Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre sculpture garden in the Orange County town of New Windsor, is a unique retreat only an hour’s trip from upper Manhattan. This gem has more than 100 works of art, all within the gorgeous grounds, surrounded by the Storm King and Schunnemunk mountains.
I recently visited Storm King with my daughter, Brooklyn, one of her best friends, Sabine, and Sabine’s dad. Our daughters, both 4, know what sculpture is, but we weren't sure how they would respond to spending a day at Storm King focused so intensely on appreciating the art.
Getting Around Storm King
Since Storm King Art Cenyer encompasses more than 500 acres of rolling hills, open fields, and woodlands, even knowing how to begin your day can be overwhelming. As we entered, we were directed to the North Parking lot. This lot leads you straight to the cafe, where we picked up a free children's interactive booklet. This is a cute illustrated field guide the kids can use to find sculptures during your adventure as well as draw and color.
We started our outing at the nearest large sculpture to the cafe, an Alexander Liberman called Adonai. This giant sculpture, made of cylinders, became one of my favorites here. As much fun as it would be for kids to touch and climb the sculptures, the majority of the pieces at Storm King are not for touching. We drilled this into the girls but allowed them to run through them, look through openings, and chase each other around the stunning works of art so they still enjoyed them without any physical contact. Fortunately, it was a relatively empty day there, so the girls had free reign and weren’t disruptive to anyone. We also played a game in which the girls took turns being the leader. The girls stayed very engaged as we snaked our way though the hills and woodlands in a bit of a chaotic way while still enjoying discovering the sculptures.
Somewhere in the North Woods we ended up picking up the free open-air tram that drives you through the grounds. Fortunately, the tram is narrated, so it identified where we were and what we were seeing and offered a little history of each piece. We drove past Tal Streeter's Endless Column, which looks like a lightening bolt; George Cutts' Sea Change, which is two swaying metal rods that look like they're dancing together; and Menashe Kadishman's Suspended, which is two large rectangles balanced against each other, leaving one suspended in the air.
Once we reached the South Parking lot by tram, we hopped off and headed up to Museum Hill, which is the center of the grounds. I recommend this as your starting point. You can pick up one of the free children's interactive booklets at the visitor’s center while there. A tram starting at the base of the elevator at the bottom of Museum Hill takes you throughout the grounds.
Another way to get around is to take one of many trails outlined in the map attendants give you at the entrance. Bike rentals are also a great option. Touring by bike is a great way to experience the art and sprawling landscape Storm King offers, but currently they only have adult bikes, and it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. You are not allowed to bring your own bicycle.
There are still more options for enjoying these grounds: In the visitor's center you can also rent “acoustigudes” for a self-guided tour providing commentary about the landscape and sculptures., or you can join a guided walking tour from this location.
My favorite part of Museum Hill is the view, framed by five stone columns that were once part of the veranda of Danskammer, Edward Armstrong's 1834 mansion. From the top of this perch you can see the grounds and take in the complexity of your surroundings, which seem to fit together so seamlessly. A dozen spectacular works of art can be seen from this spot. Our girls, of course, ran down the hill faster than it took us to get up, and there we discovered one of our favorites sculptures of the day, Zhang Huan's Three Legged Buddha.
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Interactive, Touchable Sculptures at Storm King
The girls also had a chance to play and touch some of the few pieces meant for interaction, including:
- Isamu Noguchi's Momo Taro, inspired by a split-open peach.
- Siah Armajani's Gazebo for Two Anarchists, a sculpture you may enter.
- Dennis Oppenheim's Electric Kiss, which resembles a Hersey's Kiss that you can walk into.
- Dennis Oppenheim's, Entrance to a Garden, a shirt-shaped gazebo-like sculpture you can enter.
- Dennis Oppenheim's, Dead Furrow, a pyramid-like sculpture with stairs for climbing to see a view.
- Arnaldo Pomodoro, The Pietrarubbia Group, which visitors can enter through its grand, slab-like doors and move them.
Food & Picnicking at Storm King
After running the rolling hills, interacting with amazing art, and taking in all the fresh air, we took a tram ride back to the cafe near our car. We snacked on sandwiches, hotdogs, beer (for the adults, of course), and ice cream. They have picnic tables nearby, so you can also bring your own food to enjoy. To top off our day of art, our girls spent about 45 minutes jumping on and off a large rock near the picnic site, pretending to be princesses. They had a wonderful day. Of course, they don't understand how lucky they are to experience Storm King, but as parents we were proud to exposed them to what is considered one of the world's leading sculpture parks.
Tips for Visiting Storm King with Kids
- There are multiple ways to get around: free tram, rental bike, walking tour, rented audio tour, or strolling at your leisure.
- I recommend starting at Museum Hill.
- Most sculptures are permanent but some are temporary exhibits.
- Plan to spend at least two hours. We spent four hours and it didn’t feel too long.
- Storm King is closed to the public from December 2 to March 31.
- Bring bug spray and sun screen if visiting in the summer.
- Bathrooms and changing tables are available in restrooms near the visitors center, Museum Hill.
- Strollers are allowed. Heavy-duty strollers are encouraged for some of the terrain.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Tram tours originate at the foot of the elevator at bottom of Museum Hill and can be picked up at any of the 10 designated tram stops. They run continuously. Collapsible strollers and wheelchairs can be accommodated.
- Adults: $15
Senior Citizens (65 or older with valid ID): $12
Ages 5-18 and students (with valid ID): $8
Children 4 and younger: Free
- There are several public transportation options, check the website to see which best suits you: http://stormking.org/visit/
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