To find the trail of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, get ready to do some tunneling. Start by getting acquainted with life underground in New York City. Hop on the subway to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights for its array of vintage train cars in a disused subway station. Try your luck finding the hidden subway station under City Hall, though it’s easier to do on a tour. Consider the Lowline Lab, a working prototype for an underground park on the Lower East Side. Admire the whimsical bronze sculptures—including a few turtle-like figures, plus a gator emerging from a sewer—at the 14th Street-Eighth Avenue stop. Back aboveground, nod to the ninjutsu-loving foursome at places like Central Park's Turtle Pond and, of course, Tribeca’s Japanese theme restaurant Ninja. Dig around for memorabilia and comic books at Midtown Comics and Forbidden Planet. Wherever you travel, be sure to make frequent stops for pizza.
We've designed a few itineraries for your family based around the personalities of each turtle. No need to follow them strictly, and feel free to mix and match. After all, there’s a little Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael in all of us. Read on for more.
Donatello’s NYC: Scientific Discoveries
If your kid loves science and technology the way Donatello does, you’ll find NYC brimming with cool things to do. Check out these awesome destinations that combine education and fun.
What to see and do
American Museum of Natural History: You’ll want to see the famous exhibits, like dinosaur fossils, the giant blue whale model and the cosmic pathway tracing 13 billion years of the universe’s history, but the museum also rewards would-be scientists with lesser-known activities. Consider the walk-through rainforest in the Hall of Biodiversity, or a lesson in geology in the Hall of Planet Earth.
Brooklyn Public Library: Besides being an excellent place for reading and research, Brooklyn’s Central Library has a strong family program in place. Children’s book authors come in for readings, musicians take part in cultural performances and instructors give helpful lessons in art, crafting and chess.
National Museum of Mathematics: Any would-be inventor or tech whiz needs to ground themselves in the everyday applications of their favorite subject: math. This interactive museum, known as MoMath, should win over the hearts (and brains) of the statistics-averse as well—especially with its man-versus-tiny-machines Robot Swarm.
New York Hall of Science: The Hall of Science will have you and your family predicting probability, blowing bubbles, constructing circuits and seeing how fast you can fire fastballs. There’s also a cool playground and a mini-golf course (both open through November) with real rockets. Bonus: the museum was built for the 1964–65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the park still has a few other remnants worth exploring from that futuristic event.
Leonardo’s NYC: Monuments and Retreats
Future leaders—courageous, thoughtful types like Leonardo—will find inspiration in monuments across the five boroughs, as well as places for spiritual retreat. After all, inner strength is as crucial as physical power.
What to see and do
Empire State Building: Anyone would feel like the king of the world ascending to the top of the Empire State Building. The tower was the world’s tallest skyscraper for 40 years, and still manages to stir up a sense of grandeur, modernity and progress when you are looking up at it. But the goal, of course, is to be up in it, peering out from its observation decks at the city below.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: This retired aircraft carrier, which was active in World War II and the Vietnam War, should bring out the intrepid side of any kid. They'll get to scramble around old decks that housed sailors and soldiers, work their way through a narrow submarine and see the Enterprise test shuttle from America’s space program.
Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park: Even the most fearless leader needs a bit of downtime to revive the spirit, and perhaps drink in some unspoken wisdom from the ancient Greek philosopher after whom one of these Queens’ attractions is named. The park functions as a contemplative space meets picnic spot meets contemporary-art fun house. It’s just a few steps from the Noguchi Museum, a soothing place for quiet art meditation whose creator, Isamu Noguchi, attended classes at none other than the Leonardo da Vinci Art School.
Statue of Liberty: There is no symbol of NYC—and perhaps the United States—more potent than the Statue of Liberty. It’s not just a representation of freedom but of a welcoming, helping hand. Climbing all the way up to the crown is a crowning achievement for any bold adventurer, young or old; just make sure to book well ahead for that.
United Nations: Imagine diplomats and power brokers from around the world meeting to solve problems; that’s the power of teamwork. The most impressive part of the institution is probably the General Assembly Hall where all those leaders meet. But make sure you check out all the public artwork on display, which represents peace, good will and unity. And, yes, the whole complex is located in the neighborhood of—wait for it—Turtle Bay.
Michelangelo’s NYC: Food and Fun
As any would-be Michelangelo will tell you, having happy-go-lucky fun is what childhood is all about. That, and anchovy-algae pizza (on second thought, it may be best to leave that for the Turtles).
What to see and do
Games: It’s just barely possible that your kid, like Michelangelo, loves playing video games. Chinatown Fair has a bunch of arcade games, plus air hockey, Pop-a-Shot and the legacy of having been the longtime home to the tic-tac-toe chicken—a feather in anyone’s coop. On second thought, why not take the screens away and hit the Uncommons Café or the Brooklyn Strategist, two places to hang out and play board and card games (Scrabble, Carcassone, Magic: The Gathering) with like-minded kids—or adults, for that matter.
Ice-skating rinks: There are more than a dozen in which to carve figure-eights in the City. Some are open year-round, others just seasonally, but all provide plenty of family fun. And, particularly from the ice in Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Central Park and Brookfield Place, some pretty special views to go alongside.
Gotham Comedy Club: If your kids have a bit of the class clown in them, they’ll find a proper NYC outlet at the monthly Kids ’n’ Comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club (Sundays, 1pm). And let’s face it: the audience is likely to be more receptive than the teachers in your kids’ classrooms.
Museum of American Illustration: The Society of Illustrators, which runs this gallery, might sound like it would be a bit stuffy, but you and your kids should be amused and inspired by what’s on display. The galleries frequently hold comic-related exhibitions—indeed, the institution owns the collection of the former Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art—and superheroes (though sadly, none of the mutated chelonian variety) are sometimes among those featured; they also stage a comics-related festival each April in an offsite locale.
Pizza: We have this one covered, with plenty of toppings. Where to find the best slices. What the different styles of New York pizza are. Why pizza is so darn important to New Yorkers. Our editors’ favorite pizzerias. Booyakasha!
Unusual food mash-ups: Kids love experimenting with weird flavor combinations; in fact, they probably came up with similar ideas—either intentionally or not—well before the mad scientists at places like Momofuku Milk Bar became famous for it. So test out the ramen burger at Ramen Burger, see what the fuss is about with Robicelli’s Nutella lasagna or line up early for the souped-up extra-large soup dumpling at Drunken Dumpling. Who knows, it might inspire them to create the next big thing.
Raphael’s NYC: Outdoors and Nature
Raphael has the kind of energy that needs a proper outlet. (You might be familiar with the type.) Fortunately, the City is full of green spaces, waterfront parks and specialized sports facilities to work out some of the restlessness.
What to see and do
Bronx Zoo: Like a certain ninja turtle, some kids (and adults too) are probably scared of cockroaches. The place to overcome that fear is the Bronx Zoo, home to 100,000 hissing specimens. Under glass, of course. Looking for something a bit friendlier like, say, a gentle turtle? They’ve got those, too, as does the Staten Island Zoo. (OK, they’re giant tortoises, but they won’t bite. We don’t think.) And don’t forget the sea turtles at the New York Aquarium.
Brooklyn Bridge Park: Each section of the waterfront park has some attraction or other for outdoor-oriented kids. Pier 6 features a climbing structure and giant slides, for instance, and Dumbo Boulders, beneath the Manhattan Bridge, has undulating walls to scale (it closes in inclement weather), but Pier 2—roller skating, handball, hopscotch and basketball—might be the surest bet for those who like to run amok.
Chelsea Piers: Take batting practice, hit golf balls, bowl, skate and, sure, do some rock climbing to work off steam at Chelsea Piers. Oh, the kids want to join in as well? We suppose they’re allowed.
Lefrak Center at Lakeside: As the weather cools down, ice skating and hockey take over the rinks in this redeveloped pocket of Prospect Park. Come spring and summertime, it offers roller skating and a giant water feature that’s addictive for kids (under 12 only). And of course the rest of the park, with its playgrounds, fields and bike loop, is at your disposal year-round.
Arms and Armor, Metropolitan Museum of Art: We get it. Your young Raphael is curious about the ways people fight. Turn the fascination into an education at this gallery of the Met, where armor looks like more than just a protective shield. It’s decorative and design intensive—and sometimes far less comfortable than a turtle’s shell.
Staten Island Ferry: You won’t exactly be running around here, but riders do make a bit of a mad dash to get spaces along the outside decks so they can take in views of the NYC skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on this 25-minute ride. If it’s too cold, fret not; the views from inside are still pretty good. Did we mention the ride is free?