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15 Great Field Trip Spots in New York City

by Iris Price
Online Education Columnist

Some of the most exciting entertainment, culture and educational opportunities anywhere in the world are available to the millions of residents of the New York City metropolitan area and surrounding regions. Museums, historical venues, architecture, arts and commerce are so plentiful that you might not know where to begin exploring. Never fear. Here are 15 field trip spots in NYC, listed in no particular order, that can satisfy anyone's educational cravings and whet the appetite for more.

15 field trip destinations in New York City

MoMA (11 West 53rd St., New York, NY 10019) -- The Museum of Modern Art caters to field trips for groups from K-12 and for college and university students. Both guided and unguided tours can be arranged. Special programs such as hands-on art workshops for younger children, themed tours that explore different ways to approach art and in-depth study of several works are just some of the educational group opportunities available to foster appreciation of modern art. Galleries can also be reserved by post-secondary educators to conduct lectures for their class groups.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028) -- The "Met" welcomes students to its extensive collections -- at the main building on Fifth Ave. and at The Cloisters in upper Manhattan -- filled with works that represent "the broadest spectrum of human achievement." Guided and self-guided tours are available, and like MoMA, The Met provides tours with themed topics that initiate art appreciation. The emphasis is on story, costume and world cultures for elementary and middle school students. Small discussion groups allow high school students to focus on cultural connections and comparisons starting with themes such as "The Human Figure" and "Power and Faith."

The New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10458) -- The world of plants, both indoor and out, awaits visitors to the Garden. Plenty of printed resources are available for teachers who accompany their classes to workshops or on self-guided tours in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and on outdoor nature walks. Activities like planting and nature scavenger hunts give students an opportunity to get to know how the garden grows.

Children's Museum of the Arts (103 Charlton St., New York, NY 10014) -- Complete with a 2,000 sq. ft. gallery for exhibits, a WEE arts studio for children 1-5 years old, a media lab, a sound booth, a clay studio and a fine arts studio, CMA is dedicated to promoting the arts in a variety of media. Two teaching artists are assigned to every visiting group of students. After a tour of the gallery and group discussion, students participate in a workshop of their own teacher's choosing.

Hudson River Maritime Museum (50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY 12401) -- From May through October the museum accommodates groups during regular school hours. Tour the ships -- replicas and restorations -- and visit the lighthouse. Learn about life on the river -- from ice-racing to living in a lighthouse -- today and in days gone by. A number of field trip grants are available to assist schools in need.

Empire State Building (350 5th Ave., New York, NY) -- Did you know that over 250 movies have been filmed at the ESB? Work has been in progress to restore the lobby and elevators of the tallest building in NYC to their former Art Nouveau glory. The 80th floor houses an exhibit and documentary about the ESB's design and construction. Lesson plans suitable for social studies, science and technology, and American history and geography are available for educators to prepare students in grades 3 - 12 for field trips to this world-famous NYC icon.

Museum for African Art -- Established in 1984, the museum has had several homes over the years. In 2007, it broke ground on a new facility to house the collection and educational programs at Fifth Avenue and 110th St. in Manhattan. A completion date has not been announced, but currently outreach programs led by artists bring African arts -- visual, dance, music, poetry, crafts and much more -- to the public schools, and programs for all ages take place at venues around the city and beyond.

Bronx Zoo (2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460) -- For many NYC school children, the Bronx Zoo is their first real-life encounter with wild animals. Picture books and media come alive with the fascinating creatures kids have heard about since they were babies. Friends of the Zoo conduct guided tours for classes, and kids get a chance to see all their favorite animals in natural settings and ask questions.

Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave., Astoria, NY 11106) -- Student, camp and youth groups can participate in pre-arranged group tours led by museum educators all year round. Besides museum tours, hands-on workshops and screenings are just a few activities offered to young people interested in film, television and digital media -- and who isn't? The museum is the perfect dynamic, interactive environment to teach core curriculum.

The Conference House (298 Satterlee St., Staten Island, NY 10307) -- New York State boasts numerous historic buildings that date to pre-Revolutionary times. The Conference House, built around 1680, was the site of a meeting in September 1776 between members of the Continental Congress and representatives of the British Crown. The British refused to consider American independence, and the rest, as they say, is history. School tours can be arranged by contacting the museum educator and are compliant with New York State's learning standards for social studies, language arts and the arts.

Steinway & Sons Piano Factory (1 Steinway Place, Astoria, NY 11105) -- Known worldwide for its exceptional pianos, Steinway and Sons offers a free, three-hour tour of its factory -- too intensive for young children, but thorough enough for young adults, older students and anyone interested in the history of Steinway pianos and the intricate details of their manufacture. Tours are not scheduled regularly, so reservations are mandatory.

Central Park Zoo (Southeast corner of Central Park, 5th Ave. and 64th St., New York, NY) -- In a city that's more about steel, concrete and glass than trees and wildlife, Central Park is an oasis. The Central Park Zoo provides educators with the perfect venue for students to develop an appreciation of the natural world. The zoo also offers many resources, including workshops, to educators and homeschoolers, which can help them enhance their students' experience.

Children's Museum of Manhattan (The Tisch Building, 212 W. 83rd St., New York, NY 10024) -- What child could ever forget crawling through a replica of the intestines to learn where food goes when she eats? Hands on experiences like this don't just teach kids about health -- they impress upon them lessons for healthy life choices. Guided by museum educators, 90-minute tours are available for students during the school months and for campers during the summer.

Radio City Music Hall (6th Ave. between 50th & 51st Sts., New York, NY) -- Take a Stage Door tour of Radio City Music Hall. Highlights include a behind-the-scenes look at the Art Deco theater and a chance to meet one of the world-famous precision dancers, The Rockettes. School children and fans of the theater will be thrilled to glimpse that side of the New York stage that audiences don't usually get to see.

New York Aquarium (Surf Ave. & W. 8th St., Brooklyn, NY 11224) -- No city is complete without an aquarium. Imagine seeing sharks up close and personal in the City -- the corporate variety notwithstanding. Unless you're a certified diver, where else can you learn about marine life up close and personal? For toddlers to teens and beyond, the New York aquarium has age-appropriate activities ranging from crafts and storytelling to conservation programs.

Group admission prices for groups vary for each of these sites. Reservations usually must be made a minimum of two weeks in advance. Some sites offer grants to help defray costs, and many attractions and museums are free for schools within the five New York City boroughs. For more detailed information, visit each website.