Secret Sprinklers on the Roof of the Natural History Museum

I’ve lived in New York for 13 years, and I only just discovered the secret sprinklers on top of the Natural History Museum…
The museum itself is amazing—with dinosaurs, monkeys and a giant blue whale (which gets vacuumed once a year)—but if you enter on the west side of the museum and head to the roof, you’ll find grass and sprinklers.
You don’t even need to buy a ticket! We’ve now hung out with friends there a few times, and it’s such an awesome place to hang out on hot days, whether or not you end up going inside the museum. If you want to make a day of it, you can grab lunch at Shake Shack across the street or walk a few blocks to Hampton Chutney, which has incredible dosas, a window seat and storybooks for kiddos.
The boys wore Old Navy basics, which were cute yet sturdy enough for running and splashing around. (Toby’s shorts were only $6!) Anton wore one of their little surf suits, which kept him covered up in the hot sun.
Did you guys already know about this? New York can be crazy, but then it goes and surprises you like this. :)

P.S. A secret restaurant and playground. Plus, 8 activities for kids in New York City.

(Thanks to Julia Robbs for snapping these photos. This post was sponsored by Old Navy, a brand we use all the time for our family. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo)

  1. I LOVE finding hidden kid gems!

    This weekend we were in a long, long line to tour one of the Navy ships visiting Seattle during Fleet Week. The line stretched nearly 1/4 a mile along the boardwalk, and we were lucky enough to find a sweet little splash pool/fountain near the Navy ships.

    It pool was tiled like a fish, about 8″ deep, and had little slides on the fins, and 3 fountains. It kept our 21 month old and our 7 year old very happy while we waited – and the view of the ships, islands, and mountains across the sound was amazing!

  2. Yes, I knew about this one, but there’s another sprinkler park on the other end of Manhattan in Battery Park (close to where you take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty). I know you’re leaving the ‘hood, but these are great too — and kind of surprising as you don’t know which one is going to spray next! Here’s a link:

    Stay cool!

  3. D, i know! it was hard to capture in photos. the roof has grass, picnic tables, sprinklers….and then you can walk down the stairs (there are stairs both inside and outside) to the ground level. :)

  4. My mother and toddler daughter are in the background of one of your pictures! We were also there this past Sunday since we only live a block away. It’s usually not very crowded because it’s such a well kept secret – until now!

  5. Gosh, shorts for just $6! (Or adult sandals for $20!) How do they do it?

  6. Yes! Thanks for the amazing tip!

  7. D says...

    I think I’m about to ask a dumb question, but how is this the roof of a building? It looks like a park!

  8. That last picture of Toby holding Anton’s little paw is so sweet. Your boys are wonderful, you should be so proud Joanna x

  9. I did know about this ( having had 2 children who grew up in NYC) but I hadn’t thought about it in years.

  10. This is such a great post! My husband and I own an artisan sandwich shop in the city, and are always looking for unexpected places to slip away from our business and unwind with our family. This looks like so much fun! I can’t believe I’ve never heard about this until now! Thanks for sharing! (Also, I’m with ya — we sneak in tons of Old Navy summer gear around here.)

  11. thanks that’s amazing! we love to go there and had NO idea!!

  12. oh! I just found these the other day and was hoping to keep them a “secret” :) our little one is a little too young, but we can’t wait to take her when she’s ready. It’s such a great peaceful space in NYC.

  13. Toby looks so tall here!!

  14. I live less than 10 blocks away from the museum and had NO idea! Love these hidden NYC gems :)


    I just say. I can’t get enough of babies toes, not to mention chubby legs! :-D
    If it weren’t for the actual work of guiding them from that stage of edible-ness to lanky teenager’ism I’d have a few more… 8-)

    Been away from your blog for a while, now I feel I have to add you back to my reading list. Thank you for a lovely blog.
    / Anna

  16. Oh, I could eat Anton up. I can totally see that “old soul” in his face like you talk about. I am loving Old Navy more and more. Maybe it’s because they just opened their first store in Shanghai and it feels so much like being home, or what, but I think they have really turned themselves around the past several years.

  17. Oh my gosh! Your boys are adorable!! Very cool about the water feature! I think it would be so awesome if the Vancouver Art Gallery had something like that. (Hello from Vancouver, btw :D)

  18. I love to hear about all the secret spots of NYC. I am making a list of amazing things to do when I get a chance to bring my kids to visit. I can’t wait to show them what a magical place it is!

  19. Lived in NY 26 years and loved the hidden gems and little oasis amid the chaos


  21. How did you get here?!?! Did you take the subway?? ;-)
    We discovered this a few weeks ago as well- so fun.

  22. Loved this surf suit so much, I bought it for my one year old girl! (Why must the girls’ suits be so teeny? The sun rays are much too harsh for their skin.)

  23. No longer a secret! looks so fun!

    x Lily

  24. I used to work in the Museum of Natural History and spent my lunch breaks sitting here with my toes in the water – it was hard to go back to work!

  25. I love passing the Natural History Museum every morning on my way to my internship at the New York Historical Society(: And I love Hampton Chutney Co.’s dosas (And Ginger Chai tea!)

  26. jm says...


  27. A dear friend of mine works for the museum and when visiting my brother with my two little guys earlier this month we met her there and she took us straight to this lovely little oasis. My two and a half year old had a blast splashing around with his uncle while my 7 month old and I lounged lazily in the grass. It was divine. And I totally agree about the natural flow of your sponsored posts. And as a mom I totally agree with all the comments you have about how you use these products in your everyday life. One of the many many reasons your blog is my absolute favorite.

  28. thanks, hayley paige! they’re actually paige denim ankle jeans. i’m planning to do a post on them, i’d highly recommend them :) and kathrine, so glad your kids enjoyed nyc!

  29. Such a fun post!

  30. Great photos! The boys are getting so big! My toddler had Toby’s shorts in every colour – they are really comfy and durable. Where are your jeans from? Love them!

  31. We visited last week from the Boston area – and my kids did not believe me when I told them about the secret park and fountain. But I got a 14, 12 and 10 year old to have fun and wet their feet.
    That’s what I miss most about my time in NYC – all the secret corners (and gardens).

  32. thanks for these lovely comments! i really appreciate it :)

  33. I’m a long time reader and work in advertising for a large online publisher, and I just have to say your sponsored content really should serve as an industry example. It always fits in so seamlessly and I often feel like the posts would have run on their own, sans sponsor. Well done!

  34. I was in New York this april, I love New york, we now are coming back to Venice Italy but maybe next fall we can think again in moving to New York!
    Greetings from South América
    Lilia Vanini

  35. Agreed! We discovered this a few years ago, and it’s one of our favorite things to do during summer visits to NY!

  36. We are def going to do this. Have you been to the splash pad in Prospect Park? It’s similar and so much fun. There’s also the Bluestone Cafe right there which is so convenient for a day of splashing and eating. They have the best fries hands down.

  37. How cool! I’ve been noticing that so many playgrounds and parks in the city have sprinklers. Such fun for kiddos! You really do such an amazing job of making your sponsored posts blend seamlessly with the rest of your blog!

  38. jm says...

    I love these pictures and your blog.

  39. jm says...

    That is so cool about the secret sprinklers. Lovely photos of you and your little boys.

  40. I initially read “Julia Robbs” as “Julia Roberts” and you can imagine what went through my head for a split second. [JOANNA KNOWS JULIA ROBERTS?!? JULIA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHED FOR A CUP OF JO?!?!] Ha. Even if Julia Robbs is not in fact of Pretty Women and Notting Hill fame, the photos are lovely. What a NYC gem.

  41. Can you tell me about those lovely, tan. leather sandals you are wearing. Thanks!

  42. You must know by now that your blog is great. What i find extraordinary are these sponsored posts that feel so natural. I haven’t seen this on any of the other blogs i’m following.

    Your Romanian fan

  43. This is the best Old Navy sponsored post I’ve ever seen! Well done. Thank you, Joanna!