MoMA Mia!

The weather in New York wasn’t great during our stay. We didn’t go up the Empire State Building because whenever we looked up at it with the idea we might, we saw this:

Still there were touts at the bottom asking "You going to go up today?"

Still there were touts at the bottom asking “You going to go up today?”

So when an indoor day was called for, we decided to head for MoMA.

You can get a free audio guide from a desk at the museum, and it’s like a mini iPad. You can dial up the artwork you’re looking at (they have numbers next to them for reference) and hear about its history – many of them have special audio for kids as well.  You can take photos, and you can search for particular artworks and find them on a museum map. Then at the end of your visit it can email you all your photographs and a summary of your visit – which galleries you visited, what you saw and so on.  It’s great!

Of course, the children were far more interested in having an audio guide than in actually looking up to see the art on the walls.  I kept begging them to “just look!”.  There are also Art Cards you can collect from the Family Desk which highlight a single piece of art each, with an activity to do either at the museum or at home.  This is great for a big museum; it’s much easier to have a purpose and things to do, than just to walk around aimlessly trying to soak in everything.

We spent a long time on the 5th floor looking at the classics – van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Rousseau…

Babess absorbed in Rousseau's "The Dream"

Babess absorbed in Rousseau’s “The Dream”

… a woman stopped and spoke to me about how amazing it was to see a young child so absorbed in the art, as Babess listened to the kids’ audio.  Then Babess finished listening and carefully explained the artwork to me.  Even more adorable.

Fainjin & Babess work on an Art Card activity & look at the audio guide in MoMA

Fainjin & Babess work on an Art Card activity & look at the audio guide in MoMA

The kids weren’t so interested in the 4th floor of American art, although Fainjin thought the Jackson Pollock works were pretty cool.  We saw the Bell Helicopter on the third floor, then the kids discovered a display on Minecraft and we nearly lost them altogether despite us pointing out that they can watch Minecraft almost anywhere.

So we headed down to the Art Lab, next to the Sculpture Garden.  I would happily pay admission to the museum in future just to go to the Art Lab. It is a bright, welcoming space full of amazing things to do, with quiet places to sit and read and loads of opportunity for creative endeavour. I said, “I’m so glad we have kids with us so we can come here!” and the assistant laughed and assured me there’s no age limit – you don’t need a child with you to go into the Art Lab (although it is very well set up for children).

Pearl spent her whole time making a stop-motion film, which we were then able to share on YouTube (if you know us in real life & want to see, let me know – it’s under her real name).  Fainjin & Babess enjoyed making films too but also explored the rest of the lab, reading books, making mini-sculptures and playing with the toys and activities.  We were in the lab for over an hour and would have stayed longer except it was after 3pm and we hadn’t had lunch!

Babess works on a movie

Babess works on a movie

Film-maker Fainjin

Film-maker Fainjin

Pearl hard at work animating

Pearl hard at work animating

From there it was a short walk to Times Square where we secured tickets to Matilda The Musical for that night.  Then we went for an early dinner at a nearby restaurant and wandered for bit before the show. We ended up having a great chat with a mounted officer of the NYPD, who was very friendly.  He and his partner were clearly on PR duty, chatting with tourists and posing for photos.

Our NYPD friends

Our NYPD friends

The show was great, a very enjoyable performance from a mostly very-young cast.  Babess appears to have learned a couple of the songs just from watching the show, so we have been listening to them over and over…

It was a very late night, but on the way home, we saw not one but two Empire State Buildings…

Empire State Building & reflected glory

Empire State Building & reflected glory

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

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5 Responses to “MoMA Mia!”

  1. Karen G Says:

    What a great vacation! You should definitely visit the DC area, too. 🙂

    • Kate @ upsidebackwards Says:

      😀 we are in the DC area now!

      • Karen G Says:

        You have great timing, as this is a beautiful weekend here!
        I hope you enjoy your visit!

        While your itinerary is likely all set, here are some things I recommend to visitors:

        For events info, check

        On or near the National Mall:
        – The US Botanical Garden has lovely, small gardens both inside and outdoors. It’s between the National Museum of the American Indian and the US Capitol building and grounds. All worth visiting. Tip: Don’t bring large totes or backpacks to the Capitol, and expect lines. Or queues, if you prefer. ☺
        – The National Gallery of Art has frequent tours and gallery talks, and a free concert Sunday evening.
        -The smaller Freer and Sackler galleries have beautiful arts and crafts from Asia and Africa.
        – The Air & Space Museum is VERY popular, though I’ve never been there. ☺
        – Any other Smithsonian museums that interest you & family. Though I recall the dinosaur exhibit might be closed?

        Fyi, for lunch near the mall: The National Museum of the American Indian serves Native American food; there is a restaurant at the NGA by the [quirky] sculpture garden, with a beautiful outdoor fountain.

        Slightly off the mall – National Building Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts.

        National Zoo – Pandas!

        If you’d like to visit the National Cathedral, you might enjoy the Choral Evensong Sunday afternoon, or one of the scheduled tours. [No idea why there’s a gothic cathedral in DC; I went to Duke, where we had a gothic chapel. ☺]

        There are many gardens in our area, including Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. Georgetown University is also very beautiful. If you’re in Virginia, Meadowlark is beautiful.

        Old Town Alexandria is lots of fun to walk around. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a nice place to visit artists’ workshops. [They have Alexandria visitor’s guides inside the front door.] You might also visit Mount Vernon, though it is a bit of a drive or bike-ride from Old Town.

        For a wide variety of restaurant choices, Bethesda is a good option. My favorite for Sunday brunch is Lebanese Taverna. Although, when I travel, I like to buy food in a local grocery store. Locally, I shop at Whole Foods and Mom’s Market. Mom’s isn’t metro-accessible.

        OK, sorry for the long comment. And again, enjoy your visit, and safe travels home.

      • Kate @ upsidebackwards Says:

        Thank you so much! We are staying with friends in MD – we lived here, a decade ago, for a while, so we have lots of people to catch up with… and a wedding to go to! The Dad is keen to re-visit the Air & Space Museum, and we might also go to one other – we haven’t decided which yet. We’ll keep your suggestions in mind! We’re going to take the kids to the National Mall to see some of the monuments and the White House, but most of this part of the visit is more social, which is a really nice change of pace. They are already making lots of friends and enjoying just playing and running around outside. You’re right – the weather today has been particularly lovely! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  2. Steve C Says:

    I found New York an interesting dichotomy. I expected it to be ‘hard’ (ref [link removed in moderation] among other sources) and can see why people find it that way. Everyone seems very busy, on a mission, but find them in the right space (particularly NYPD with nothing urgent to do) and they will stop and chat. Look lost, and someone will stop and offer to help you. Took some getting used to always keeping right when walking down into the subway! Got as far as Washington DC airport to change planes, which was interesting. Will have to go back to see the city some day.

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