The Cradle of Aviation, Long Island’s air and space museum, is tucked away on Museum Row in Garden City and offers a unique experience for both young children and adults.
The museum provides a detailed insight of “how” machines work and have progressed since the start of air travel. It also chronicles “who” the special people are that were involved in the amazing evolution of aviation history.
Since the beginning of time people have dreamed of flight. The “how” is explored as we begin with the simple kite and how it helped us to learn the principles of flight. As the exhibits compliment each other we move through to hot air balloons, gliders, the evolution of airplanes and finally space travel. Together with the “who,” each exhibit is enriched with daredevil early aviators, wartime heroes and the many extraordinary service men and women (several from Long Island) whose contribution shaped the World today. What really makes this museum wonderful for families is the incorporation of hands-on exhibits for young children, making this destination a wonderful place to spend a morning, afternoon or an entire day.
Throughout the museum there are wonderful guides that are knowledgeable about all things aviation and are thrilled to share them with families. Visitors may speak to a retired dentist or even a veteran, all of whom share a love for the museum and the stories it holds. The people that work here are essential and will complement anyone’s visit.
Starting the Visit
When arriving at the admissions counter, visitors should pick up a map to guide them through the total “Cradle Experience.” It breaks down the exhibit galleries, and families will find a map key to help them locate all the hands-on exhibits and areas to climb in cockpits. Make sure to check out the theater times and shows that are offered for the day in the Planetarium & Dome Theater. It is one of the largest and most powerful virtual reality experiences in the world. Shows are approximately 30-50 minutes.
- Launch into Reading for age appropriate books on transportation
- Different types of wooden planes and boats on a carpet with “runways”
- “Standing Long Jump”- kids can see how many feet they can jump on the marked carpet
- Interactive toy puzzles on the wall
- A corner with real rows of airplane seats and windows
- A real life-size space shuttle and helicopter complete with all the buttons and levers to keep imaginations soaring
- Colorful foam blocks to build, build, build!
- A toy airplane see saw that can fit up to six kids
- A living space area for kids to see how it would be to exercise in space and sleep in space
- A space station with a periscope, telescope and assorted “boxes” to conduct experiments just like astronauts do in space
After exiting the Junior Jet, look out for these not-to-miss enhancements to the exhibits for little ones to enjoy:
- Helicopter and airplane cockpits galore!
Space Flight Center – Sit with a museum expert and land a plane on a runway using computer simulations and a hand held control (even toddlers will have fun just playing with the control).
- Flight Simulator/X-Ride Theater – Free with admission! There are two different experiences currently featured – 1) Fly with the Blue Angels where children will be in the cockpit of the Blue Angels for the ultimate simulation experience, and 2) Extreme Log Ride where kids can follow the life of a super tree in a spectacular ride that bounces, tumbles and flies through the farm that is known as the Himalamazon.
- Hurricane Simulator – For $2.00 children giggle and laugh in delight as the winds in this machine gust up to 78 mph. It’s like a roller coaster ride without moving – what kid wouldn’t love that? Mamas, bring a ponytail holder!
- Apollo Landing Sites – Little ones enjoy lighting up the moon above pressing buttons that coincide with the Apollo landings.
- Rockets Into Space – Launch a rocket into orbit. Little ones will enjoy positioning a foam rocket and then pressing down to see how high it goes.
Time to Eat
Getting hungry? Eat lunch at the Red Planet Café and enjoy a meal on Mars set in the year 2040. The food is good, and they have a great healthy selection. The café offers everything from crisp salads, yummy sandwiches, fresh fruits and hot pretzels to chicken fingers, grilled cheese, hamburgers, pizza, and assorted juices, water and soda.
Don’t Forget Gifts
On the way out, stop at the Mitchell Field Outpost gift shop. Children and adults will enjoy browsing the different space themed toys, books and cool apparel. The shop has something for every budget including astronaut suits, moon in my room, robot claws, collectibles such as die cast metal airplanes, pencils and classic parachute men.
For those looking for a party venue, The Cradle of Aviation can host birthday parties for kids starting at age three.
The Cradle of Aviation
Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Garden City, NY 11530
Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday and holidays 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Open on Mondays that fall on holidays and school breaks
By Melissa Mela