If you're looking for something to do that's a little different, a little educational, a little thrilling, the NYC Fire Museum is a great under-the-radar family destination. Located on the western edge of Soho (and, thus, can be combined with all sorts of first-rate shopping and eating as part of fun springtime adventure), this meticulously renovated Beaux-arts 1904 firehouse in Manhattan–it was active from aught-four until 1959–is filled with all sorts of firefighting tools and gadgets, art and artifacts, dating from the late 18th century to today.
There is much to discover at the NYC Fire Museum, from great old painted leather buckets of the Rattle Watch days to parade hats, uniforms and ceremonial megaphone that evoke the often bitter, even violent, rivalries between the volunteer firefighting crews of old New York. The firehouse museum in Manhattan also displays an impressive collection of classic fire engines, including a goose neck pumper, a piano-box style outfit, and a double-decker Philadelphia engine, which, in addition to saving countless lives during its years of operation, was also at the opening celebration of the Statue of Liberty. But the highlight of the historical exhibits at the firehouse might be the New York City "Farnam" hand-pumped engine from 1790, one of the oldest remaining pieces of authentic firefighting history on the continent.
The NYC Fire Museum also honors modern-day firefighters, with plenty of cutting-edge life-saving equipment, including the all-enveloping bunker gear worn on calls today and tools such as the Jaws of Life and the Halligan forcible entry tool. On the firehouse museum in Manhattan's ground floor is a permanent memorial to the 343 members of the FDNY who were killed on September 11, 2001. Steel yourself before you enter this area. It's extraordinary how raw the wounds of that day remain.
NYC Fire Museum Details
The NYC Fire Museum is located on Spring Street between Varick and Hudson Streets, and is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Sunday until 4:00 p.m. Closed Mondays. The firehouse museum in Manhattan gives excellent, hour-long guided tours to groups of 20 or more, which includes an interactive fire safety presentation involves participation in a safe, simulated smoke/fire situation. And even if you're not on a tour, there are always a few real-life present-day firefighters at the firehouse museum who are more than happy to answer questions. For lots more information, please visit the NYC Fire Museum website.