Things to Do With Kids in N.Y.C. This Summer – The New York Times

Lower Manhattan

CreditKenroy Lumsden

What child hasn’t dreamed of being big, of finally towering over Mom or Dad?

Most kids have to wait years to fulfill that fantasy — unless they visit the elegant 1907 edifice at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street. There, they can experience the Beuchet Chair: When viewed from a specific point, anyone standing next to the chair appears two or three times larger than someone seated in it. (This effect results from the eye’s perception of context.) Or they can explore the Ames Room, which looks like a cube but is actually a trapezoid: When two people stand at opposite corners of one of its walls, an observer will see one individual as gigantic and the other as tiny.

These attractions, named for the scientists who devised them, are among more than 70 at the Museum of Illusions, a space of about 4,500 square feet inside a building resembling a Greek temple. The interior, however, is more like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Here, you can see visitors appear to shrink or grow, like Alice, or even lose their heads. The Queen of Hearts would love the “Head on the Platter” exhibit, a painless way — courtesy of mirrors — to become temporarily disembodied.

“I like to call us a reality-bending establishment,” said Renne Gjoni (pronounced re-NAY JONE-ee), chief executive of the Manhattan museum, which opened last September. Founded by Roko Zivkovic and Tomislav Pamukovic in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2015, the first Museum of Illusions was such a sensation that more than a dozen others are now bending reality in places like Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. One is to open in Dallas this fall, “and we’re looking to open a couple more,” Mr. Gjoni said. The most successful is New York’s, which, he said, welcomes about 30,000 visitors a month. (Admission is $15 for ages 6-13 and $19 for adults.)

Many of those entering are children, who can celebrate birthdays here as well as engage in hands-on activities. One of the newest exhibits, Escape 21, consists of a large tabletop whose framed surface is covered with colored wooden tiles. The object is to release one tile, the king piece, from the frame by sliding — but never lifting — those surrounding it. (It’s not an illusion but a brain teaser.) The museum also has a playroom with puzzles whose interlocking wooden pieces evoke Rubik’s Cube. Such mental challenges will intrigue those 8 or older, while spaces like the Tilted Room (it’s exactly that) or the Color Room (whose visual effects depend on spotlights in primary hues) can delight preschoolers as much as camera-happy teenagers.

But the museum is “not an Instagram-only type of place,” Mr. Gjoni said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be getting schools coming for the second, third, fourth time.” The institution has become a favorite for class trips because of what it reveals about human perception. When confronted by something extraordinary, the brain tries to make that phenomenon conform to what it already knows. Hence the “Hollow Face Illusion,” in which concave masks of Einstein appear stubbornly convex.

“What I like about these illusions is that they’re all much simpler than people think they are,” Mr. Gjoni said. “There’s nothing high-tech.”

He also notes that the museum can raise spirits in a vexing world: More than anything, it teaches that life is a matter of perspective. LAUREL GRAEBER

77 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-645-3230,



CreditEvan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

Last weekend, a dozen children boarded an airship, braved a snowstorm, decorated cupcakes, upset the stomach of a large, furry creature, defeated a supervillain and posed for celebratory photos. All before lunchtime.

Ever since “Sleep No More” checked into the McKittrick Hotel, several Chelsea warehouses refitted as a performance space in 2011, immersive theater, in which audiences move through a space and often interact with performers, has been all the participatory rage. More recently, theater artists have created these shows for a shorter crowd.

On Saturday, on the roof of the McKittrick Hotel, my mother and I brought my two children, a preschooler and a rising first-grader, to “Potions & Planting,” an interactive tea party. “Sleep No More,” which performs on the floors below, includes witchcraft, child murder, bloodied bathtubs and a pagan orgy, So it was a relief to emerge into a G-rated space, provisioned with pink lemonade, sausage rolls and cupcakes. Even the bees buzzing in the pots of lavender seemed stingless. During the tea party, performers spirit children away to plant peas, press flowers and make tinctures from crystals and potpourri.

When a performer discloses a wooden swing tucked into a corner, when water pours from a golden pitcher, when the sun glints off the fairy lights and marigolds and the neighboring rooftops, it feels a little like magic. Tickets are $25, though if you need a cocktail to help you through the wholesome fun, that costs extra. Actually, tea costs extra, too. Dolls and other plush friends, provided with their own place cards, chairs and lemonade, attend free. Further parties are scheduled for Aug. 10 and Aug. 24.

The next day I took the first-grader to “Pip’s Island,” an interactive adventure tucked into the base of the Pod Hotel on 42nd Street. Created by Rania Ajami and Rami Ajami, with Walter Krudop, the story is an original one — so original it will take a companion book, available in the bright lobby gift shop for $39, to make sense of it. Tickets are $59 and adults will need them, too, though half-price deals are common.

After a trip upward in a glass elevator, a team leader inducts the kids into the Exceptional Explorers Society. They are then outfitted in safari vests, with their names blazoned on the front, and snazzy wristbands that light up when they collect each of the sparks they need to safeguard the island from the evil Joules Volter and his army of sinister — moles. (Moles are bad now?)

If the narrative puzzles and the flatulence jokes fly perhaps too freely, the performers’ ability to engage the children — at least those not hiding in their mothers’ arms — (it’s best for kindergarten and up), harnessing their alternative energies, is pretty much complete. And the environments are wondrous. The explorers really did feel that they had tumbled out into a forest or onto an airship. In one ocean-themed room, I watched as they were asked to close their eyes. When they opened them, the room had filled with bubbles.

Black light flashed, music thumped — an undersea party, thrown just for them. They yelped. They leapt. They danced. It beat sitting still. ALEXIS SOLOSKI

530 West 27th Street, Manhattan; 212 904-1880,

400 West 42nd Street, Manhattan; 888-718-4253,

Anthology Film Archives


CreditUniversal Pictures

The historic center for avant-garde film programming in New York, Anthology Film Archives, is putting its intellectual weight behind the delicacy of girlhood with the series “A Real Young Girl: Coming of Age.” Starting this Friday, it will feature 13 films from female directors that explore the transition from childhood to womanhood.

The series is broad, with films from around the world, including the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Australia. And it stretches back in time, weaving a thread from the works of lesser-known filmmakers like Leontine Sagan and Wanda Tuchock — who explored themes of adolescent sexuality and agency — to noted contemporary auteurs like Jane Campion, whose first feature film, “Two Friends,” is also part of this series.

While cisgender women and girls are the focus of the films here, “A Real Young Girl” includes nods to the performance of gender. Dee Rees’s “Pariah” trains a tender eye on a butch teenager’s struggles to self-actualize; Peggy Ahwesh’s “Martina’s Playhouse” finds a child in a Lacanian mirror stage, where “mother” and “daughter” are merely roles, and all roles are created equal.

The diversity of the picks reflects the universality of the coming-of-age experience, but such curation also offers audiences films that distinguish themselves from one another, none evoking the same response as the last.

“This is a good topic for women filmmakers to hone their skills and their aesthetic identity,” said Hannah Greenberg, Anthology’s director of development and membership, who programmed this series, “but I also wonder if the prevalence of coming-of-age stories is because women directors are conscious of this being their one shot to make a story that means something to them and speaks to their experience.”

In this series, there are movies to talk about with children: challenging experimental fare like Su Friedrich’s “Sink or Swim” that play with the anxieties of childhood. Ms. Friedrich’s short film contrasts the voice of a young narrator with images and monologues from the perspective of an adult — its tensions invite discussion, unearthing the confusion of being a child who knows there is a world of grown-ups that exists just beyond understanding. Then again, there are also films to savor for a moment, movies that make conversation feel superfluous. Let the loveliness of “The Day I Became a Woman,” Marzieh Meshkini’s triptych about the compromises facing Iranian women and girls, carry the mood out and away from the theater.

For teenagers, there are movies to sneak into: perhaps Marielle Heller’sThe Diary of a Teenage Girl” or Lucrecia Martel’s “The Holy Girl” — movies that might be embarrassing to watch with a parent, but which take the sometimes misguided desires of adolescents seriously enough to acknowledge the discovery of sexuality as sexy. And then there are films that no matter how old you are, you’ll always feel like you were too young to be allowed in the theater — namely “Fat Girl,” which despite its youthful subjects, feels too adult even for adults.

The films in the “Real Young Girl” series show children as they face the problem of identity, of existing in the world as their own person. The overwhelming impression of this series is that the process of growing creates a well of conflicting memories worth considering with the full weight of an artist’s intellect and compassion. After all, what a child feels as they grow will define the person they become. In the case of the filmmakers whose work graces Anthology’s series, being a child and leaving childhood behind — becoming and unbecoming — provided a base from which artistry and agency could spring. TEO BUGBEE

Aug. 2-18, 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan; 212-505-5181,

Museum of the City of New York


CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

One couple did the shuffle while a group of women pinched their noses with one hand and raised the other while dancing to “The Swim.” On the first night of the annual Uptown Bounce summer block party series, the theme was clear: “Summer of 1969.”

DJ Joey Carvello played James Brown’s “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” Spiral Starecase’s “More Today Than Yesterday” and other songs from that era, pausing at key moments to allow the crowd to sing along. When he alternated with DJ Woof, who specializes in Latin music, the attendees partnered up to salsa dance on the terrace dance floor.

Uptown Bounce started six years ago at the Museum of the City of New York in partnership with El Museo del Barrio to bring the East Harlem and Museum Mile communities together. For four consecutive Wednesday evenings each summer the two museums celebrate New York City with different themed nights. The line starts forming before 6 p.m., when the festivities begin, by the red velvet ropes at the base of the museum’s entrance steps.

“Everyone is a V.I.P.,” said Frances Rosenfeld, the director of public programs, explaining the velvet ropes. She says people are attracted to the event because it is free and accessible. It also has family-friendly activities like arts and crafts as well as entry into the museum’s exhibitions.

“We are celebrating New York, its culturally very rich and fun,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.

Celedonia (Cal) Jones, an 89-year-old Harlem native, museum volunteer and retired historian, is the unofficial mayor of Uptown Bounce. He has been attending since the start and knows the other regulars well. Mr. Jones has been volunteering at the institution for 30 years, and is quick to usher visitors to the membership table or lead them to the dance floor.

Dale Kanzler, 63, an accountant from Midtown Manhattan, was walking in Central Park with visitors from upstate when they heard the music. The nostalgia drew them and they soon found the sound. Mr. Kanzler left the event vowing to return.

If you are not into dancing, you can play instruments in the interactive Blue Man Group exhibition — specifically the now-retired PVC pipe instrument that the performers made famous. The Museum of the City of New York’s four floors include interactive displays of famous New Yorkers; a bicycle exhibition; Fred. W. McDarrah’s photographs of Stonewall and Vietnam War protests; and an exhibition devoted to Jackie Robinson.

Across the street, El Museo del Barrio is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the exhibition “Culture and the People: El Museo del Barrio, 1969-2019.” WADZANAI MHUTE

Aug. 7 and 14 at the Museum of the City of New York and El Museo del Barrio, Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, Manhattan; or

K2 Friday Nights at the Rubin Museum of Art (Fridays) Music is the focus of the Rubin’s free weekly series, with different D.J.s and musicians each week. Visitors can also explore the collection, featuring art from the diverse regions of Asia. An interactive installation called “The Wheel of Intentions” helps you activate yours by giving it a spin. From 6-10 p.m., 150 West 17th Street, Manhattan; 212-620-5000,

Summer Streets along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue, from Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd Street (Aug. 3, 10 and 17) Nearly seven miles of city streets will be open to pedestrians and cyclists from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first three Saturdays in August. There’ll be a range of programming along the way, including a performance on Aug. 10 by the TriBeCa-based company Ballets With a Twist at the Astor Place Rest Stop stage (Astor Place and Lafayette Street).

‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ (in theaters Aug. 9) This live-action adaptation of the “Dora the Explorer” series sends its title character, played by Isabela Moner, on a mission to save her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña).

‘Family Affair: Reusable Universe’ at the Bronx Museum of Art (Aug. 10) The museum hosts a free family-friendly event in celebration of art, summer and sustainability. Visitors can be inspired to reuse everyday materials to create new works of art by experiencing the exhibition “Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking, and Seeing.” From 1-4 p.m., 1040 Grand Concourse, the Bronx;

Summer Movie Series at the Intrepid Museum (Aug. 16) The museum is free 5-9 p.m. one Friday a month. For the next free evening, on Aug. 16, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” will be shown on the flight deck, with the city’s skyline as a backdrop. Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, Manhattan; 877-957-7447,

‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ (in theaters Aug. 16) Awkwafina, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader and more give voice to the zany birds and scheming pigs in this adaptation of the smartphone game.

Beyond the Streets New York City at 25 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn (through Aug. 25) This kid-friendly exhibition is a celebration of graffiti, featuring the work of over 150 street artists.

Disney’s ‘Hercules’ at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (Aug. 31-Sept. 8) The Public Theater closes its summer season with free performances of the new stage adaptation of Disney’s 1997 animated musical, which will feature fresh songs from the composers Alan Menken and David Zippel. 212-539-8500,

‘Molly of Denali’ (check your local listings) PBS debuted this new cartoon, which centers on a young Alaska Native girl, her family and friends, in July. It is the first nationally distributed children’s series with a Native American lead.

‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ at the New York Aquarium. Kids love sharks, and this permanent exhibition, which opened last summer, has 115 species. 718-265-3474,

Queens County Farm Museum (open daily) A working farm dating back to 1697 within the city limits? Yes! And it even has a petting zoo. It’s a nice reprieve from the daily hustle and bustle.

‘T. rex: The Ultimate Predator’ at the American Museum of Natural History (through Aug. 9, 2020) Think you know all there is to know about this 18,000-pound “prehistoric killer?” Think again. This eye-opening exhibition sheds new light on Tyrannosaurus rex by placing it amid a global family of prehistoric predators. 212-769-5200,