I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that New York is one of the great theatrical cities of the world. (Okay, Londonites and Chicagoans — I said “one” of the great theatrical cities. So shut your pie holes already!)
There’s a lot of theater going on in the city, and a lot of is not on Broadway. And most of it is unaffordable for kids — Lion King tickets are $100-plus! So where can you take your child to experience the thrill of live theater at a reasonable price?
Here are five of the best kid-friendly theatrical experiences in NYC. There are many more events and opportunities for kids in all five boroughs, and in the outer suburbs to also consider. If you know of some others, please post them in the comments!
Best kid-friendly theatrical experiences #1: Marionettes in Central Park
The Swedish Cottage at 79th St and West Drive is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the United States. Puppeteers have worked their magic right from the cottage since 1947, pulling the strings on their hand-carved marionettes to bring fairy tale classics to life.
They have shows on the weekends during the winter, and more during the summer. Birthday parties are also available, but get booked up quickly. Reservations are required. Call 212-988-9093 for more info, or visit the website: https://cityparksfoundation.org/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre/.
Best kid-friendly theatrical experiences #2: Max Darwin
There are lots of shows aimed at kids, but to the best of my knowledge this is the only Off-Broadway Magic Show specifically for kids. Which is pretty surprising, but somehow true. His show has just been extended through June.
I saw a piece of his show recently at a blogger conference that I went to, and it was fantastic. And the kids were enthralled. (There were perhaps one too many potty jokes for parents, but hey, part of being a parent is learning to love potty jokes because your kids love them. Deal with it!)
DISCLAIMER : Max Darwin and I studied together in Maine in 1997. I haven’t seen him since then, and my relationship with him then has no bearing or influence on my opinion of his show.
To find out more about his show, visit http://www.theamazingmaxlive.com.
Best kid-friendly theatrical experiences #3: The Big Apple Circus
The Big Apple Circus is New York’s own circus. Each year they produce a big tented show during the Christmas season at Lincoln Center, and they get a fair amount of publicity for that. Their show is a one ring intimate circus (well, as intimate as it can get with over 1700 seats). You probably know about these shows, at least tangentially.
What you may not know is that in addition to these shows in Lincoln Center, they play in other parts of the city.
They also run community programs into schools, for seriously sick children, and for the elderly.
Find out more about their community programs and upcoming shows on their website:
Best kid-friendly theatrical experiences #4: Riverdale Rising Stars
Although it’s a little far afield for some, the Riverdale Rising Stars in the Bronx has an excellent training program for kids from ages 5-adult. Originally created as a teen program, they’ve expanded to include the Jr. Rising Stars and the Riverdale Repertory Company (for adults).
The classes typically culminate in performances, and the ones that we have seen are all excellent. (We are seeing the younger kids perform Guys and Dolls next week!) The daughter of one the founders was in the Broadway production of The Shaggs, a new musical. And we have a bunch of friends with kids that have either gone through the program or are in it now.
While the theatrical element is important, the Riverdale Rising Stars puts a big emphasis on the process and what you learn from the process of creating theatre-self-esteem, respect for others, listening, camaraderie, and how to create lifelong friendships.
They are based at the Riverdale Y, which is easily accessible from Metro North and the bus system. (Possible by subway, but harder.)
For more information about programs, visit http://riverdalerisingstars.com/.
Best kid-friendly theatrical experiences #5: The New Victory Theatre
There is actually a theater on Broadway (actually at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue) that is devoted to kids and their families. The New Victory is a nonprofit theater that manages to program each year some of the best international shows and acts aimed at kids. They have a beautifully restored theatre, and next door a small black box theater that programs smaller works for kids (especially really young kids) My son and I have seen some amazing things there (including a show about a potato needing a bath.)
Each show also usually presents an educational/workshop component as well.
They also offer a discounted Family plan — commit to seeing 3 shows, and you become a member and get 35% off your tickets, plus other benefits.
Find out more at their website http://www.newvictory.org