Tiny Itineraries: Park Slope and Brooklyn Museum With a Toddler
Are you a culture vulture visiting NYC with a toddler?
This itinerary is for you!
Fuel up. One of the basic tenets of this blog - thou must have great coffee. Get yours from Gorilla Coffee (472 Bergen Street). The coffee is good and the long row of cushioned benches provide more seating than most Park Slope cafes.
Buy a bag of coffee (which would make a great NYC 'souvenir' or gift due to the caliber of the beans and the fun packaging) and you get a free cup of joe.
If you want to grab some lunch to go, check out BKYLN Larder, a specialty provisions and cheese shop, with sandwiches, salads and rustic sweets (228 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn).
Introduce your toddler to great NYC authors and illustrators. Post-coffee, head a few doors down to Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab, a super fun, independent bookshop focused solely on kid's books (458 Bergen Street, http://storiesbk.com).
Before opening their bookstore, the husband and wife owners had ties to the kid's publishing world, and they tap into their contacts to bring NYC-based authors and illustrators to their store most Sundays at 10:30am for free storytime and activities. Check the store's website for up to date hours and information on upcoming guests. And if you plan on attending a storytime, definitely arrive early - the back room fills up quickly, and though precocious toddlers can squeeze into the reading circle, adults get stuck standing or spilling into the store space.
Worth noting: If you're in Park Slope during the week, the store's staff hosts storytime (with songs) each weekday morning for $10.
Stories' selection of books is well curated and goes well beyond the options at your local Barnes & Noble. The staff are all very knowledgeable, so ask them to point you to books on your kids favorite topics of the moment, or peruse the NYC section to take home a souvenir for your little one.
Other things to know about Stories:
- Where to breastfeed: The back room is a great place to breastfeed when workshops or storytimes are not in session.
- Where to potty: There is a (clean!) bathroom on site, with a toddler stool. So take advantage and have everyone go potty before they leave.
- Stroller accessibility: The store is small, so folks park their strollers outside. Almost no one worries about locking their strollers. It's Park Slope - everyone already has a stroller as good as or better than yours.
Mama get a brand new bag: If spit-up and peanut butter fingers are no longer an hourly threat, and you feel like it's time for mama to get a wardrobe refresh, pop into both V Curated and A Cheng. V Curated mentors and sells emerging NYC designers of women's clothing, bags and shoes. You can get a head start on shopping by checking out their instagram feed @v_curated. Meanwhile, A Cheng sells women's clothing and jewellery with an esthetic described as "cheekily altered uptown ssensibility”.
Explore great art at Brooklyn Museum. Avoid busy Flatbush Avenue and instead tuck into the quiet residential streets of Park Slope to make your way up to Brooklyn Museum, admiring the picturesque brownstones that line the streets all the way up to Prospect Park.
Brooklyn Museum's vision is "where great art and courageous conversations are catalysts for a more connected, civic, and empathetic world." Their rotating exhibitions are often excellent, featuring present-day artists making important observations and statements on modern society.
Both parent and toddler were mesmorized by the recently-shown work of Robert Longo - large-scale charcoal pieces made to resemble photography, whose subjects are modern day movements and strife, from the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to the Women's March and the Syrian refuge crisis.
Almost as important as the art for parents - the museum's general admission is "pay what you wish" (though the museum does occasionally have special ticketed exhibitions that require $20 admission for adults). When we visit with my daughter, my husband and I pay much less than the suggested admission price, knowing that we likely will visit only one or two exhibits before our daughter loses steam.
When your toddler loses interest in the art, there is a very large atrium on the 3rd floor where you can let your child run lose. If you can lure them to the sides, there are permanent collection pieces that you can view.
Also great for keeping a squirmy toddler amused are the museum's outdoor steps. They aren't steep, so even if your little one is mastering steps, they make for great fun.
What to also note about the Brooklyn Museum:
- Where to breastfeed: The café has tables with chairs that can be turned towards the floor to ceiling windows for a view of the musuem’s outdoor sculptures and a bit of privacy (no purchase necessary). There is also a rarely used lecture room within the Feminist Art wing on the 4th floor, next to Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party.
- Where to potty: Washrooms are limited in the museum, and elevators can be slow. So before going in, you’ll definite want to encourage your potty-training toddler to use the family restrooms on the first floor, just off the main lobby (on the left hand side of the museum as you come in). Otherwise, there is a stroller accessible washroom on the third floor. Change tables are available in both washrooms.
- Stroller accessibility: Strollers are welcome in the museum, and elevators are large. Occasionally (on account of small spaces, especially fragile art, or other circumstances), the museum will need to restrict stroller access in certain areas. You may leave your stroller at the complimentary Coat Check.
- The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
- The museum hosts Target First Saturday monthly - with free admission, live music and other events after 5pm on the first Saturday of each month. Know your toddler and whether they would thrive in the chaos, as the museum does get fairly crowded. But if you and your toddler are up for it, the monthly bash brings out stylish Brooklynites for second-to-none people watching, and hosts art making classes for little ones. Check the museum website for more information.
- Download the ASK Brooklyn Museum app, which allows you to ask museum curators and staff questions in real time about any piece that peaks the interest of you or your family.
- The museum has a passable cafe for a coffee, tea, light lunch or snack - though do note that it often shuts down before the museum. There is also a more upscale sit-down restaurant on site, Norm, but we'd advise that you Yelp a more kid friendly cafe or restaurant on nearby Washington Ave in Prospect Heights, or back in nearby Park Slope.