If you’re a Mom on Long Island, you know we have some of the best beaches around and even a top rated water park. We’re a short drive or train ride from one of the best cities in the world too. But there’s just not always the money nor the time to head into the city and beaches are seasonal. With Fall and Winter coming up, why not consider taking the kids to one of the many awesome Long Island museums we have right here on the island, if you haven’t already? Or maybe you went years ago and now it’s super time to re-visit and see what’s new. Besides, kids grow so fast and see things with new eyes every year.I’m a big believer in re-living the experiences to really etch them on our brains too.(Plus read on to see how you may possible get in FREE) We’ve been to many museums and have narrowed it down to our personal 5 favorite Long Island museums, though there are many others that are wonderful too!
1. The Long Island Children’s Museum In Garden City (LICM)
If you have kids 2-12, this is the place to go! We go about twice a year and really enjoy it each time. I prefer it in summer when the kids can play in the backyard “garden” with a cool little water play structure (my kids are obsessed with this spot actually and have begged me to build one at home!) Then again, nothing beats a day at a museum in the bitter cold long days of Winter. It’s 2 full floors of exhibits, a climbing structure kids love, a tot spot for the little ones, hands on computer and building activities and 3 traveling exhibits a year . There’s also a fun music room, a room where kids can pretend to be newspeople and weather forecasters on TV and a great Bricks and Sticks building zone. If you have younger kids, there’s a special tot spot just for them, oh I remember those days! Bittersweet to have moved on to all the “big kid” stuff. You can bring your own lunch or buy a snack at a vending machine bring).Then take a brief walk around the corner to Nunley’s Carousel so the kids can take a ride on this antique carousel. You may even be able to bring the family free. In my town, our library offers a museum pass lending program with quite a few great museums on Long Island and in the city. So see if yours offers this and sign up asap! If not, it’s still worth the money to get in. Go early to beat the crowds, though it never gets too bad in there.
2. Cradle of Aviation Museum
On Museum Row next to the Children’s Museum, this is a very interesting museum dedicated to Long Island’s aerospace heritage. It’s super for school-age kids, 5 and up. A nice walking tour takes you through the history of Long Island’s aviation from kites and bicycle driven “plane’s” to modern day air force equipment , you’ll see it all along with models of planes, short films and interesting facts to read. There’s plenty of hands-on exhibits (over 30 they say) and climb in and climb-on stuff so the kids won’t get bored. My children’s favorite part was the X-Ride theater, a simulator ride. They even got me in with them to the Blue Angels show and it scared the you-know-what out of me while they laughed all the way. They went on it 2 other times, with different shows and came out smiling each time. Climbing in and out of a half dozen cockpits and seeing all the gauges and instruments was pretty fascinating for my boys. The museum houses a planetarium and dome theater that we didn’t get to see, but I hear is excellent. We’ll plan that next trip. There’s a room for kids under 6 called the Junior Jet Club, a cafeteria supposedly themed like Mars( don’t expect too much but you can grab a nice little lunch or snack) and a gift shop. Again, this museum is part of the museum lending program so check with your local library to see if they offer passes.
3.Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium
Located in Centerport, this combination mansion, museum and planetarium is a fascinating day for the whole family. Grandparents love to come along and enjoy the heritage and scenery (great view of the water). The Gold-Coast era mansion is packed with a rich history of Mr. Vanderbilt’s collections from his travels around the world, his home furnishings like the gilded doors, fine art and photographs of years gone by. Several buildings make up this 40+ acre complex which includes a mummy (yes), gardens and the extensive marine life collection housed in 2 buildings. If you’re fascinated with preserved dead sea life caught around the world, this is the place for you. Don’t expect modern touch -screens or anything-it’s old and simple yet rather fascinating. You’ll also see many animals Mr. Vanderbilt shot in his huntings around the world, including tigers, bears and more. Like a mini-Cabela’s. I thought the turntable garage was cool- why back out when you can just turn around? Why don’t we have these anymore? In the planetarium building, a 4 million dollar renovation just took place and now the ultra high- def video system and projector offer more intense and true to life experience than ever. There are no bad seats in the house . Several shows are played daily and while you wait, you can browse the halls learning about nebula, galaxies and planets. Any kid show loves space should have a chance to check out the planetarium show! This is also part of the library program with free passes (wow huh? that’s 3 in a row! You can really go wild)
4. Railroad Museum of Long Island in Riverhead.
While not big by any means, so many little boys and girls absolutely love miniature trains. Living on Long Island, not in PA, we don’t have many choices of where to go to see trains. This museum is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission includes a ride on the world’s fair miniature train.The historic Lionel layout which opened in 2011 is the big attraction for the small hands that love to press buttons and make signs light up, trains move, horses drink , bridges to raise up, and more. There’s also a real caboose kids can go in and see what it was like to be a worker on a train years ago. Once a year, in the end of August, they hold a great little 2 day festival attracting train lovers of all ages. From the Riverhead site, you can take the LIRR to Greenport and spend an hour there, either in the town or at the Greenport museum site. This, however, is a much smaller museum. I do recommend Greenport as one of the best towns to take a day trip too also.
5. Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE)
I actually didn’t even discover this museum until I had my 3rd child! Out in Bridgehampton, it’s the furthest east children’s museum on the island and not nearly as large as the one in Garden City. It also caters more to the younger children. Ages 2-8 are the perfect ages to take a trip here. My kids always loved the drop- in art studio where they can make all sorts of fun creations to take home.A mini farmstand with plastic fruits attracts the toddlers and pre-schoolers. There’s a replica general store where kids can put on costumes and serve each other (plastic) ice cream sundaes( they seem to really enjoy this pretend play).And also, they have a great little machine where kids can crank the handle and turn a potato into a potato chip. A giant fire truck allows kids to walk up and pretend to drive it. It’s all about color and fun and pretend play here.I found it quite cute when we went though now at ages 13, 11 and 7, I’m going to miss those days of button pressing and little ones serving me up plates of plastic chicken legs. Oh and I can’t forget the climbing room with giant foam blocks kids love to climb on, jump into and climb over. And guess what? Yep, it’s on the library pass program so check there before you go. There are also a lot of events at CMEE so if you live within, say 40 minutes, you may want to check into that.
Looking for more Long Island fun? Consider reading on about these other great places to visit!