Calling all art lovers! On our recent family vacation in New York City, we took time to explore The Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. If you like modern art, these family-friendly gems are worth a visit.
The Noguchi Museum
I have recently noticed that my appreciation for art grows with my appreciation of nature. We love visiting national parks and other beautiful places. They stir my mind and soul and ignite the imaginations of my children. There is always something new and fascinating about nature.
Isamu Noguchi's sculptures had that same potential because nature was inseparable from his art. He used natural materials. He placed a sculpture with a basin of water near a window so that the reflection of nature became part of the art. He arranged his sculptures in a lovely garden where nature and art could grow together.
The Noguchi Museum was founded by the renowned Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi near his studio in Long Island City, Queens. Noguchi moved to Queens from Manhattan in the early 1960's to be nearer to the artisans, craftsman and materials that were integral to his work.
You'll be able to see the entire museum in about an hour – possibly much less with busy children. My children had little interest in pausing to contemplate art and nature. However, weeks later my 10-year-old daughter checked out a book from the library about famous artists. She noticed a chapter on Isamu Noguchi and exclaimed, “I know him!”
To make the most of your visit with children, I recommend planning your visit around one of The Noguchi Museum's family programs for ages 2-11. Family programs are held on Saturdays and Sundays and reservations are required. An Open Studio program where families can create their own art is available on Sundays from 11 am – 1 pm. No reservations are needed for Open Studio.
The Noguchi Museum has posted additional tips for families on its website. Tips include learning about Isamu Noguchi before you come, picking up a Family Walking Guide at the front desk, and printing scavenger hunt cards.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park is dedicated to very large art. It is located practically across the street from The Noguchi Museum and it costs nothing to visit, so save time for it if you're in the neighborhood. Socrates Sculpture Park is especially good for children because there is space to run around and use outdoor voices. Touching and climbing inside the sculptures was acceptable behavior for the exhibition we visited.
When we were there, silver mylar ribbons were stretched between posts across a large open space, with the East River and Governor's Island in the background. We climbed inside a sculpture dedicated to a woman who had become a local legend because of her community service. It was made from ribbons and many other found objects. My kids identified another piece as Noah's Ark.
Special events such as a Saturday farmer's market and Sunday Tai Chi are held each week through the fall at Socrates Sculpture Park.
Good to Know
Where: The Noguchi Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard), Long Island City. Find detailed directions for public transportation or driving here.
Socrates Sculpture Park is located at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, at the intersection of Broadway. Noguchi and Socrates are a short walk from each other and both on the FREE LIC Art Bus route in Queens.
When: Socrates Sculpture Park is open every day from 10:00 am – sunset. The Noguchi Museum is open:
- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 10:00am-5:00pm
- Saturday & Sunday: 11:00am-6:00pm
- Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
How Much: Socrates Sculpture park is always FREE to the public. The Noguchi Museum is FREE on the first Friday of every month. Here are the admission rates at other times:
- General admission: $10
- Senior Citizens: $5
- Students with a valid ID: $5
- NYC public high school students with a valid ID: FREE
- Children under 12: FREE
How Long: 1-2 hours for both, unless you attend a family program or special event
Amenities: Both places have bathrooms, but I suspect that those at The Noguchi Museum are better. Strollers, food and drink are not allowed inside The Noguchi Museum. A few backpack carriers are available for loan at the front desk.
The Noguchi Museum has a cafe and gift shop where you can purchase lamps and furnishings designed by Isamu Noguchi.
Disclosure: We received complimentary admission to The Noguchi Museum so that we could review it for other families. All opinions are my own.
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