I love exploring and am always up for a new adventure. However one of my favorite places to repetitively visit and never tire of is Storm King Art Center. This 500 acre sculpture garden magically offers a different experience with each visit based on the season, weather and special exhibits.
My daughter, Brooklyn, one of her best friends, Sabine, her dad and I made the one hour drive from upper Manhattan recently. Our girls, both 4 years old, understand what sculpture is but we weren’t exactly sure how they would respond to spending a day at Storm King.
We drove and as we entered we were directed to the North Parking lot. This parking lot leads you to the cafe, where we picked up free interactive booklets for the kids, these booklets also act as a field guide. Storm King covers over 500 acres of rolling hills, open fields, and woodlands and is surrounded by the Storm King and Schunnemunk Mountains. It can be overwhelming to know how to begin your day here. We started ours at the nearest large sculpture, an Alexander Liberman called Adonai. This giant sculpture made of cylinders is one of my favorites here, and gave us a nice starting point. As much fun as these sculptures look to touch and climb, the majority of pieces at Storm King are not for touching. We repeated ourselves all day, keeping little fingers off these sculptures wasn’t easy! Instead of touching we encouraged the girls to run through them, look through openings and chase each other around them so they still enjoyed them without any physical contact. The Art Center was empty so we had free reign and didn’t disrupt anyone. To keep the kids engaged, we played a game allowing the girls to take turns being the leader. As we did this we snaked our way though the hills and woodlands in a bit of a chaotic way, but we still really enjoyed discovering the sculptures and everything felt like a surprise.
After getting ourselves lost, we picked up the free open air tram from the North Woods, which drove us through the grounds. The tram is a great way to see the grounds and it’s narrated so identified where we were and what we were seeing. On the tram we saw George Cutts’ Sea Change which is two swaying metal rods that look like they’re dancing together. We also passed Tal Streeter’s Endless Column, which looks like to lightening bolt. One of the more perplexing pieces we passed was Menashe Kadishman’s Suspended, two large rectangles balanced against each other with one end suspended.
Once we reached the South Parking lot from tram, we hopped off and headed up to Museum Hill, this area is pretty much the center of the grounds. I recommend Museum Hill as your starting point. You can start the tram ride here which takes you all through the entire grounds, or take one of many trails which are outlined in the map they give you at the entrance. Another option to get around is renting bikes – this is a great way see and enjoy the art and landscape. You can rent adult bikes on a first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately they don’t offer child seats or children’s bikes, and you are not allowed to bring your own bicycle.
Museum Hill has a visitor’s center where you can also pick up the free children’s interactive booklet or rent ‘acoustigudes’ for a self guided tour providing commentary about the landscape and sculptures. You can also join a guided walking tour from this location. The view up on Museum Hill is awesome, set by five stone columns which were once part of the veranda of Danskammer, Edward Armstrong’s 1834 mansion. From the top of this perch you can overlook the grounds and take in the vastness and complexity of your surroundings that somehow stitch together making Storm King a masterpiece. You can see a dozen spectacular works of art from the top of this hill. Most are permanent but some are temporary exhibits. After taking in the view, our girls ran down the hill where we discovered our favorite sculpture of the day, Zhang Huan’s Three Legged Buddha.
Touchable and Interactive Sculptures:
Storm King offers several sculptures meant for interaction, this list currently includes:
- Arnaldo Pomodoro, The Pietrarubbia Group, visitors can enter through its grand, slab-like doors and move them.
- Dennis Oppenheim’s Electric Kiss, which resembles a Hersey’s Kiss which you can walk into.
- Dennis Oppenheim’s, Entrance to a Garden – a shirt shaped gazebo like sculpture you can enter.
- Dennis Oppenheim’s, Dead Furrow, a pyramid like sculpture with stairs for climbing to offer a view.
- Isamu Noguchi’s Momo Taro, inspired by a split open peach.
- Siah Armajani’s Gazebo for Two Anarchists, a sculpture you may enter.
After exploring the rolling hills, taking in the fresh air and interacting with some of the world’s finest art we all worked up an appetite so headed back to the cafe. We enjoyed hotdogs, sandwiches, ice cream, and beer, all a little pricey but good. If you prefer, you can bring your own picnic, they have picnic tables nearby. To end our day of culture, our girls pretended to be princesses and spent about 45 minutes jumping on and off a large rock near the picnic site. We had a fantastic day. The kids don’t realize they spent the day at one of the world’s leading sculpture parks but as parents we were pleased with ourselves for exposing them to such great art, and making it fun.
Here’s a video of our day touring Storm King with kids:
- The Art Center is completely closed to the public from December 2 to March 31.
- Plan to spend at least two hours, we easily spent four hours.
- There are multiple ways to get around: free tram, walking tour, on your own by foot, rental bike, rented audio tour
- Strollers are allowed – heavy duty ones will be best.
- Bring bug spray and sun screen if visiting in the summer, it was quite buggy on our visit.
- Bathrooms and changing tables are available in restrooms near the visitors center at Museum Hill.
- Pets are not allowed
- I recommend starting your day at Museum Hill. For kids I recommend taking the tram tour originating at the bottom of Museum Hill. It can also be picked up at any of the 10 designated tram stops, they run continuously. Collapsible strollers can be accommodated.
- Public transportation from NYC is also available, check Storm King’s site for details.
- Children 4 and under are free.