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Cradle of Aviation transformed into video gamer’s haven

The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City opened its new exhibit on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, focused on a video game retrospective from 1972 to 1999. (Credit: Newsday / David Criblez)

Pac-Man, Mario, Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog have invaded Garden City and set up camp on the second floor of the Cradle of Aviation. The museum has been transformed into a video gamer’s haven with the recent opening of its latest exhibit, “From the Arcade to the Living Room: A Video Game Retrospective, 1972-1999.”

The new display is a sequel to last year’s popular exhibit “The Arcade Age.”

“Going into the home console age of video games was the next logical step,” says exhibit coordinator Patrick Madden. “ ‘The Arcade Age’ exhibit only spanned about five years from the late ’70s to early ’80s. In this exhibit, we are focused on everything from 1972 to 1999, which gives us a much wider audience.”


Guests can take a self-guided tour through the carefully curated display, which consists of more than 40 arcade game cabinets mixed in with over 60 home console video gaming units ranging from 1972’s Magnavox Odyssey to 1999’s Sega’s Dreamcast.

“People remember the Christmas they unwrapped their Nintendo Entertainment System or their Sega Genesis from underneath the tree,” says Seamus Keane, the museum’s director of special events. “This exhibit is a step back in time and allows them to come back to their youth in a sense.”

Cases display video game paraphernalia while a TV plays a loop of old video game commercials. Each day the staff changes up the games in the home consoles from the museum’s vast library of acquired titles to keep the exhibit fresh. Two living-room displays have couches while another area is set up arcade-style.


Retro gaming is all the rage right now. Older titles like Duck Hunt, The Legend of Zelda and GoldenEye 007 provide fond memories for players in their 30s and 40s while piquing the curiosity of the younger set. In fact, one of the hottest gifts this Christmas season is the Nintendo NES Classic Edition, which comes preloaded with 30 classic games.

“Everything old is hip now,” Madden says. “People love the classics no matter how old they get.”


Jim Barbarito, 52, of Uniondale, is all smiles when he enters the exhibit on opening day and sees the arcade game Defender.

“When I was a teenager, Defender was my game,” he says. “I’d play every day at Tom’s Candy/Malt Shop on Jerusalem Avenue in Uniondale. I’d come with rolls of quarters.”

In between games of Star Fox, Bruce Koch, 45, of Babylon, admits to spending about $3,000 to feed his retro gaming habit over the past two years, purchasing new home consoles and a host of games.

“It brings me back to a simpler time when I would get together with my friends after school,” he says. “Plus, I enjoy refiguring out these games, recalling some of my old moves to get through each board. I’m like, ‘Oh, I remember now. I have to go across the top to get to the warp portal in order to advance to level 5.’ ”

Meanwhile, Drew Tannenbaum, 11, of Melville, is having fun taking in a game of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! with his dad.

“I enjoy learning about technology and playing games that stimulate my mind,” Tannenbaum says. “Plus, it’s interesting to see what the technology was like decades ago.”

Jon Tannenbaum, 47, a self-proclaimed “Atari guy,” was happy to see some old familiar titles making a comeback.

“I like to see my kids playing the retro games because they are simpler and less violent,” he says. “These games are part of our past and our present, proving that the gaming world is never going away.”

‘From the Arcade to the Living Room’

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, Cradle of Aviation Museum, Charles Lindbergh Blvd, Garden City

INFO 516-572-4111,

ADMISSION $25 ($21 ages 2-12) with 90-minute play sessions on weekends, holidays and school breaks at (11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.)


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