New York City’s gone pop-up crazy! So many fun, immersive Instagram and selfie-friendly experiences have popped up, out, in and around NYC, it’s incredibly hard to keep track of all of them—or know which ones are best for kids (and worth your cash, ‘cause those things can add up). We hit up the latest and best spots for families in New York City so you know which ones are the best match for your clan. Here’s our guide to where you and the kids can get seriously selfie.
Trolls: The Experience
If you've got a Troll-loving child in the house (and who doesn't?) then Trolls: The Experience should be on your radar. Produced by Feld Entertainment and taking over 12,000 square-feet of space in midtown, this colorful journey into Queen Poppy's world invites guests to the "Best Day Ever Bash." Visitors get to help prep for the party in a variety of ways, and collect badges along the way. (Those badges are incorporated in a scrapbook at the end of the journey.) Kids get to make music on out-of-this-world instruments, ride a confetti-filled Caterbus, play a Trolls version of whack-a-mole, and more. For the deluxe Trolls experience (and additional $40 fee), kids can get a "Troll transformation" in the "Hair We Go" salon; here, they can pick the Troll they want to be and get some facepaint and the matching Troll hairdo to match. For those not wanting the full makeover, cardboard "wigs" are available, and they actually look pretty good. The Experience ends with a rousing dance party (facilitated by special glasses and digital special effects), and of course, a chance to meet Poppy herself on the way out. Be forewarned: you will hear the song "Best Day Ever" a lot, and it will be hard to make it out of the gift store without dropping some cash. Tickets are timed entry and should be purchased in advance online; if you buy the "Hair We Go" salon treatment, make sure your general admission ticket and salon ticket are for the same time. Note to those with winter babies: they do birthday parties (rates start at $1,200.)
Through May 12
Tickets: $25/person until Nov. 9; $40/person Nov. 10 and after
218 W. 57th St.
The Museum of Pizza
Yes, Virginia, there is a Museum of Pizza. This museum celebrating the quintessential New York City snack/meal has set up shop in the William Vale hotel in Williamsburg. (It's got the hipster element to show for it: expect some kind of trippy art pieces dedicated to the culinary staple.) Described as an “Instagram fun house and science museum” the experience includes a “Pizzascapes Playground” (pizza seesaw, pizza crawl tube, etc); a reality TV-inspired confessional booth where guests can shares their “saucy secret”, and of course, pizza. (Your ticket gets you one slice.) Rooms are created by emerging and established contemporary artists, and were commissioned for the museum. Expect a pizza beach by Adam Green, a fluorescent blacklight pizza vortex from Signe Pierce and Emma Stern, and a “Psychedelic Pizza Parlor” group show curated by RJ Supa. Also: perhaps the largest selection of pizza boxes and pizza video games.
Through November 18
Tickets: $35/person; accompany kids ages three to 12 and seniors are free (limit three additional people)
Tues.-Sun., 10 a.n. - 9 p.m. (through Oct. 28); Thurs., 4-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. (Oct. 29 - Nov. 18)
55 Wythe Ave.
Human's Best Friend
This delightful, compact, bright, and big-hearted pop-up experience is fun for dog lovers of all ages. Created by two vets of the immersive marketing Insta game (Refinery 29’s 29 Rooms, et. al) Human’s Best Friend celebrates canine four-legged companions and all that they love (including their owners). Fun rooms inspired by doggie dreams provide fun for canines and owners. Highlights include a giant bowl of NYC-centric toys from Fat Cat (all dogs go home with one), a “water bowl” filled with so many balls, and The Dog House, where dogs can dine at the dinner table, lounge on the couch, and more. “The Back Yard” is the place for lots of doggie and owners portraits, and “The Bone Yard” has free treats and sparkly bones hanging from the ceiling. (There’s also a neon rainbow bridge, a nod to the beloved doggies who have crossed over, and wait for us to join them.)
Human’s Best Friend (the name is intentionally inclusive) is sensitive to big and little dog issues — big and little dogs are not allowed in the same room at the same time. Brand Ambassadors are on hand to manage flow from one room to the next, and each room is gated. (At any given time the maximum number of dogs allowed in the entire space is 12 dogs with owners, and seven rescues, so things never get too crazy.) Dogs with special needs or issues are asked to wear a yellow ribbon to staff is aware. Logically: don’t bring your dog if they are behind on shots, have aggression issues, etc.
Perhaps the best part: Human’s Best Friend has partnered with several local New York City Rescue organizations to bring adoptable dogs to the space; visitors can meet and greet the available canines on site in a separate area, and take steps for adoption if a love connection is made. All weekend visitors go home with a gift from Bark Box, a Human’s Best Friend sponsor. Tickets must be purchased in advance; plan on your visit to last about an hour.
Through Nov. 12
Tickets: $29/human; $39/human and one best friend, free/kids under two
15 Seventh Ave. (at West 12th St.)
Museum of Illusions
Unlike the other installations featured here, The Museum of Illusions is not passing through. Created in Zagreb, Croatia (with additional outposts in Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, and beyond) the museum is less technicolor extravaganza, and more exercise for your brain (in a good way). But don’t worry: fun photo ops still abound.
Visitors can explore more than 70 elements and experiences that include "illusionistic rooms", optical illusions, and puzzles. Every "piece" in the museum is accompanied by a clear and concise explanation of what is causing or creating the illusion; mathematical, biological, and psychological concepts are all touched upon, as are perception, vision, and how the human brain works.
This museum is an outstanding (and very fun) way to engage kids with complex scientific principles, and help them understand through experience. The well-curated gift shop allows you to take home some of the brain-bending fun. PS: Looking for a fun indoor birthday party idea? You can host one here.
Tickets: $19/adults; $15/kids six - 15; $17/students, seniors, military; $53/family of four
Daily, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
77 Eighth Ave.
The Color Factory
Already tackled Candytopia and ready for more pop-up, immersive fun? Head downtown to Color Factory, a similarly vibrant and interactive experience that celebrates hues of all kinds in myriad ways. (And while Candytopia does have that candy X-factor, we found Color Factory to be not only fun, but thoughtful, thought-provoking, and even a bit magical; any kid will have a blast, older ones will have an appreciation for its sophistication, and you'll probably love it.)
After a wildly-popular run on the west coast last year, Color Factory NYC features new collaborations with artists and partners including OH HAPPY DAY, Leah Rosenberg, Erin Jang, and Roz Chast. It’s 20,000 square feet and 16 installations of Technicolor, Instagram-friendly fun, such as ombré floating balloons with wishes for the world written by students at 826NYC, a walkable infographic leading you to your “secret color”, a palette of colorful treats featuring a custom color ice cream scoop, a unique activity on color and human connection, and a luminous dance floor. And of course, there is (a very large) ball “pit” — but it’s more like a ball room. (Everyone will love that.)
Through November 30
Tickets: $38; kids 2 and under are free (Tickets must be purchased in advance)
Daily, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.; closed Wednesdays
251 Spring St.
Candytopia is going for the Insta-bucks, big time, and recently extended its run through the holiday season to January 6. After creating quite the buzz on the West Coast in Santa Monica, this Technicolor, sugar rush experience is now a stone’s throw from Penn Station. (It’s also in San Fran now.) Guests can explore more than a dozen rooms, which include an art gallery filled with pieces made entirely of candy; a spot to strike a pose with candy queen “Katy Perry”, and a giant marshmallow pit—dive in! Also: flying pigs, free candy throughout, and of course, lots, and lots of sweet photo ops. Read our full review here!
Through January 6
Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 11a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: $34/adults; $26/kids 4- 12; free/kids three and under
145 W. 32nd St.
Feature image: Human’s Best Friend Facebook page