|Should you go?||*|
|Time spent||77 minutes|
|Best thing I saw or learned||
These toddler-sized fire-engine-red longjohns, with “keep back 200 ft.” on the rear. Sound advice!
Tucked into Rockefeller Center, the Fire Department maintains a small kid-oriented presence called the FDNY Fire Zone. The Fire Zone consists of a modest-sized space with all sorts of fire equipment lining one wall, an old fire truck (at least, the cab of it and a slice of the back part), huge numbers of patches, given or traded from fire departments the world over, and a gift shop about the same size as the exhibit space.
The Fire Zone offers occasional fire safety demos (for a fee), and it is staffed by a guy running the shop and a fire fighter who is happy to answer questions about the items on display. I got to talking with him about the communications gear in the truck (very outdated according to him) and the pros and cons of GPS, which the Fire Department does not use.
Where’s the Fire?
My grown-up reaction to the Fire Zone was disappointment. I wrote it off, and was ready to move on to other things in five minutes. But the group of three kids I borrowed for the visit loved it. Gear to look at. Heavy fire jackets to try on. A fire truck they can get inside and pretend to drive? Best. Thing. Ever. They would’ve stayed there all day, maybe. We grown-ups talked about museums and joined in the kids’ intense pretending periodically.
Therefore I’ve asterisked my “Should You Go?” rating for this place. Any grown-up not in need of any Fire Department-branded gifts can skip this place. At least one of the visitors while I was there worked as a fire fighter and seemed to enjoy talking shop with the FDNY officer on duty. So amend that: fire fighters might derive value out of a visit.
However, if you have kids roughly 4-8 years old, the story differs dramatically. In that case the Fire Zone merits 4 Met buttons for visitability. For anyone with young kids interested in firefighters or fire trucks (and what young kid isn’t?), this place will seem ultra-cool, with a whole truck to play in and around. It’s a rare free, indoor play space. While it is somewhat commercial (there’s that gift shop after all), it’s not nearly as commercial as say the other kid-friendly indoor spots near Rockefeller Center, the Nintendo or Lego stores.
For any grown ups interested in fire departments and fire fighting, I strongly recommend the Fire Museum in SoHo, but you can safely stay out of the Zone.
|Address||34 West 51st Street, Manhattan|
|Cost||General Admission: Free. Fire Safety Demo $6|