-Tiles! A separate dark room allows for a very cool glow-in-the-dark building space, and we loved playing with the magnetic marble runs complete with light-up balls here!
On the lower level, guests can enjoy a kid-friendly bite at the cafe and adults can even say cheers—beer and wine are served—not something you’ll find at most kid-centric spaces, but a genius idea if you ask us!
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Kids can get creative at the Design Bar, customizing Glitter Tiles or lending some DIY design power to a tub of take-home slime.
This is also where you’ll find the Design Bar. The cost of admission includes designing a Glitter Tile to take home, and add-on tickets can be purchased to customize your own slime. The number of scents, charms, and sparkling combinations rivaled that of Lower Manhattan’s Sloomoo Institute.
Other STEM fun here includes a 3D print lab and a selection of Ozobots.
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During our visit to Genius Gems, we tackled design challenges like building a 3D Among Us character, a 2D crab, and a huge—cool—fire-breathing dragon.
Open Play at Genius Gems
All visitors to Genius Gems require a ticket of their own, and open play slots are sold in 1 ½ hour intervals. Lest you think you’re paying to watch your kid play, think again! Genius Gems staffers encourage adults to build alongside their kids or conquer their own designs. On our visit, five of us tag-teamed a super-sized, 3D dragon.
The fruits of our labor for this—and every other design challenge we completed—were Genius Gems tokens, which can be exchanged at the end of your visit for small trinkets like friendship bracelets, invisible ink pens, finger lights, and more.
Camps, Classes, and Birthday Parties at Genius Gems
Genius Gems founder Jennifer Romanoff is an educator at heart. A former NYC public school middle school teacher, it's no surprise that educational, hands-on play is at the heart of Genius Gems. It’s currently hosting after-school and a selection of classes, covering topics like kitchen chemistry, Lego robotics, coding, and engineering.
Plans are in the works for a series of week-long summer camps—and hot tip: Register by Wednesday, February 28, to net a 10 percent discount. Summer campers can register by the week to explore everything from the science of slime to rainbows and magic potions. Camps cater to kids entering kindergarten through sixth grade in the fall.
Birthday parties last for an hour and a half and include a private party room, plus a Genius Gems staffer to lead a group project. Pizza, drinks, and ice cream goodies are served.
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Who knew shutting off the lights could bring a whole new dimension to building with magnetic tiles?
Know Before You Go to Genius Gems NYC
- Genius Gems is an all-ages destination, though programming is geared toward ages 4-12. I can attest that my teen and I both had a blast during our visit!
- There are FREE lockers and a coat room to stow your stuff, so you can roll up your sleeves and play.
- Book your reservations online in advance; entry is not guaranteed without a reservation.
- If you can’t get enough of Genius Gems, consider signing up for a monthly membership, which provides daily visits for one month from the date of purchase. Memberships cover admission for one adult and up to two kids and you’d only have to visit three times to cover the cost of your membership.
Photos by the author