Culture Opps In The Empire State
New York state is chock full of museums and cultural institutions that not only grab kids' attention and pull them into the world of art, history, science and culture, but also show them that museums are more fun -- and contain artifacts and exhibits that are a lot more familiar -- than they think. Here are our picks for unique, family-friendly museum and cultural experiences in New York state that provide hours of fun and educational activities for adults and kids alike.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Right in the heart of Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame's collections contain more than 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts, among them Joe DiMaggio's locker, seats from Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, the well-worn original baseball made at Doubleday's behest, 5,000 other balls associated with significant players or moments, and 130,000 rare baseball cards. Established in 1939, the museum documents the history of our nations' pastime. Children will enjoy the Sandlot Kids' Club -- an interactive, educational program the includes a height chart of famous players in the major league, the Negro leagues and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Families enjoy the interactive literacy corner called "What's On Next" and a 37-inch LCD screen featuring video programs such as Curious George Plays Baseball, narrated by Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
This living-history museum brings 19th-century rural America to life, offering families the opportunity to experience aspects of farmer's lives 150 years ago. The site sits on land that has been a working farm since 1813, when James Fenimore Cooper owned it. The museum demonstrates everyday occupations such as broom making and weaving to milking cows and blacksmithing. In spring, newborn calves, lambs and ducklings especially appeal to children. Hands-on kid's projects cultivate an understanding of our rural heritage.
Staten Island Children's Museum
On the park-like grounds of Snug Harbor Cultural Center in two historic buildings, the museum houses eight hands-on interactive exhibits that range from role-playing on a restored 1947 fire truck to exploring the lives of insects. Families can participate in art workshops, special programs and performances on cooking, storytelling and animal feeding. Children here can pretend to be a chef, pirate, movie star, bug, dogsled musher, fire chief, artist, carpenter, tugboat captain and scientist, and more.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Situated in a partially restored 1863 tenement building, this museum interprets the lives of immigrant families who once called 97 Orchard Street home. Inside its six stories, visitors find narrow hallways and cramped apartments restored to look as they did in 1869, 1873, 1897, 1915, 1916 and 1935 with period furnishings. In the rear yard families can see a privy shed and water pump. By early 2011, the basement will be transformed into different shops that once operated there, including a kosher butcher shop, saloon and auction house. At the Museum's Visitors & Education, visitors can purchase tickets, watch a free film about immigration to New York, and browse the museum shop. Neighborhood walking tours focus on different aspects of neighborhood history and change. An interactive program called "The Confino Family Living History Tour" lets visitors interact with a costumed interpreter playing a 14-year-old Victoria Confino, an immigrant from the Ottoman Empire circa 1916.
American Museum of Natural History
A scientific, educational and cultural institution, the museum's mission is to explore and interpret human cultures, the natural world and the universe through scientific research, education and exhibitions. The institution houses 45 permanent exhibition halls, state-of-the-art research laboratories, one of the largest natural history libraries in the Western Hemisphere, and a permanent collection of more than 30 million specimens and cultural artifacts. Programs include special exhibitions, lecture series, workshops and film festivals.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
This complex includes the 900-foot-long aircraft carrier Intrepid with seven full decks and four theme halls; the guided missile submarine Growler; and a collection of more than 30 aircraft including the A-12 Blackbird, the fastest plane in the world; and the British Airways Concorde, the fastest commercial aircraft in the world. Guests can experience areas of the ship including the fo'c'sle (commonly known as the anchor chain room), multimedia presentations and exhibit collections, interactive educational stations and a brand newpublic pier. Kids will enjoy a 12,240-square-foot interactive Exploreum, which contains 18 different hands-on exhibits teaching about properties of the sea, air, space and living at sea as each relates to the ship Intrepid. They can experience a flight simulator, climb a cargo net, transmit messages using Morse code, crawl through living quarters of crewmembers, learn how the Intrepid turned salt water into fresh water and perform various tasks while wearing space gloves.
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden
This landmarked 1799 building sits on land originally owned by John Adams' daughter and is dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and research of art and artifacts pertaining to the Mount Vernon Hotel -- New York City's only surviving day hotel. As families enter this converted carriage house, they are transported to the mid 19th century amid historical costumes and story times. Kids enjoy story time events, hands-on exhibits and educational toys and can play "dress up" in period costumes.
Corning Museum of Glass
As the world's largest glass museum, it chronicles 35 centuries of glass artistry. Visitors are wowed by make-your-own glass classes, live hot-glass-blowing shows, meet-and-greets with the artists and special kids' series specials during the summer. The museum also offers several interactive and hands-on displays that help children learn about glass.Its Rakow Research Library -- the library of record on glass and glassmaking -- and The Studio, a glassmaking school, round out a full day's visit.
Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages
This museum's art collection includes more than 4000 paintings, sculptures and prints, and a collection of more than 200 horse-drawn carriages and rare artifacts from the carriage era. It also features a 19th-century carriagemaking shop and two new galleries: A Gentleman's Coach House, and the European Vehicles Gallery. As part of America's Test Kitchens (on exhibit through October 17, 2010), visitors can learn how to churn butter and make dishes popular in specific eras. The exhibit show demonstrates how families in the past lived in the absence of modern technology.
Admission: Adults, $9; seniors, $7; children under 6, free; children 6 to 17 years, $4
Jewish Children's Museum
Visitors can explore Jewish history and culture, the land of Israel, contemporary Jewish life and heritage through multimedia technology in this vast museum, which features an art gallery, two state-of-the-art computer labs, a game show studio, a 75-seat audiovisual theater, a miniature golf course and a craft workshop. Hands-on exhibits focus on Jewish holiday rituals, such as sitting in a beautifully decorated sukkah, pressing olive oil for Chanukah and retelling the Purim story with puppets, playing a virtual reality bow-and-arrow game for Lag B'Omer and writing names in Hebrew like a Torah scribe. Families can experience the biblical story of creation with a three-dimensional, multimedia display.