Long Island is a place rich in history. From the east to the west (and everywhere in between), there are so many places where time has been preserved and the past can come alive right before your eyes. So before heading out all across the country, consider spending time with the family in our own “backyard”, and take time to explore Long Island’s history.
A great place to start learning is from the ground up, literally! At the Hallockville Museum Farm in Riverhead, you can learn all about the agricultural history of Long Island, through a hands-on approach. Children can take a woodworking summer camp, or an arts on the farm camp, where they can learn fiber arts and organic gardening. At the Garvies Point Museum in Glen Cove, children can study Long Island’s geology and Native American archaeology. Every year the museum hosts a traditional Native American feast at Thanksgiving time, which is a wonderful opportunity to learn about our Long Island Native American ancestors!
If you’d like to learn more about the Native Americans on Long Island, the perfect place to visit is the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum. The museum is the only Native American owned and operated organization on Long Island. They have many events for children, such as building corn husk dolls, an Earth Day celebration, and a strawberry festival. Moving on from learning about the land, children can also explore the animal life which is native to Long Island.
The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead has many exhibits in which children can experience the sea creatures native to Long Island’s shores. The aquarium is chock full of indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as “aquatic adventures” such as kissing a seal, salty marsh walks, and special adventure days.
For a more interactive adventure, check out Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown; Sweetbriar is a not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center for Long Island’s animals. They offer a ton of fun classes for children, focusing on learning about Long Island’s wildlife; they are also now offering art classes for children, which ties nature’s surroundings and creating art together.
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is home to distressed animals native to New York State, such as bobcats, owls, and eagles. The Refuge has many summer programs for children, in order to teach them to help the wildlife native to their homeland. The Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery is dedicated to educating guests about the freshwater ecosystems and aquatic creatures of New York. They have many events for children such as ice cream socials, and a haunted hatchery for Halloween.
An exciting way to learn about Long Island’s history is to study the history of transportation on Long Island. The Railroad Museum of Long Island has two locations, one in Riverhead and one in Greenport. Admission includes a ride on their World’s Fair miniature train! The exhibits change every year, and make perfect opportunities for train-loving children to explore the history of the railroad on Long Island.
The Long Island Maritime Museum in West Sayville explores the history of maritime life on Long Island from the earliest settlers forward. Children can watch boat building demonstrations, check out miniature sailing vessel replicas, and explore some of the nine historic buildings on the museum’s grounds.
For more about Long Island’s maritime history, visit The East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation in Greenport. The museum offers a variety of lighthouse cruises, so the entire family can have an adventure and learn about Long Island’s historical lighthouses! If air transportation is more exciting for your children, visit the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City; celebrating 100 years of Long Island’s aviation history, children can also check out their IMAX dome theater. An interesting look at Long Island’s transportation history is to explore the history of Long Island firefighters!
The Cold Spring Harbor Fire House Museum is located within Cold Spring Harbor village. Here they have a September 11th memorial, as well as many old pieces of firefighting equipment and transportation. The Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Educational Center is in Garden City; the museum “provides a unique setting for the preservation and interpretation of our local volunteer fire services heritage via the collection, restoration, and exhibition of historic and contemporary firematic memorabilia and equipment.”
If you’re studying the history of Long Island, you must explore the history of whaling on Long Island, for that is how many Long Islanders made their living in the early days of settling here. The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum is rich with educational events for children such as exploring sea creatures, art classes, exploring what life at sea was like, and more. The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum offers a rich history of whaling life on the east end, as well as a museum store full of goods made by local artists.
The most exciting part of history is learning about who lived on your land before you! There are many interactive ways to explore the early settlers of Long Island. The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook has an art museum, a wonderful carriage museum, and a nine acre park which hosts educational events and special programs for children.
For a fun day trip, check out Old Bethpage Village Restoration which “provides visitors with a unique and wonderful opportunity to step back in time and experience life in a recreated mid-19th-century American village. The 209-acre village includes an assortment of homes, farms and businesses.” Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay was the home of the president Theodore Roosevelt; though the home is currently closed, the grounds are perfect for exploring and picnicking. Also in Oyster Bay, the historical society offers many activities, classes, and crafts for learning about Long Island’s history.
The Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay features tea parties and music festivals to help teach about Long Island’s history. The Brewster House, in East Setauket is the Three Village’s oldest home, having been built in 1665; children can explore the house and grounds to see what life was like in the 1600s.
Long Island is deeply rich with history, and learning all about it actually can be fun! Using museums, parks, and activities, children won’t even catch on to the fact that they are having a great time and learning about where they came from!
By: Olivia Howell
Photos from: Long Island Museum Website, Long Island Maritime Museum website, Quogue Wildlife Refuge Website, and Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum Website, Sweetbriar Nature Center website