Now don't roll your eyes -- I know that visiting an art gallery with kids in tow is not for everyone. But I was so in love the the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, CT when we visited recently I just have to share.
If your kids can tolerate a no-touch museum experience for an hour or less it's definitely worth checking out when you're in Southern Connecticut. Also, admission is always FREE so it's a no-lose prospect. No matter what type of art fits your fancy, you'll make an amazing discovery here. (Even teenagers won't be able to feign boredom for too long).
According to their brochure:
Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection was founded in 1832. Since that time the collection has grown to number more than 200,000 objects representing Eastern and Western cultures and ranging in date from ancient times to the present.
Is this truly a family friendly museum? Yes. There were other families with young kids visiting while we were there and all of the staff was very welcoming to our family. However, this doesn't mean that visiting an art gallery like this is for every family. Only you know your kids best. My 13-year-old truly made some unique discoveries. Although it wasn't her first choice for an outing, she admitted it was cool. My seven-year-old was a trooper. Definitely not her cup of tea, but she lasted about 45 minutes before the experience became too tedious for her. So we went outside and explored the sculpture garden. We made a few trips up and down the Hogwarts-worthy Central Staircase.
Although there's tons and I mean TONS of security on site, they are pretty chill. I've been to other art galleries with the girls before where we've definitely been treated as if we weren't exactly welcome. But the Yale Art Gallery was very welcoming and there were plenty of families in attendance. At one point during our visit Eden dropped a hard-cover book on one of the gallery floors and it made a tremendous, echoing boom. My heart dropped and I was expecting a SWAT invasion the likes of which you see at the ending of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. But one non-imposing guard sauntered over to our section to see what was going on. We quickly explained what happened and she was all "OK -- I just had to check" and we went on with our day. (I think we probably gave her a few grey hairs tho).
Also, although Faith is nearly beyond the constant hand-holding stage of life, I did insist she hold my hand during the entire visit. She is still not quite past the "ooooh...that's cool...I'll just run right up and touch it" phase of life. So, again -- only you know your kids best and whether this is type of environment is enjoyable for your family. I think even the most complacent teen could find something here to put their phone down for. But, actually, they don't have to -- non-flash photography is permitted in all the galleries. (I wish I had taken more photos to share with you but I was too busy oohing and awing and reading little placards).
And let's talk about the Central Staircase for a minute. This winding, brick-encased staircase is nothing short of Hogwarts magic (except it doesn't move on its own). Unless there's some reason you must take the elevator, do not miss this space. Take the stairs -- the kids will love it.
I did see a few brave souls with toddlers in tow. Of course there are no food or drinks allowed in any of the galleries so sippy cups are a no-go. The floors are all wheelchair and stroller accessible and there are several elevators on site. Accessibility is not a problem.
I could have spent allll day here and someday I'll return by myself to enjoy all the works without interruption. But it's also going on the 'when we're in the area' list because 45-minutes of tedium doesn't hurt anyone. It's too good not to visit whenever we can (you can read that as whenever Mom needs an IKEA fix -- because IKEA is literally a mile from here). I am putting a return visit on the calendar specifically for one of their Family Day Sundays -- special monthly programs that include storytelling and hands-on art projects. (I'll win Faith over yet).
My favorite galleries were the African Art gallery -- probably because this is where we started on our visit and I was just blown away by the breadth of the exhibit. I also loved the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery on the fourth floor even though modern art is not usually my favorite. And, of course, the Early American Art Gallery because....Proud American History Nerd right here.
The Yale University Art Gallery is located at 1111 Chapel Street in New Haven. There are parking garages nearby and lots of on-street parking is available. We visited on a weekend during semester break and the Parking Gods smiled on up with a metered sport literally right outside the front door. Meter parking was $1.50 an hour with a two-hour max.
Walking around the Yale University campus is always a great idea. There are tons of shops and restaurants nearby to poke around and allow everyone to stretch their wings after vising the museum.
The Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday: weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is always FREE.