• Unusual Shops For Families In New York City

    Ten quirky, unique stores where families can find everything from exotic insects to old-fashioned rubber stamps.

    By Savannah Birnbaum

    Photos by Sarah Torretta Klock

    EDITOR’S NOTE: For a slideshow of images of these amazing shops, click here!

    For Curious Adventurers
    Skip the museum and creep up your day at The Evolution Store, where those with a taste for adventure can get a glimpse of prehistoric specimens and exotic insects. Channel the likes of Indiana Jones and Allan Quatermain as you trek through this enthralling treasure trove of obscurities; no need for spelunking when you can head straight for their wide array of minerals—crystal, agate, and more. Take home a mammoth hair sample or a scorpion lollipop—or fall in love with a taxidermied friend. Surely not for the faint of heart, this shop is full of curiosities that will incite “oohs” and “aahs” galore, and may introduce you to creatures and artifacts you never knew existed. Adventure awaits at this truly astonishing SoHo store.
    120 Spring Street, theevolutionstore.com

    For The Whimsical Bunch
    Entering Dinosaur Hill is like stepping into a fairytale: through the looking glass and into a world stuffed with unique children’s delights. Creatively curated to provide a lovely atmosphere of fantasy, this is much more than a kids’ toy store. Little ones will enjoy browsing the exceptional collection of ghoulish marionettes and carefully crafted animals, and parents will be thankful for the traditional wares—no video games in sight! This shop serves as a wonderful place to get lost and daydream, where kids can let their imaginations run wild.
    306 East 9th Street, dinosaurhill.com

    For The Coven Of Witches And Warlocks
    Enchantments is a magical find in the East Village that welcomes Muggles with open arms. It’s worth the trip if only for the glittering floor and mystical atmosphere. You’ll find enchanted candles, charm books, incense, oils, and, yes, cauldrons among the “magickal” items offered. Kids will have fun trying to attract the attention of the resident cats, and adults can stock up or simply peruse the fragrant goods. You may not be convinced or converted, but your nostrils are sure to be spellbound by the supernatural aromas wafting through dim surroundings. And you don’t have to be a Wiccan to appreciate this spiritual hub that lives up to its name.
    424 East 9th Street, enchantmentsincnyc.com

    For Crafty Children
    Nestled in what can only be described as a hole in the wall, Casey Rubber Stamps is a charming hideaway for artsy types big and small. Stepping down the narrow entry past the welcoming tester-table, you’ll feel as if you’ve been suddenly transported to a small town somewhere in Europe. The walls are covered in little wooden stamps crowded on shelves stacked to the ceiling, each shape printed with old-fashioned charm. If you need something specific, simply provide an image and the shop will convert it from jpeg to rubber—sometimes right in front of your eyes!
    322 East 11th Street, caseyrubberstamps.com

    For The Bookish Brood
    Escape to another land at Books of Wonder, an imagination haven housing the best of the best in kids’ literature. Surrounded by fantastic book illustrations, children can journey to Oz, frolic in Wonderland, or skibble around New York City with Eloise. When their eyes need a break, little bookworms can catch storytime (available on Sundays and Fridays). Whether hunting down classics or looking for new reads, kids can get lost in a literary wonderland at Books of Wonder.
    18 West 18th Street, booksofwonder.com

    Special note: Books of Wonder is currently fundraising to help revitalize and maintain its offerings at its current location. To keep this store in our local community, help contribute to the campaign by clicking here.

    For The Undercover Super Fam
    Blast down to Park Slope and visit Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. to equip yourself with crime-fighting goods for all ages, powers, and planets of origin. Offering jars of kryptonite and cans of mind control, this store is the city’s most reliable and well-stocked gear provider for caped superhumans. Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. is devoted to the pursuit of justice and goodwill and gives powers to mere mortals by accepting donations. All proceeds go to 826NYC, a non-profit organization that runs an afterschool tutoring program for kids. At this imaginative marketplace, visitors can witness eager “sidekicks” sneaking through a secret door in the back to enter an unexpected and friendly tutoring center. Visiting supers should be prepared to announce their full superhero name upon making a purchase and will be expected to recite the superhero oath.
    372 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, superherosupplies.com

    For The Uniformed Regiment
    Round up the troops and brave the chaos of Kaufman’s Army & Navy in Hell’s Kitchen—a must-stop shop for any kid who dreams in camos and any adult who needs fatigues. This army surplus store is a cramped den fully equipped for battle, so arm yourself with loads of patience and you’ll fall in love with the organized mess of government-issued fashion. Among the disarray you’ll find combat boots, pea coats, jackets, and gas masks for novelty or everyday use, and kids will have a ball slithering through the mounds of merchandise to find awesome apparel.
    319 West 42nd Street, ksinyc.com

    For Royal Sweet Teeth
    Fancy something sugary? Trot on over to the London Candy Company on Lex for a sweet selection of UK treats. Whether you’re a homesick Brit or a curious local in the mood for something new, you can queue up for some biscuits to accompany a spot of tea or for a few Cadbury sweets approved by the Queen herself. Union Jack-adorned walls inspire customers to keep calm and carry on while loading up on English bonbons as they peruse the wide array of confections. The kids will be dying to trade in their Snickers for Crunchies and Gummy Bears for Pastilles once they set foot in this distinctive candy emporium.
    1442 Lexington Avenue, thelondoncandycompany.com

    For The Wand-Wielding Troupe
    Childhood boredom will vanish into thin air with a visit to Tannen’s Magic. This specialty shop is where budding Houdinis can be initiated into the fascinating world of illusion. For classic tricks or a biography of your favorite master, Tannen’s is the place to go for accessories that will help kids astonish any audience. While they carry the biggest names in tricks, this brand has been in the business since 1925 and manufactures its own tools of the trade. The shop is staffed with top-notch magicians who’ll perform like pros at the drop of a hat. Kids and parents alike will be fascinated to learn what’s going on behind the curtains when they browse this bag of tricks.
    45 West 34th Street, #608, tannens.com

    For The Old Fashioned Gang
    Remember the good old days of paint, glue, and decals? Peel your little ones away from their screens and introduce them to a more wholesome form of play. The Red Caboose is a local hobby shop that’s an ideal source for model trains, planes, buses, ships, and other miniscule transportation devices. Stuffed to the brim with boxes of model sets, this shop more closely resembles an eccentric neighbor’s basement than an official purveyor of hobby materials. Hidden down a few flights of stairs, the shop is a bit of a challenge to find, but its obscurity adds to its one-of-a-kind appeal. Serving as a nostalgia shop for you and a delightful dreamland for the little ones, The Red Caboose can bring families together for a fun and different weekend activity.
    23 West 45th Street, theredcaboose.com

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