The 7 Best Cheap Eats in New York City

The Big Apple can get pricey and with so many gourmet restaurants and notable chefs in the city, food sometimes doesn’t seem to come cheap either. It might seem like the only place to grab something for a reasonable price is at a big-name fast food joint—which is not the case at all. But eating out in the 5 boroughs doesn’t need to break the bank; in fact, there are some places where you can pick up delicious food at a price your pocketbook will love too.

7. Pizza

Okay, it might seem like a bit of a cheat to start off with something so generic—of course pizza can be cheap. Pizza can also be really expensive, especially in NYC. But since the city is one with such a rich Italian heritage, you just know that there have got to be a few great mom-and-pop style pizzerias, places where you can grab a slice (or a whole pie) for what amounts to pocket change. The Big Apple is full of shops like Joe’s Pizza and John’s Pizzeria, both in Greenwich Village and both highly regarded by locals. A classic New York slice will run you $2.75 at Joe’s—very reasonable considering Joe uses nothing but the best, including imported Italian mozzarella and tomatoes to make fresh sauce for the pies.

Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban
Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban

6. Taqueria Izucar

This place might as well be billed as “all you can eat tacos.” Tacos are just $1.25 a pop, and come stuffed with things like braised veal, pig stomach or stewed potatoes. Although the Taqueria itself is a counter-serve establishment, there is an attached Mexican restaurant where you can pause for a sit-down meal. For those on the go, however, Taqueria Izucar serves up good food at low prices and even has vegetarian options for those who prefer their food sans-carne. Open from 11 in the morning til 10 at night, this Brooklyn eatery is the perfect place to grab lunch during a busy workday, dinner after a long day at the office or even to grab a snack with some friends before heading out to the bar on a Friday night.

Photo by: Eater
Photo by: Eater

5. Northside Bakery

Northside Bakery is a European-style bake shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A division of Old Poland Foods, the bakery has been voted “Best European Bakery in New York” by various outlets. Their baked goods are all handmade, without preservatives, and the company is now looking at introducing a line of organic baked goods. They stock everything from baguettes to bagels to donuts, but you can also drop by for a lunch special. A cabbage roll will cost $2.50 (and be warned, these are decidedly filling). Other Polish specialties and daily soups round out the lunch menu; the buffet will set you back around $4. And after lunch, you can also grab a slice of cake or another treat to take home with you and enjoy later. All in all, Northside Bakery is a pretty sweet deal!

Photo by: Sprung on Food
Photo by: Sprung on Food

4. Lakruwana

You might not think that trekking out to Staten Island would yield much in the way of cheap eats, but you’d be wrong. Don’t believe it? Hop the ferry (which is free) to the island and check out Lakruwana, an artsy Sri Lankan restaurant serving up traditional dishes from the Indian Ocean island. Their weekend lunch buffets are a great deal; priced at $13.95, it might seem a touch dear, especially compared to some of the other entries here, but the value is great given the extensive menu. The restaurant also offers take-out, which is a great option if you happen to be on Staten Island anyway. And although most of the entrees are priced around $14, the portions are generous; if there are two people dining, you can likely pick one dish and split it—although it tastes so good, you may not want to share.

Photo by: New Lakruwana
Photo by: New Lakruwana

3. Yun Nan Flavour Garden

Not only is this Brooklyn restaurant a tasty and cheap option for diners, it’s also one of New York’s only Yuunan restaurants. In a city littered with Chinese eateries, Yun Nan Flavour Garden is a refreshing option, serving up a menu with flavors from China’s southernmost province. The restaurant specializes in noodle dishes, like guoqiao mixian, and the noodles themselves are made fresh in-house. Although the eatery itself is tiny and you’ll likely share a help-yourself bin of utensils with your fellow diners, the food is a great deal: bowls of noodles go for around $5—and are generally large enough to feed 2 or 3 people, or to make another meal out of. Service is usually quick, but remember to bring cash, since the establishment doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.

Photo by: NY Times
Photo by: NY Times

2. Gray’s Papaya

Given the name of this establishment, you might not think of a hot dog stand, but that’s exactly what Gray’s is. The long-time New York eatery specializes in dishing up low-priced dogs to hungry crowds. The Papaya in the name comes from the papaya drink the restaurant sells, although they also sell a variety of other beverages. Gray’s has been featured in films, television shows, literature and music, making it something of a cultural touchstone for New Yorkers. Open since 1979, Gray’s had expanded into additional stores, although only the 2090 Broadway location is open nowadays (however, reports have surfaced that Gray’s will be opening a new Midtown location by end of 2016). The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, year-round, which means you can grab a cheap, delicious, high-quality dog any time you visit the Big Apple. A single dog is just $1.25 and the “Recession Special” will set you back only $3.50.

Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton
Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton

1. Rahman’s Kwik Meals

There are a heck of a lot of food carts in New York City, especially in busy areas like Midtown and the Financial District, where both hungry office workers and tourists will congregate, looking for a quick bite to eat. With so many vendors, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick one. Many sell foods like pretzels and bagels, but the best food carts have full meals, like falafel with grilled chicken, on offer. New York Magazine recently named Rahman’s Kwik Meals one of the best food carts in the whole city. The cart is something of a legend in NYC; after brief stints cooking for other establishments, cart owner Muhammed Rahman is back selling lamb, fish and rice dishes at 45th Street, near Times Square. There are also two additional carts in the Kwik Meals empire, Quick Delight (45th and 3rd) and Kwik Gourmet (47th and Park Avenue).

kwik meal

 

The 7 Best Bakeries in the 5 Boroughs

Cookies and cakes, bread and bagels, oh my! New Yorkers love baked goods—that’s no surprise, especially given that the city’s unofficial pastry patron is the bagel. It’s a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many bakeries in the Big Apple, scattered throughout the five boroughs. With so many choices, it can be daunting to try and pick just a few favorite establishments; in fact, it’s nearly impossible to crown a single “best” bakery. So here are our top 7 picks for the best bakeries in the whole of NYC.

7. Milk and Cookies

On a tour of Greenwich Village, we passed by this neat little bakery on Commerce Street. A local, who lived in Midtown, pointed the shop out and was delighted to learn we’d already had a chance to sample the wares fresh from the oven. Even David Schwimmer, who played Ross on Friends, is a fan of Milk and Cookies and their focus on American classics, like the classic chocolate chip cookie. The shop was also recently voted best ice cream sandwich in NYC, so you know they have to be doing something right. The bakery has packaged their chocolate chip cookie dough, but nothing beats the real McCoy; Milk and Cookies is open until 10pm every night, so swing by and grab a sweet treat—or get creative and take advantage of the shop’s “design your own dozen” service, which lets you pick and choose flavors.

Photo by: Milk and Cookies
Photo by: Milk and Cookies

6. Almondine

When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC 3 years ago, the storm leveled one of Brooklyn’s best bakeries. Pastry chef Herve Poussat didn’t expect his bakery to flood, but it did and he lost most of his equipment—and the Big Apple almost lost Almondine, one of the most revered French bakeries in Brooklyn and beyond. Luckily, Poussat was able to re-open in April 2013. Since then, Almondine has continued to do what the bakery does best: make delicious French-style breads and pastries, including some of the city’s best baguettes. Almondine consistently places on lists of the best bakeries in the five boroughs, and New Yorkers know that a trip to Almondine is always a good idea. A pilgrimage to 85 Water Street should be on every gourmand’s New York bucket list.

Photo by: Dumbo NYC
Photo by: Dumbo NYC

5. Amy’s Bread

Amy’s Bread has been serving NYC for 23 years now, in three locations around Manhattan: Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea. Open early to late every day of the week, Amy’s Breads offers up an assortment of homemade artisanal breads, like basil-infused foccacia, fresh on a daily basis. Oh, and if you’re hankering for something sweet, the bakery dabbles in treats too—like their cupcakes, which garnered a 5-star rating in a recent Zagat survey. The fact that the bakery was voted as the best spot to grab a loaf in all of NYC should tell you a bit about the quality of the goods; others just can’t compare. The bakery also supplies various restaurants in Manhattan through its wholesale channel, but the best place to pick up a treat is still one of the cozy bakery locations.

Photo by: Amy's Bread
Photo by: Amy’s Bread

4. Cannelle Patisserie

Don’t let the fact that this French-style bakery is located in a mall in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens throw you off: it is simply one of the best in all of NYC. New Yorkers and the media alike will tell you that making the trip out to Cannelle Patisserie is well worth it; not only are the pastries cheaper than the puffed-up price points you’ll find in Manhattan bakeries, but the goods are just as delectable (if not more so). They’re open from 8 til late, 7 days a week, so there’s no excuse for not dropping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner or a coffee break somewhere in-between. Sandwiches, quiches and a breakfast selection round out a menu full of exquisite cakes, tarts and cookies. With items starting at just $1, how can you possibly go wrong?

Photo by: Serious Eats
Photo by: Serious Eats

3. Valencia Bakery

Manhattan has more than its fair share of excellent bakeries, but that doesn’t mean that you should count out the other boroughs: all of them are graced with places to pick up some sweet treats. Valencia Bakery, located in the Bronx, is an excellent example. The shop has to come up in conversation about the best bakeries in NYC, and it’s known as the place to get a birthday cake (or a cake for just about any other occasion) in this borough. Valencia has several locations in the Bronx, and 2 additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They also make pastries so even if you’re not celebrating, you can still treat yourself to something sweet from this bakery institution. If you’re in town for a birthday or other occasion, celebrate with a pineapple or guava cake from Valencia—you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Valencia Bakery
Photo by: Valencia Bakery

2. Bien Cuit

This little shop in Brooklyn has made quite the splash since it landed on the NYC bakery scene in 2011. Chef Zachary Golper and his bakery have been nominated for awards consistently since then; in 2015, Golper was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker. The Bien Cuit philosophy is to offer up breads and pastries that are both unique and varied, utilizing ancient techniques and modern-day sensibilities. The shop has become a favorite among locals and a must-visit for travelers passing through. Open 7 days a week, from 7 in the morning til 8 at night, Bien Cuit offers customers more than pastries and breads; their menu includes quiches, sandwiches, tartines and cookies, as well as drinks to wash it all down. Bien Cuit also offers a wholesale service, which means you can find Bien Cuit breads in restaurants around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Photo by: Bien Cuit
Photo by: Bien Cuit

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery

You may have heard of the Dominique Ansel Bakery before. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of Chef Ansel’s most famous creation: the cronut. Half-croissant, half-donut, this pastry caused quite the uproar in 2013, even spawning a black market and knock-offs due to limited production. Cronuts aren’t the only thing you can sample at this Soho bakery, however: Chef Ansel has a wide variety of delicious goodies up for grabs, including mini-meringues, large cakes, macarons and other gifts. The chef creates a signature item every year; past inventions have included the Frozen S’more and the Cookie Shot. His imagination has earned him the title “Willy Wonka of NYC” and his bakery, opened in 2011, has been named the best bakery in the city by various magazines and newspapers. Located at 189 Spring Street, the bakery is open every day of the week, inviting you to pop in.

Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery

Brooklyn’s 9 Best Hidden Gems

It’s safe to say that anyone who knows anything about New York City knows that Brooklyn has a lot to offer. From its unique culture to the food and arts scene in Williamsburg to its museums and institutions, Brooklyn has just as many must-see stops as Manhattan and, much like the more-visited borough, Brooklyn has a check-list of “things to do.” While museums and art galleries are fine, Brooklyn has lots of quirky and off-the-beaten path assets to recommend it. Here are 9 attractions that are less likely to appear in your guidebook or even to be marked.

9. Beaches

Given Brooklyn’s reputation as an urban jungle in the metropolis of New York City (and its most populous borough), we tend not to think about natural spaces. Sure, Brooklyn has parks and greenspaces, but we often forget that, since it’s on the coast, Brooklyn is also home to some pretty nice beaches. Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park and Plumb Beach are a few of the lesser-known; Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach, near Coney Island, are both more popular and better known, thanks to their proximity to the amusements of Coney Island. All of these beaches are on the Atlantic Ocean, along inlets like Sheepshead Bay, Jamaica Bay and Gravesend Bay. Several other beaches also exist in Brooklyn. If you visit the Big Apple in the summertime, plan time to escape from the heat of the city and get to the beach, like a true New Yorker!

Brighton Beach Brooklyn

8. Discount Broadway Tickets

Going to a Broadway show is sort of a staple of visiting New York City. But tickets to a show can cost a lot, especially if the tickets are limited availability or the show is really popular (the Lion King is notorious for this). So savvy New Yorkers know to get their tickets discounted. While most tourists will likely be familiar with the TKTS Discount kiosk in Times Square, which offers tickets up to 50% off for same-day performances, locals know that you can beat the crowds by heading out of Midtown. The TKTS Discount kiosk in Brooklyn has much shorter lines—sometimes, lines are even non-existent. Best of all, you’ll get to save time and money, since the discounts they offer are exactly the same. Actually, the Brooklyn kiosk is even better, because you can get next-day tickets to matinee performances at a discounted price.

ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

7. Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel

Built beneath the streets of Brooklyn all the way back in 1844, when Brooklyn was still a city of its own, the Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel is officially the world’s oldest. It’s half-a-mile long and could accommodate 2 standard-gauge tracks. It was built in 7 months to provide separation for early trains that lacked decent brakes, which were causing accidents on roadways. The abandoned tunnel was rediscovered in 1980 and is now a Historic Landmark, both in New York state and at the federal level. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, formed in 1982 to publicize the historic site, continues to maintain the tunnel. Until 2010, they offered public tours of the tunnel; the New York Department of Transit has since canceled tours through 2018. The tunnel is technically closed to the public, although there has been an ongoing struggle to have the tunnel re-opened.

Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel

6. Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower

Lots of Manhattan’s famous landmarks are skyscrapers: the Freedom Tower of the World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center all readily spring to mind. Brooklyn’s skyscrapers aren’t nearly as iconic, but that doesn’t mean the views they provide are any less breathtaking. The Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower was once Brooklyn’s only skyscraper. These days, it’s the third-tallest building in Brooklyn (and probably the nicest to look at, although somewhat phallic in nature). The former bank is situated at the convergence of Brooklyn’s most important thoroughfares. Although the building is mixed residential and private offices these days and the public observation decks are abandoned, you can still see the building from miles around. It ranks among the tallest clock towers in the world and is an iconic part of the Brooklyn skyline.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

5. Zenkichi

Brooklyn’s got a reputation for quirky eateries serving up great food; Williamsburg is especially known for its hipster vibe on the food scene. Zenkichi isn’t a hipster establishment by any stretch of the imagination; this unmarked Japanese restaurant indulges diners in a VIP experience. You’ll be greeted by a hostess and encouraged to follow single-file through maze-like walkways to a private dining booth. A service button at the end of the table alerts the wait staff. Reservations are recommended, as is the food—don’t expect any sushi though. Zenkichi specializes in small-plate, Tokyo-style cuisine. The Omakase Flight (chef’s tasting) changes seasonally. Don’t have time for a full dinner? The restaurant’s next-door sister site, the Bar Akariba, offers a partial Zenkichi menu on Fridays and Saturdays. They don’t offer pick-up or delivery, but this restaurant is a good reason to take a jaunt over to Brooklyn anyway.

Photo by: Zenkichi Modern Japanese Brasserie
Photo by: Zenkichi Modern Japanese Brasserie

4. The Red Hook Piers

Once the site of a Dutch shipping center and, in the 1920s, the world’s busiest freight port, the piers in Red Hook are now somewhat difficult to get to. The area has been undergoing revitalization in recent years, turning the industrial wasteland of disused docks into a vibrant art community. There’s good reason for that: the area offers a stunning vantage point of the East River, along with views of the Statue of Liberty, downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor. Visit at sunset for the most stunning views. The streets here are still cobblestone, and many of the dry docks are still in use. IKEA is located nearby and a water-taxi serving shoppers now connects the piers with Manhattan. The area is also historically significant; it was the site of Fort Defiance during the Battle of Brooklyn, and the New York Naval Shipyard.

Red Hook Piers

3. Green-wood Cemetery

Okay, visiting a cemetery is not high on everyone’s priority list. But, much like cemeteries such as Arlington National or the Pere Lachaise in Paris, the immaculate Green-wood Cemetery is culturally significant. The cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and includes the burials of people like Boss Tweed and Winston Churchill’s grandmother, to name but a couple. The cemetery is a veritable who’s-who of 19th-century New York, and also includes the graves of Civil War soldiers. Simply put, Green-wood Cemetery is full of history. It also hosts outdoor events, like readings, shows and concerts year-round. Visiting is free and, if you can get past the idea of strolling amongst a bunch of stiffs, the cemetery provides a calming greenspace escape in a busy concrete jungle. Grab a map and take a turn through the 478 acres of Green-wood.

Green-wood Cemetery Brooklyn

2. City Reliquary

Located at 370 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, the City Reliquary doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, if it looks like anything, it looks more like a hipster art project than a museum that celebrates the minutiae of the largest city in the U.S. Originally a window display in someone’s apartment, the museum is now housed in a 3-room storefront and exhibits items such as old subway tokens, old-timey seltzer bottles, fragments of old buildings and dirt samples from all 5 boroughs. The museum’s exhibitions focus on local history and neighborhoods, and it now hosts events like block parties and backyard concerts as well. In contrast to the institutions of Manhattan’s “Museum Mile,” the City Reliquary brings something quirky, local and refreshing to the Big Apple’s museum scene.

Photo by: Brooklyn Spaces
Photo by: Brooklyn Spaces

1. Brooklyn Flea Market

The Brooklyn Flea Market is something of an institution. Every Saturday and Sunday from April until the end of November, you can find vendors hawking a variety of art, clothing and food outdoors at either Fort Greene or Williamsburg. The market is year-round though; it moves indoors to Industry City through the end of March. The flea market consistently rates as one of the best in the U.S.; some even think it’s one of the best in the entire world. The New York Times has called it one of New York’s greatest urban experiences. The market has spawned additional Brooklyn-area markets and events, including the Smorgasburg, which is dedicated to food vendors and operates in several locations, and a Record Fair. Even if you don’t find anything to take home, the Flea is a quintessential Brooklyn experience.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Best Children’s Museums in America

In a country that loves innovation and learning it is no surprise that America is home to over 200 children’s museums and it is no wonder that millions of visitors flock to them every year as they offer incredible exhibits, engaging facilities, hands-on learning and fun for adults too. Nearly every city has a children’s museum, but if you want to experience the best of the best, we have rounded up our top 10 in America. From the largest children’s museum in the world to a renovated fish market, there is no excuse not to visit one of these incredible museums in America.

10. Please Touch Museum -Philadelphia, PA

With a name like “Please Touch”, it’s no wonder this is one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. This museum truly invites children to learn through playing and interacting with exhibits. Each section of this museum is designed to create learning opportunities that are completely fun and interactive. The six-themed exhibits include a mini Philly neighborhood, an Alice in Wonderland exhibit, a mock supermarket, construction zone and medical center. Kids love the halls of doors and mirrors, circular mazes and fairytale garden. Don’t forget about taking a ride on the 1908 carousel before you leave. With fair admission prices and enough fun to last all day, don’t miss out on this awesome museum.

Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr
Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

9. Port Discovery -Baltimore, MD

This 80,000 square foot museum resides in a renovated fish market and is truly one of the anchors of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It just so happens that the Walt Disney Company Imagineers designed many of the exhibits here, so you just know they have to be pretty amazing. Kids interested in farming will love the Down on the Farm exhibit where they can milk cows, plant seeds and brush the tail of a real horse. For the active explorer don’t miss the three-storey treehouse where they can crawl through tunnels, explore a whole room of balls and cross narrow rope bridges. The HiFlyer hot air balloon is one of the favorites as kids get to experience a 15-minute ride above the Inner Harbor. Travel back in time to Egypt in the 1920’s, read one of the 3,000 books or join in a sing-along at this incredible children’s museum.

Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr
Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr

8. COSI: Center of Science and Industry -Columbus, OH

This is one of the few children’s museums that actually keep adults just as entertained as their kids and is a welcome relief from the normal kid’s museums. COSI has established themselves as a leader in innovation and features a number of awesome exhibits, including a working television station. The daily live show is a hit among all visitors and features such acts as real rats playing basketball. The 10,000 square foot area for kids under first grade was designed by early education experts and is perfect for the little ones to crawl, play and learn. From exploring space and energy to learning how the mind works to playing with gadgets, this museum takes visitors on a journey through science and innovation. A bit more expensive than others on this list, it is well worth it to visit.

Photo by: COSI Colmbus' Dynamic
Photo by: COSI Colmbus’ Dynamic

7. Minnesota Children’s Museum -St Paul, MN

Over six million parents and kids have visited this museum since it set up shop in downtown St. Paul and it remains one of the most loved children’s museums in all of North America. Here it is all about immersive experiences and encourages children to run and crawl through representations of Minnesota’s different natural habitats. This museum is actually promising to get even better with a $28 million renovation and expansion that is set to be complete in 2017. For now though it is pretty awesome and offers an array of experiences including a water-centric exhibit that allows kids to race boats down flowing streams and make their own recycled paper. A pretend neighborhood and art on the rooftop are hits among the kids. Watch for this museum to become even better in the next few years, but make sure to visit now to experience how awesome it already is.

Photo by: minnemom via Flickr
Photo by: minnemom via Flickr

6. Boston Children’s Museum -Boston, MA

This award-winning museum has been operating for over 100 years and offers plenty of fun for the whole family. This museum welcomes guests with its huge 40-foot high red-and-white milk bottle out front. It is one of the only museums to really focus on toddlers and preschoolers, with attractions such as the rock climbing wall that caters to kids aged three to five years old. A favorite permanent exhibit with kids is the Construction Zone, an exhibit allowing children to jackhammer, walk on high beam girders and ride in a real bobcat. Back in 2007 this museum became the city’s first “green” museum with its eco-friendly addition and landscaped waterfront park. The fully functional Japanese house, the three story climbing structure and the countdown to Kindergarten room are all huge hits among visitors. Families are welcome to bring in food into the lunch room or dine outside on the Milk Bottle Plaza, a great alternative for budget conscious families.

Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr
Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr

5. Children’s Museum of Denver -Denver, CO

It first opened in 1973 in a converted school bus but since has expanded into one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. Kids who love to build things will head right over to the assembly plant where they can use screwdrivers, saws and clamps to create their own one of a kind creation, which they can then take over to the art studio to paint. The fire station has to be a favorite as it features a real fire truck, 911 call centers, dispatch station and even a fire pole. The new outdoor adventure is a whopping 30,000 square feet of dynamic outdoor fun featuring ruins and forts, caves, hills, bridges and streams. A zip line, sand dunes, tunnels and waterfalls will keep kids running all day long. Stay tuned for new exhibits coming in late 2015, such as a teaching kitchen, three story climber, hands-in water lab and extreme energy station.

Photo by: Chlidren's Museum of Denver
Photo by: Chlidren’s Museum of Denver

4. The Strong -Rochester, NY

It calls itself the national museum of play and this awesome 100,000 square foot museum certainly makes well on that promise. One of the most popular exhibits with both kids and adults alike is the year-round indoor butterfly garden that features lush tropical plants and over 1,000 free-flying tropical and native butterflies. Between the aquariums, the toys hall of fame and the reading adventureland, it can be hard to choose what to visit first. Wee ones will go nuts for the Sesame Street exhibit as well as the life-sized dollhouse. Comic book heroes, e-games, a rock wall and a theatre complete with a stage are just a few of the permanent exhibits that kids go wild for. There are also plenty of food choices in the spacious food court or a sit-down style restaurant in the atrium, making sure everyone’s needs are met.

Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr
Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr

3. Children’s Museum of Houston -Houston, TX

This elaborate children’s museum recently doubled its size to 90,000 square feet and features both inside and outside exhibits. Kidtropolis is a highlight for kids, a huge pretend city where kids run the show and features its own bank, news center, vets office and more. It was designed to help kids understand occupations and economics and go with the expectation that your kids will never want to leave. Several outdoor galleries include a weather station and watery flow station which is a hit on those hot and humid days. The invention convention encourages budding inventors to create their own gadgets while the TV studio lets kids see themselves on camera, read scripts from the anchor desk and work the control panel. The smaller kids under three won’t be left out as they have their own padded play area and awesome ball bit. A bargain at just $9 for adults and kids, this museum is definitely worth checking out.

Photo by: sikeri via Flickr
Photo by: sikeri via Flickr

2. Brooklyn Children’s Museum -Brooklyn, NY

This New York City landmark is the world’s first and oldest children’s museum and remains one of the best in North America. It features over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and costs only $9 to explore. The Neighborhood Nature exhibit is a hit among kids as they can explore the natural habitats that can be found throughout the nation, such as woodland fields and ocean tide pools. Youngsters will enjoy the 1,700 square foot totally Tots Area where they explore the sand spot, baby patch and peek-a-boutique. The museum features nearly 30,000 natural history specimens and cultural objects that will thrill both parents and kids. The coolest thing about this museum may just be the entrance, located underground in the side of a hill through an authentic 1905 New York City trolley kiosk.

Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr
Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr

1. Children’s Museum Indianapolis -Indianapolis, IN

It is hailed as being the best children’s museum in all of North America and the massive facility that measures over 472,000 square feet does not disappoint. It sits on 29 acres and is the largest children’s museum in the entire world. The Dinosphere exhibit is perhaps the favorite of all and features a working paleontology lab, hands-on simulated fossil digs, life-size simulated dinosaurs and one of the largest collections of real fossils and dinosaur art in the nation. Also this museum has a working 1927 carousel, the largest water clock in North America and a 130-seat planetarium. It is all about hands-on learning here and children are encouraged to touch, play and learn as they make their way through this huge museum. If you happen to be out of town visiting, make sure you spend at least an entire day here.

Photo by: Snassek via Flickr
Photo by: Snassek via Flickr

The 10 Best Brewery Tours in the U.S.

In 2014, the number of craft breweries in the United States topped 3,000. In most cities throughout the country, and in quite a few small towns, it’s pretty easy to find a bar featuring a wide selection of craft beers. If you go straight to the source, you’ll often be well rewarded. From art galleries to souvenir glasses, from obscure facts to samples of rare brews, touring the country’s breweries is both fun and – dare we say it – educational. So many breweries provide fantastic tours that it was difficult to narrow it down to the 10 best, but we managed cook up a list.

10. Boulevard Brewing Company– Kansas City, Missouri

Boulevard began with the goal of providing fantastic beer to the Kansas City area, but it just keeps growing, and its beers are now distributed in 25 states. But that doesn’t mean the brewery has lost its personal touch. Each of the staff that conducts the free 40-minute tour is warm and knowledgeable, and ready to talk you through the different tasting options available at the end. For those ready to dive deeper, Boulevard offers two specialized tours. For $20, the Unfiltered tour offers the chance to see areas off-limits on the general tours and taste limited offerings, while the Smokestack offers a guided tasting session with food pairings.

Photo by: Tech Cocktail via Flickr
Photo by: Tech Cocktail via Flickr

9. Brooklyn Brewery– Brooklyn, New York

Another brewery that builds upon its basic tour with offerings for the true beer geek…er, aficionado. The free tour is short and to the point, ending in the tasting room where you can get five tastes of beers you’re unlikely to find away from the brewery for only $20. The Small Batch Tour, which is limited to 30 people, challenges participants by asserting Brooklyn’s expert guides “can answer just about any beer or Brooklyn Brewery question you can think of.” For $12, you get the tour, a souvenir glass, and four tastings to pour into that glass while the expert outlines exactly what you’re drinking.

Photo by: Jeff Egnaczyk via Flickr
Photo by: Jeff Egnaczyk via Flickr

8. Dogfish Head Brewery– Milton, Delaware

Dogfish Head is one of the more infamous craft breweries in the United States, having been the subject of the Discovery Channel’s Brew Masters and featured in the documentary Beer Wars. Beer lovers know Dogfish is an experimental brewery, loving to combine different spices and fruits for distinctive tastes. The tour reflects the unique vibe of the brewery, taking in the treehouse outside, showing off the state-of-the-art bottling facilities, and inviting guests to play games on the lawn while waiting for their tour to start. After come the samples of the brewery’s standard offerings, while the brewpub in Rehoboth serves the difficult to find beers.

Photo by: fabulousfabs via Flickr
Photo by: fabulousfabs via Flickr

7. Samuel Adams– Boston, Massachusetts

This is the brewery to visit if you want a little history before you get down to the serious business of drinking. The brewery named itself after Samuel Adams, a founding father rumored to be a brewer himself, and the tour includes plenty of tidbits related to both the man and the area. Of course, you also learn plenty about the brewing process on the hour-long tour, and sample a few of the Samuel Adams beers along the way. There’s also a special early tour, called the Morning Mash In, that gives participants the opportunity to taste some of the brewery’s specialty beers.

Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr
Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr

6. Magic Hat Brewing Company– South Burlington, Vermont

Anyone after a distinctive brewery tour must make sure to swing by South Burlington, where Magic Hat entices visitors into its “Artifactory” first with its displays from local artist, then with tantalizing promises of a mysterious and strange ambiance. The brewery’s secrets must be kept, of course, but think of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory crossed with a trippy circus. Guests have the option to take a guided tour or simply walk through the facility themselves  – either way it’s free, and it comes with four samples of Magic Hat’s characteristic brews.

beer tasting

5. Stone Brewing Company– Escondido, California

If you’ve never tried a beer from Stone Brewing, by the end of this tour you’ll be converted. It’s practically a guarantee: those leading the tours aren’t called guides but rather “indoctrination specialists,” and are known as some of the best in the business. The tour itself lasts about 45 minutes, after which the indoctrination specialist guides participants through a tasting of four of the brewery’s offerings, including one special release. The cost is $3, with $1 from each ticket donated to a local charity. Be sure to check out the beautiful gardens, and do your best to eat at Stone’s bistro after.

Photo by: Stone Brewing Co.
Photo by: Stone Brewing Co.

4. Brewery Ommegang– Cooperstown, New York

Craving a little taste of Europe without leaving the U.S.? Ommegang specializes in Belgian-style brews and provides an idyllic farmhouse setting to go along with them. The brewery is open seven days a week, offering free 30 minute guided tours from entertaining guides. Five dollars buys a sampler of six beers after the tour, along with a souvenir tasting glass. Each summer, the brewery hosts a concert series on its grounds, but the big event of the season is Belgium Comes to Cooperstown, where guests can sample Belgian-style beers offered by over 100 brewers from around the world.

Photo by: Steven Guzzardi via Flickr
Photo by: Steven Guzzardi via Flickr

3. New Belgium Brewing– Fort Collins, Colorado

If you’re headed to Fort Collins, book your New Belgium tour far ahead of time. In busy periods, this popular brewery can fill up weeks in advance. In addition to its delicious, Belgian-inspired beers, New Belgium is known for its progressive views and commitment to sustainability. The company is entirely owned by its employees, and from the 90 minute tour and sampling, it’s obvious they’re enthusiastic about their jobs. New Belgium also brings its enthusiasm to other cities with its Tour de Fat, a bicycling carnival both celebrating beer and enticing others to trade their car keys for bike wheels.

Photo by: Betsy Weber via Flickr
Photo by: Betsy Weber via Flickr

2. Yuengling– Pottsville, Pennsylvania

For the biggest beer nerds, Yuengling might not even register. The brewery doesn’t dabble in experimental flavors or pack as many hops as possible into its ales. But stopping by Pottsville should be a must for anyone interested in the history of beer. Founded in 1829, Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the United States, and the guides fill the 75-minute tours with plenty of facts about the company’s history and the effects of Prohibition. The tour concludes with a trip down to the fermentation caves, where beer was stored before refrigeration, followed by offering up free samples from the current taps.

Photo by: JasonParis via Flickr
Photo by: JasonParis via Flickr

1. Sierra Nevada– Chico, California

The country’s oldest craft brewery wants you to get up close and personal with its beers  – provided that’s what you want, of course. For those who just want to poke their nose around the facilities, a pamphlet is available to help you along a self-guided tour. The free 90-minute tour has participants getting their hands dirty. Literally, as you rub your hands over the hops. The Sustainability Tour takes guests throughout the grounds, finishing with a tasting in a beautiful garden. Finally, the $30 Beer Geek tour provides three fantastic hours to beer nerds, outlining the history of craft brewing while allowing the small group to taste brews right from the tanks.

Photo by: michaelsmithchico via Flickr
Photo by: michaelsmithchico via Flickr