Review RiseNY with Kids

RiseNY opened recently, a new Times Square attraction marketed to locals and tourists. We went to review RiseNY with kids.

RiseNY entrance. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Review RiseNY with kids

Think of RiseNY as an overview of what New York offers, and its history, told through a combination of 7 mini-museums, a movie and a ride. In fact, RiseNY partnered with museums like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Museum of American Finance, the Museum of Broadcast Communications & Radio Hall of Fame, the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), the Skyscraper Museum and a few other partners, which contributed information and artifacts.

RiseNY intro film. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The museum is on the second floor, and you wait your turn to enter the subway movie that starts the experience. You’ll enter through a faux subway entrance that is built to resemble New York City’s first underground subway line (opened in 1904). You’ll watch the video in that room, as if you’re looking out the subway front windows. At the time, the new IRT subway was advertised as going from City Hall to Harlem in 15 minutes. That sounds pretty fast, even now!

Fun fact: NYC has 472 subway stations, connecting 665+ miles of track. In 2018 there were 1.7 billion riders.

For extra fun, I recommend taking the Viator NYC subway tour, which we did last year. It starts at City Hall, the site of the first station (you sit in a replica for the RiseNY movie ). That City Hall subway station is no longer open, but on the Viator tour, you can see a glimpse of the ghost station when the subway goes by it. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s an interesting tour. It’s probably not good for little kids though, as it’s a lot of history and up and down subway stairs.

RiseNY intro film, about to enter the exhibits. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The RiseNY movie talks about the start of this IRT subway, and a bit about the history of New York and Times Square, where the museum is. They use vintage footage, including some of a performer crossing between buildings on a wire, holding onto the crossing device with her teeth. It talks about how New York was the first to be lit by electricity.

The film is loud, and there is a lot of competing background noise in the film which makes it difficult to listen to (in my opinion). When the movie ends (it’s probably less than 10 minutes), there’s a video/virtual subway along the side wall, conveniently opening its doors to the entrance of the museum exhibits. That was nicely done.

The finance section of RiseNY. Copyright Jeremy Daniel, used with permission.

Fun fact: The Lenape Indians lived on the island for centuries and called it Mannahatta, which is thought to mean “island of many hills.” The Dutch settlers established the colony here in 1624.

The first section is about New York as the financial capital. You learn a bit about Hamilton’s role in the financial system and can see a check that he wrote, displayed there.

Fun fact: The Dutch West India Company settled New Amsterdam (the precursor to NYC) to take advantage of the fur trade, especially the beaver pelt. The beaver is on city flags and seals, and in the tiles at the Astor Place subway. (Take the subway tour! You’ll learn all about the emblems used in the subways and why they’re there).

RiseNY skyscraper exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Fun fact: The Dutch West India Company settled New Amsterdam (the precursor to NYC) to take advantage of the fur trade, especially the beaver pelt. The beaver is on city flags and seals, and in the tiles at the Astor Place subway. (Take the subway tour! You’ll learn all about the emblems used in the subways and why they’re there).

Fun fact: The freedom of religion in the U.S. Constitution had its start in the Flushing Remonstrance, created in 1657. Residents of Flushing, Queens argued for religious freedom for all faiths.

Not so fun fact: NYC relied on the slave trade, and slavery was introduced in 1626 by the Dutch West India Company. Visitors were allowed to bring enslaved people to NYC until 1840, even though slavery ended here in 1827.

RiseNY radio exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Fun fact: The Tesla coil was invented in 1891 in Manhattan, allowing electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. Skyscrapers held antennae that could send out radio (and later TV) signals widely.

The exhibit shows some of the radio shows and personalities that gained a foothold in New York City in the 1900s.

RiseNY television exhibit with a talking and animated Oscar the Grouch. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The television section had the history of some of the shows filmed and/or set in New York, including Sesame Street (first set in Manhattan and then Queens). Oscar pops out of the trash can and will talk occasionally. You can also sit in the Honeymooners’ kitchen set, and on the furniture props like the Friends couch and a talk show setting.

Fun fact: Shows like The Honeymooners, All in the Family, Seinfeld, Sesame Street, Sex and the City, Friends and others are based in NYC.

RiseNY television exhibit, with the Friends couch, Sex and the City outfit, and talk show set. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

I enjoyed the fashion gallery, in particular the video narrated by Tim Gunn. He (and others) talked about the history of fashion in New York, including the difference made by the Singer sewing machine and how it transformed the industry. Instead of taking 14 hours to make a man’s shirt, it only took 1 hour. The machine can make 900 stitches a minute.

RiseNY fashion exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Fun fact: By 1897, Jewish workers were 75% of garment factory laborers.

RiseNY music exhibit – Bob Dylan original lyrics. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The music gallery held some fun items, including Bruce Springsteen’s guitar that was used to write Born to Run, Bob Dylan’s guitar that was gifted to John Lennon, and the Village People costumes.

The Village People costumes at RiseNY. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

You can make your own music at the hip-hop station.

RiseNY music hip hop exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
RiseNY music exhibit – Notorious B.I.G. outfit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

It’s time then to go up the staircase. There is a film exhibit at the top, but there’s not much to that. Blink and you miss it. Open the stage door to go to the Broadway section. There are several costumes from Broadway shows, with snippets of the show playing while the costume is lit up (Hamilton, Lion King and Phantom of the Opera).

Rise NY Broadway exhibit. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Fun fact: Florenz Ziegfeld is credited as creating modern Broadway. The Times Square theaters around 1900 primarily housed traveling shows. The Ziegfeld Follies (1907-1931) transformed Broadway into the musical theater world it is now. That included elaborate sets and costumes, dancing women and guest stars.

After this, you move to the New Year’s Eve section.

Fun fact: The first New Year’s Eve ball drop was in 1907, started by the New York Times. The original iron ball was 700 pounds and lit with 100 25-watt bulbs. The ball dropping (lowering) concept was based on a practice from 19th century London where the ball alerted ship captains on the Thames to the time of day.

The initial preparation for the ride at RiseNY. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

At this point you go into a room where it’s 1958, en route to “Sky Studio” for the ball dropping. You’ll watch some TV shows from that era, broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel (which my journalist friends will fondly remember as the site of our annual conference for many years). This show kills time until it’s time to get on the ride and will be very boring for kids.

But before you get there, you’ll go in a “freight elevator.” They have a story that isn’t dissimilar to the Twilight Zone story from Disneyland and Disney World. The elevator doesn’t actually travel, but it shakes and the “windows” show video which makes it look like you’re moving. It’s kind of loud and shaky, which might make small kids a bit nervous. It’s hokey but sort of amusing, especially when you see the rats. Also as a social experiment see if anyone goes to the middle of the freight elevator after the doors shut. No one did in our group and I was tempted to stand in the middle.

Fun fact: In 1955 the ball was replaced. It was now aluminum and 150 pounds.

Rise NY ride seating. You can put larger items that don’t fit in your pocket in a book case on the wall to the left where the people are standing. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Finally the ride. Again, if you’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World, the ride will be familiar. It’s like Soarin’. Only you soar over New York. If you get motion sick, you may not love the ride. It made me a bit ill. The video was lovely and it was fun to zoom around and through windows, to get views of Central Park, Grand Central Station, the subway, the Brooklyn Bridge on New York City marathon day, the rivers, etc. It sprays water on you when appropriate, and even some cold snowy weather. And that smell when over Times Square? That made me very happy. They pumped out the roasted nut smell.

The ride at RiseNY. Copyright Jeremy Daniel and used with permission

After the ride you’re directed into the gift shop and then down the stairs to the 2nd floor again.  

Review RiseNY with kids

As for capturing the kids’ interest, parts of RiseNY definitely will. It is an Instagrammable space, designed not to look like a boring museum. They use multimedia effects to add interest. Sometimes this means there is a bit more style than substance, though. I did read through all the information plaques throughout the museum, and they have QR codes so you can access additional information to learn more.

For me, the museum was a bit too loud. Kids with sensory processing issues may have difficulty here. The film is a bit hard to hear because there is so much background noise as part of the film. Entering the radio area has flashing lights to simulate the Tesla coils. Both the music area and the Broadway area have music playing loudly as well. It was a lot of stimulation. I learned some new things, though, and it was clear the planners paid attention to make it visually stimulating.

The Rise NY ride. Copyright Jeremy Daniel, used with permission.

If you go to RiseNY

Tickets: RiseNY tickets are currently timed. It is open daily except for Tuesday, from 10 am to 8 pm (10-10 on Fridays and Saturdays). Tickets start at $24.

Where is RiseNY: 160 W. 45th Street, at 7th Avenue.

Bathroom: Use the bathroom on the second floor before going into the museum. You can use it again at the end, as you exit to the same area. They have an unattended coat rack you can use there.

How long should you spend at RiseNY? I went on a weekday afternoon and spent about 70 minutes there. I was the last in my subway movie group to make it all the way through, from what I could tell, as I stopped to read all the signs. I also watched the fashion video all the way through. A friend went a few weeks before with some college-age kids and they spent about the same amount of time. Likely most people will spend less time than that, so plan for about an hour.

Disclosure: We were guests of RiseNY for this review. All opinions are our own.

Have you gone to RiseNY? Please post your review of RiseNY with kids – or without kids. Let us know what you thought!

2 Replies to “Review RiseNY with Kids”

  1. The experience was interesting in the beginning, but the main attraction, of course, is the ride at the end where you simulate flying through New York City. It’s supposed to be like Sorin’ at Disney, which I have ridden several times and enjoy. The ride specified that it would be necessary to transfer from a wheelchair, which is expected and not a problem generally. I transfer for Sorin’. But when I got to the final part of the tour, to take the ride, I was informed that I would not be allowed to ride because I could not transfer independently from my wheelchair without assistance from my wife. Even worse, I was informed that they could not issue me a refund, and that I would have to work it out with whoever sold me my ticket. The manager was very dismissive, not providing any help with a refund or a way to make it right. She told me to look at my email for a phone number for someone to talk to. I understand that businesses have liability issues; and even if I disagree with the policy, they have to protect themselves from lawsuits. But my money should have been refunded. The dismissiveness of the manager was extremely disappointing, and I cannot recommend this business. There are plenty of other fine businesses in that area to patronize.

  2. Lance, thank you for that helpful review and I’m sorry to hear that the Rise NY manager was not responsive, and that the full information about transferring was not shared ahead of time. I hope you’re able to work it out with them, and I appreciate you sharing your experience here for others who may be in a similar situation and thinking of visiting.

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