Visiting the famous rail hub during the weekday rush hour may not be your best bet. But at any other time it’s a great place to spend a few hours with the family.
Tykes will get a thrill watching trains pull into and out of the station. Park yourselves near Hudson News in the 42nd Street Passage; it’s a great place to catch passengers boarding and disembarking.
If your tots find science scintillating, they’ll want to test the acoustics of the Whispering Gallery, located where the Oyster Bar ramps converge on the Lower Level. When two people whisper while facing the wall at diagonally opposite corners, they’ll hear each other from across the gallery.
Scout out secret spots
The astronomical mural above the Main Concourse is one of the terminal’s, ahem, star attractions; but kids might not know the significance of the hole in the center. It was created in 1957 when a U.S. Army rocket that was six inches too tall was displayed there, and was left as a reminder of America’s entry into the space race.
And don’t miss the sort-of-secret underground shortcut—the 45th Street Passage—that’ll get you from Lexington Avenue to Madison. It’s particularly handy in the frigid weather.
Wander the long aisle at the Grand Central Market. Mini gourmands can learn about various types of fromage (and score samples) at Murray’s Cheese Shop. Or take a seat at the Oyster Bar’s counter (Lower Level, 212-490-6653), where little ones can observe some shucking action while you sip your chowder.
Designed to resemble a string of Pullman cars, the Lower Level Dining Concourse makes you feel as if you’re lunching on board a train. Try the pastrami sandwiches at Junior’s or Earth Mother pizza at Two Boots.
Browse and buy
Pick up a bumblebee jump rope and a mini cat or dog stapler at Pylones (Shuttle Passage, 212-867-0969). Head to the back of Posman Books (Shuttle Passage, 212-983-1111) for the well-organized children’s section, shelved according to age—from Elmo to Amelia Bedelia.
The New York Transit Museum Annex Galleryand Store (Shuttle Passage, 212-878-0106) houses free changing exhibits and stocks design-your-own train sets, city bus magnets and other transportation-themed goodies that make perfect mementos of your day at the station.