We love visiting unique museums! No matter where we go, it’s fun to visit places that aren’t necessarily the most visited tourist attractions. Recently, while in New York City, we visited a Brooklyn transit museum that now tops my list for one of the most fun things to do in New York City! While it probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of New York City, it’s definitely a must see for families.
Hands-on learning at this Brooklyn transit museum
The New York Transit Museum, located in Brooklyn, is a family-friendly museum dedicated to exploring the history of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). With hands-on exhibits showcasing New York City’s bus and subway system, this MTA museum is a great place for families to spend an afternoon.
One of our favorite parts of the museum was the bus section, which features the front portion of two actual buses. The kids had fun pretending to be bus drivers, turning the steering wheel and letting imaginary passengers on and off the bus, and even I joined in on the role play! There was also a photo exhibit that showed a day in the life of an MTA bus, so the kids had a chance to see all the work that goes into running a bus transit system.
A glimpse into New York City history
The New York Transit Museum was first established in 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration. Occupying the old Court Street station, this Brooklyn transit museum, also has an annex location in Grand Central Station, with a much smaller exhibit. The entrance to the museum in downtown Brooklyn is an actual subway entrance!
The museum exhibit begins with a visual walk through of how the New York subway system was created in the 1800’s. There are photos of Manhattan from the 1800’s, as well as photos of the tunnels being dug out to create subway lines. It was interesting to see this side of New York City. The subway system is such an important part of the city, yet we never stop to wonder how it was all created!
An MTA museum with subway trains and more!
While the top level of the New York Transit Museum houses exhibits on the history of the MTA, the role that the subway system has on New York City culture, and the bus exhibits, the best part of this Brooklyn transit museum is what lies at the subway level.
A set of stairs takes you down to the subway level of the MTA museum, where train cars from every decade since the early 1900’s sit, open for visitors to stroll through and explore. We loved this part of the MTA museum, because it was like stepping back in time! We saw cars from as early as 1904, complete with wicker seats and advertisements from the early 20th century!
Along the subway platform were artifacts from MTA’s past: old train engines, subway platform seats from decades past, and informational placards talking about notable moments in New York City’s subway history. Because we were one of the few visitors at the New York Transit Museum that day, the kids could run up and down the platforms and in and out of the trains without bothering the other visitors. Of course, if you’re visiting this part of the museum with little kids, be sure that they stay off the tracks because they still are live tracks.
Our top choice for fun things to do in New York
Although not what you would consider a top tourist attraction, this quirky Brooklyn transit museum is definitely our top choice for fun things to do in New York, especially if you have kids. We had a lot of fun learning about New York’s history, and the kids couldn’t get enough of playing with the old buses and trains.
A visit to the New York Transit Museum costs $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 2-17, so it’s a relatively cheap option for fun things to do in New York. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am to 4pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 11am to 5pm. The Brooklyn transit museum is accessible by subway as the following stations are within walking distance: Borough Hall, Jay St-Metro Tech, and Hoyt Street. The annex is located at Grand Central Station.
Have you had a chance to visit the New York Transit Museum? Share your experiences in the comments!
Note: As per the New York Transit Museum’s photography/video policy, I obtained permission from the museum to publicly post these photos from our visit.
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