Couldn’t make it to Europe this summer? Take a trip to the Cloisters instead – you’ll instantly be transported to Medieval France. The museum, located in Washington Heights, is a branch of the Met and the perfect intro to serious art museums for young children.
While the Cloisters certainly features that hushed, hands-off ambience of most art museums, it has plenty of other attributes that make it kid-friendly as well. First of all, the museum looks like a medieval fortress, with a looming tower, plenty of stone steps to climb and explore, and heavy, curved wooden doors to pull open. If your children love castles, they’ll love this place.
And then there’s the art itself. For kids who are into treasure, there’s plenty of real treasure at the Cloisters, such as gold goblets and jeweled plates, as well as my own kids’ favorite, a drinking straw made out of silver. If you’ve got a unicorn-lover in the family, the Cloisters houses the world-renowned unicorn tapestries, which are larger than life and simply amazing to view up close.
When your kids get tired of all that culture, head outside to one of the beautiful gardens. This is actually my favorite part of the Cloisters. It’s like stepping into the European countryside, and the herbs smell fantastic in the summer. The plants in these gardens are the same as those that were grown in medieval Europe for everything from food to art materials to medicines and poisons. And past the low walls of the main garden is a gorgeous view of the Hudson.
Conclude your visit with a snack at the Trie Café, an outdoor dining spot next to the main garden. Your kids will be hooked on art museums for life.
The Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, New York; 212-923-3700