The current Mythic Creatures exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is loaded with the fantastic stuff that kids love. Whether kids appreciate the underlying premise of the exhibit, that there are natural explanations for all of the occurrences of mythical creatures throughout history, or they just enjoy checking out all the great displays of cool mythical beasts, there's no reason to stop once you leave the museum.
We've dug up the best places for kids to see more mythical beasts around NYC so your dragon or mermaid-obsessed children can get their fill of fantasy fun.
No place in NYC has more unicorns than The Cloisters. With a whole cycle of unicorn tapestries, it's high-brow art that will surely engage children in it's bittersweet story of the unicorn hunt. The Cloisters are located in Fort Tryon Park which has been spruced up considerably and is now a nice place to enjoy a walk in the woods. Keep your eyes peeled for unicorns!
What a great way for kids to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art than to treat the museum as a scavenger hunt for dragons and other beasts. There are about 25 pieces in the permanent collection that have dragons, the most prominent possibly being St. Michael and the Dragon. (Hint: do a search for dragons on the Met site so you know what you're looking for.) The Arms and Armor exhibit is a must for little would-be knights and damsels to continue the fantasy of slaying dragons.
For more imaginative play walk over to Belvedere Castle in Central park. It looks just like the real thing and is a great backdrop for playing knights and princesses.
A different kind of dragon hunt can be had in Chinatown where you can see all kinds of dragon puppets, masks and more for sale. Great for decorating a dragon-lover's bedroom. Make sure to come back in February for the Lunar New Year Parade when performers do dragon dances throughout the streets of Chinatown.
To see the real thing, head to The Bronx Zoo, home to the Komodo dragon where not only can they see the real thing behind glass, but toddlers will love climbing on the bronze dragon sculpture in the reptile house.
For more mythical beasts to climb on, take your kids to one of the carousels in our Carousel post last week or to Imagination Playground's dragon fountain in Prospect Park.
A day out looking at mythical creatures can be made more meaningful by coming home to read some great books on the subject.
A classic like the Three Tales of My Father's Dragon or tales of dragons and unicorns from other cultures will give kids perspective on what they are experiencing and expose them to some great culture.
Dragons: A Pop-Up Book of Fantastic Adventures, in addition to beautiful pop-up illustrations of dragons, gives kids a taste of some of dragon stories from different cultures including Beowolf and Japanese dragon tales.
The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lores includes unicorn stories and poems by some of the leading fantasy writers.
And, of course, every child should have a copy of Greek Myths for Young Children, an excellent introduction to Greek Mythology for children and the magical world of mythical creatures that inhabit it.
Lastly, next June don't forget to go to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. It's the perfect thing for little mermaids who love to get dressed up and see everyone else in their finery.
Find more tips for NYC art and kids shows in our Culture Guide.