Friday, May 22, 2009

Far from the Maddening Crowd - National Museum of the American Indian

Imagine sliding down this banister

----New York for Kids Part 8 ----

Dear Postcards from New York Reader,

Do you remember the first time you saw a spiral staircase? Did your heart jump at the thought of sliding down the serpentine banister?

See if those thoughts flood back as you crank your head to look up this swirling stairwell as it swirls and twists its way to the skylight at the top of the U. S. Custom House at Battery Park, better known as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. It is sure to trigger a whoop of glee from youngsters; so make a point to enter the museum on the street level and not by the grand staircase facing Bowling Green Park.

The marble staircase is not the only attraction that makes this a terrific place to take kids on weekends. The galleries are gloriously spacious with high ceilings and wide open spaces easy to maneuver with strollers; kids will feel comfortable running about and making a bit of noise. In other words, the reins can be left a little loose. You will not have much competition for space as this museum does not get nearly the traffic its wonderful collection warrants.

Colorful exhibits feature mixed-media shows of everyday life of native peoples steeped in tradition from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the jungles of Brazil and the Great Plains. Oversized drums, ornate feathered headwear, beaded costumes, totem poles, enormous bird masks, hand-carved canoes, and a child's winter sled of buffalo bones will captivate young viewers.

Kids can roam the galleries, poke around at interactive media stations to rotate objects, stop to watch films, listen to a Native storyteller, learn songs, participate in hands-on workshops in weaving, painting, print making, or, gaze up-close and handle toys and musical instruments like a conch shell trumpet. Daily screenings especially for kids begin at 10:30 and 11:45 AM. Museum shops on both the main and lower level offer lots of books, videos and artwork for youngsters.

Be sure to see the handsome portraits of adventurous navigators like Henry Hudson (this is the 400th Anniversary of his voyage up the Hudson River), Giovanni de Verrazano and Cristoforo Colombo, in flamboyant hats and buccaneer boots, near the ships that brought them fame painted on the ceiling of the long oval gallery on the main floor across from the Entrance.

Escape the throngs of people, crowded galleries and long lines at the popular uptown museums (The Museum of Natural History and The Children’s Museum) that attract herds of parents and kids. Venture downtown this weekend and unleash the explorer instinct in your youngster; check for a schedule of upcoming workshops and events at

The Museum of the American Indian makes a terrific outing, add a short roundtrip ride on the ferry to Staten Island, a photo shoot on or around the Great Bronze Bull (former symbol of brokerage giant Merrill Lynch--find the bull outside Bowling Green Park), an impromptu picnic in Battery Park of hotdogs and potato knishes purchased from a vendor cart--- you have the recipe for a perfect day downtown with kids.

Jacqueline Cable
For Postcards from New York

P. S. Best of all, see your tax dollars at work, admission is free.


The Secret to Getting Around New York like a long time resident can be yours “FR*EE!”

"New York Get There 1 2 3 " the handy guide that gets you where you want to go as easy as 1, 2, 3. Get There 1-2-3 :

• Compact – fits in a jacket pocket, briefcase, or the slimmest purse.

• Simple directions – step-by-step how to get to over 400 locations by subway, bus or train.

• Time and Money Saver – have hours of operation, cost and admission information a glance away.

Find out more and claim your “FR*EE” copy of New York Get There 1, 2, 3 here. TODAY!


Address to Remember: Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004, 212-514-3700,

Hours: 10 - 5 PM Daily, Thurs until 8 PM, Closed Christmas Day. Admission is Free.

Directions: From Times Square MTA 1 to South Ferry, R and W to Whitehall Street, short walk north to Museum.

To end here

  • If you like today's issue, why not become a subscriber to Postcards from New York? To start receiving your own copy visit and enter your email address. Or, forward this to a friend so they can sign-up to receive Postcards from New York too.

  • You can choose to receive Postcards From New York as an e-mail or RSS feed. Click on the small orange button on the right side of the webpage to activate the RSS. Then you will receive new "Postcards" on your email homepage, or enter your email address on the Home Page at to receive "Postcards" via email. Be sure to check your email in-box for a confirmation email, then just click where indicated to activate your subscription.

  • Photos by Joseph Knight

    © Copyright 2007-9 The Cable Group