Looking for a family museum outing without the risk of your little ones touching a priceless painting or grabbing a precious artifact? New York's many children's and family-friendly museums have got you covered with interactive exhibits that emphasize fun.
Devoted entirely to play, the Strong Museum in Rochester is America's second-largest children's museum, and it contains the world's largest collection of dolls, toys and games. Kids can step into Berenstain Bear Country, explore life-size pop-up books, and walk through an indoor garden with free-flying butterflies. Parents can relive happy memories at the National Toy Hall of Fame, with "inductees" including Lincoln Logs and Play Doh. The whole family will have fun on the carousel or the Strong Express - an indoor passenger train.
Future astronauts will love Long Island's fascinating Cradle of Aviation Museum, where the Junior Jet Club promotes interactive play. Young aviators can command a space shuttle cockpit, build roaring rockets and explore the moon before settling down for story time. Aspiring scientists will also get a kick out of the Children's Museum of Science and Technology in Troy, where they can explore the wonders of nature, nanoscience and outer space
Think kids and glass don't mix? Think again! At the Corning Museum of Glass, a Finger Lakes gem, there are plenty of ways for kids of all ages to explore glass: glassblowing demonstrations, kid-friendly gallery tours and even workshops where kids create their own masterpieces. Learn about 35 centuries of glass, from ancient art to space-age wonders. Bonus: It's free for kids up to age 19!
Over in Cooperstown, families can experience 19th-century rural life at the Farmers' Museum and baseball history at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, where the Sandlot Kids' Clubhouse is a kid's dream come true. Young fans can have fun with Curious George and Garfield, dig into discovery drawers of cool artifacts, and get photographs with Hall of Famers.
Child-friendly activities abound at New York City institutions. Aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 in Manhattan, you'll find flight simulators, tours of the Growler submarine and an Interactive Hall filled with adventures. Families can even sleep overnight on board Intrepid as part of its "Operation Slumber" series. Kids can explore the wonders of the natural world at the American Museum of Natural History, the world's largest nature museum. A 50-foot-tall Barosaurus guards the entry to the dinosaur halls. Other wonders include a 94-foot blue whale, King Penguins, giant gemstones and the popular Butterfly Conservatory, open September through May. Don't miss the spectacular space shows at the adjacent Rose Center for Earth & Space, where a giant floating sphere holds the Hayden Planetarium. Across the river at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, you'll find exhibits on international holidays, hands-on art workshops, a touch tank with sea creatures like starfish and sea urchins and much more.
So spend a day (or a week) exploring New York's youngster-friendly museums over the next school vacation. Your kids will be having so much fun, they won't even realize how much they're learning.