OpenHouseNewYork is one of those amazing, (mostly) free, citywide events that we just love. New Yorkers of all ages are invited to explore hundreds of local sites like historic buildings, contemporary architectural marvels, amazing private residences and newly redesigned green spaces and waterways. While OHNY isn't a family event per se, many of the destinations are family-friendly, and some spots host activities specifically aimed at kids. For example, this year's OHNY, which takes place Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, includes an interactive dance performance at the Elevated Acre and drop-in design workshops at the Center for Architecture.
For the second year in a row, OHNY has teamed up with the Historic House Festival (formerly a separate event), which means 23 additional buildings will also be offering no-cost admission and special programming, like a backstage tour of Central Park's Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater and tours of the historic ship Lilac.
Both events give kids a whole new perspective on this city and its rich history—visiting and seeing and experiencing is a lot more interesting than reading about these places in books. Of course, like many annual NYC events, OHNY and the Historic House Festival are super-popular. While you can drop in to some activities, others require reservations, and they're going fast. So if you see one that interests you, move on it right away!
OHNY 2012 Family Highlights
OHNY Weekend Family Festival – Greenwich Village
Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place between West 3rd and Bleecker Streets
Saturday, October 6-Sunday, October 7 noon- 4pm
Where else would OHNY hold its big family bash than the Center for Architecture? Kids can enjoy two jam-packed afternoons of hands-on building, design and construction activities led by OHNY, museum educators and local organizations like the Brooklyn Navy Yard's BDLG 92, the Eldridge Street Synagogue and No Longer Empty.
Little Red Lighthouse Family Festival – Washington Heights
Fort Washington Park, West 181st Street and Hudson River
Saturday, October 6 noon-4pm
Tour the lighthouse made famous by Hildegarde H. Swift's classic children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Tickets for the tours are given out on a first-come first-served basis, and people start lining up early in the morning to get them! If that sounds too stressful, just go to enjoy all of the outdoor activities, like live music and theater performances, arts and crafts, fishing clinics and readings of the iconic kids' book.
Park Avenue Armory Explorers – Upper East Side
Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets
Sunday, October 7, several tours between 11:30am and 3:15pm
FREE but reservations are required.
Explore the cavernous Park Avenue Armory scavenger hunt-style to learn about its special architectural details. Afterward, kids can create art inspired by the building.
Lighthouse Tender Lilac – Tribeca
Pier 25, North Moore and West Streets
Saturday, October 6-Sunday, October 7 1-6pm
Drop in to tour the historic steam-powered ship's decks, wheelhouse, engine room and living quarters.
Wilderness Plan Kids Performance & Workshop – Financial District
The Elevated Acre at 55 Water Street near Old Slip
Saturday, October 6 at 3 and 6pm
C. Eule Dance gives a site-specific interactive performance. Audience members follow fantastically costumed creatures up the building's stairs and escalator, through tree-lined paths and along the boardwalk overlooking the East River. The performance is followed by a children's movement workshop.
Freshkills Park by Bus – Staten Island
Meet at the Eltingville Transit Center
Saturday, October 6 at 10am and 1pm
$5 per person. Reservations are required.
See how the largest landfill in the world is being transformed into a magnificent urban green space on this Parks Department led tour.
Family Affair at The Bronx Museum of the Arts – the Bronx
Bronx Museum of Art, 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th Street
Saturday, October 6 1-4pm
FREE but reservations are required.
Explore this Bronx gem through kid-friendly gallery tours, and art and construction workshops.
Shapes and Colors at the Museum at Eldridge Street – Lower East Side
Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge Street between Canal and Division Streets
Sunday, October 7 at 11:30am and 1:30pm
FREE but reservations are required.
Learn about the history of the Eldridge Street Synagogue by scouting for shapes, patterns and colors in the historic building.
Origamic Architecture – Midtown East
The Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues
Saturday, October 6-Sunday, October 7 11am-5pm
Take note: This origami architecture workshop led by designer Keiko Ota and artist Yoshiko Ebihara is only open to people ages 16 and up, but it sounds so cool we had to include it.
There are, of course, many other OHNY activities going on this weekend. We have to admit we're not fans of the new website. It's tough to navigate (it took us forever how to get out of map view!). While there is a list of kids' activities, many seemed to be missing. You can also check out a comprehensive list, but it's overwhelming. We hope the above highlights help you plan!
Historic House Festival Family Highlights
Sweet and Savory: Culinary Delights from Mrs. Lefferts’ Cookbook – Prospect Park
Lefferts Historic House, Prospect Park near the Flatbush Avenue at Empire Boulevard/Ocean Avenue entrance
Sunday, October 7 1-4pm
Watch staff prepare dishes from the building's namesake family's very own handwritten 19th century cookbook. Visiting the house is free but there is a suggested donation of $1 per treat.
High Time for Low Tea – the Bronx
Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Pelham Bay Park, 895 Shore Road
Saturday, October 6 at 4:30 and 6pm
$20 per person. Reservations required. Call 718-885-1461.
Families with children 10 and up can dig into an authentic Victorian low tea served by staff in period attire. Learn about the differences between low and high tea, and other interesting tea tidbits. Registration required.
Morris-Jumel Mansion's Culture and Arts Festival – Harlem
Morris-Jumel Mansion and Roger Morris Park, 65 Jumel Terrace at 160th Street
Saturday, October 6 10am-6pm
Roger Morris Park will be buzzing with swing music and dancing, arts and food, storytelling and tons of kids' activities. Families can also tour the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest home in Manhattan.
Hansel & Gretel's Halloween Adventure at the Swedish Cottage – Upper West Side
Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park, West Drive at West 79th Street
Saturday, October 6 at 1pm
FREE but reservations are required. Call 212-988-9093.
Catch a no-cost performance of the puppet troupe’s new marionette show, and then take a backstage tour and indulge in some Swedish snacks.
Visit the Historic House Festival website for a comprehensive list of activities.
Things to Know Before You Go
We said this before but it bears repeating: Many special activities and workshops are already sold out, so if a program interests you and requires a reservation, RSVP ASAP.
If you're interested in an event that doesn't require a reservation, it's still best to call the venue to verify availability and start time. The OHNY website isn't great, and often the details differ from what's on the venue's official site. We did our best to be accurate but we don't want families showing up to events that are full or not happening at all.
The OHNY site has a cute kids' activity book you can print out and bring with you. It's got places for kids to draw and take notes, and various simple architecture-related activities.