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New York Tenement Museum - which tour?

Taking the kids to NYC for the first time this fall, and want to do the Tenement Museum with them. They are 9 and 12; both very good with listening, and the 9-yo is actually very much into history, more than the 12-yo actually. But the 12-yo did a big Ellis Island project at school last year so she has a good background of the immigrant arrival story.

Anyway, wanted to know if anyone has opinions as to the best tour for kids. I actually don't want to do the Victoria Confino one, as it's for kids of all ages with a costumed speaker (I don't want to be in there with a bunch of crazy toddlers; my kids are better suited to the adult tours). Any thoughts between Hard Times, Sweatshop Workers or Irish Outsiders? (My 9-yo isn't old enough for "Shop Life" and I'd rather have the turn-of-the-century history than the more modern Under One Roof.)

Thanks!

Posted by
794 posts

About 10 years ago, my daughter who was then maybe 14 and I visited the Tenement museum and actually took two tours. We enjoyed the Victoria Confino tour, and when we did it there were no crazy toddlers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which other one we did, and reading the descriptions didn’t ring any bells. You might ask the museum If there often are toddlers on that tour with the costumed interpreter; if not, I would recommend that one for your kids and you.

Whatever you decide, have a great time. We really enjoyed that museum.

Posted by
612 posts

Hi Kelly,

What a great idea to take your children to the Tenement Museum. After many trips to New York, three years ago, my husband and I finally went. We took the Hard Times tour which covers the stories of two immigrant families. While there were no children on our tour, I think a 9 and 12 year old would enjoy the tour. While the tour guide was very knowledgeable, this is a very visual tour. Just seeing the size and condition of these flats will spark and interesting conversation with your kids.

The Tenement Museum also has a variety of family activities, check out the link:
https://www.tenement.org/visit/recommendations-for-families/. While I don’t usually rave about gift shops, this one has amazing and unique items, including a great cookbook collection and historical biographies (for your 9 year old history buff).

Depending upon when you are visiting the Museum, there are two iconic New York eateries not to far from the Tenement Museum: Katz Deli (best known for Pastrami & the scene from When Harry Met Sally): https://www.katzsdelicatessen.com/. It can be a mad house at lunch, but think about it more as a loud lunch-time ballet.

Russ and Daughters (4th Generation restaurant with outstanding bagels and lox: http://www.russanddaughterscafe.com/. They have both outside and inside seating, delicious smoked and pickled fish and egg creams for the kids.

Enjoy your trip to New York.
Sandy

Posted by
1447 posts

Friends who live in NYC took us on the Sweatshop Tour, so that’s the only one I can respond to. I think it would be enjoyable and appropriate for the ages of your children. These tours are very visual, so the participants are in the actual living situations seeing the conditions they worked under. The only thing you might consider is if one of yours is highly/overly empathetic ( I have a grandchild that fits this) and would be bothered when they talk about the garment fire where a number of women died. I don’t know what the other tours cover. If you chose this tour, you might consider having them read the All-of-A-Kind Family stories before you go.

Posted by
860 posts

@Patty, thank you for the suggestion of the book. I had not heard of that book before but have now procured a copy from my local library and will begin reading it with the kids soon!

Posted by
1059 posts

Loved the tour of the Tenement Museum, though I can't remember which one it was.
I think it may have been "Hard Times".
I know it was to do with a family (or two) that lived there and worked nearby.
Absolutely riveting.
Know that there are narrow stairs to climb up and down to get to the different levels, and it's very warm in the building.
The gift shop is really great, so leave plenty of time to shop afterward!

Also, the museum at/under the Statue of Liberty is just amazing too; we really liked it.

Posted by
1557 posts

Hi Kelly,
I went on a tour of the Tenement Museum in June 2015 and enjoyed it very much. We also took a food tour of the Lower East Side and saw a lot of the area and sampled food from The Pickle Guys to some famous deli my friend knew about. We met people from different countries on the tour from Germany and England, I remember.
Sorry I don't have more information focused on children but I know it will be very interesting especially for your daughter who did a project on Ellis Island.

Posted by
3133 posts

The Tenement Museum is fascinating for kids of all ages. While I can't recommend one tour over another, I can recommend you go when there isn't a heat wave on that autumn day. Your kids will hate any tour they take as it will be stifling in there. Ironically enough, they would get a lot more out of it to experience what it was like in hot weather but in reality, they will be better off in cooler temps.

Posted by
860 posts

@Continental, hopefully it won't be too bad the day we're there! We're going in late September. We are used to hot weather (it's 95+ degrees here in Georgia all this week, plus the usual "swim thru the air humidity"). Regardless, the kids can suck it up for an hour, haha! Last time I was in NYC back in 2015 I wanted to do the museum and went all the way down there and it was sold out, so I definitely am buying tix ahead of time this time!

Posted by
119 posts

I took the excellent Sweatshop Workers tour a couple of years ago and I don't remember anything inappropriate for children. If you have immigrants in your family history, you might consider selecting a tour that would reflect the time period they came, to make it more meaningful. I second the recommendation to visit one of the nearby historic delis--the food the immigrants brought with them has been a wonderful contribution to our country. And do go to Ellis Island; I could easily have spent a whole day there.

Posted by
860 posts

Thanks, @Michelle. I think we will do the sweatshop tour. And we definitely have Ellis Island tix as well as “climb the crown” Statue of Liberty tix, which I am quite excited about myself! :)

Posted by
313 posts

Jumping in late but I want to add that, whichever tour you take, the guide has the ability to customize it a bit for whoever is on that tour. If you have tweens/teens with you, they can give a little more info on the lives of kids their ages. Every tour guide tells the stories a little bit differently--they have far more information than they can deliver on one tour. This means, too, that the Tenement Museum is great even if you've been there before.

Posted by
1419 posts

If you can add the the American Indian museum at the old Customs house on Bowling Green. The museum is great, nice, interesting museum shop, bathrooms, and they have separate tours for the building. The building is amazing! And, all is free! Have taken people there a few times, never crowded.

Posted by
55 posts

We went a couple of summers ago. We took the Hard Times tour with our kids. I think any of the tours there would be excellent. There was a slide show/film in the museum store we saw before our tour. The museum store is very good. We also went to Eillis Island & to the Statue of Liberty. I think that there is so much more that can be done at Ellis Island to better tell the story of immigaration to our country. I thought the Tenement Museum was much better than Ellis Island if you only have time for one of these.

Posted by
303 posts

My daughter and her husband just took the Hard Times tour and loved it, but in retrospect, she wished she had taken the tour that featured Irish immigrants. We have been researching our ancestry and find that we have a very Irish background. I think it would be very meaningful to go on a tour that you can relate to through immigrant ancestry.

Posted by
5641 posts

Our grandchildren got a lot out of the Ellis Island exhibits but didn't care for the Tenement Museum anywhere near as much. It may have been because there was no a/c when we went and it was quite hot. A reality for those living there before a/c. I understand there is a/c in the museum now.