NYC kids come from one of the coolest musical cities on the planet. Our city is home to a diverse history in so many genres: Jazz, Hip Hop, Broadway, and Punk are just a few styles that reached important milestones in the Big Apple. New York City is also the hometown of musicians such as Simon and Garfunkel, George Gershwin, Barbra Streisand, Jay Z, and the Beastie Boys. Being surrounded by such a rich music history and culture gives NYC parents the perfect opportunity to raise musically inclined and diversely cultured kids. So many options are just a subway ride away!
Here are 8 must-see music landmarks and locations in NYC:
1. Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theater is located on West 125th street in Harlem. Many famous musicians got their start at The Apollo, including several prominent Jazz musicians. Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut there at age 17! Other Jazz greats who played at the theater: Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and the Count Basie Orchestra. Motown stars to grace the stage: The Supremes, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Little Stevie Wonder. The Apollo has an education program with shows and workshops designed especially for families!
2. New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center
The New York City Ballet makes it easy and affordable to introduce your kids to ballet. Visit Lincoln Center on one of their “Family Saturdays” with children 5 and under for only $20 per person! The program features short works appropriate for young audiences and teaches kids about music, choreography, and classical dance. The NYCB also hosts pre-performance children’s workshops for children ages 5-8.
3. Washington Square Park
The caliber of NYC’s street and subway musicians is extraordinarily high! Some of my most vivid music memories from my past 9 years in NYC are of subway performers, musicians in the park, or the a-cappella group that sings in my neighborhood. Washington Square Park is a vibrant hub for local artists and musicians: bagpipe players, bluegrass bands, jazz trios, pianists, sitar players and solo guitarists are just a handful of the types of musicians I’ve listened to in this Greenwich Village park. Visit on the weekends and you’re guaranteed to experience a variety of performances!
4. Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center
Although you should wait until your kids can comfortably sit through a long performance, don’t be scared to introduce opera to your kids! Explain what it is in this simple way: opera is a kind of theatre in which the story is told through music and song. Elements that help tell the story: stage and scenery, costumes, the lyrics that are sung, and the music played by the orchestra. Also, to make for the most rewarding experience, learn about the story of the opera with your kids before attending! Mozart’s The Magic Flute is an excellent first opera and returns to the Met this December.
5. Theater District
New Yorkers love Broadway and the passion starts early. There are so many kid-friendly shows to introduce musical theater to your children! A few great options out right now: Annie, The Lion King, Matilda, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Wicked. Musical theater elements to discuss with your kids before attending: the story, costumes, makeup, scenery, lighting, lyrics, and music. Also, don’t forget to explain what to expect at the show: finding your seats, the theater’s darkness, watching quietly, reading the playbill, intermission, and applause.
6. Lower East Side
The LES is home to many intimate performance venues filled with talented, emerging artists. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, the punk scene grew in Lower Manhattan in clubs like the famous CBGB on Bowery. Although CBGB is no longer open, there are still lots of places to check out live music with a low (sometimes free) cover charge and relaxed dress code. The Living Room on Ludlow Street is family-friendly and offers special kids shows appropriate for all ages. They are moving in October- so hurry to visit them at their current location!
7. Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is one of the most prestigious and celebrated concert venues in the world but don’t let that intimidate you! They have a special program called Carnegie Kids that presents shows that are appropriate for kids ages 3 – 6.
8. Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center
Radio City Music Hall opened its doors on December 27, 1932 and has been one of NYC’s most popular entertainment venues since. The perfect show to attend with children is the famous annual Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. The Rockettes were originally formed as the Missouri Rockets in 1925 and in the early 1930s were brought to NYC by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theatre. When Rothafel opened Radio City Music Hall along with Rockefeller and David Sarnoff, the group followed, were renamed “The Rockettes” and even performed on opening night!
Carina Zimmerman is one of the co-founders of TLB Music, a children’s music studio and indoor playspace located on the Upper East Side. She is also the author of The Bird Feed NYC, TLB’s blog filled with family-friendly music to share, free printables for kids, NYC history, product recommendations, and nostalgic photo collections.
Follow TLB Music on Facebook and Twitter
Follow The Bird Feed NYC on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest